AMD goes Hollywood with new graphics chips

AMD is targeting Hollywood with the new Radeon 4800 series graphics chips, which can render lifelike images in real time.

Imagine turning a movie into a game instantly, with the audience driving storytelling by defining the character. Advanced Micro Devices wants to make that possible in the future, with the company releasing new graphics chips that allow moviemakers and game developers to render three-dimensional images in real time.

AMD on Monday said it was releasing Radeon 4000 series graphics cards, which deliver 1 teraflop of graphics performance to increase the level of realism brought to images. The products will be available starting next week, and companies including Falcon Northwest will develop systems based on the new graphics chips.

The new processors include the ATI Radeon HD 4850, which will be priced in the US$200 range, and the Radeon HD 4870, which will be priced around $300, said Neil Robison, director of developer relations at AMD. AMD next month will formally announce the release date of the graphics card code-named R700, which will have two graphics processing units on a single card. Many industry observers expect the R700 to be released in August.

The new hardware will be an integral part of "Cinema 2.0," a concept introduced by AMD on Monday that will combine hardware and software tools to bring a higher level of realism and interactivity to films and games, said Rick Bergman, senior vice president of the graphics product group at AMD, at a press event in San Francisco.

Though special-effects rendition is advancing, movies lack interactivity and animated characters affect realism in games, Bergman said. AMD wants to enable movie studios and game developers to render 3D graphics in real time and make game graphics more like real life, Bergman said.

The ability to combine gaming and filmmaking benefits studios, as it allows directors to be more interactive on the fly. Directors could possibly make the movie and game simultaneously on set, said Charlie Boswell, director of AMD's digital media and entertainment business.

While mostly conceptual, Cinema 2.0 has been brought to life by Jules Urbach, whose company, Jules World, rendered graphics to fit in movie environments using AMD's Radeon 4800 series chips. Urbach demonstrated the 3D virtual world of a lifelike New York City street developed entirely on a computer, with the ability to move around and zoom into locations.

Urbach's company is also rendering lifelike characters and scenes for a number of upcoming movies including "Dark Country" from Sony, which uses 3D cinematography to make the storytelling experience more realistic.

AMD is inviting game developers and Hollywood directors to take part in Cinema 2.0, although because graphics technology is developing rapidly, the company isn't sure whether it can create an industry standard of hardware and software services surrounding the Cinema 2.0 concept, Bergman said.

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