Game-changing technologies

By Jahirul Amin

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Date Added: 7th December 2013

Article sponsored by AMD FirePro Professional Graphics
and Autodesk





3ds Max and Maya users that are members of Autodesk's subscription program are in for an early Christmas treat this year. Autodesk's annual Extension releases grant users advanced access to some very exciting new technologies. Two of the changes that are destined to enhance your workflow most fundamentally, are those created in partnership with AMD.

You will already know the open source Bullet Physics plug-in that was introduced to Maya in 2011, known as MayaBullet. This fast physics solver works across platforms to provide game developers and visual effects teams with realistic dynamic and kinematic simulations.

What's exciting is that updates to the MayaBullet plug-in now available through the Maya 2014 Extension have exploded its potential. Users can now enjoy working on a far larger scale and with far greater control than ever before.

But Santa hasn't forgotten 3ds Max users. They, too, get a treat. Users can now utilize a built-in stereoscopic toolset that was previously only available to Maya users. A new Stereo button has been added to 3ds Max's set of system object types, enabling users to view their stereoscopic work in the viewport in different display modes, including anaglyph, side-by-side and, for AMD professional GPU users exclusively, active stereo also.

3ds Max can now handle complex stereo work without the inconvenience of being obliged to move data from one application to another. This is great news for VFX, games artists and any users who like to see their work in that extra dimension.

Physics get sophisticated in Maya

Working with dynamic simulations in CG can be a long process. There's no doubt about that. You set it up, run the initial simulation, go for a coffee and hopefully when you return you'll have something to view. You see what's working, what's not working, make some changes, hit Simulate and decide to put the kettle on again.

By the end of the day, you may be bouncing off the walls, but hopefully you have a simulation that's moving in the right direction. Not bad for a day's work, you could say. But wouldn't it be great to get to that stage by lunch, or even elevenses? By combining the AMD FirePro Professional graphics cards and the open-source Bullet Physics plug-in that has been integrated into Maya, you can.

Using rigid-body, soft-body and collision-detection libraries, the MayaBullet Physics plug-in allows you to create small to large-scale realistic simulations for films, games and visualisations. Taking advantage of Open CL, the MayaBullet plug-in allows you to very quickly create, view and edit simulations in pretty much real-time (depending the scene complexity of course) right inside the Maya viewport.

It feels wrong to be able to pop 'simulation' and 'real-time' into the same sentence like that, but this is exactly what is possible. Speed, performance, accuracy and object interactions all benefit from splitting the computations between the CPU and the GPU. In conjunction, the Maya-native Fields also work alongside the MayaBullet plug-in, allowing for more control as you create havoc. You can even mix this up by introducing some nCloth elements into the scene, and with everything interacting you are taking what was essentially a non-interactive setup and making it interactive.

Very quickly, you can rough out a dynamic simulation, allowing you more time to experiment, make iterations and refine the destruction. Directing such chaos has never been easier - and better still, you can make changes on the fly as the simulation is playing back in front of your eyes.

For example: set up your Bullet scene, add a Gravity field to the Bullet solver, hit Play on the timeline and then increase and decrease the Magnitude of the Gravity field. You should see the rigid-body assets in your scene get pulled down, dragged up and then sucked back down again, and so on. With the power of Bullet and the processing power of an AMD FirePro professional graphics card, creating simulations is becoming an exciting experience. It's pure brute force!

The AMD FirePro does not simply enhance the Bullet experience, but also allows you to push Maya further in certain ways. As a first example, it allows you to deal with heavier scene files, heavier models and more complex rigs. Therefore the animator can work with a model at a resolution that allows him to get a clearer idea of how the mesh will deform at render time.

Secondly, by utilizing Viewport 2.0 and the DirectX 11 shader, you can truly get a better representation of your mesh with displacement maps, normal maps applied and more - all in the Maya viewport.

Finally, by taking advantage of the Alembic GPU Cache, you can bring a huge number of polygons (and by huge, we mean into the millions) into a scene and it still handles like a trooper.

So the AMD FirePro graphics card and the MayaBullet plug-in for Maya are a match made in geek heaven. Physics is growing in sophistication and to accompany this, you get to push Maya into another realm. As an artist, you can be really feel as if the technology can match the speed of your thoughts.


Taking advantage of the MayaBullet plug-in, we take a look at creating a dynamic simulation and creating some chaos by adding some Maya fields. In this video, Maya is powered by an AMD FirePro W8000 graphics card

With Alembic and GPU Caching, we utilize the power of the AMD FirePro graphics card to overload our scene with as much geometry as we can, while still maintaining a real-time playback speed. Again, Maya is powered by the AMD FirePro W8000 graphics card in this video

Making it all possible

For those with a predilection for watching paint dry, there is some upsetting news here: by using OpenCL to harness the power of the GPU, the MayaBullet allows artists to create simulations... instantaneously! Using up to 4 teraflops, the AMD FirePro W7000, W8000 and W9000 graphics cards go to work on complex processing tasks with impressive speed. Whereas previously clients were obliged to wait to see simulation results, they can now view them immediately, enabling projects to progress more swiftly and more professionally.

With AMD's advanced Graphics Core Next (GCN) GPU architecture, full support for 4K monitors with DisplayPort 1.2, industry-leading memory bandwidth and support for PCI Express 3.0 as well as OpenCL 1.2, the AMD FirePro W-series of professional graphics cards combines leading-edge technology to make these game-changing workflows possible, enabling artists to create more complex, compelling content faster than ever before.

With AMD and Autodesk collaboration, we can be assured that there will be plenty of new game-changing technologies over the horizon, with graphic cards allowing artists to push this tech to the limit.


Get ahead of the game

With the speed at which technology is changing, and with artists having to deliver more bang for the buck, it's vital that we are able to use the best tool for the job. Having to wait for an annual release stands in your way of grabbing the latest tool to speed up your workflow and make your deadlines. This is where the Autodesk Subscription Program comes in, allowing you to grab the latest tech ahead of full releases.

For instance, there's new technology such as the Walt Disney Animation Studios XGen Arbitrary Primitive Generator, which is the same tech used to create animated films such as Bolt, Tangled and Toy Story 3.


Related Links

How to change your game with Autodesk and FirePro
Discover the FirePro graphics card range
Learn more about Autodesk
Read about open-source Bullet Physics
XGen Arbitrary Primitive Generator

To see more by Jahirul Amin, check out Beginner's Guide to Character Creation in Maya
and 3ds Max Projects
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