Final Fantasy movie in real-time

Square demos scenes from the Final Fantasy movie running on an Nvidia Quadro-based workstation.


Square and Nvidia have unveiled the Final Fantasy Technology Demo, which runs scenes from the movie in real-time, at Siggraph 2001, a convention for graphics professionals. The demo uses a workstation with a Nvidia Quadro DCC graphics card to render scenes on-the-fly, albeit at a rather slow framerate, conservatively estimated at an average of 2.5 frames per second. Square's demo takes advantage of the vertex and pixel shaders on the Nvidia chip to do the realistic cloth and hair modeling that so distinguished the photo-realism of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. The Quadro DCC is Nvidia's product for professional graphics and has the same specs as the GeForce3, or slightly less graphics power than the Nvidia chip in the Xbox.

"It has long been an artist's dream to render CG animation in real-time," said Kazuyuki Hashimoto, chief technology officer at Square USA. "This technology demonstration represents the future direction of digital 3D entertainment, simulating human emotions, movements and characteristics through the use of computer-generated graphics."

However, this demonstration doesn't mean that a single powerful workstation is capable of producing movie-quality CG in real-time. The actual production rendering of Final Fantasy movie used about 1000 processors running 24 hours a day for a year and a half. Most shots were divided into multiple layers (for example, the spirits were always rendered as separate layers) that were rendered independently then composited later as separate photo plates. One shot in the movie was made up of nearly 500 layers. This sort of division of labor is obviously not possible with a real-time rendering system.

During the movie's development the Square team used a custom real-time preview system that allowed them to test lighting, character placement, and other details before the time-consuming final rendering process, which took an average of 90 minutes per frame. For CG artists, this sort of real-time preview can save a lot of time, but it does also hint at what's coming for game graphics, which don't need the same incredible level of detail. Last year at Siggraph 2000, Square showed a real-time tech demo running on the 2606952GSCube , which puts the power of 16 PlayStation2's in one system.

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