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Intel ARC - Peformance For Developers and Blender Design

Intel Arc GPUs are coming soon and a new video showing rendering cycles in Blender means significant gains for developers and designers alike

 

What Intel Arc Means For Game Development And 3D Design

 

A couple of days ago (25th Mar 2022), Intel's Senior Software Evangelist & Developer Affinity Programs Manager, Bob Duffy, gave us a sneak peek of Blender build that is targeted for Q2, using a pre-production discreet Intel Arc Alchemist GPU. Although we don't see any distinguishing model numbers or production details (they're blurred out), what we do see is a 3D scene rendering very quickly in real-time. That said, one squinting commenter on YouTube said:

Blender Intel ARC Demo Comment

 

The scene that Duffy shows us during the demo depicts game pieces on a board, with an Intel Arc dice-roller, card boxes, a dice, and a couple of playing cards. Right at the centre of the scene is a game piece made of glass. And this is where things got really interesting.

Duffy's excitement is completely warranted as he displays the refraction of light and real-time rendering of adjustments made to the game piece. As the Blender build is using GPU Compute with the Intel Arc graphics card, any changes made by Duffy are done quickly and de-noised at a superior speed.

 

Rendering cycles in Blender - Intel ARC Alchemist

 

Duffy in this demo that the Intel Arc Alchemist GPU denoises the rendered scene quickly, which results in a much more appealing scene during workflow. Blender uses AI (Artificial Intelligence) that taps into 'Intel Open Image Denoise'. This, of course, is HUGE news for developers and Blender designers, who are eagerly awaiting the new GPUs to speed up their processes and streamline 3D design workflows.

Why Is This Big News?

The thing that really sticks out for me is that this is - so far - not big news. There has been little traction on this sneak peak, and if we look at Intel's Twitter, very few comments or reaction.

 

Blender Intel ARC Demo

 

 

The only reason anyone could logically come up with is that Intel have not compared these results to other GPUs. Without such a foundation block for the speed and performance, this becomes just a showboating exercise rather than a hardware spotlight.

Duffy initially shows us how to set the Intel Arc GPU up in Blender for rendering, and then moves swiftly on to camera viewpoints around the scene. The denoising is fast and slick, and when compared to lower Start Sample, performs brilliantly.

Intel Arc Blender Denoising

In the denoising subsection on Blender, the denoiser can be set for the final renderer as well as the viewport. The viewport will be denoising in real-time for every sample, which means the Start Sample should be set to make sure the denoiser only starts when a set number of samples have been calculated. Duffy shows us the Start Sample set at 0 and 8.

At zero, the rendering is blurry and looks as if it has been dipped in Vaseline. There are not enough samples calculated to make the denoising look good. At 8, the denoiser is in full swing, and we see the grainy dots clearing in a second or two to render as crisply as possible.

 

Intel ARC Blender Denoising BEFORE

Intel ARC Blender Denoising BEFORE

Intel ARC Blender Denoising AFTER

Intel ARC Blender Denoising AFTER

 

When Duffy finally renders the entire scene in Blender, it takes a mere 7.3 seconds. Everything looks absolutely crystal clear, with perfect lighting, refractions and material reflections. At this point, I was hoping to see a similar operation from another GPU - the RTX 3080 Ti for example - to allow us some sort of comparison. But the video does not show one.

Again, I believe this is why we have heard very little on what is clearly a very good demo that will appeal to the professional GPU buyers out there. When you consider the sheer power that a game developer or 3D designer needs, you would have hoped Intel could put them at ease and tell them the difference between their current rig and one that houses the new Arc GPUs.

Duffy also showed us some other renders of older projects, which included geometry nodes with sub-surface scattering, and geometry nodes with 20 million faces, and everything seemed to be easily handled by the Arc Alchemist gear.

 

Intel ARC in Blender - geometry nodes with 20 million faces

Intel ARC in Blender

 

More To Come?

It would be very unusual for Intel not to follow up on this demo. If they don't do a comparison, then we're sure to see one very soon from the likes of Blender Guru or Techgage.

On 30th March we will see the new Intel Arc laptops released, and after the demos we've seen on YouTube, there is real excitement building for them.

 

 

It really isn't a bad thing that laptops are seeing the first discreet GPUs before desktop, considering how many people are still working remotely. There is a growing interest for mobile power and portable gaming performance, and there will be lots of attention on launch day, certainly.

The launch will take place at 8am Pacific time (4pm GMT/BST) on Intel's website.