The recent introduction of 10-bit color precision to
consumer graphics cards, seems to have the promise of
improved fidelity at the desktop and 3D level. What
are your thoughts on this?
I think that 10-bit color is a half-step to where we really
want to be. Clearly, we would like to see more precision in
the lighting and shading calculations, and texture and
special effects blending. When many layers of transparent
effects such as smoke, fire, etc, are blended together,
sometimes we see banding. Also, since in the current
generation of GPUs, many effects are rendered using
multi-pass, some precision may be lost in very bright or
dark areas. For these purposes though, 10 bits doesn’t
really help much. Ideally, you would like to see some
more bits at the high end, to allow 2x or 4x over-bright for
flashes, explosions, etc, and at least 2 or 3 low order
fractional bits, to avoid loss of precision in blending.
So, we’re up to at least 12-14 bits to be really useful, and
I’d like to see at least 16. Also, the next generation
of GPUs probably won’t require multi-pass to render complex
shading, so the 10 bit frame buffer isn’t worth much.
Finally, since most affordable flat panel LCD displays
really only reliably can display 5-6 bits of different
intensities, and CRTs can typically barely display 7 or 8
bits with any fidelity, supporting a display buffer with
more than 8 bits is really wasted money.
How do you think Matrox 16X “Fragmentation AA” will
compare to NVIDIA’s multi-sample AA?
I have not seen Matrox’s “Fragmentation AA” yet. I
understand, from what I have read in the websites, that it
is a fast but approximate anti-aliasing technique.
I’ll look forward to seeing it when the product is
Obviously, with R300 boards on display and running in
systems, ATi is fairly close to being able to deliver what
some are rumoring to be a GeForce4 killer. Everyone
knows how quickly NVIDIA can react from a design cycle
standpoint. Can you comment on the relative readiness
Sorry, no! I can’t comment about future products. Regarding
futures, I also think it’s important to differentiate
between sightings of new products and the real thing, mass
production and availability. GeForce4 Ti4600 continues to be
the most advanced and powerful product that you can buy.
Do you think, upon its release, that NV30 will keep
NVIDIA in the leadership position the company enjoys now?
What is this “NV30” that you keep talking about?
It is my expectation that NVIDIA’s awesome technical team
will continue to express their passion for excellence by
producing exciting and powerful products that consumers
How big of an impact will DirectX 9 have on the look of
I think that DirectX 9 will have a tremendous effect on the
visual richness of computer games. This will be especially
true for games authored using a high level language such as
Cg, since the learning curve will be so much faster.
How important to NVIDIA is driver development and the
software engineering that goes into it?
NVIDIA’s software driver team is first-rate, and they have
made some terrific contributions to our products. One of
their greatest achievements is our unified driver
architecture (UDA), which allows the same driver to run on
any of our hardware products. This also allows a new chip to
run with the old drivers, and that enables us to get new
products to market very quickly. That is also why you
frequently see subsequent Detonator software releases
providing so much performance and feature increases.
Often, the new features in a chip are not supported yet by
the driver at the time of the hardware introduction.
How important is fab process technology for next
generation graphics? Are gate lengths and die
geometries the limiting factor?
Fab process technology gives us a free factor of two in
“capability” – the number of transistors
the switching speed – every year
or so. In addition, graphics is a highly parallel problem to
go solve. We could calculate all of the pixels in parallel,
if we had enough transistors. This makes building fast
graphics processors much easier than building CPUs, where
everything must be done sequentially. Also, there is a
very deep and rich history of graphics research from
and the rest of the graphics community. We can use the
new capabilities and transistors to implement these ideas.
When we put all of these together, we are able to deliver
approximately 2x performance every 6 months. Truly stunning.
This is a fairly open ended question… What would you most
like to improve upon at NVIDIA?
I’d like to see more hours in the day. There are so many
exciting products that I’d like to build, and it takes time
to build each one with the passion and dedication necessary
to make it great. We spend a lot of time thinking about
where PCs and graphics are going, and have a lot of great
visions. It’s just hard to wait for the future to arrive.
We’re working hard to make it get here sooner.
I envision cinematic quality rendering and real time
graphics, with the same quality as animated movies.
It’s not going to be easy to get there but we’re working on
Last question and it may be a tough one. If NVIDIA could
produce a NO compromise GPU, disregarding price, process,
die size etc, what features and architecture would it have?
All of them! It would be huge, fast, free, and could make
any picture, in real time.
I need to get back to work to try to get us there!
Thanks for your time and patients, bearing with our gauntlet
of questions, David! Best of luck to you and the NVIDIA
team. We’ll be eagerly anticipating your next move!
Well then, we've
given you a taste of what NVIDIA has in store for the game
developers, as well as what their Chief Scientist and
"visionary", David Kirk, thinks about this new era of
Programmable GPUs and the software that is driving them.
If you were paying attention here, David hints at what might
be in store for us with the NV30. Can we read into
this that NVIDIA is targeting 16 bit color precision in 3D?
Did we also hear that perhaps the next generation of NVIDIA
GPUs will be capable of rendering complex shading effects in
a single pass? Does this mean more Vertex Shaders will
be incorporated in the NV30, than the 2 units that are on
the GeForce4 Ti? This is all probably a safe bet, that
NVIDIA will be stepping things up to this level with the
NV30. However, until we have official statements that
confirm or deny this, it is all just speculation.
For now, the
Game Developer community has new powerful tools at their
disposal, courtesy of NVIDIA. In addition, the
road ahead for 3D Graphics is getting more impressive every
Do you have something meaningful to say or do you just want
to flap your gums?
Get into the HotHardware PC Hardware Forum and air it out!