Back in March, 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:
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.
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 were 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 was - 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. In the grand scheme of things, this truly is big news for those who are interested.
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 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 might have expected to see the difference between their current rig and one that houses the new Arc GPUs. Intel keeping their cards close, it seems.
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
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 from the likes of Blender Guru or Techgage.
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 all eyes are firmly fixed on Intel.
Check out the launch on Intel's website.