GDC

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In my previous GDC links post, I briefly mentioned the free section of the GDC Vault, and listed individual links to a few of the many videos and presentation slides available there. I’ll list more links to free Vault content in this post, mostly stuff of interest to readers of this blog that isn’t otherwise available online.

Videos (many of these have presentation slides available from one of the links included in my previous post):

Slides (skipping any talks linked in my previous post):

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Since it’s quite a long time after GDC 2011 and I never found the time to do a proper conference report, I thought I’d at least do a link roundup.

First, the GDC Vault has a Free Section with many presentation slides. Video for most talks is behind a paywall, but several notable talks have freely available video:

There are several other talks with free video, mostly sponsored by companies such as Intel and NVIDIA.

The rest of this post will cover talks where the authors or their companies have made materials available outside the Vault – I haven’t checked, but I suspect there is a fair bit of overlap with the free section in the Vault.

Presentations from the “Advanced Visual Effects with DirectX 11″ tutorial day:

These are hosted on the AMD conference presentations page, which also has a few other AMD presentations:

Presentations from the “Physics for Game Programmers” tutorial day (these are only some of the presentations, it looks like the rest are up on the Vault’s free section):

Presentations from the Technical Artist Bootcamp can be found here – links to individual presentations follow:

DICE had quite a few presentations at GDC, many related to real-time rendering. All DICE presentations can be found on their publications page.

One DICE presentation of particular interest, Approximating Translucency for a Fast, Cheap and Convincing Subsurface Scattering Look (Colin Barre-Brisebois) can also be found on the author’s blog, along with an addendum.

NVIDIA also had a good number of presentations, to be found on their GDC 2011 page. An especially notable one (jointly presented with covered the Epic “Samaritan” demo, intended both to show off the Unreal Engine’s DX11 feature set, and to set a quality bar for the makers of next-generation consoles (the demo was shown on a machine with three GeForce GTX 580 cards connected via SLI, so definitely a “futuristic” system). Online material for the Samaritan demo includes the presentation slides, video of the demo, and some additional technical details on the underlying technology.

Intel also has a dedicated web page for their GDC 2011 presentations. Two especially interesting ones covered Order-Independent Transparency and Dynamic Resolution Rendering. Additional organizations with multiple talks at GDC included AutoDesk and Khronos.

The talk Mega Meshes: Modeling, Rendering and Lighting a World Made of 100 Billion Polygons (Ben Sugden & Michal Iwanicki, Lionhead) presented some unique rendering technology they developed for the (cancelled) game, Milo & Kate. Additional online materials include a video and a second video.

Other rendering talks with online materials include Anti-Aliasing From a Different Perspective (Dmitry Andreev, LucasArts), Practical Occlusion Culling on PS3 (Will Vale, Second Intention), Normal Offset Shadows (poster by Daniel Holbert, High Moon), HTML5 and Other Modern Browser Game Tech (Vincent Scheib, Google), and several presentations that Wolfgang Engel (Confetti) gave at the Intel booth.

Two animation talks also have online materials: The Animation of Halo: Reach: Raising the Bar (Joe Spataro & Tam Armstrong, Bungie), and An Automated Pipeline for Generating Run-Time Rigs (Adam Mechtley, Candlelight Interactive), as well as three non-graphics engineering talks: Forensic Debugging: How To Autopsy, Repair, and Reanimate a Release-built Game (Elan Ruskin, Valve), I Shot You First! Gameplay Networking in Halo: Reach (David Aldridge, Bungie) (there is also a much smaller file without video), and Message Queuing on a Large Scale (Jon Watte, IMVU).

For the sake of completeness, I’ll also list the design, production, and business presentations and videos I found online:

If you find any other presentations online, please put a link in the comments to this post.

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I’m back from a NYC trip (highlight: went to the taping of the Jimmy Fallon show and saw Snooki & Laurie Anderson – now there’s a combo; if only they had collaborated) and a San Francisco trip (highlights: the Autodesk Gallery – open to the public Wednesday afternoons - plus the amusingly-large and glowing heatsink on a motherboard at the NVIDIA GDC reception). So, it’s time to write down seven other cool things.

  • A convincing translucency effect was presented at GDC by the DICE guys (there’s precomputation involved, but it looks wonderful); Johan Andersson has a rundown of other DICE presentations. Other presentation lists include ones from NVIDIA and Intel, which I need to chew through sometime soon.
  • Vincent Scheib has a quick GDC report, and a presentation on HTML 5 and other browser technologies (e.g. WebGL), with a particular interest in the handheld market. Vincent mentions the Unreal GDC demo, which is pretty amazing.
  • Intel has a nice shadows demo, showing the various tradeoffs with cascaded and exponential variance shadow maps. It compiled out of the box for me, and there’s lots to try out. My only disappointment was that Lauritzen et al.’s clever shadow tricks are not demonstrated in it! Their basic ideas center around the idea of a prepass of the scene. They get tight bounds on the near and far view planes by finding the min and max depths, and tighten the shadow maps’ frustums around the visible points. Simple and clever, large improvements in shadow quality in real scenes, and relatively easy to implement or add to existing systems. (thanks to Mauricio Vives)
  • Feed43: This is a nice little idea. It tracks any web page you want, and you specify what is considered a change to the page. When a change is detected, you’re given an RSS ping. Best part is, you can share any RSS feed created with everyone. Examples: Ke-Sen Huang’s great conference paper list, and The Ray Tracing News. If you make a good feed, let me know and I’ll pass it on here. (thanks to Iliyan Georgiev)
  • This one’s old, but it’s a great page and I found it worthwhile, a discussion of gamma correction and text rendering. The surprising conclusion is that gamma alone doesn’t work nicely for text (it does wonders for line antialiasing, as I hope you know: compare uncorrected vs. corrected). It turns out that things like TrueType’s hinting has been tuned such that antialiasing and gamma correction can be detrimental.
  • An interesting tidbit from the government report “Designing a Digital Future“: on page 71 is an interesting section. A sample quote: “performance gains due to improvements in algorithms have vastly exceeded even the dramatic performance gains due to increased processor speed.” They give a numerical algorithms example where hardware gave a 1000x gain, algorithms gave a 43000x gain, 43 times as much. (thanks to Morgan McGuire)
  • My Minecraft addiction has died down a fair bit (“just one more project…”), but I was happy to see Notch make a blog post with some technical chew, with more posts to come. He talks about a problem many apps are starting to run into, how to deal with precision problems when the terrain space is large. His solution for now, “it’s a feature!”, which actually kinda makes sense for Minecraft. He also starts to describe his procedural terrain generation algorithm.

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Quite the backlog, so let’s whip through some topics:

  • GDC: ancient news, I know, but here is a rundown from Vincent Scheib and a summary of trends from Mark DeLoura.
  • I like when people revisit various languages and see how fast they now are on newer hardware and more efficient implementations. Case in point: Quake 2 runs in a browser using javascript and WebGL.
  • Morgan McGuire pointed out this worthwhile article on stereoscopic graphics programming. Quick bits: frame tearing is very noticeable since it is visible to only one eye, vsync is important which may force lower-res rendering, making antialiasing all that much more important. UI elements on top look terribly 2D, and aim-point UI elements need to be given 3D depths. For their game MotorStorm, going 3D meant a lot more people liked using the first-person view, and this view with stereo helped perception of depth, obstacles, etc. There are also some intriguing ideas about using a single 2D image and reprojection using the depth buffer to get the second image (it mostly works…).
  • I happened to notice ShaderX 7 is now available on the Kindle. Looking further, quite a few other recent graphics books are. What’s odd is the differential in prices varies considerably: a Kindle ShaderX 7 is only $3.78 cheaper, while Fundamentals of Computer Graphics is $20 less.
  • Speaking of ShaderX, its successor GPU Pro is not out yet, but Wolfgang started a blog about it (really, just the Table of Contents), in addition to his other blog. The real news: you can use Amazon’s Look Inside feature to view the contents of the book right now!
  • Here are way too many multithreading resources.
  • In case you somehow missed it, you must see Pixels.

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I look forward to see what gets play at GDC next week as far as the various server-side games graphics “suppliers” go. You’ve probably heard of at least one of them: OnLive, OTOY, Gakai, Playcast, RealityServer. There’s even a site tracking them. In the past we’ve written a bit here and there about these; Naty and I are both skeptical at this point, though personally I’d love to see someone pull it off.

Some efforts seem like dissipating clouds at this point, e.g. Playcast hasn’t had a press release since last July, and Gakai has also been “quiet”, Google-wise—maybe they’re just saving their thunder for GDC (OK, enough cloud analogies, I promise). Others are currently thriving, e.g, OnLive raised more money last summer and fall, and sounds likely to have a GDC announcement. Interestingly, Autodesk, the company I work for, is one of the new investors; CAD on the cloud seems much “safer” than gaming, where any hesitation in frame rate can cost you your virtual life. CAD for the masses (even if they don’t call it CAD all the time; maybe “CAC”, computer-aided consumers?) also seems to be the aim of NVIDIA’s RealityServer.

And now, perhaps, it’s an aim of OTOY, usually seen with AMD but now also with SolidWorks. After many cool youtube videos and very little technological information, the CEO of OTOY, Jules Urbach, talked a little with the press. Read it now before the issue disappears. Not a lot there (though I hadn’t considered the South Korean market, or Japan for that matter, which have much higher speed internet connections), but it includes a line there about how their site should have something up mid-March (try their website; right now it says “soon”). Hmmm, what happens mid-March?

Here’s to an interesting GDC!

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Some news, and some olds.

  • HPG has a CFP. In slow motion,  this means the High Performance Graphics conference, June 25-27 in Saarbrucken, Germany, has a call for participation. Naty talked about this conference in his post two months ago; now the HPG website and CFP are up. In case you don’t recognize the conference’s name, this is the combination of the Graphics Hardware and Interactive Ray Tracing symposia. HPG was fantastic last year, with more useful (to me) papers than SIGGRAPH (where it was co-located). Potential submitters please note: because HPG 2010 is co-located with EGSR this year, the deadlines are very tight after SIGGRAPH notification and quite rigid. In other words, if your SIGGRAPH submission is rejected, you will have a very short time to revise and submit to HPG (i.e., by April 2nd).
  • NVIDIA has put up a list of talks at GDC in which it is participating, which will undoubtedly appear soon after on the web. In other NVIDIA news, there’s an interesting press release about NVIDIA and Avatar and how GPUs were used in precomputation of occlusion using ray tracing, for scenes with billions of polygons.
  • A handy tool for showing frame rate and capturing screenshots and video that is worth a mention again (it’s buried on the Resources page): FRAPS. It’s been around forever, continues to improve, and the basic version is free.
  • Crytek made an updated version of the famous Sponza model (used in many global illumination papers) available in OBJ and 3DS Max formats, along with textures. If you have the time, in theory 99 lines of code will make a picture for you.
  • Stefan Gustavson has a nice little demo of using distance fields for “perfect” text rendering. This type of technique has been used for a number of years in various games, such as Valve’s Team Fortress 2. The demo unfortunately falls apart when you rotate the scene off-axis, but otherwise is lovely.
  • SUBSTANCE is an application for making 3D evolutionary art. I really need more time on my hands to check this sort of tool out…
  • Theory for the day: we don’t have fur because our skin can show our emotions, which we pick up with our improved color perception.

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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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After taking another look at my recent post on 2008 conferences, I thought I would give some context on the various graphics conferences for people who are not familiar with them.

There are a handful of large, international conferences which cover the entire field of computer graphics:

  • The SIGGRAPH annual conference (technically the “International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques”) is the great-granddaddy of graphics conferences. It’s been around since 1974, and is by far the largest conference devoted to graphics. It has historically been attended mostly by academics and people working in film production, and most papers are not about real-time techniques. In recent years the conference has been making an effort to attract more attendees and speakers from the game industry. The quality of the papers tends to be quite high, and many of them are relevant, even the ones discussing offline techniques often have interesting stuff in them. Besides the papers, there are also courses (called “classes” this year) which are very good. In particular, the excellent (but somewhat verbosely-named) “Advances in Real-Time Rendering in 3D Graphics and Games” class has been presented for the last few years and has very good and relevant presentations from leading real-time graphics practitioners. Many of the classes on film production rendering techniques also have a surprisingly large amount of material relevant for real-time rendering. The Computer Animation Festival (which has this year been expanded to a full-scale film festival) showcases the best CG of the year and is always fun to watch. Although SIGGRAPH has so far always been held in the continental United States (often alternating between west coast and non-west coast locations), in 2011 it will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia.
  • SIGGRAPH Asia is a new arrival on the scene, being held for the first time this year. It is held in winter and is intended be one of three main “tripod” graphics conferences (with the North American SIGGRAPH conference in the summer, and the Eurographics conference newly moved to the spring). Spreading them evenly throughout the year in this way can enable researchers to submit work when it is ready and not wait for the SIGGRAPH submission deadline – or at least such is the theory. In the past, the existence of other conferences did not prevent most researchers from submitting their work to SIGGRAPH first, but perhaps this will change.
  • The annual Eurographics conference is the third “major graphics conference”. As its name would suggest, it is held in Europe every year, usually in beautiful locations such as Vienna, Prague, and Crete. The quality of the papers is usually quite high, though it also tends to have mostly non-real-time papers (perhaps even more so than SIGGRAPH).
  • Computer Graphics International is smaller than the preceding three. It is sponsored by the Computer Graphics Society (CGS).

There are also several regional graphics conferences:

  • Graphics Interface is the largest and oldest of these (it is roughly as old as the SIGGRAPH annual conference, and indeed claims to be “the oldest continuously-scheduled conference in the field”). It has always been held in Canada. It tends to have a strong HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) component, as well as some good real-time rendering papers.
  • Pacific Graphics (more properly “The Pacific Conference on Computer Graphics and Applications”) has been held in locations such as Tokyo, Taipei, Maui, and Macao. The papers are typically of high quality, and have included some important real-time rendering papers. It will be interesting to see how Pacific Graphics fares now that SIGGRAPH Asia has arrived on the scene.
  • WSCG is a Central European graphics conference. It has had some interesting real-time papers. Unlike the other conferences, the full proceedings of WSCG are freely available.
  • The Spring Conference on Computer Graphics is another Central European graphics conference.
  • SIBGRAPI has been held in Brazil for the past 20 years.
  • AFRIGRAPH is another relatively recent regional conference. It has been held in Cape Town, South Africa since 2001.

Besides the generic graphics conferences, there are many conferences focusing on specific subfields of graphics. The ones of most interest to real-time rendering practitioners and researchers are:

  • EGSR (“Eurographics Symposium on Rendering”) is a relatively large conference focused on all aspects of rendering, both offline and real-time. Some of the most important real-time rendering papers have been published through this conference.
  • I3D (“Symposium on Interactive 3D Graphics and Games”) has been around for about twenty years, although it has been an annual conference only for the past few years (and has added the “and Games” part of its title more recently still). I’ve attended it twice, it is a nice, small conference. The papers are a mix of HCI and real-time rendering papers, some of which have been quite important to the field.
  • Graphics Hardware (more properly, the SIGGRAPH/Eurographics Conference on Graphics Hardware) alternates between the USA (where it is co-located with SIGGRAPH) and Europe (where it used to be co-located with Eurographics – since Eurographics was moved to the spring it has been co-located with EGSR). In theory, the papers there should only be of interest to people designing graphics hardware but in practice many of the papers are of great interest to people writing software as well.
  • Like Graphics Hardware, the Symposium on Computer Animation is also held jointly by SIGGRAPH and Eurographics. It similarly alternates between the USA and Europe. Although technically not a rendering conference, the field of computer animation is in practice strongly linked to rendering (in particular real-time rendering) so it is of interest.
  • NPAR (or “Symposium on Non-Photorealistic Animation and Rendering”) is another joint SIGGRAPH/Eurographics conference. It is devoted to the rapidly growing field of non-photorealistic or stylized rendering. The first few conferences were held in Annecy, France but it was held in San Diego in 2007 and seems likely to alternate from now on.
  • Although the Symposium on Geometry Processing is also a joint effort between SIGGRAPH and Eurographics, it has only been held in Europe so far. Geometry processing is another topic which is strongly linked to rendering.
  • For the past three years the fast-growing field of interactive ray tracing has had its own conference, IRT (or “Symposium on Interactive Ray Tracing”). It is jointly held by IEEE and Eurographics, and alternates between the USA and Europe.

GDC (or “Game Developers Conference”) is another conference of interest to real-time rendering practitioners. Unlike the previously mentioned conferences, which are run by nonprofit professional organizations like ACM, IEEE, and Eurographics, GDC is run by Think Services, which is a for-profit corporation. It is really more like a trade show than an academic conference, and the presentations do not undergo a strict peer-review process. Much of the material relates to non-graphics topics like gameplay and audio design. Nevertheless, there is much interesting material on real-time rendering presented there by game and graphics hardware developers. Although GDC is held in San Francisco, the GDC brand has recently expanded to cover conferences in Texas, China, and France.

Anyone interested in the field of real-time rendering would be well-advised to attend one of these conferences if possible. If not, the printed proceedings can be purchased for reasonable prices and most are available through various digital libraries. Better still, many of the papers (as well as class notes and other materials) can be found on the web for free – Ke-Sen Huang’s excellent homepage makes for a good starting point.

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