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Old 08-06-10, 06:00 PM   #1
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Post SIGGRAPH: Talking to Lightworks

One company I always enjoy talking to at SIGGRAPH is Lightworks, creators of an impressive suite of software you may have never heard of. Many people are largely unaware of the Lightworks tools because they market them not to end-users, but rather to other businesses and application developers as a pre-built rendering solution. The result is high-end photorealistic visuals (or not, depending on the application needs) in several applications, powered by Lightworks technology.

This year at SIGGRAPH, I took the time to talk to the Lightworks crew and see what new offerings they had. Lightworks has been interested in the real-time raytracing market for quite some time, and I first found them when they were demonstrating their integration with the CausticOne card back at SIGGRAPH2009. They were back again this year, again demonstrating the amazing CausticOne integration capabilities, but they had really taken it to the next level this year.

One technology they were demonstrating, but not being terribly vocal about, is a new system called 'Lightworks Architect'. The Lightworks Architect is, at it's core, an interface layer between applications and underlying rendering technologies. This means that using Lightworks Architect you can program your application using a single interface, and then swap out renderers underneath. At their booth they were demonstrating various options using the CausticOne card, NVidia's OptiX & SceniX, an Intel CPU-only renderer, and their own renderer. This alone is impressive, but they also had support for OpenRL, meaning that they could interface with any OpenRL compatible renderer. Unfortunately, there aren't very many of those right now but with the involvement of Caustic hopefully that will change.

From speaking with their developers, adding new renderers is a breeze as well. Merely writing a translation layer and providing a single DLL for the application was enough, and they were able to adapt NVidia's OptiX raytracer in a mere matter of days, and now it's available for all to use via Architect. Architect isn't a fully released product yet, more of an in-house tool, but hopefully this will become another product in the Lightworks Portfolio, enabling real-time raytracing on a variety of platforms.

In addition to Architect, Lightworks got a lot of buzz from their new 'Cloud Rendering' tool named Alto. The hype was a bit off on this one, as Alto is not a true 'Cloud Rendering' system, but rather a remote rendering & queue system, similar to Autodesk's Backburner. What Lightworks found was once they had Architect in place, it became trivial to write a renderer that simply bundled up the scene & handed it off to someone else across the network. They constructed Alto to allow you to setup your own Lightworks-based Render Farm and use a cluster of computers to accelerate your renderings, or perhaps use a single extra-powerful machine by multiple people in an architectural or design house. Complete with queue management & control features, it looks like a nice resource sharing system for use by small studios. Again, this is a technology that will be offered to developers for inclusion into their own products, so Lightworks-driven products may find themselves with some nice remote rendering capabilities in an upcoming update.

These types of advancements really showcase the power of embracing a solution like Lightworks, rather than 'rolling your own'. When a company embraces a solution like the Lightworks tools (or Luxion, or Fovia, or whatever other OEM/B2B provider you can think of), they wind up getting all of these new functions without dedicated their own software resources to creating them. Application developers can focus on file-formats, GUI interfaces, and hardware interfaces to remote sensors or exotic input systems like multitouch, haptics, or tablets, and leave the Rendering to a team of experts offsite. Then as new accelerated renderers come along, or support for clusters and remote resources, you get access to that technology without any effort on your part.

Where's Lightworks going next? Well I can't spill those beans (yet), but suffice it to say they're keeping busy. Around the show you may have seen a few people demonstrating the Lightworks Artisan product, which is a popular tool for viewing models. In their booth they were demonstrating an internal product, not yet available to the masses and not confirmed if it ever will be, along the lines of BunkSpeed Shot and Luxion KeyShot which would allow you to arrange a scene and model and then 'Take a Picture' to initiate a full-resolution rendering. This was one of their demonstration platforms for Architect, as they could then show how similar the renderings were between OpenRL, OptiX, and their internal renderer, therefore showing how well Architect translates between them all.

Architect and Alto both look like great products, and hopefully they'll have more coming down the pipe soon! If you made a stop by the LightWorks booth or presentations, what caught your eye?

Reach out to the community of Visualization and Graphics Experts by Advertising on VizWorld.com Related posts:
  1. Lightworks joins the Cloud Rendering Ranks
  2. Lightworks Presenting Parallel Rendering at SIGGRAPH
  3. Lightworks implements Caustic OpenRL to accelerate rendering

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