The film, released in theaters on July 2, features dramatic sequences in which characters are empowered to harness the four ancient elements -- fire, air, water and earth -- and manipulate them as weapons in battle. Giant fireballs, tendrils of water, walls of earth and overwhelming air blasts are a few of the digital simulations created by ILM as part of the film's 485 visual-effects shots resulting in over an hour of screen time.
Central to achieving many of these sequences was the use of a tool created by ILM called Plume. Plume is both a fluid simulation system and a GPU-based renderer that utilizes the NVIDIA® CUDA parallel computing architecture. ILM realized dramatic speed increases with Plume by running simulation renders on a 12-machine GPU-based render farm powered by NVIDIA Quadro® FX 5800 professional graphics solutions.
"As with everything in high-end visual effects, iteration was essential," said Olivier Maury, research and development engineer, ILM. "By working within an NVIDIA GPU-based framework, we saw up to eight iterations each day of complex fire, dust and air simulations. That represents speed improvements of 10-15x over CPU-based simulations. Access to CUDA and NVIDIA GPUs has entirely changed the way we approach a variety of complex visual effects challenges."
While Plume was initially designed for rendering computer-generated fire, its flexibility led it to also be employed in the creation of air-bending dynamics, ocean mist, smoke and the swirling of clouds. A particularly complex shot depicts the film's main character, Aang (played by actor Noah Ringer) fighting off hurled streams of fire with gusts of air that push aside the fire and sand particles. It was made possible by two Quadro GPU-driven Plume simulations of carefully directed air streams and fire, interacting with each other.
"Because Plume is accelerated by NVIDIA Quadro GPUs, it's highly interactive and becomes a tool that relies more on the artist's eye rather than their technical knowledge," explained Craig Hammack, associate visual effects supervisor, ILM. "This means you don't have to understand the underlying algorithms or all of the fine details of how fluid solvers work to drive the detail of a simulation."
ILM's primary toolset on "The Last Airbender" included NVIDIA subsidiary mental image's mental ray® software and Pixar's Renderman for rendering, Autodesk Maya for animation, The Foundry's Nuke for compositing, and proprietary tools Zeno and Saber for CG and effects creation. ILM plans to incorporate additional NVIDIA CUDA architecture-based tools into future project pipelines and continues to explore even more new ways to implement GPU-accelerated rendering into its visual effects workflows.
Certain statements in this press release including, but not limited to, statements as to: the benefits, features, impact and capabilities of NVIDIA GPUs, Quadro professional graphics and CUDA architecture are forward-looking statements that are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause results to be materially different than expectations. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially include: development of more efficient or faster technology; design, manufacturing or software defects; the impact of technological development and competition; changes in consumer preferences and demands; customer adoption of different standards or our competitor's products; changes in industry standards and interfaces; unexpected loss of performance of our products or technologies when integrated into systems as well as other factors detailed from time to time in the reports NVIDIA files with the Securities and Exchange Commission including its Form 10-Q for the fiscal period ended May 2, 2010. Copies of reports filed with the SEC are posted on NVIDIA's website and are available from NVIDIA without charge. These forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and speak only as of the date hereof, and, except as required by law, NVIDIA disclaims any obligation to update these forward-looking statements to reflect future events or circumstances.
© 2010 NVIDIA Corporation. All rights reserved. NVIDIA, the NVIDIA logo, CUDA and Quadro are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of NVIDIA Corporation in the U.S. and other countries. mental images and mental ray are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of mental images GmbH in Berlin, Germany, in the United States; and in other countries. Other company and product names may be trademarks of the respective companies with which they are associated. Features, pricing, availability, and specifications are subject to change without notice.
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