Reprinted from: Exotic Research Report (V2N1, Jan/Feb/Mar 1998)
A Computing Bottleneck
Film producers, advertising agencies, architects, multimedia designers, medical researchers and scientists are burdened by huge delays as their complex designs are rendered into photorealistic pictures.
Rendering is defined as the coloring and detail infilling of digital images, usually at the final stages in creating computer graphics. Following the initial design work, swirl frame outlines of an object or picture appear on the computer screen as a line drawing similar to an architect's blueprint.
Much like paint-by-number, the wire frame outlines then need to be filled in with lighting, texture, and/or be colored per the designer's instructions to the computer (or rendered) to create the final image, whether it be a photo-realistic image or a motion sequence (objects that move). The more elaborate or involved the instructions given by the designer (i.e. light & shadow effects, the layering of one image onto another, shimmering water, random breezes, etc.), the more computer power (and time) is required.
Rendering is most certainly one of the most time-consuming and costly aspects of the entire computer graphics industry. The computational power required for complex CAD and multimedia renderings is often too great and too costly for most companies.
Desktop PCs and workstations are not keeping pace with the speed requirements of intensive 3-D and animation software. Rendering and compression times on these platforms are measured in terms of weeks and months. These professional users face constant deadlines and competitive pressures that are pushing them to find a solution to their endless appetite for graphics computing power.
The same professionals also require speed and flexibility with respect to the destination of a given project. Most productions involve many different people, who are often located in different locations. A central storage facility with round-the-clock access is the only way to optimize the collaborative nature of today's production environment.
The Virtual Studio Network
Staffed by design and technical experts in computer graphics, the Virtual Studio NetworkT will enable film makers, architects, designers, multimedia artists, scientists and medical researchers to complete complex digital graphics projects in minutes instead of weeks. Since this powerful solution is connected to existing broadband telecommunication networks, it will be available worldwide, 24 hours a day. The Virtual Studio Network will shorten rendering, compression and other digital production processes minutes and hours.
Village Labs' solution is the Render-Ring (Village Labs' technology package provided online through Village Labs' Virtual Studio Network--a supercomputer-based graphic imaging service bureau designed to eliminate the rendering bottleneck once and for all).
As a result, performance of off-the-shelf computers has been benchmarked at 600%+ improvements. The algorithms provide superior throughput, quality control, memory management and energy efficiency for the Virtual Studio Network.
Village Labs is currently involved with a major memory systems manufacturer to developed unique high speed, shared access memory management application.
3-D Logo Rendering
A New York animation house is designing a new 3-D network identification for a national television client. The final animation is due before the new season begins. Client changes and an illness puts the project behind four days. The final image takes six days to render on three high-powered workstations. The deadline is missed. The Village Labs Virtual Studio Network could have processed this job in less than 30 minutes and returned the work the same day.
A San Francisco architectural firm designs the expansion plan for the local airport on their desktop CAD system. Even with a network of Pentium powered workstations, the rendering cannot be completed in time for the review at the airport commission monthly meeting. Deadlines missed, cost overruns, tempers flare... The Village Labs Virtual Studio Network could have provided same day turnaround.
Digital Video Compression
A Seattle video production company creates a video to be included in a monthly CD-ROM title. The video is compressed in-house, but the image is unusable due to operator inexperience. Re-rendering takes 75 hours, the project is late, the client is lost. The Village Labs Virtual Studio NetworkT would have provided same day turnaround with professional quality.
Digital Video Processing, Colorization, and Storage
A national hero dies. The Atlanta Bureau of CNN is assembling a retrospective. Most archival footage is in black and white and is very grainy. The Village Labs Virtual Studio NetworkT receives digitized files and corrects graininess. Colors are selected and assigned to faces, cars, backgrounds, etc., and the film is rendered (B&W film colorization) resulting in a full-color, clear image. Final images are transmitted to CNN. Images stored at the Village Labs library can be reviewed and transferred to other broadcasters over phone lines or by satellite.
CD-ROM Title Development Support
A solo multimedia developer in Idaho secures a contract to produce a CD-ROM title. She has limited equipment and the subcontractors she needs are scattered across the country. She dials into Village Labs for:
1) Hard disk storage for work in progress;
2) Digital file conversion;
3) Animation and 3-D model rendering.
Using the Village Labs Virtual Studio Network she is able to send work to numerous video and audio production studios, virtually eliminating the need to rent or purchase specialized equipment. Her subcontractors transmit their work to Village Labs in Tempe where they are stored digitally. At the end of the project she flies to Phoenix and assembles the final product in one of Village Labs' rental production suites. Once in the suite, she has 24-hour a day access to national production services and digital content through the virtual studio broadband networks.
File Format Conversion ... and Scientific Testing
A new high efficiency commercial jetliner is being designed by a U.S. consortium of defense contractors in Los Angeles, Seattle, Raleigh-Durham, Knoxville and Rochester. The contractors collectively own millions of design elements, but they are in many different digital file formats. The files must be converted into a common format before the can be combined into a central design for the new plane. Village Labs performs the file format conversion and opens large storage/collaborative workspace accounts on the Virtual Studio Network for all participants. As design work progresses, Village Labs supplements rendering of new components, compositing, and finite element analysis testing.
MRI and CAT Scan images for a patient with bullet wounds are transmitted from a Denver hospital to the Virtual Studio NetworkT. Village Labs interleaves the separate images to build a full 3-D image versus the slicer view of individual scans. Resolution enhancement is used on the wound areas. A linear topology is then calculated to assist surgeons in their navigation of the surgery. The final output is telephonically transmitted to specialists in three cities to get their expert review and analysis. The digital film is stored for insurance purposes and follow-up treatments.
Virtual Reality Rendering
A ten-year-old in Ashland, Oregon receives a multimedia computer for his birthday. Using the 3-D software included with his system, he creates a model and walk-through of the Agora marketplace in ancient Athens for the county science fair. He dials up the Village Labs/Sprint 900-4RENDER line and renders his masterpiece. His image is rendered and returned to him overnight. (On his 386 PC, the process would have taken over 95 days.) His dad receives the $18.95 bill and is mildly upset. Then, our Village Labs customer wins a blue ribbon at the science fair, and all is well in Ashland.
That Pays Dividends For All
The Virtual Studio Network will cater to the booming digital animation and special effects business as a major production support facility. The major bottleneck of the computer graphics image processing industry is resolved with proprietary technology coupled with supercom-puter power, which will reduce customers' time to market (and costs) for their digital media productions... and all of this is at a time when digital TV is on the horizon!__JD