Monthly Archives: December 2013

AMD FirePro professional GPUs in Apple’s new Mac Pro deliver unprecedented levels of performance

AMD  announced dual AMD FirePro(TM) professional graphics solutions (GPUs) deliver unprecedented levels of performance for the new Mac Pro. The AMD FirePro(TM) D300, D500 and D700 professional GPUs offer exceptional compute power and reliability for creativity and productivity in a wide range of applications. With industry-adopted OpenCL(TM) (Open Computing Language) support, Mac Pro users have the ability to seamlessly edit full-resolution 4K video and simultaneously render effects in the background, and still have enough performance to power up to three high-resolution 4K displays(1).

These new AMD FirePro GPUs are built on the strength of AMD’s award-winning Graphics Core Next GPU design — an architecture conceived from the ground up to intelligently manage rendering and compute workloads. The combination of AMD FirePro GPUs and OpenCL — strongly supported by both Apple and AMD — is designed to deliver massive compute and graphics performance in one compact solution.

“We are very proud to offer dual AMD FirePro professional graphics in the new Mac Pro to empower users with the power and performance they need for uncompromising creativity and productivity,” said Matt Skynner, corporate vice president and general manager, Graphics Business Unit, AMD. “AMD prides itself on quality support and development for our professional graphics solutions. Backed by award winning graphics technology, we believe Mac Pro users will experience top notch results with AMD FirePro GPUs.”

“We are very excited to see the performance that our DaVinci Resolve customers will get with the dual AMD FirePro GPUs featured in the new Mac Pro,” said Grant Petty, CEO, Blackmagic Design. “The combination of the OpenCL acceleration of the AMD FirePro with the Mac Pro’s revolution in pro desktop design and performance will be absolutely amazing for video and film professionals.”

“We really enjoyed working with AMD to maximize MARI’s performance on the new Mac Pro. We’ve seen some of the best performance out of the box from MARI with the dual FirePro GPUs in the Mac Pro,” said Jack Greasley, MARI Product Manager at The Foundry.

The dual AMD FirePro GPU options for Mac Pro feature up to 6GB of VRAM and up to 2048 stream processors per GPU, matched with top configurations capable of up to 7 teraflops of computing power. OpenGL and OpenCL are optimized in OS X(R) Mavericks to leverage the full computing power of the Mac Pro and dual GPUs.

SPECviewperf 12: The New Industry Standard

AMD is pleased to recognize SPECviewperf® 12 as a new benchmarking tool to measure professional graphics performance. The new synthetic benchmark replaces SPECviewperf® 11, which was introduced in June 2010. Released by the SPEC® Graphics Performance Characterization (SPECgpc) project group, the new software includes fully updated viewsets based on traces from professional applications.

Read more about this new industry standard and what it means for AMD FirePro graphics here:


Apple’s new Mac Pro has Arrived!!!

Apple’s long-awaited Mac Pro is now on store shelves.

Starting Today,19th December 2013, customers can order the completely redesigned Mac Pro on Apple’s Web site, its retail stores, and through select authorized resellers, Apple announced Wednesday. The computer starts at $2,999, but customization options can push that price higher.

Apple unveiled the new Mac Pro in June at its Worldwide Developer Conference, showcasing a startlingly redesign. Unlike the massive, heavy tower that was the previous Mac Pro, the new computer features a sleek, cylindrical design and is just 9.9 inches tall. The device’s diameter comes in at 6.6 inches, and it weighs 11 pounds.

A $2999 configuration that comes with a 3.7GHz Intel Xeon E5 processor, 12GB of DDR3 RAM (filling three of four memory slots), 256GB of flash storage, and two AMD FirePro D300 GPUs (with 2GB of VRAM each). There’s also a $3999 model, which has a 3.5GHz Xeon E5 CPU, 16GB of RAM (filling all four slots), 256GB of flash storage, and two AMD FirePro D500 GPUs (each of which have 3GB of VRAM each). Those graphics chips are stout enough to drive three 4K displays at the same time.

There are, of course, numerous customization possibilities. You can upgrade the CPU to an eight-core 3GHz Xeon E5 or a 2.7GHz Xeon E5. The RAM is upgradeable to 64GB, and you can expand to 512GB or 1TB of on-board flash storage. The graphics can be upgraded to dual AMD FirePro D700 cards, each with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM. At the time of this writing, prices for those upgrades had yet to be confirmed.

Apple expects users who need more storage or other expansion options to use external devices, connected via the new machine’s six Thunderbolt 2 and four USB 3.0 ports. (Each Thunderbolt 2 port supports up to six daisy-chained devices, so the Mac Pro can support up to 36 Thunderbolt peripherals—if you can find that many.)

The RAM is more user-upgradeable: You can remove the machine’s metal sleeve to get access to the Mac Pro’s four memory slots. The internal flash-storage card should also be upgradeable in theory, though it will likely require storage designed to work specifically with the Mac Pro.

The new design is based around what Apple has called a “unified thermal core”, to help pull heat away from those components and keep the machine cool.


Thinkbox Software to bring Krakatoa to Cinema 4D

Thinkbox Software is to bring Krakatoa to Cinema 4D. The high-volume particle renderer is currently available for 3ds Max, Maya, and as a standalone edition.

Initiated by users
The Cinema 4D port was initiated by Ugly Kids‘ Daniel Hennies, who took advantage of the standalone edition’s C++ API to bridge the two applications.

“”I was really motivated to incorporate Krakatoa into my workflow since the majority of my projects involve creating fluids, particles and high-quality renders, which are time and memory-intensive in Cinema 4D,”” explained Hennies. “”I didn’’t want to switch creative applications so I took matters into my own hands. Krakatoa renders blazingly fast in Cinema 4D and handles particles in a way that wasn’’t possible before.”

Thinkbox Software has now acquired Hennies’ code, and plans to launch an official beta of Krakatoa for C4D early in 2014.

Other VFX tools for Cinema 4D
Krakatoa joins a growing line-up of new, indie-developed, VFX-focused tools for Cinema 4D, including Insydium’s X-Particles and Navié’s Effex simulation framework, itself compatible with Krakatoa.

Read the official announcement on Thinkbox Software’s website

Evermotion releases Nox 0.40

Evermotion has released Nox 0.40, the latest version of its free unbiased renderer, featuring a new – and more streamlined – GUI, a new material editor and a new advanced colour picker.

According to a note on the website, the release marks “the start of new development process that will bring updates more frequently and faster than before”.

Nox 0.40 is available now for Windows. It’s a standalone renderer with scripts to link it to 3ds Max and Blender.

Read more about the new features in Nox 0.40

Download Nox 0.40

Chaos Group releases V-Ray 2.0 for Rhino

Chaos Group has released V-Ray 2.0 for Rhino, bringing the feature set of the Rhino edition of the renderer further into line with its counterparts for other software packages.

New features from both 1.5 and 2.0
The update is free to V-Ray 1.5 for Rhino customers, so perhaps as a result, the official feature list includes a key feature introduced in 1.5 itself: the V-Ray RT real-time preview renderer.

The main new features specific to the 2.0 update itself are materials. V-Ray Material is a “brand-new compact and optimized material for V-Ray that includes parameters to adjust diffuse, reflection, and refraction”.

The V-Ray Wrapper Material (shown in the video above) can be used to specify extra material properties, including the option to “create true matte materials which show the background as opposed to the base material”.

Extensions to the core software
Other additions include V-Ray Express, a separate download through which users can access “more than 200 materials and lighting setups to create realistic studio scenes and illuminate models faster than ever”.

We assume it’s an extension of the old V-Ray for Rhino Express toolbar, but we’ll update when we confirm that.

V-Ray for Rhino also becomes the latest app to get a live link to HDR Light Studio, Lightmap’s real-time relighting tool. It works with either version 4.3 of the standalone edition of the software, or the new dedicated edition, HDR Light Studio 4 for V-Ray for Rhino, which you can read about in more detail on the Lightmap website.

V-Ray 2.0 for Rhino is now available for Rhino 4 and 5. You’ll need a valid hardware key to license it.


Read more about the feature set of V-Ray 2.0 for Rhino on the Chaos Group website

Read the full V-Ray 2.0 for Rhino product documentation

See video demos of the new features in V-Ray 2.0 for Rhino on YouTube

Thinkbox Software ships XMesh MY

XMesh MX for 3ds Max in action. Thinkbox Software has just released XMesh MY, a new Maya version of the geometry caching plugin. The tool should be of particular use at studios running mixed Max/Maya pipelines.

Thinkbox Software has released XMesh MY, the new Maya version of its geometry caching plugin, originally released for 3ds Max. Announced at Siggraph, the tool should help studios running mixed Max/Maya pipelines.

As well as storing animated scene geometry in a condensed format, the software can transfer smoothing groups and materials assignments between 3ds Max and Maya, and comes with bonus tools to transfer shader definitions.

The news release below focuses mainly on the benefits of using XMesh MY in Maya alone, and user testimonials; the original announcement more on specific technical features, so take your pick.

Pricing and system requirements
XMesh MY is compatible with Maya 2011 and above running on 64-bit Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. A single licence costs $495, including a free slave licence that can be used interchangeably in Maya or 3ds Max.

A free XMesh Loader plugin enables non-XMesh users to view and render data saved using the software.

Thinkbox Software today announced the release of XMesh MY, a geometry caching plug-in for Autodesk® Maya®. Designed to streamline animation and visual effects production pipelines, XMesh is a set of tools for saving animated scene geometry in a condensed format that yields smaller files for faster loading, manipulation and sharing across facilities and applications. Also compatible with Autodesk® 3ds Max®, the robust and scalable multi-threaded solution allows artists to quickly open, share or receive computer generated (CG) assets from internal studio departments or external facilities.

“XMesh is the backbone of the interchange pipeline between 3ds Max and Maya at ScanlineVFX. It is fast, solid and the open structure allows the seamless integration into our pipeline,” said Christian Deiss, PipelineTD, ScanlineVFX.

Key features of XMesh include:

  • Accelerated Loading
    By saving multiple animated meshes as a single entity, XMesh loads files orders of magnitude faster.
  • Minimized Disk Space Usage
    For each frame, XMesh saves multiple files – an XML header file referencing data channels and a compressed binary file per channel for optimizing disk space usage. Furthermore, unchanging channel data is saved once and can be referenced by later frames without duplication.
  • Enhanced Multi-Core Performance
    Each data channel is saved and loaded in a separate thread to provide advanced performance on multi-core machines.
  • Parallel Saving
    By allowing the same animated sequence to be saved on multiple network nodes, XMesh enables heavy scenes to be cached orders of magnitude faster.
  • Quick Playback
    With support for optional alternative mesh representation in the viewport, XMesh can play back files even faster via a low-resolution proxy file sequence. Viewport display modes that read only a fraction of data from disk – including bounding box, vertex cloud with percentage option and percentage of faces – further boost performance.
  • Easy Information Transfer
    XMesh preserves per-face material assignment information and supports the conversion of Maya edge smoothing information into 3ds Max smoothing groups and vice-versa, which provides an alternative to storing explicit normals.

“You can’t put a price on something that makes life much easier,” noted Will Wallace, Senior FX Artist, Hydraulx. “XMesh made things easy and did it right. We were able to bring objects in and out between packages with no worries. What XMesh can cache is mind blowing.”

“I used XMesh on the ‘Hellraiser: Origins’ teaser recently, and loved it,” added Joël LeLièvre, CG Generalist/FX Artist, Delicate Machines. “It offered a robust, yet controllable approach to creating hundreds of digital extras in 3ds Max that would not have been possible without it. XMesh provided a caching system that allowed me to create over 600 animated characters in a matter of hours. XMesh is a beast!”

XMesh MY supports Linux, OSX and Windows 64-bit operating systems and works with versions of Maya from 2011 through Maya 2014. Independent of the XMesh saver, the XMesh loader allows for free viewing and rendering of data. The XMesh saver license can be applied interchangeably to either Maya or 3ds Max. A version of the XMesh loader for The Foundry’s NUKE is currently in Beta.

Read more about XMesh on Thinkbox’s website

Golaem ships Golaem Crowd 3.0

Golaem has released Golaem Crowd 3.0, the latest update to its crowd-simulation system for Maya, adding support for non-human characters, flocking behaviours, and an interactive previsualisation system.

The software, which has been used by studios including Framestore and Double Negative, is intended as a less technically specialist alternative to standalone tools like Massive, and builds on Maya’s native particle systems.

Now supports any skeleton type
The headline feature in version 3.0 is the option to use any type of character in crowd simulation, including quadrupeds and n-peds, rather than just those with a human-like skeleton.

The release adds the Character Maker, a new nodal editor to convert imported skeletons to the Golaem Crowd file format, and to convert and cyclify imported animation clips.

According to Golaem, the system has been tested with a range of standard rigs, including Autodesk’s HumanIK, Project Pinocchio and the 3ds Max Biped; the AdvancedSkeleton auto-rigging system; and even DAZ 3D.

The release also comes with a new foot adaptation system; and the option to enable or disable physics simulation on the fly at a per-limb level, enabling users to switch from keyframe to procedural animation.

New Flock and Steer behaviours, Viewport 2.0 preview
Making use of those new animal characters, Golaem Crowd 3.0 adds new Flock and Steer behaviours and some support tools to help set up and control flocking simulations, including a new Population Tool Sphere shape.

The release also provides a new interactive preview of crowd simulations, including geometry diversity, directly in Maya’s Viewport 2.0 viewport.

Golaem Crowd 3.0 is out now for Maya 2012 and above, running on 64-bit Windows or Linux. It supports the mental ray, V-Ray, Arnold, 3delight and RenderMan Studio render engines.

Read an overview of Golaem Crowd 3.0′s new features

Read the full release notes for Golaem Crowd 3.0

Autodesk adds MEL scripting, OBJ export to Maya LT 2014

Autodesk’s latest extension for Maya LT adds support for MEL scripting to the cut-down version of Maya for indie games artists. See videos of other new features in the extension on Autodesk’s YouTube channel.


Autodesk has released another subscriber-only extension for Maya LT, the cut-down version of Maya aimed at indie games artists it launched earlier this year, adding support for MEL scripting and OBJ export.

At the time, Autodesk described the lack of MEL support as a means of providing some clear water between LT and its parent product, effectively preventing users from scripting missing functionality back in.

The latest update changes that, and with the previous extension having significantly eased the polygon limit on exported geometry, Maya LT is suddenly looking like a much more powerful proposition.

Maya LT Extension 2 is available today as a free download to users on subscription or pay-as-you go plans. Other new features include new character rigging options, listed in the excerpt from the press release below.


PRESS RELEASE (Excerpts): New features in Maya LT Extension 2

  • MEL Scripting
    Simplify repetitive or complex tasks and seamlessly facilitate sharing with team members: a built-in script editor removes the need to manually write scripts and displays corresponding commands in MEL script. Scripts can be saved and turned into customized parts of the Maya LT UI through Shelf Buttons, Hotkeys or Marking Menus.
  • Human IK and IK Handle Animation
    A new IK handle, a Pole Vector constraint, Human IK Mirroring and an animation re-targeting tool accelerate the animation, rigging and transfer of information between characters.
  • New Export Options
    Export Maya LT 3D assets in an OBJ file format to expand compatibility with other industry standard tools and game engines.


Read more about Maya LT on Autodesk’s website