Friday, September 11, 2009

ATI talks DirectX 11

Ian McNaughton, a senior manager of advanced marketing at AMD/ATI outlines the benefits of Windows 7DirectX 11.
Let me break down the features and benefits of DirectX 11 - the main features being Tessellation, Multithreaded Rendering, and DirectCompute.

Tessellation is a technology that has been around for a few GPU (graphics processing unit) generations. AMD has had Tessellation support since 2001, which was then called Truform; we also implemented Tessellation in the XBOX 360 GPU, then codenamed “Xenos”. Tessellation is a feature which increases the number of polygons in an image. Basically, Tessellation enables a more lifelike image, both of objects and landscape. Back in the day characters who were CG (computer generated) looked very blocky, almost cartoon like; with the use of Tessellation, developers are now able to significantly increase the number of triangles to draw an image, thus creating a more lifelike quality in games.

Multithreaded Rendering is a feature which allows DirectX to be processed via multiple CPU threads. This means that a dual-, triple- or quad-core CPU can have a higher utilization across all cores than DirectX APIs in the past. Historically the OS would load up a single core for commands to the GPU, in essence creating an overload on the first core and under utilizing the additional cores. With only one core issuing commands to a GPU, we have seen CPUs hold back the potential performance of the GPU. With Multithreaded Rendering, DirectX will take better advantage of all the available cores. This should result in a better experience for the multi-core user because of a faster processing pipeline and increased scaling.

DirectCompute is a feature which allows access to the shader cores/pipeline for Stream Computing (graphics acceleration) type applications and physics acceleration. One of the biggest technology breakthroughs of the past 5 years has been the notion that processing can be moved from the traditional CPU to the much more parallel GPU. Simply put, the CPU manages tasks sequentially; it accomplishes a task then moves on to the next task in a very orderly fashion and with tremendous speed. Today’s CPUs can work at speeds of up to 108.8 GigaFLOPS (Floatingpoint Operations Per Second).

A GPU is designed to work with many slower cores in parallel, giving a much wider vector -meaning a wider road for more cars to travel on - than a CPU. This allows tasks to be completed faster if the program or software is developed to take advantage of many-many cores, albeit slower ones. Today’s GPUs can work at speeds up to 1.36 TeraFLOPS, giving the GPU a significant (almost 11 times faster) advantage when the proper software is run. This advantage truly delivers on the processing capabilities of Stream Computing. DirectCompute allows easier access to the GPU’s many cores for parallel processing; if the user is running applications that take advantage of Stream Computing then the performance experience increases considerably. We are seeing transcoding as the first type of task that is seeing tremendous benefit using Stream Computing. This means if you are an avid HD video or music user you will benefit when converting files to play on your laptop or iPod type devise; Stream Computing can significantly cut down the wait-time for enjoying your converted media.

Now, if you are a gamer you undoubtedly will be asking me “What games are going to support DirectX 11″? This is always a tightrope to walk for us as we are unable to pre-announce our technology partners titles and the specs around those titles; still, we want to give the consumer confidence that we’ve been assured there will be substantial titles in the market that take full advantage of your ATI Radeon DirectX 11-compliant graphics card. So, as this blog is published, here are the future DirectX 11 games we can talk about: DiRT 2BattleForge by EA; and S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat by GSC Game World. by Codemasters; BattleForge by EA; and S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat by GSC Game World.