Why are textures important to the high-end rendering and 3D development market?

Question:
Why are textures important to the high-end rendering and 3D development market?

Answer:
At the moment there is a “gold rush for textures” in this market. Companies such as SoftImage, Alias, MultiGen, Coryphaeus, Sense8 and Kinetix are all big texture users, and are focused on the games market. Saul Kato, founder and CEO of Sven Technologies, predicts that “These people are going to realize textures are a big hole in the pipeline” when it comes to creating realistic effects.

The pixellation problem when the user gets close to a graphic ruins the illusion of reality. When developing a realistic scene, there are five big giveaways as to whether it is computer-generated:

  • lighting
  • geometry
  • textures
  • animation quality
  • merging with live shots

Lighting and geometry have been pretty well taken care of, and Sven claims to have solutions for textures and animation:

“We have a tool that allows dynamic interactive texture mapping. As Photoshop is to MacPaint in 2D, so is SurfaceSuite to current texturing techniques in 3D.”
At the moment, 3D paint programs like MeshPaint 3D and Detailer are the popular way to texture a 3D model’s surface, although they don’t have the image manipulation capabilities necessary to adjust photo quality images the way Adobe Photoshop can do in 2D.

Kato believes SurfaceSuite will become part of the 3Dgraphic artist’s indispensable toolkit. The animation tool is still in development, and all I could learn about it is that it targets both interpolated and scripted behaviors at high and low ends of the market, and will produce results superior to both the frame-by-frame approach and that of using goal-directed behavior.

When it comes to reproducing reality, Kato says “Texture is one of the initial components of accurate rendering.” Advertisements for the latest graphic workstations, with their emphasis on hardware texture mapping, support this view.

A standard is linked to the underlying technology and implementations. Until it can be safely assumed that the majority of interested users have a capability, such as graphics acceleration, it does not make commercial sense to design a standard that demands that capability. At the moment we are in the halfway stage; acceleration upgrades are happening, but not ubiquitously, so adaptive texture rendering must be used.

For example, the Cosmo Player VRML browser from SGI offers a choice between smooth motion and best quality image. Saul predicts that by the end of 1997 every new PC will have 3D graphics acceleration built in.

The problem is with the installed base. As graphics boards get cheaper it is more likely that users will retrofit acceleration capability, but they need a reason to do so. Kato believes Internet 3D needs a killer app to raise the bar of what everyone requires as part of his or her system. He says that for the time being, “VRML 2.0 is good enough to chew on,” and gives developers something to work with while waiting for hardware to catch up with what’s really needed for providing convincing 3D on the Web.

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