Real-time 3D workflow has always been the Holy Grail. If the Hollywood-based StudioGPU founders are correct, their company’s flagship product–MachStudio Pro–is the answer to that search.  Based on a strategic relationship with AMD announced in April, StudioGPU today began shipping MachStudio Pro with an AMD ATI FireGL V8650 3D professional graphics accelerator card featuring 2 GB onboard graphics memory and a parallel processing Unified Shader architecture.StudioMACH1

But MachStudio Pro isn’t simply about a dramatic speed-up in rendering time: it’s about subverting the production-line assembly of CG images, in which each task–lighting, texturing, cameras–is an island. Instead, MachStudio Pro aims for a nonlinear pipeline in which any aspect of the image can be tweaked at any point in the creation process.

“We like to use the metaphor of  Photoshop, which leveled the lay-out process,” said Chief Scientist Yoni Koenig. “This is exactly what we’ve done. Some processes that are now separated in a manufacturing assembly-style are now available to the artist in a single workspace. In CG, you don’t interact with the image live. You have shader TDs, lighter TDs, compositors–all those people in the production pipeline to get an image done. When you collapse all those things into a single workspace, the whole ability to explore the image changes.”

Aimed at industries from CAD visualization to 3D animation and broadcast, MachStudio Pro is interoperable with all the leading 3D modeling, animation and 3D CAD software packages.  MachStudio Pro’s software fits into the creative pipeline after all 3D models are produced. Its real-time rendering enable artists to handle lighting, cameras, materials, compositing and finishing to take place in real-time, reducing render times dramatically. For example, a 1.98 million polygon HD image can render in 14 seconds using MachStudio Pro, as opposed to more than three hours it would take with a traditional rendering package.

StudioMach2“We’re not displacing modeling and animation packages,” said Koenig. “We’re totally software-agnostic. With MachStudio Pro, we bring everything into one place. We allow you to composite in 3D so you can see everything in three dimensions–and then tweak all the elements in real time. We provide an environment where you can manipulate lighting shaders, 3D compositing and finishing applications.”

Koenig calls the company “a collaboration between artists and engineers.” The small group of founders worked together in the game industry for 15 years. “That’s how we started MachStudio, thinking about how to leverage the GPU in a way that hadn’t been done before,” said Koenig. “There’s a real misconception that the GPU is about accelerated rendering.  This is like telling an editor – I’m going to speed up your codec. These things are important but actually we speed up the entire workflow. It’s about freedom to access any of the things the CG artist needs to do to create an image. CG artists are right now caught in a dependency graph, meaning that when a production creates shaders and hands it off to the lighter. It’s a production line and changing anything is highly technical and difficult.”

“The challenge is that people get a little scared,” he added. “No one wants to change their pipeline. We support a bunch of versioning techniques and we can link into most facilities’ versioning. It’s not so much that you don’t have a shader or lighter or cameraman.  The point is that when the lighter is working, he can adjust the materials, and, right now, in most productions, if I’m handed a character to light, I cannot touch those shaders.”

Other MachStudio Pro key features a full materials library; customizable shader software developers kit (SDK); interactive ambient occlusion (AO), fully configurable lighting and animation constraint system; animatable and keyframeable properties for all objects, lights, cameras and materials; real-time High Dynamic Range (HDR) cameras and lighting; real-time depth-map shadows and depth-of-field; exporters to support a wide range of file formats, including Autodesk 3ds Max, Maya and .fbx formats; completely customizable interface with assignable hot keys, drag-and-drop tabs and fully functional scene manager; support for the creation of unlimited lights and gels; simulated global illumination, reflections, refractions and subsurface scattering; resolution independent with support for all popular final file formats and codecs; and full Python scripting support.

“MachStudio Pro democratizes content creation,” said Koenig. “It lowers the access point.”