When you shoot one big frame at a time

The high-performance computers we rent and sell are excellent for still photographers who work with large RAW files. We recently helped a VA based professional photographer who was working on a print 35 feet high by 100 feet wide. It was shot using a Nikon D850 45.7 MP  DSLR and a Gigapan. Using a current, top-of-the-line iMac, he could not work on the photo without every move of the mouse taking a frustratingly long time.

photo courtesy of Gigapan

photo courtesy of Gigapan

We shipped off an HP Z840 fully loaded with Dual Intel Xeon CPUs, 256GB of RAM, all flash NVME system drives. This custom solution was determined by us knowing the needs of our client and how he wanted to work. A one-week rental was all he needed to get through the project. He did not need to spend tens of thousands to get one particular assignment done although after experiencing the power of the HP Z workstation, we're now in discussions to help him acquire the new HP Z8 workstation with a similar configuration.

Visual media keeps increasing in resolution and therefore file sizes, and this is one of the primary reason we continue to expand our inventory of powerful computers and high capacity storage solutions. Most creatives have demands being put on them by their clients to work in high-definition using 4K and higher with HDR video, complex visual effects in almost every project, creating VR & AR experiences, and large megapixel still images. Computers are coming to market now with a lot of processing power using both CPUs and GPUs to do various tasks based on the design of the software being used. 

It is helpful to our customers that we stay up to date on how creative applications utilize the hardware in a computer. If you're using Adobe Photoshop, for instance, we'll put you into a computer with dual multi-core CPUs and a lot of RAM where, if you're using PTGui, we’ll make sure you get a fast machine along with a powerful GPU for speedier stitching and rendering. 

Your better choice for obtaining technology may be our "Hardware as a Service" model where we provide the machinery to you when you need it rather than you going out of pocket for it. VFX Technologies can get you the gear you need quickly, and we support the equipment so if something goes wrong, you call us and we will resolve the problem through support and replacement when necessary. 

Whether you shoot an image one frame at a time or 24 frames per second and if your subject is real or imagined, you want your work looking its best when you let it go. The right gear will get you there.

Jim Reisman

GPU Rendering is Here. Take a Break!

Rendering using graphics cards is not new, but it is not widespread because it requires a change in established workflows. Autodesk Maya, for example, is widely used by visual effects artists and the rendering software for Maya is Mental Ray. Recently Mental Ray was updated, and it can now work with GPUs. NVIDIA purchased Mental Ray, and their latest version has GPU acceleration for GI-Next that can slash a one-hour render to a 5-minute coffee break. 

This speed requires the combination of a high-end graphics card such as the NVIDIA M6000 and a Dual CPU, multi-core processors such as the HP Z workstations or Boxx Apexx line. CG artists using Autodesk Maya can tap NVIDIA’s GPU-accelerated renderer, Mental Ray, directly within Maya for free. You'll only need a Mental Ray license for production rendering.

Autodesk used to provide Mental Ray support to end-users, but NVIDIA has taken over that task. NVIDIA is supplying the latest Mental Ray and workflow enhancements to multiple Maya versions, starting with Maya 2016 and 2017 on Windows, Linux, and MacOS.

NVIDIA will “be serving end users directly” with their Mental Ray for Maya plug-in. The new plug-in will show results directly in the viewport, starting at low quality and increasing until the view changes.

By announcing GI-Next, NVIDIA says this will speed up global illumination in Mental Ray, and it will also reduce the number of options required to tune the results to just a single quality slider, making it easier for artists to pick up. One of their benchmarks shows a 26-fold increase in performance, most of that attributable to GPU acceleration.

Artists can use Mental Ray within Maya to craft scenes and render individual frames at any resolution, using any supported processor within a machine. NVIDIA Mental Ray is backward compatible for scenes from earlier Maya versions. It’s able to output .mi files to feed production pipelines. Autodesk 3D Max is also making use of Mental Ray, and it's GPU rendering capability.

To the delight of professional artists, GPUs are becoming more viable after years of CPU dominance. Recent trends suggest that this will only increase in the future. GPUs are increasing in speed, memory, and power efficiency. Having graphics cards handle with image processing while the CPUs manage the workstations resources results in a faster and smoother workflow. With a computer properly configured to handle your project, you may be able to get home in time to relax and watch a few TV shows featuring some cool visual effects. 

My company, VFX Technologies, can provide these GPU enabled workstations to you for rent, to keep your expenses down. We can also build, configure, and sell your company the optimal system to increase efficiency and lower operating costs.

- Jim Reisman