Apple has some GREAT news for creative professionals.

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Praise be! The cool kid in school hasn’t forgotten about us.Apple's new iMac Pro is targeted right at creative professionals in the media & entertainment industry. The product’s introductory release statement reads that this product is for “everyone”: “From video editors to 3d animators to musicians to software developers to scientists” everyone can find something that relates to their industry or passion in the iMac Pro.

Let’s take some time to examine the specs: The iMac Pro offers a XEON CPU with up to 18 cores that clock up to 4.5GHz. Apple is utilizing AMD's Radeon VEGA Pro GPUs. Once software manufacturers adapt their applications to these GPUs, you will have a graphics card capable of 22-25 Teraflops of computing speed (really fast) compared to the wonderful GTX 1080TI which tops out at 11 Teraflops. Radeon has an architecture that's way ahead of where Nvidia is right now. We predict a GPU war is brewing as we speak. This also supports our contention that GPU rendering is truly the future in visual effects and digital media production.

The Mac is also no longer a sealed box. Apple dropped the Metal 2 SDK to allow developers take advantage of external AMD GPUs using the latest Thunderbolt 3 interface. That is 40Gb speeds you'll be getting! Apple's change will affect the current Mac lineup as they will be able to use upgraded GPUs now, with Nvidia’s new drivers, Macs will allow users to add external GTX cards like the 1080 and when the new AMD GPU ships, there will be drivers to support them too.

Expect that the new AMD graphics cards will also benefit the PC world as soon as drivers become available for Windows.

How long have creative professionals shook our heads in unison and thought to ourselves that Apple no longer cares about us? They still do, and VFX Technologies has the new iMac Pro workstations available for rental and purchase now.

Jim Reisman & Adinah Bolden

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