Imagination Technologies Ships Caustic Series2 Ray-Tracing Acceleration Cards

January 31, 2013 10:04 am

"The Caustic Series2 is the first family of high performance ray tracing accelerator PC boards using Imagination's unique ray tracing technologies in the world's first chipset dedicated to high performance, fully interactive ray tracing in a workstation environment."
-Press release for Caustic Series2 cards

The R2500 Caustic Series2 Accelerator card

Major 3D graphics companies have recently started adding a "real-time" view-port to their application updates. The problem is they aren't really real-time and they don't often have full ray-tracing. In order to see how your model(s) are going to appear fully rendered, you'll have to use the application's built in renderer, which takes you away from the creative rhythm of your work. Imagine a rock group which has to stop and listen to every few measures to actually hear how they sound. Artists need to see how their work will look in a fully rendered form without having to waste precious time waiting for it to render.

Solution? Imagination Technologies Caustic Series2 ray-tracing acceleration cards. The world's first fully interactive real-time ray tracing designed specifically for 3D application view-ports.


Imagination Technologies announced their Caustic Visualizer for Maya plug-in at SIGGRAPH in August of 2012. The Caustic plug-in is built on Imagination's "PowerVR Brazil SDK v1.0, a high-level rendering software toolkit built using OpenRL for adding photo-realistic visualization into 3D graphics applications." The plug-in is a view-port renderer that provides a major improvement for 3D artists who want to see things like soft shadows, global illumination, depth of field and accurate reflections in their working renderer.

Now, Imagination Technologies, in further support of Caustic Visualizer, are releasing dedicated raytracing cards that will shift the rendering burden from the CPU to their OpenRL, Caustic Series2 cards: the R2100 and R2500. These cards are designed to accelerate the ray-tracing involved in 3D graphics and feature "the world's first chipset dedicated to high-performance, fully interactive ray tracing in a workstation environment."

"We believe Caustic's photorealistic ray tracing acceleration technology will change the way artists design in the future, which is why we chose to integrate the viewport directly into Rhino 5 as Neon. This technology combined with one of the Caustic Series2 ray tracing acceleration cards enables designers to create content within an interactive, fully ray traced viewport, complete with accurate lighting, shadows and reflections. By providing users with high-quality visual feedback from the earliest stages of modelling, potential issues can be identified and resolved much earlier in the design cycle."
-Bob McNeel at Robert McNeel and Associates

I was fortunate to attend an excellent press briefing for these cards, and am very excited about trying out one of the cards in tandem with the Caustic Visualizer plug-in for Maya 2013. I was told that the cards have 4Gb (R2100) and 16Gb (R2500) of memory which will allow for very, very large scenes to be fully rendered in the view-port.

Here's a quick rundown of the specs for the the R2100 which is designed for the workstation with a single cpu. This particular card will have one Caustic RTU (ray-tracing unit) chip on board.

Caustic Series2 (R2100) accelerator card specifications:

  • Up to 50 million incoherent rays per second
  • Target workstation: Single CPU
  • Bus: PCIe x8 Gen 2.0 - single height, half length
  • Power: 30 Watts maximum, bus powered (no PCIe external power required)
  • OS Support: Windows 7 and Vista (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • On-board memory: 4 Gbytes of scene geometry (up to 60 million triangles)
  • System memory: same requirements as 3D application (e.g., Maya). For optimal performance all memory channels should be fully populated

You can read more about the technical details of each card at their dedicated Imagination website page. And here's a nice YouTube vid on the Caustic Cards from the Imagination booth at the 2012 Autodesk University conference. You can order the card at their store. The Caustic Series2 R2100 card will sell for $795. The R2500 card, designed for workstations with 2 CPU's, will sell for $1,495.

Also, take note that "for a limited period of time both Caustic boards ship with a free copy of Caustic Visualizer for Maya. The software-only version of the Caustic Visualizer for Maya is separately priced at US $299. A 3ds Max Visualizer will be available in Q2 2013, with beta trials from March 2013."


Thanks to the Imagination crew for helping put this article together and for inviting me to their briefing. Looking forward to a full review of the cards in the spring of 2013.

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Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.




January 31, 2013

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