Maxwell Chip Offers Global Illumination Technology
By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
NVIDIA is making serious strides in creating ultra high definition (UHD) computer graphics imaging that professionals are incorporating in virtually every industry that requires a computer. From automotive design to video game development and filmmaking post-production, NVIDIA’s latest graphics processors are really leading the way as we head into the world of UHD. But what we couldn’t know until now, is that the graphics card maker has finally put to rest a controversial theory that America didn’t land on the moon.
Now I know what you’re thinking… come on, James, the Apollo moon landing is old news from like a million years ago. OK, sure, Neil Armstrong did admit that the story of how America beat the Soviet Union in the space race is by now considered “ancient history” to today’s news cycle, and I admit that 45 years ago is a long time. But it’s taken that long for the technology to catch up to what the conspiracy theorists claim we did… and that’s create a convincing hoax. Sure there’s arguments about stars not in the sky, or the differences in the direction of the shadows, and all of that can be easily debunked.
With our new technology in Maxwell, we can do what’s never been done before, and that’s global illumination in real time. What that means is, we can simulate the bounding of light from multiple surfaces and lighting other objects. Looking at how we can show this off, we recalled a very famous picture of Buzz Aldrin setting foot on the moon. We wanted to take on that challenge … – Mark Daily, Sr. Director Content Development, NVIDIA
But what NVIDIA has done is show how simple reflections can really light up a subject, especially if that reflection is an astronaut’s EVA suit. And that’s what the chip maker was able to prove through their new Maxwell graphics chip, which uses a technique called “Global Illumination” to recreate the exact lighting conditions on the moon.
Global Illumination is nothing new. Hollywood FX houses have been doing it for years, but not in real-time. Modeling the lunar surface, the Apollo Lunar Module, and even Astronaut Buzz Aldrin descending down the ladder to the surface, NVIDIA graphics engineers were able to show just how the light from a single source (the Sun) could light up the surface just as it did forty-five years ago.
But something was off; it just wasn’t lighting up Aldrin’s space suit as it was supposed to. What were they missing? They went back to the original lunar video tape, which depicted Aldrin in shadow from the opposite side. There, they noticed something… a light source coming from behind him as he climbed down the ladder. And that’s when they realized that Armstrong was there and that the light reflecting off his space suit did the trick. Adding that in, and NVIDIA was able to replicate precisely the lighting conditions as they appeared in the famous photo.
Can a suit really do that? Yep. The Apollo EVA Suit, known as the A7L, was made out of a unique fabric called “beta cloth,” a super tough, white fabric with fireproof silica (fiberglass) woven into it. This made the space suit very extremely fire resistant and super white in color. And as we all know from our time on set, a white reflector can redirect a heck of a lot of light right where you need it, and in this case, it was redirected right at Aldrin.
Essentially, Neil Armstrong was a light source into that scene. Once we modeled a second astronaut and the light coming from him, the image looked correct. Now we could make a game of walking on the moon and make it look exactly like it did for them with 2014 technology. But in 1969, no way. – Mark Daily
So what does this have to do with filmmaking? Well, going back to the reason why NVIDIA did all this in the first place. To show off their new Maxwell graphics processor. This exercise showed that using Global illumination can really make CGI look more realistic by duplicating the precise lighting conditions that occur in real life. The result is a more accurate virtual set for not only filmmaking, but also video gaming.
And that’s always the goal in CGI, to make it more and more realistic. And NVIDIA has pretty much accomplished that goal with Maxwell. An in the process, they’ve managed to finally put the final nail in the coffin of a stupid conspiracy theory.
Hat Tip – Wired