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If you want to know about ray tracing, there’s two things you need to know about

Posted: 03.06.19

One, JPR has just released the definitive report on the ray tracing market and its 70 software and three hardware providers: The Global Market for Ray Tracing Software

Two, Nvidia will be presenting 21 sessions on ray tracing at their GTC conference in San Jose from the 18th to the 22nd of March, 2019: GPU Technology Conference

Ray tracing and the advent of real-time ray tracing will and is changing everything from moviemaking to skyscraper design, automobile design AND manufacturing, medical analysis and diagnose drug and nuclear bomb design, and discovery of oil fields to name a few.

The earliest stages of production may be the area of content creation most transformed by digitalization, but it, in turn, is helping streamline the entire production process. Pitch-viz is taking different forms and is delivered with different levels of complexity. Where once stylized drawings or animations helped block out a scene, now the scene can be set-up with 3D sets, mo-capped action, actual location shots, and be physically accurate. Content is created with the goal of helping define the final look of the production. And, increasingly, the work created in the early stages of conceptualization and pitch-viz stays and evolves with production—that’s called asset re-use and one of the ways ray tracing is making things less expensive and better.

Finding mistakes before you manufacture is the most important part of any production whether it’s a film, TV show, or a new product. Being able to simulate the final product and fix things before production saves great amounts of time and money. In the automobile business, it is known as virtual prototyping. In the film and TV studios, it is called pre-viz. Pre-viz came into prominence with the breakout film Avatar. Since then, it has evolved from flat renderings to real-time hybrid ray-traced renderings adding new realism and exposing the gotchas that can steal the profit from a film or a product if not detected in time.

But it’s not just about making pretty pictures of shiny surfaces—ray tracing saves time and money as well as producing physically accurate and photo-realistic images. Nvidia demonstrated and is now shipping its RTX brand of ray tracing accelerators based on its new Turing architecture. Claiming realtime ray tracing in architectural renderings and even games, it changes everything and puts ray tracing in the toolbox of every artist, marketer, and designer. 

In the past (and sadly still today in some studios), programmers struggled with shadow and reflection maps trying to save a couple of frames a second using fake graphics. In the past, that was justified, but Moore’s law has made processors with tens of billions of transistors possible, and with that many transistors, running at billions of operations per second, you can do some pretty amazing things—like ray tracing in real-time. With ray tracing, you don’t have to struggle with fake shadows and trying to figure out where they should be, it all happens automatically, and absolutely correctly. All designs today use 3D modeling, whether it’s a dress, a car, a chair, or a prosthetic. And all those models move. Even in the case of a stationary building, it moves relative to the sun and its reflections and shadows.

In the film, TV, and advertising industries, the final images are tuned up and constructed in what is known as compositing. Basically, it is the laying of layers of images, one of smoke, one of the sky, one of a house, one of an airplane, on top of one another to construct the final image. Frame by frame, 24 per second in old movies up to 120 per second in new TVs. That’s a lot of compositing. Ray tracing all but eliminates those steps because every layer is perfect every time, all the time.

At GTC, you can learn how to crawl into the interloops of a C++ routine, and how the latest block-bluster movie was made—with 21 sessions there is something for everyone and anyone interested in ray tracing, and the information will be delivered by the leading experts, scientists, and practitioners in the all fields from automobiles to animation, zoology to Zelgart.

If that gets you excited, and you want to get involved you can buy Nvidia’s new book on ray tracing, and if you want to enter or learn about the market, you can pick up our 351-page report (with 188 illustrations and charts and 10 tables). Anything anyone wants to know about ray tracing can be found at this event and in this report.

But wait—there’s more. At GTC, you’ll be able to speak with the experts, including the JPR team that wrote the report. And all of us, the Nvidia folks, their invited speakers, and we at JPR are available and happy to discuss the market, technology, the how-to, and the why of ray tracing. This is a subject of passion and we’re very passionate about it.