Displacement Mapping Engine
totally new and innovative for the developer
Parhelia 512 is actually the first GPU of its kind to
integrate hardware assistance for a technique that is
fairly new to the 3D Graphics and Game Developer
community, called Displacement Mapping. This
technology was developed by Matrox and will be part of the
standard feature set for Microsoft's Direct X 9 API.
Think of Displacement Maps similarly to Texture Maps, only
instead of holding object Texture data, they hold object
Displacement or "volume" data, if you will. That is
to say that Displacement Maps give an object's surface its
depth, height and profile.
Perhaps it is
a bit of a cliché but a picture is certainly worth a
thousand words, especially with this technology. As
a matter of fact, during our trip to the Matrox HQ in
Montreal, Matrox was giving away these "Bed of Nails"
gadgets as a door prize of sorts, one that also
illustrates the technology very well. Imagine,
pushing your face into that prickly bed of nails and then
looking at the structure, that is created on the other
side, after your facial structure "displaced" hundreds of
nails, at various heights in the bed. You would get
a strikingly accurate reconstruction of your facial
features on that opposing surface. You've just
created a Displacement Map.
Here is an
example of how Displacement Mapping can be utilized in 3D
Gaming Engines. This was part of the demo that
Microsoft ran with Matrox at
Winhec this Spring.
Displacement Mapped Alien Rendering
Click image to stream 2.5MB AVI File
Displacement Mapped Terrain Demo - Courtesy Westwood
Click image to
stream 5.8MB AVI File
the scene's base mesh with the Displacement map, in real
time and you get the effect that is rendered in these two
demos. As a scene requires additional detail, as the
users field of vision zooms in for example in this Terrain
demo, more geometric complexity and Vertex Texturing can
be added, to provide the proper level of realism and
detail. Imagine what this technology can do for a
Flight Sim. Real-time terrain rendering has always
been a major hurdle to overcome for the developer.
point to this whole technology demo, is that the Matrox
Parhelia 512 has an on board processing engine for this
technology. Now the kicker here is that game
developers have to take advantage of this on board
hardware assist for this technology, in order for it to be
a real benefit. Both Displacement Mapping and Depth
Adaptive Tessellation will become formally available to
the developer, with the advent of the Direct 9X SDK.
However, we know for sure that Matrox is hard at work
evangelizing this technology, as you can see in the
Westwood Studios Terrain AVI.
during our visit to Matrox HQ, we were treated to a hand
at the controls of the Parhelia 512, running a recent game
title. We were also allowed to experiment with
different quality settings, including Anti-Aliasing.
Anti-Aliasing is very inefficient in that the process
requires the GPU to Super or Multi-Sample an 3D scene, so
that it can be re-rendered and filtered at higher
resolutions to remove jagged edges. This causes a
significant reduction in frame rate and is significant
processing overhead for the GPU
"Fragmentation Anti-Aliasing", the Parhelia 512 way, only
samples the edge pixels of a given scene, as illustrated
above and determines whether they are not covered,
completely covered or partially covered (fragmented).
If an pixel is determined to be fragmented, it is then
Super Sampled at 16X AA sub pixel quality and either sent
to the frame buffer or stored in the frame buffer with
list data, for anti-aliasing. The result is that
less than 5 to 10% of the scene's pixels are actually
anti-aliased. Only the aliased pixels are actually
processed for AA. This is far more efficient and the
results looks fantastic (we've seen it first hand) in 16X
AA mode. We also should note that textures won't get
blurred as much with this method of AA since, only edge
pixels are actually processed and not the complete scene.
Here are some
screen shots for illustration.
Now there is
one small caveat, when it comes to 16X Fragmentation AA
with the Parhelia 512. Some titles may not function
correctly with this technology, as we've seen with certain
titles with traditional Multi-Sampling or Super Sampling
techniques. However, the Parhelia 512 is also
capable of up to 4X standard FSAA mode as well and has a
selectable setting in the driver control panel.
The New Matrox
which, here is a quick demo of Matrox's new version of
their "Power Desk" software.
Power Desk Demo
Click to view
user friendly, just the way we like it.
Matrox gives the end user a totally new technology.
Glyph AA is the technique used in Microsoft operating
systems, that smooths the edges of screen fonts.
Microsoft calls their software AA approach "Clear Type".
Typically, this feature is supported in software and
requires a small amount of CPU overhead. However,
like the GeForce 4, the Parhelia 512 accelerates Glyph AA
in hardware and in addition allows for gamma correction of
that text. Gamma correction of screen fonts has not
been available in hardware, until the Parhelia 512.
Glyph AA - Click for view
Some folks may
see this feature as more of a novelty than anything else.
However, users of Microsoft's "Clear Type" will appreciate
this feature and it's a total "freebie". We're
certainly not complaining.
Super Sample Texture Filtering, Surround Gaming,
Dual Head HF and Triple Head!