Will Nvidia`s Fermi Architecture Bring Movie-Quality 3D to Your PC?
by Robert Oschler
Nvidia`s new Fermi GPU architecture may represent a radical change to video hardware that could dramatically impact both gamers and programmers. It is a dual-pronged evolution of Nvidia`s chip and board architecture that both greatly accelerates important graphics operations like tessellation and displacement mapping—key features in the new crop of DirectX 11 games—and brings the GPU significantly closer in architecture and programming style to the CPU. With Fermi, Nvidia`s goal is to bring greater realism and film-quality special effects to videogames, while allowing programmers to apply the power and drastic speed improvements of parallel programming to more of their code. This may offer future games and scientific applications the potential to implement algorithms of greater power and versatility, especially in real time.
According to Nvidia, a guiding force of Fermi`s development was Hollywood-quality 3D, which has achieved a realistic look that PCs have not yet been able to match. Nvidia cited the current blockbuster film Avatar, which used the PantaRay engine co-developed by Nvidia and Weta Digital, the company that did the film`s primary visual effects and uses Tesla- and Quadro-based rendering products. This focus resulted in the PolyMorph engine, a new processing module in the graphics pipeline with a dedicated tessellation unit and other features that significantly accelerate the ability to process scene geometry in parallel. Realistic water and rain effects may also now be possible due to a jump in processing power that directly benefits techniques like Smoothed-Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH), and Fermi`s improvements in math precision could result in greater clarity and detail when using important rendering techniques like anti-aliasing and displacement mapping.
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