by Phil Miller

Over the past year, we’ve helped designers using Autodesk 3ds Max to build some of the fastest GPU computing rigs possible (often up to 8 GPUs). To quench these designers’ thirst for ever more performance, NVIDIA and Autodesk are working on “Project Pandora” to bring Autodesk 3ds Max and iray rendering to the cloud.

At Autodesk University (AU) 2011 in Las Vegas this week, we’re demonstrating how Project Pandora harnesses the compute power of a GPU cluster on any Flash-capable PC running 3ds Max and iray. This allows 3ds Max users to add virtual dual-GPU rendering machines to their workflow on demand. Unlike “batch” network rendering – where each machine renders one frame – Project Pandora coordinates the entire cluster to accelerate the current frame. Jobs that used to take over a day can now be done in under an hour by leveraging dozens of cloud nodes.

But supercharging iray and 3ds Max production rendering is just the start. Once scenes are in the Pandora cloud environment, they can be interactively viewed from a web browser. With Project Pandora, designers can serve up photorealistic tours from the lightest weight of machines, or simply give clients and colleagues the power to interact and view the scene for themselves.

At AU 2011 Las Vegas, we’re using tablets powered by the NVIDIA Tegra 2 mobile processor to show to navigate photorealistic scenes, composed of millions of polygons, in under a minute.

While we can’t yet say when Project Pandora will be publicly available, we can say that it’s in private Beta testing now. We are focused on perfecting the details and making Project Pandora as user-friendly and practical as possible. For example, it will work well with moderate internet speeds, and you’ll never have to upload the same asset twice.

Our Project Pandora demo using 3ds Max and iray at AU 2011 Las Vegas shows that efficient, on-demand cloud rendering is a reality.

If you’re at AU, please check out our demo in booth 126.