Outlet: 80 Level
Could you please give a little intro?
Christopher Nichols: My name is Chris Nichols and I am the Director of Special Projects at Chaos Innovation Lab. This is our most ambitious R&D wing, so I spend a lot of time ideating on next-gen tech. I also run a podcast called CG Garage, which is a great window into how the community creates and adapts to evolving trends.
Cláudio Meireles: My name is Cláudio Meireles and I’m the Head of Communities at Chaos. We are on a mission to inspire, support, and nurture artists in our community programs, and we work closely with Chris to support artists. One of our 10 community programs is the Partners in Art that aims to help independent artists to realize their projects.
Tell us a little bit about some of the recent projects you’ve been doing. How do you work with the community? Maybe there are some highlights?
Christopher Nichols: You know, a lot of what I’m doing now is a continuation of what I’ve been working on for 10 years. Like many artists, I’ve been very interested in real-time and what it means, especially when it comes to ray tracing. That pairing is really driving what we’re doing in the Innovation Lab, as we work to prep Vantage – our real-time ray tracer – for M&E projects.
Ever since CONSTRUCT – which was one of our first major community projects and an early testing ground for ray-traced virtual production – we’ve seen what instantaneous feedback can bring to a filmmaker. Especially an ambitious one like Kevin Margo. The Partners in Art project ended up being a great way to get Kevin free licenses/hardware (via us, NVIDIA, and others), as well as a personal prototype of V-Ray for MotionBuilder that let us all really start running wild with ray-traced VP back in 2014.
At the time, the GPUs could get us close enough to start making essential decisions about our tech and production. And that was exciting and inspiring for the community at large. But I also think it ultimately made us hungry for more. Fully ray-traced VP is still the dream for most artists, so we’re actively pursuing ways to give them what they want.
Tell us a little bit more about the kind of tech that you are building right now. What is Chaos up to? What are the latest projects?
Christopher Nichols: Right now, Vantage is one of the biggest projects I’m working on inside the lab. It’s a real-time ray tracer built on NVIDIA’s RTX technology. In the latest version of Vantage, we included DLSS 3.5 with ray reconstruction, which works seamlessly with our real-time ray tracing architecture. This is great because it enables us to render things with an Al denoiser, specifically designed for path tracers like Vantage, which are extraordinarily fast. And when we pair this denoiser with an Al upscaler, we can get performance rates that I’ve never seen before. For instance, HD frames at well over 24 or even over 100 frames a second, with completely clean renders on production scenes with billions of polygons.
With that kind of performance, we can truly revolutionize the entire digital workflow from pre-production and virtual production to post-production, with no visual compromises. You’ll get full ray tracing the whole way through. Right now, our R&D and Vantage product team are working to make that happen.
Read more at 80 Level.