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The future of 3D is here : the release of real-time ray-traced rendering and what this means

rtx nvidia card jensen huang ceo
  1. Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 release will reshape 3D rendering

  2. Rendering previously would take a long time, now it can be done real-time

  3. How could this impact Katapult’s work?


There’s a new, groundbreaking graphics card on the market. The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080, released earlier this August, is set to completely transform the way Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) is rendered.  

Let’s start with a bit of background into how we’ve been creating 3D graphics up to now, and find out how this is going to impact us.

A brief history of CGI

Computer generated imagery has advanced massively in the last 10 years, particularly with a rendering technology known within the industry as ‘Ray Tracing’. In as simple terms as possible, Ray tracing works by tracing the path of a light ray as it bounces around a scene.

Nvidia’s new RTX rendering techology in action. The RTX On example shows the difference of Ray Tracing compared to the traditional rasterized rendering method

Nvidia’s new RTX rendering techology in action. The RTX On example shows the difference of Ray Tracing compared to the traditional rasterized rendering method

The technique is capable of producing a very high degree of visual realism in computer images however, it has traditionally been very expensive in terms of the computer ‘power’ needed. In the past and even still today, we need lots of computers to contribute to the rendering to produce a single, high resolution and high-quality image. These computers rely on their CPU processor chips (basically the ‘brains’ of any computer).

When it comes to producing Ray Traced high-quality images and animations, even with a lot of powerful computers with lots of CPU’s inside, render times can still take hours per image. With animation, in particular, there are 25 ‘frames’ or images per second that need to be rendered to produce the footage.

Over the last 5 years, in particular, the advancement in GPU (Graphic Processing Unit) technology has meant there is now a viable alternative to CPU’s for rendering Ray Traced quality imagery. Modern GPUs are very efficient at manipulating computer graphics and image processing, and their highly parallel structure makes them more efficient than general-purpose CPUs for algorithms where the processing of large blocks of data is done in parallel. In a PC, a GPU is most commonly present on a video or graphics card. These cards can be classed into two categories – Professional and Gaming.

Nvidia's new Geoforce RTX 2080 Ti GPU

Image of Nvidia’s new Geforce RTX 2080 Ti GPU capable of Real-time ray tracing for the first time.

Leading technology companies have been collaborating together to achieve the ‘Holy-Grail’ of visual graphics which is ‘Real time ray-traced rendering’. Instead of waiting hours for a single image to render and needing multiple computers or CPU’s to do it, a single GPU can do the exact same task instantly, in real time.

Computer games are a prime example of the demands of graphic production in real time. For the best play back of a game, 60 frames per second have to be rendered in real time for the game to be interactive with the player. Animations alone are 25 frames per second and that can be demanding at HD quality, so trying to create a computer game that is rendered with ray tracing at 60 frames per second and in 4K resolution seemed an almost impossible task and something that was still years away.

Still taken from Nvidia’s demo animation showing Real-time ray tracing in action.

Still taken from Nvidia’s demo animation showing Real-time ray tracing in action.

One small step for tech, one giant leap for 3D animation

At a technology event called GDC 2018, we got a glimpse into an exciting new technology for Epic’s computer game software Unreal Engine: Ray tracing combined with real-time rendering.

As you see in the video clip, this looks no different to what you see in the actual Movies. CGI in films has been hyper-realistic for years to the point you can not distinguish what is real and what is computer generated. What is incredible with this demo, is the cinematic quality of this sequence, given how everything was ‘recorded’ in real time, like a real film would be shot – but it’s entirely computer generated.

This game-changing shift in how computer graphics are created and the possibilities that have now opened up with this technology is massively exciting for us all at Katapult. We’re already producing high-quality ray traced computer-generated imagery to communicate our ideas and concepts with our clients. And have been developing our own Virtual Reality (VR) experiences – combining multiple high resolution, ray trace rendered, panoramic 360-degree images and building custom VR apps for mobile headsets such as the Oculus Go. These are fantastic experiences for communicating design and for the immersive feeling like you’re actually there.

Oculus Go VR Headset in action

Oculus Go VR Headset in action

With the new technology announcements from Nvidia about their new line of advanced Geforce RTX GPU video cards this week, and the news from Epic that Unreal Engine will soon support ray trace rendering in real time, all the elements are coming together to enable us at Katapult to move towards a truly immersive and interactive future with incredible realism – communicating our team’s inspiring ideas in exciting new ways using Real Time VR and Augmented Reality technology to truly ‘Wow’ in ways we’ve not been able to until now.

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