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With monsters like Grendel - you need a monster graphic solution

Nvidia Quadro lifts Sony's heroes (December 10, 2007)

With monsters like Grendel - you need a monster graphic solution Nvidia Quadro lifts Sony's heroes If you've ever worked on a computer to look at any image, you're using a graphics card.  The more difficult it is to process the image, the more power you need to produce the image on screen.  Now imagine creating an image that requires the visualization of beads of water in a 3D spray...

Yeah - it's ridiculous.  The newest technologies are pushing our graphic cards and graphic systems to new levels.  It isn't so much about the simple reflections around a metal teapot anymore.  It's the caustic light that issues from millions of near-gaseous bubbles of water, the threads of fine hair that make the 3D woman a convincing animation of Angelina Jolie. 

The task of producing all of these pixels onscreen is probably the most taxing for the 3D community.  Asking that the hardware render image while we wait was strenuous enough for the best gear only 5 years ago.  Today, the 3D community has bigger challenges, and the audience has more expectations - and the hardware not only renders while we wait, but can keep up with our imagination.  It can when we're talking about NVidia's new Quadro solutions.


How can you use technology to bring a 1,200-year-old epic poem about heroes, monsters, and dragons to life? That was the challenge facing director Robert Zemeckis and Sony Pictures Imageworks in bringing the story of Beowulf to the silver screen.

Zemeckis and the Imageworks team used the Performance Capture technology pioneered in The Polar Express, which was also used again in the creation of Monster House, to tell the tale of the hero Beowulf (played by Ray Winstone). In the story, Beowulf comes to the mead hall of King Hrothgar (Sir Anthony Hopkins) to kill the monster Grendel (Crispin Glover) who has been plaguing Hrothgars kingdom. After dispatching Grendel, Beowulf must face the wrath of Grendels mother (Angelina Jolie), who seeks revenge for the death of her son. The story is based on the epic poem that is considered to be the first great work of English literature.

Performance Capture uses technology to track the body movements and facial expressions of the actors; the data is then collected and used to create an animated sequence based on the actors performances. A particular challenge in making Beowulf was the sheer size of the production. With some scenes having over 70 characters, each actors movements had to be captured, tracked, and mapped onto an animated character. Textures and lighting were then applied, giving the director real-time interactivity during the camera layout process.
This new level of pre-visualization added additional challenges. Typical pre-visualization uses simple, untextured geometry to block, or plan, the position of the camera, actors, and action in a scene. But for Beowulf, the filmmakers and the Imageworks team needed more.  They wanted a pre-viz process that would convey the emotion, lighting subtleties, and tone of the scene. For this, higher quality graphics, akin to those found in state-of-the-art video games became a necessity. The trick was to find a graphics card that was up to the challenge of producing images of this quality in real time. The Beowulf team found it in NVIDIA Quadro professional graphics cards, which offered the processing power necessary to render multiple characters with texturing and lighting in real time. With Quadro solutions, the director was able to achieve the instantaneous feedback he needed during the layout process to compose, shoot, and alter the performance in real time.

?Quadro boards had the power to produce the real-time scenes that we needed during our performance capture integration and camera layout process, said Corey Turner, technical animation supervisor for Beowulf. ?Some of our scenes were of enormous complexity, with over 70 characters whose actions had to be editable and rendered in real time. NVIDIA gave us the ability to visualize the directors vision in real time.
By integrating Quadro professional graphics into their creative pipeline, the Sony Pictures Imageworks team was able to layout and render truly complex action sequences. One of the most challenging was the first attack by Grendel in Hrothgars mead hall. With over 70 characters and one moving camera battling it out in the hall, Zemeckis decided where the camera would be and how the action would play out after all the data was integrated into the real-time 3D scene. Only a small portion of the total action is shown in the final camera field of view, but the performance of Quadro graphics allowed him to layout and render all of the characters before deciding where the camera should be placed for the final shots.
Beowulf pushed the limits of Quadro performance throughout the films production. One of the most challenging shots was a 107-second shot that started with approximately 60 characters dancing in the mead hall, which then moved to the roof of the hall, across four miles of countryside, and concluded in Grendels cave. With characters, props, and terrain rendered in real time with full lighting and textures, the shot was divided into three sections for real-time pre-viz then edited back together. Zemeckis, however, was still able to visualize it appropriately and the full shot appears unbroken in the final film.

Start small..........

The NVIDIA QuadroŽ Plex 1000 is now available for purchase! The NVIDIA Quadro Plex 1000 Model ll is configured with four NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 GPUs to power up to 16 synchronized displays, and the absolute maximum fill rate, and the highest level of Full Scene Anti-Aliasing (FSAA) quality, for applications that do not require massive frame buffers (512MB per GPU).

Equipped with two NVIDIA Quadro G-Syncs, Model ll supports frame lock and genlock for seamless multi-monitor or multi-projection applications.

or go large...........

The quadro model IV gives you:
  • Two NVIDIA Quadro FX 5600 GPUs
  • One NVIDIA Quadro G-Sync board
  • Up to 4 Channels
  • 64X SLI FSAA (max on single channel)

NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA)  is the world leader in visual computing technologies and the inventor of the GPU, a high-performance processor which generates breathtaking, interactive graphics on workstations, personal computers, game consoles, and mobile devices. NVIDIA serves the entertainment and consumer market with its GeForceŽ products, the professional design and visualization market with its Quadro products, and the high-performance computing market with its Tesla products. NVIDIA is headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif. and has offices throughout Asia, Europe, and the Americas. For more information, visit

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Related Keywords:product review, product news, Beowulf, nvidia, graphics cards, GPU, Robert Zemeckis, Performance Capture


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