AMD

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There’s been some great stuff lately:

  • Gustavo Oliveira has an article in Gamasutra about writing an efficient cross-platform SIMD vector library and the tradeoffs involved. The last page was of particular interest, as I had wondered how effective the Intel C++ Compiler (ICC) was vs. Microsoft’s. He also provides downloadable source code and in-depth statistics.
  • NVIDIA has given some information abour Fermi, their next GPU. Warning: their page will automatically start some audio – annoying. You could just skip to the white paper. One big deal about Fermi is its support of doubles, which means it can be used for more science & engineering number-crunching. The Tech Report has a good overview article of other interesting features, and also presents benchmarking results.
  • Tests of OpenCL, the platform-independent parallel programming standard, have started to appear for AMD and NVIDIA GPUs.
  • Speaking of NVIDIA, their PhysX engine is getting some attention. The first video clip in this article gives a sense of the sorts of effects it can add. Pretty stuff, but the funny thing about PhysX is that it must accelerate computations that do not actually affect gameplay (i.e. it should not move around any objects in the scene differently than non-PhysX machines). This limits its use to particle systems and other eye candy. Not a diss—heck, most game graphics are about eye candy—but something to keep in mind.
  • Naty pointed out an article about how increasing the number of megapixels in a camera is just salesmanship and gains no actual benefit. The author later gives more explanation of his argument, which is that diffraction puts a physical limit on the useful size of a pixel for a given camera size.
  • Sony Pictures Imageworks has released a draft describing their Open Shading Language (OSL). While aimed at high-end rendering for films, it’s interesting to see what is built-in (e.g. deferred ray tracing) and what they consider important. Read the introduction for more information, or the draft itself.
  • My favorite infographic of the week: Avatar vs. Modern Warfare 2. Ignore the weird chartjunk concentric circles, focus on the numbers. The most amazing stat to me is the $200M advertising budget for MW2.

… and that’s seven; more later.

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Today, AMD shipped the Radeon HD 5870, the first GPU to support the DirectX11 feature set.  Most of the resources have been doubled in comparison to AMD’s previous top GPU, including two triangle rasterization units. The Tech Report has a nice writeup – to help make sense of the various counts of ALUs / “wavefronts” / cores / etc.  I recommend reading the slides from Kayvon Fatahalian’s excellent presentation at SIGGRAPH this year.

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While at SIGGRAPH I like to look at new books at the booths. One you may wish to check out is Graphics Shaders: Theory and Practice, from AK Peters (or just use “Look Inside” on Amazon). I received a review copy and skimmed through it. If you’re interested in programming in GLSL 1.2 (part of OpenGL 2.1), consider looking at this one. A minor problem is that it’s not quite as up-to-date as the Orange Book (now on OpenGL 3.1), but the difference in core concepts between language versions is not large. The Graphics Shaders book is full color and comes with a lot of GLSL code examples. It has a bias towards scientific visualization, though not so much that it neglects the basics. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on noise, as it gave one of the clearest explanations I’ve seen on the differences between various types of basic interactive noise functions. One or two elements in the book are a little weak – the flowcharts for pipelines are often too small and difficult to read, for example – but all in all this looks like a solid contribution to the field. Don’t expect more elaborate effects, e.g., shadows are not touched upon. It does cover the basics, plus some additional topics like image post-processing (not normally covered in texts I’ve seen). One of the authors wrote a nice learning tool for GLSL, glman, free for download. If you find you like this tool, definitely consider the book.

Another book I noticed recently is Fluid Simulation for Computer Graphics. This is a topic I know little about, I was just interested to see that there’s any book at all. It looks pretty equation-filled, so is definitely for the serious practitioner.

Speaking of fluid simulation, Intel has an article on this topic for games. One of the chief strengths of any publication is that its staff makes a decision based on merit as to what is published and what is culled. So, I have to admit to being leery of anything that says, “Sponsored Feature”, as that means editorial review and decision-making are gone. I tend to err on the side of ignoring such articles (there’s plenty to read already). That said, Intel’s had quite a number of these articles recently, including such topics as instancing, ocean fog, FFT’s for image processing, and quite a few on parallelism.

In the “clearing the queue” category of links, I don’t think I ever pointed out this handy page, which presents all AMD/ATI and NVIDIA presentations at GDC 2009.

There’s now a (not very active, but at least it exists) Microsoft DirectX blog.

On the OpenGL front, NVIDIA has introduced bindless graphics to help avoid L2 cache misses. I will be interested to see how APIs evolve, as the elements in the current APIs that are bottlenecks are not so much CPU or GPU limitations as due to the API constructs themselves.

Thing for the day: an advertisement with interesting stippling.

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At their Developer Conference Presentations website.  The talk titled Your Game Needs Direct3D 11, So Get Started Now! is particularly interesting as an overview of how to port code to D3D11.

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I attended the “Advances in Real-Time Rendering in 3D Graphics and Games” class today at SIGGRAPH. This is the third year in a row Natasha Tatarchuk from AMD has organized this class. Each year different game developers as well as people from the AMD demo team are brought in to talk about graphics, and some of the best real-time stuff at SIGGRAPH in the last two years has been in this course.

Unfortunately, due to Little Big Planet crunch, Alex Evans from Media Molecule was unable to give his planned talk and a different speaker was brought in instead. This was a bit of a bummer since Alex’s SIGGRAPH 2006 talk was very good and I was hoping to hear more about his unorthodox take on real-time rendering.

The remaining talks were of high quality, including talks by the developers of games such as Halo 3, Starcraft 2 and Crysis. Unlike previous years, where it took many weeks for the course notes to be available online, the full course notes are already available at AMD’s Technical Publications page – check them out!

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