The third (and final) day of the GPU Tech Conference wrapped up with a keynote by Richard Kerris, CTO of Lucasfilm, home of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM).
He talked about how blockbusters rely heavily on special effects from ILM to turn a director’s vision into movie magic. Even though it takes a server room of state-of-the-art computer technology to create these effects, the technology is a means to an end — the end being the creative vision of the filmmaker. And the quicker the means to that end the better. He noted that in the latest Harry Potter movie, his team found they could use GPUs to accelerate the time it took to render a single frame of fire from 13 hours with eight CPUs to just 10 seconds.
After the keynote, NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang was joined on stage with leading graphics analyst Jon Peddie, of Jon Peddie Research, for a fireside chat. He described NVIDIA’s GPU Ventures Fund, which the company uses to invest in startups that are part of the graphics-processing ecosystem. He answered questions like what’s it like to be CEO in these turbulent times, what lessons he’s learned and why employees are the company’s single most important constituency. The chat provides a glimpse at the heart and soul of NVIDIA, and its commitment to pushing the boundaries of the possible, marshalling its formidable resources on the hard stuff that no one else will touch.
For all the passion Huang expressed for doing “amazing things,” he also displayed modesty about NVIDIA’s role. He called the company the “construction worker of the 21st century,” because it constructs a new, lighter, stronger, more cost-efficient structure for developers to build amazing new creations. And the goal of the GPU Tech Conference is to help spread awareness about the versatility of this GPU structure so that more and more developers, researchers, and artists can take advantage of it.
Looking back on the past three days, it’s worth noting that the conference had more 1,500 attendees from 40 countries who attended more than 200 sessions. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Even after long days and nights here at the Fairmont Hotel, enthusiasm and excitement are still running high. Hallway conversations show just how engaged attendees have been, and how excited they are about what they want to create. The mix of academic, developer, entrepreneur and financial communities in a single comfortable setting proved to be a winning combination.
The best news of all came at the end of the conference. NVIDIA announced that the GPU Tech Conference will be back for a second year in 2010. That will be particularly welcome by many members of the rapidly growing graphics community, which thrives on events where they can exchange thoughts and dreams. We’re not yet at the point where virtual events can replace real human interactions, even in stereoscopic 3D. But maybe there’s someone working on that here who might have found inspiration to do that or something else so truly amazing that we’ll one day ask how we ever lived without it.