Graphics Hardware

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On his new blog, Kayvon Fatahalian has an interesting article which explains how to compare the confusing core counts quoted for new GPUs by companies such as NVIDIA, AMD and Intel. It casts a rare ray of light into an area often obscured by marketing claims.

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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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