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AMD64 - Directly Connecting Your Imagination to Reality

By Charlie Boswell

Each generation of new technology assaulting the digital content creator typically comes with elaborate promises about how it’s going to change lives. Sometimes that’s actually true -- but not always for the better.  Non-linear editing systems brought the number of “workarounds” to new heights. Digital audio workstations introduced inspiration-killing latencies and “system crashes” to the recording process. Expensive, proprietary and not always efficient visual effects hardware became the exclusive domain of elite facilities and large budgets. 

Yet the digital artist has succeeded in spite of technology, out of sheer force of will, because he is passionate about his art. At AMD we believe a new day has dawned for the digital artist, one where the technology has finally caught up with the power of the imagination. More importantly, the renaissance in digital art includes anyone with the desire to create and access to an AMD64 processor-based PC. 

Consider George Lucas and his epic Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith now in theaters. Revenge of the Sith contains the most complex and highly detailed images of any of the Star Wars features and more of them. George was able to construct his vision and create his movie working directly with a small number of digital artists armed with off-the-shelf hardware and software. 

Next consider Robert Rodriguez and his all-digital blockbuster Sin City which garnered rave reviews for its unique visual aesthetic unlike any other movie before it.  Like Revenge of the Sith, Sin City was created by a visionary movie maker working with a small team of digital artists creating elaborate shots on the fly in the “creative moment.”

One common link between these two top digital filmmakers is the use of AMD64 technology-based computers and off-the-shelf software. Technology that is widely available in retail shops around the world. Technology that is no longer out of the reach for the average guy.  Kids in their bedroom can use this technology and explore their own creativity. What excites us the most is the next generation of George Lucas’ and Robert Rodriguez’ out there who are going to change the world.
 The high cost of the best technology wasn’t the only barrier. The inadequacy of affordable technology that promised creative liberation in reality forced content creators brave enough to go for it into becoming their own IT departments. Others simply couldn’t resonate with the technology at all and stayed out of the game. Prior to AMD64 affordable technology suffered from high latencies and slow responses due to bottlenecks in the architecture.

We believe technology should set the artist free to concentrate and create without fears of technology limitations.  Every time the creative tempo is broken or interrupted, the art is diminished in some way. AMD64 technology allows the digital artist to stay in the creative moment to be set free from waiting. AMD64 enables the perfect balance of artistic performance and ultimate production power. 

These are bold claims – claims that can only be backed up by what the technology can actually do. We call AMD64’s “secret sauce,” if you will, Direct Connect Architecture.   
Other PC computer platform architectures are designed in a way that forces data moving between I/O devices, memory and processors to fight with each other for system bandwidth.  It’s like being stuck in heavy gridlock traffic or like three people talking at once. It’s inefficient. In digital content creation applications like audio and video, this older architecture results in dropped frames, audio pops and crackles, and system crashes. It forces pre-mature workarounds and dithering exercises that spoil the creative tempo and diminish the final product. Adding 64-bit register extensions to this architecture only aggravates system bottlenecks.

AMD64 technology with Direct Connect Architecture removes these system bottlenecks.  Processors are directly connected to I/O on independent wires.  Processors are directly connected to memory on independent wires. And processors are directly connected with other processors.  The result is extremely low system latency and unbeatable price/performance.  This is a very scalable architecture which allows true 64-bit addressability. As you begin to load your system with high-definition video streams or audio tracks and effects, your data is no longer stuck in bottleneck traffic.  Now it’s out on a Formula 1 race track running at full throttle.   

Any artist sitting around waiting for a system to render frames has experienced latency. Low latency equals high performance, more processing headroom and most importantly, system stability.
Okay, so that’s the white paper, but what does AMD64 really mean to you? For the pro, it comes down to two primary basics: art and commerce.  Being free to create at your speed means you can hit a schedule, while exploring your creativity and ultimately delivering a better experience to your audience or your client.  

Yet, there is a third element that often gets neglected. It’s called your life. In the past, the digital artist had to work all hours of the night, weekends, missing family events -- whatever it took to realize the vision and meet the schedule. 
  Dan Gregoire is credited on Star Wars: Episodes II & III as ‘pre-viz supervisor.’ On Episode III, Dan led a team of twelve digital artists who worked with George Lucas over their shoulder directing the movie on the digital set in the pre-viz stage on top of an AMD64 pipeline. For the big finale of the epic six-part Star Wars saga – everybody had to raise the bar in order to meet George’s elaborate vision. When we asked Dan what AMD64 meant to him and his crew, we were actually kind of surprised by what he had to say.

“It seems silly, but it enables us to go home sooner, enables us to have lives,” said Gregoire. “No longer are we slaves to our machines at our desks all night. We can really create the same amount of work we were creating in almost half the time. It's made a difference in the way that we live our lives, the way that we create our art, and the way that it affects the production of the film.  All these different things are connected and it really makes a big difference.”

In the audio world, musicians, composers, performing artists and recording engineers and producers are also using AMD64 technology in their workflows. We formed the AMD64 Masters Group on the strength of some of the top producers and engineers in the business who have adopted AMD64 including Phil Ramone, Elliot Scheiner, Chuck Ainlay, Frank Filipetti, George Massenburg and Rory Kaplan, to name a few. Premier artists such as Mark Knopfler, Dweezil Zappa, BT, Peter Frampton, Ray Benson and others are also using AMD64.

Great music and great musical performances are all about channeling that creative energy and being “in the moment.” Not having confidence in your gear only makes you tentative and takes you out of the moment.  But now these artists and masters are doing it all with complete confidence.

In the end, what’s most exciting is the availability of pro-level technology for the average guy. You don’t have to be a world renowned movie director or music producer to access professional power. Low latency, high performance AMD64 technology is sitting down at your local PC retailer waiting to help create your magnum opus. 

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Charlie Boswell is the director of Digital Media and Entertainment for AMD
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