Tuesday, August 14th, 2018 Posted by Jim Thacker

Video: Chaos Group’s new real-time ray tracing system

Chaos Group has posted a demo of Project Lavina, its new real-time ray tracing system based on Microsoft’s DirectX Raytracing (DXR) technology.

The video shows a standard .vrscene file with a total of 300 billion triangles being rendered at over 25fps on a system containing a single Nvidia Quadro RTX 6000 GPU.

It will be on show, along with several other demo scenes based on the same technology, at Siggraph 2018.

The technology itself is expected to be integrated into Chaos Group’s existing renderers, V-Ray and Corona, in future releases, although Chaos Group hasn’t committed to a date.

Real-time ray tracing on a (relatively) affordable commercial GPU
Announced at GDC this year, DirectX Raytracing introduces support for hardware-accelerated ray tracing within the DirectX 12 API.

While it’s designed to work with existing DirectX 12 hardware as a fallback, Microsoft is leaving it to individual manufacturers to provide proper hardware acceleration.

The RT core inside Nvidia’s upcoming Quadro RTX 6000 – one of three new GPUs announced yesterday that will feature the architecture – is the first example of such dedicated hardware acceleration.

With an estimated street price of $6,300, the RTX 6000 isn’t exactly a typical workstation card, but it is far closer to what most people use in production than the hardware from the first DXR tech demos.

Famously, the four-GPU system used for Epic Games’ beautiful ‘Reflections‘ demo, created with ILMxLab and Nvidia, was costed at $60,000.

Based on a standard V-Ray scene, and running at over 25fps
According to Chaos Group, the demo of Project Lavina shown in the video above is “one of several demos being presented using standard vrscenes exported from 3ds Max and Maya”.

It’s also pretty big, consisting of 20 different unique trees, each with 2-4 million triangles.

Along with the terrain, that makes around 100 million triangles, and the trees are then instanced 80,000 times, for a total of 300 billion polys: there’s no culling or level of detail swapping going on.

It’s a long way from the kind of ray tracing currently used in production rendering – there’s only single GI bounce, and as YouTube viewers have commented, the results are pretty smeary – but it is fast.

The frame rate stays solidly above 25fps: that of the old PAL standard for analogue TV, and the minimum that could be considered genuinely real-time rendering, rather than a fast interactive display.

So when will the technology come to V-Ray and Corona?
In its blog post on the demo, Chaos Group says that Project Lavina will remain separate from the V-Ray GPU architecture in V-Ray Next, which falls into that ‘fast interactive rendering’ camp.

However, it’s designed to work with scene data in the same format: “With Lavina, your original data will soon be real-time, and your current rendering workflows will automatically be able to utilise it”.

The firm also confirms that it will form part of its existing products – artists will be able to use Lavina “as soon as [it] is added to the Chaos rendering solution that [they] already use”.

There’s currently no estimate of when that will be – “We’re not yet sure when it will be production-ready” – or whether Project Lavina will roll out first in V-Ray or Corona.

However, parts of the underlying technology may make their way into existing systems first: the firm says that V-Ray GPU will benefit from the advances on out-of-core rendering – that is, rendering scenes larger than can fit in GPU memory, which traditionally reduces render performance – made during the work.

A more realistic vision of real-time production rendering than the first DXR demos
Although there’s clearly a long way to go before it is usable in production, Project Lavina is noteworthy as an indication of the scale of the scenes that most of us may genuinely be able to render in real time.

Chaos Group is certainly promoting the technology pretty hard: in the firm’s press release, CTO Vlado Koylazov describes it as “one of the biggest breakthroughs we’ve ever made”.

In its blog post, Chaos Group says that it plans to release further updates once it has been able to test the technology on commercially available hardware and drivers.

However, as the post concludes, production ray tracing already “looks faster than many thought possible”.

Read more about Chaos Group’s Project Lavina real-time ray tracing technology on the company’s blog