Power Series

From: John Foust <jfoust_at_threedee.com>
Date: Fri Dec 28 10:39:42 2001

At 09:24 AM 12/27/2001 -0700, Mark Green wrote:
>> > -----Original Message-----
>> > From: Tothwolf [mailto:tothwolf_at_concentric.net]
> Both of my
>> SGIs, for instance, have analog video in/out, which is a start. On the
>> other hand, you can't really do a good animation with anything "out of the
>> box." It usually takes a lot of strange stuff.
>What it really takes is software. Most computer animation is a batch
>process, you run a renderer for hours, days, months, etc. I run two
>rendering farms at work, neither of which have a single graphics card
>on them. All the texture mapping and similar visual effects is done
>in software, no need for graphics hardware.

What Mark is saying is that there's at least two different kinds of
rendering, and people sometimes chose SGIs for one reason but
not the necessarily the other. One, you might like to have
fast processors and hardware acceleration of textured polygons
for the real-time view of your 3D data. Example users would
include military simulation, virtual reality, flight simulators, etc.

The second group, 3D computer animators making special effects
and movies, they not only need the real-time stuff during
the modeling stage, but they also appreciated the raw horsepower
when it came to rendering, which is usually a purely software-based

Thus today you'll see places like Pixar with immense rendering farms
of headless machines with no video graphics hardware, as well
as very whizzy workstations for modeling and composing the 3D scenes.

Not long ago, though, distributed rendering wasn't commonplace,
and an animator might've been forced to buy additional full
workstations or ones with light graphics power for batch rendering.

If you pick up an old SGI box, if you were extremely lucky
you might get an old animation package that does the modeling
and the rendering. They were usually keyed to the SGI box's
unique CPU ID. You might get the CDs but no key, and you're
out of luck.

I must remind the younger folks out there that as recently
as less than ten years ago, you'd see animators taking out
six-figure loans to buy the SGI and software they needed to
run their shop, for just one or two animators. :-)

On the other hand, SGI distributed lots and lots of source
code and demos, and had a few unkeyed applications that may
run on the box you got if you get the CDs. These include
real-time interactive demos and apps. They'd give away
these annual "Hot Mix" CDs at trade shows by the stack.
I have a bunch I should eBay someday.

Given that SGI Indy boxes are going for less than $100 these
days, if you ever had an itch to see what they were all about,
you no longer have any excuses.

- John
Received on Fri Dec 28 2001 - 10:39:42 GMT

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