A Look at the Open-Source Tools Behind Today’s State-of-the-Art Visual Effects

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The magic of computer graphics is taken as a given for visual special effects these days. It wasn’t always so. The ground-breaking 1982 movie Tron was snubbed for an Oscar nomination, as the film’s director related, because the Academy considered the use of computers as cheating and therefore didn’t consider them eligible for the “Best Visual Effects” category. Can you even get a “Best Visual Effects” without computers today?

Today, Software Defined Visualization (SDVis) is the ultimate in the world of visualization, allowing the best-of-the-best to emerge. It’s hardly a secret in the world of scientific visualization, digital animation, and computer graphics (CG). Go to any hit movie these days, and the results of SDVis will be present to help make the incredible believable.

In 1982, the Oscars considered use of computers to be cheating. Today, computers are routinely the magic behind Best Visual Effects award winners, and Intel’s open-source libraries help power that magic (including How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World). This is a magic we can all readily use, even on our laptops.

Behind SDVis stands a collection of open-source tools that notably include the Intel® Rendering Framework. The framework is routinely used to scale up and support very large 3D datasets by using the available platform memory. For instance, the Dreamworks MoonRay renderer relies on libraries within Intel’s framework to create How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.

visualization Jim Jeffers, Intel, May 2019

Rendering is all around us, and we want all of it to be better and faster!

The Intel® Rendering Framework is free and open source, and it offers a powerful path to developing high-performance, photorealistic, extensible, and cost-effective visualization applications. These open-source libraries are optimized for Intel® Xeon® processors and for future Intel® Xe GPU products.  The framework seamlessly works on all Intel platforms including laptops, workstations, cloud, and high-performance computing (HPC) clusters.

renderingframework Jim Jeffers, Intel, May 2019

Intel Rendering Framework optimizes the magic within both
professional rendering and scientific rendering stacks.

Jim Jeffers, Intel, May 2019

Such capabilities and performance are the result of enabling the parallelism and performance available on Intel® platforms without the memory limits and cost of today’s GPU-based solutions. There are four key components available today in the framework, and a fifth component (Intel® Open Volume Kernel Library) has been announced and is expected to be available later this year.  The components can be used together or independently:

  • Intel® Embree is a highly optimized ray-tracing kernel library, valued for its extensibility and broad support for complex rendering and shading frameworks.
  • Intel® OSPRay is a cluster-capable, scalable, extendable, ray-tracing, rendering toolkit that includes path tracing and volume rendering. It efficiently uses threading and vectorization to create interactive, high-fidelity applications.
  • Intel® OpenSWR is an OpenGL low-level rasterization library up-streamed to the Mesa OpenGL open-source project to achieve high-rendering performance when GPUs are unavailable or are too limiting. Completely CPU-based and built on top of LLVM, this library provides performance advantages over Mesa llvmpipe
  • Intel® Open Image Denoise is an open-source library of image denoising and filtering algorithms to improve visual quality and reduce rendering times.
  • Intel® Open Volume Kernel Library (expected to be available in Q3 2019) is an open-source library of 3D volumetric computational kernels that can be used as the basis for volume-rendering applications and computational volume-oriented simulations.

SDVis is taking graphics into new territory, and the Intel® Rendering Framework is a key part of this ongoing revolution. Regardless of your rendering needs, the Intel Rendering Framework is helping optimize your rendering to be better and faster.

And using computer graphics for visual effects? That’s not cheating — it’s expected!

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