Friday, June 19th, 2020 Posted by Jim Thacker

10bit FX ships Notch

Originally posted on 23 October 2019. Scroll down for news of the latest update.

10bit FX has released Notch 0.9.23, another major update to its line of real-time motion-graphics and VFX authoring tools, adding a hardware-agnostic path tracer and new CPU and GPU render denoising options.

The update also adds an interesting AI-based render upscaling system, based on Nvidia’s NGX technology.

Notch Playback and Notch Builder: a quick overview
Originally designed for live visuals for events – Notch Playback integrates directly with media servers – the Notch product line is also now targeted at more general DCC work.

Notch Builder, the new-ish authoring tool built on the Notch engine, provides users with a node-based environment for setting up motion graphics systems and simulations.

It imports geometry in OBJ, FBX or Alembic format – it doesn’t have its own modelling toolset – and is designed to integrate with other DCC software, including Cinema 4D, RealFlow and Blender.

We wrote about the software last year, so check out our original story for more details.

New in Notch 0.9.23: hardware-accelerated path tracing on any manufacturer’s GPUs
The headline feature in Notch 0.9.23 is the new path tracer, which builds on the hardware-accelerated ray tracing features added in Notch 0.9.22 earlier this year.

The system is based on DirectX, so it should work with any manufacturer’s GPUs.

In 0.9.22, selected ray traced effects were added as drop-in components for a scene, making it possible to balance visual quality against render times by toggling individual components on and off.

The new path tracer – again, a drop-in component – makes it possible to maximise visual quality by rendering with full path tracing instead of a mixture of rasterisation and ray tracing.

For context, recent updates to Unreal Engine have added similar hybrid ray tracing and full path tracing render modes, although path tracing is only intended as a reference tool.

In addition, UE4’s implementation is based on Nvidia technology, so it only works with current Nvidia GPUs.

AI-based render denoising on the CPU and GPU, plus AI render upscaling on Nvidia GPUs
The update extends Notch’s render denoising system, adding support for the two main AI-based denoising technologies: Nvidia’s GPU-based OptiX denoiser, and Intel’s CPU-based Open Image Denoise (OIDN).

Notch has a good blog post summarising the differences between analytic denoising solutions like those used in its existing RT Real-Time Denoising node, and AI-based systems.

The firm also tells us that it is working with Nvidia to add support for denoising normal maps.

While AI-based denoising is now fairly common in commercial renderers, 10bit FX has also implemented a more unusual AI-driven feature: render upscaling.

Again, it’s based on a Nvidia technology – this time, the AI Up-Res system in its NGX platform – so you will need a “RTX-range NVIDIA GPU” to use it.

10bit FX’s implementation is aimed both at users looking to upscale existing content for use on modern ultra-high-res displays, and to speed up the rendering of new projects.

The latter uses a similar workflow to render denoising: rather than rendering at full resolution, users can render at a lower resolution then upscale, generating similar-quality output in less time.

How similar the quality is depends on the nature of the renders being upscaled.

10bit FX says that “thin lines and text fare particularly well compared to more traditional upscaling methods”, but that “noise does less well, coming out as slightly blurrier noise”.

Faster video playback, plus some key structural changes
Other changes in Notch 0.9.23 include updates to the video playback engine, which 10bit FX describes as resulting in “significantly increased” performance, although it doesn’t put a figure on the speed boost.

In addition, following the recent pricing changes to Notch Playback, a Pro licence of Notch Builder can now also be used as Notch Playback licence at resolutions up to 4K.

There are also two major structural changes: the internal time base for the software has been changed, making it possible to store keys accurately at any frame rate, rather than just 25fps and 50fps.

The change is compatibility breaking, so projects created in 0.9.23 will not load properly in older versions of the software, although older projects will still load in 0.9.23.

In addition 32-bit support has now been deprecated: Notch now ships only as a 64-bit executable.

Updated 19 June 2020: 10bit FX has released Notch Builder

Despite the small change in version number, the update adds a new GPU-based chroma keyer that 10bit FX describes as giving “hardware keyers a run for their money at [a] fraction of the price”.

You can read more about it on Notch’s blog and see it in action in the video above.

Other new features in the release include the option to stream live to video platforms supporting the RTMP protocol, like YouTube and Twitch, and to Zoom and Google Hangouts via the DirectShow framework.

Since our original story, 10bit FX has also added support for Microsoft’s Azure Kinect sensors, Windows multi-touch devices and Hokuyo’s UST LiDAR sensors as input devices.

There are also a lot of smaller new features and bugfixes: find a full list via the link below.

Pricing and system requirements
Notch 0.9.23 is available for 64-bit Windows 7+.

Notch Builder is rental-only, with the Base edition costing £99/month (around $125/month) and the Professional edition costing £189/month ($240/month). You can see a feature comparison table here.

Read an overview of the new features in Notch 0.9.23 on the product blog

Read a full list of new features in Notch 0.9.23 in the online changelog