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AMD HD3D: Quadbuffer Revolution
by Roger Haagensen on 06/27/11 07:29:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


AMD HD3D + Deus Ex: Human Revolution = First real stereoscopic native 3D game! All those hundreds of stereoscopic 3D games you have seen so far have been mere 2D to 3D conversions, like all those old crappy 3D movies you remember.

Roger Hågensen considers himself an Absurdist and a Mentat, hence believing in Absurdism and Logic. Has done volunteer support in Anarchy Online for Funcom. Voicework for Caravel Games. Been a Internet Radio DJ with GridStream. Currently works as a Freelancer, Windows applications programmer, web site development, making music, writing, and just about anything computer related really. Runs the website EmSai where he writes a Journal and publishes his music, ideas, concepts, source code and various other projects. Has currently released 3 music albums.

AMD HD3D: Quadbuffer Revolution

Stereoscopic 3D (aka 3D / those ugly glasses / sit-still-please-screens / headache vision) is a mess these days. AMD has tried to level the playing field by making an open standard called HD3D. What this does is set a few rules, and expose the GFX cards quadbuffers to game and software developers so it is possible to do native 3D (aka real or Native 3D)

I'll talk about about several things regarding 3D, but the real focus of this article is one thing about HD3D that almost everyone out there seem to have glossed over, if you think HD3D sucks as a 3D solution it's because it isn't one. HD3D is almost all about the quadbuffer...

Deus Ex: The Human Revolution

(Deus Ex: Human Revolution uses quadbuffers to make Native 3D possible. Hmm! Are those 3D glasses he's wearing?)


What solutions are there for 3D?

Nvidia have 3D Vision (and 3DTV Play), which allows conversion of 2D to 3D by basically intercepting graphic calls between the game/software and the graphic drivers. iZ3D and DDD (TriDef) are two companies that have a similar solution, and mostly popular with AMD users since Nvidia users prefer 3D Vision from Nvidia.

This 2D to 3D conversion is not real 3D, but with some minor tweaks by the game developer and a driver update by the middleware provider (Nvidia, iZ3D, DDD) the result can become quite convincing, but not convincing enough.

There are usually some issues however. Text or parts of the interface or the player character, or even non-player characters may have artifacts, like no 3D effect, halos, 2D shadows, parts only appearing on the left, or only on the right.

Basically almost all Stereoscopic 3D games so far are the gaming worlds equivalent of 2D to 3D movie conversions, no wonder consumers are disappointed again and again with all the 3D hype.

With Native 3D there is no need to convert, the game or software is designed with both left and right views in mind, and it's not an afterthought.


Any technical issues then?

Oh definetly. You really need "Dual Link" DVI or the new DisplayPort 1.2 connection. HDMI 1.4a which is the latest HDMI standard is not able to provide more than 720p50 and 1080p24 or 720p60 and 1080p24, side-by-side horizontal at either 1080i50 or 1080i60, and top-and-bottom at either 720p50 and 1080p24 or 720p60 and 1080p24. (any HDMI TV or Game Console are also limited because of this)

If you want to do gaming or high framerate video you need either Dual Link DVI or the new DisplayPort 1.2 which basically replace both DVI and HDMI. And a display device able to do real 120Hz frame rate. (and not just frame interpolation/doubling as some TVs might do for example, buyer beware)

With HD3D any device resolution or framerate is supported as long as the hardware can provide it and the device and link to it has the bandwidth/support for it. HD3D is not restricted to a particular 3D device solution. Hate 3D glasses? Then go glassless 3D! The choice is yours with HD3D.


So what did AMD do that makes HD3D so great?

(you might say sarcastically to me, at which I'll counter...)

Basically almost all Stereoscopic 3D games so far are the gaming worlds equivalent of 2D to 3D movie conversions, no wonder consumers are disappointed again and again with all the 3D hype. Why do they do this? It's very cheap to do, that's why!

So what is the gaming worlds equivalent to a real 3D movie? What is the TRON: Legacy (real 3D, and tastefully used) equivalent?

That would be Deus Ex: Human Revolution (aka Deus Ex 3), AMD worked with the developers of Deus Ex to make sure they where able to take properly advantage of the Quadbuffer (AMD HD3D), thus Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one of the first games to properly and natively (aka native 3D) create two separate views of a scene and pass that to the graphics card/drivers.

There is no need for a middleware like those mentioned above. If you have a 3D capable device attached to your system, then that's it. AMD did the clever thing and let the display device be open (they are working with other companies to try and get some standards there too), but AMD's HD3D solution let you the user choose which display, which technology, that you wish to use.


What about Nvidia then?

The interesting thing is that Nvidia is more restrictive, they only support their own 3D Vision devices by default. Nvidia also do have Quadbuffer capabillites, but these are locked to their pro line of cards and OpenGL.

AMD's HD3D provides a Extension/API for DirectX as well, and it's a open standard. I would not be surprised if the next update to DirectX made it part of the standard. Because not locking anyone down to a particular brand of hardware is what AMD's HD3D is all about. And MicroSoft by default must support as many brands and makes as possible, so this is a logical path. I doubt Nvidia would make their 3D Vision open, as currently their Quadbuffer can be made available to game developers, but at a premium cost, and the game would only work with 3D Vision.

And here is the amusing thing, Nvidia could easily update their 3D Vision software and have it work on AMD's graphics cards, because AMD's HD3D is a open standard. but Nvidia will probably not do that as that would make them compete directly with (no not AMD) but other middleware solutions like iZ3D and DDD, and Nvidia's business model for 3D Vision is not made to handle open competition. As iZ3D and DDD is able to also utilize the quadbuffer for 3D converting of old games and software, or work with developers that can't afford to do native 3D themselves.


The bright, or the cautious future?

With iZ3D, DDD, Deus Ex: Human Revolution developers, and many hardware and software developers beginning to back AMD's open standard HD3D, and most likely MicroSoft as part of a future DirectX implementation, this is truly pioneering work.

So it is a shame that so many people say that AMD HD3D suck because it doesn't support that many games/you need to get separate 3D software to play games. While actually AMD jumped straight to the next generation of 3D, where games are developed with native 3D, rather than simple 2D to 3D conversion. That is what people should talk about, that AMD HD3D and Deus Ex: Human Revolution are truly bringing native 3D gaming to the consumers!


Final Words

But AMD needs to step things up, there is still no HD3D documentation readily available at AMD's site, there is no documents of this open standard floating around yet. Maybe AMD is planning to start pushing HD3D more now that Deus Ex: Human Revolution is coming out, as a vehicle to show off real native 3D?

I want to see "Native 3D" on the bulletpoint list for future games, so that I know the game is designed for and uses Quadbuffers to provide real stereoscopic 3D using the HD3D open standard or a future DirectX standard feature that does the same, bear in mind that OpenGL has had quadbuffer's for some time now.


And a quick note to AMD...

Hey! AMD get that HD3D SDK stuff out ASAP, just look at how popular MicroSoft's Kinect got. Now imagine thousands of 3D geeks out there making anything from simple GUI boxes with Quadbuffer support to full fledged games and business apps. So get cracking guys as I can't find any HD3D or Quadbuffer docs on the AMD site at all at the time of writing this.


PS! If this article seems biased towards AMD's HD3D it's because it is, but it's not all praise, this article also hopefully reflect my thoughts about HD3D and Quadbuffers: "It's about damn time somebody did this, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution you better not disappoint are literally the poster boy for Native 3D games!")

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