April 17, 2005


LAS VEGAS - Mountain View, CA's SGI came to NAB aiming its new Prism visualization system at the high-end 4K market - a market that's not above embracing a refreshingly low-priced engine. The 24fps 4K DI processing Prism promises is considered (for now) today's highest production level, but SGI is also targeting the industry's numerous content creators large and small with this 64-bit Linux OS box. Its MSRP is $30,000.

Prism uses 64-bit Intel Itanium 2 processing to grapple with terabytes of visual information. SGI (www.sgi.com) first introduced the system to the science and engineering world last fall; now it's the NAB crowd's turn. SGI calls Prism "the new IT platform for media" and stresses that it embodies the power and performance of multi-pipe visualization using scalable commodity graphics. Including Prism's scalable ATI graphics processors and SGI's own advanced graphics technology, SGI expects its system will "address the most demanding content creation and management problems."

SGI is not expecting much flak from competitors touting boxes powered by AMD's currently popular Opteron processors. Rather, SGI's Shawn Underwood, director/visual systems group, and Louise Ledeen, director/production, media industries, told "Post" that the combined punch of SGI, Intel and ATI will be a virtual knockout. Intel's Itanium 2 Processors provide the basis for 64-bit Linux performance tied to Prism's high-bandwidth memory for large data manipulation. The result is increased performance in the handling of data-intensive creative processes, such as special effects requiring massive data file sizes, high-rez finishing, and highly interactive, client-facing DI sessions.

The use of ATI GPUs gives Prism the ability to support steady, reliable, 4K resolution production workflows, also meant for working interactively with the client present. These GPUs enable greater spatial resolution, greater color bit depth through floating-point buffers, and scalability from SD to HD and from 2K through 4K.

SGI emphasizes that Prism represents for content creators and imaging specialists a "powerful, standards-based architecture offering extreme processing power, visualization capability and programmable algorithm accelerators." All that is tied to a single, system-wide, shared memory designed to perform with a high degree of interactivity.

Prism can output an entire uncompressed 4K digital cinema master at 24fps of synchronized image and audio files. This is due to Prism's concept of "Peer I/O" - leveraging scalable CPUs and GPUs all connected as peers to system-wide shared memory.