CUDA Spotlight: Steve Forde

Steve Forde

GPU-Accelerated Motion Graphics

This week's Spotlight is on Steve Forde of Adobe. Steve is responsible for Adobe's visual effects product line, including Adobe After Effects in Creative Suite 6.

Adobe After Effects offers a new GPU-accelerated 3D ray-traced compositing workflow capability. This enables motion graphics artists to quickly design realistic geometric text and shapes directly in a 3D space, eliminating the traditional, time-consuming need for external 3D tools.

This interview is part of the CUDA Spotlight Series.

Q & A with Steve Forde

NVIDIA: Steve, tell us a bit about what you do at Adobe.
Steve: I am responsible for the visual effects product line at Adobe. This means predominantly being responsible for the business of Adobe After Effects.

After Effects (Ae) is the industry standard in motion graphics and visual effects, used by millions of users across the planet. My job is to ensure that the current release is meeting customer expectations, and plan upcoming releases that meet customers' future demands and maintain Ae as the industry standard.
NVIDIA: Who are the typical users of Ae?
Steve: Ae is sometimes called 'Photoshop on wheels' - meaning it is used extensively in many industries by a wide array of users doing many different things.

Whether it is designers adding animation to graphics or a VFX artist trying to create a photo-realistic virtual effect, the demands that users place on Ae are VERY nontrivial. Factors such as performance, creative capability, workflow and technology all collide as artists push Ae to create stellar content, ranging from feature films, to broadcast television, to the web or even corporate presentations. Ae is the workhorse behind most media 'that moves' on earth.

The 3D ray-traced Heavy Hand logo was created with After Effects utilizing NVIDIA  GPUs
The 3D ray-traced Heavy Hand logo was created with After Effects utilizing NVIDIA GPUs

NVIDIA: How does accelerated 3D ray tracing in Ae help a motion graphics artist?
Steve: Artists always find ways to push technology. They will always find ways to bend, stretch and mix different technologies to make visually compelling art. Ray tracing for motion graphics artists allow them to add depth, character and realism to things as simple as text, or full blown 3D models of photo-realistic objects.

With CS 6, we created an environment in conjunction with NVIDIA that allows motion designers to quickly create high-fidelity motion graphics inside Ae -- without the computational expense -- by fully utilizing the NVIDIA GPU. This allows for much greater creativity while still being able to make the deadline.

The 3D ray-traced Heavy Hand logo was created with After Effects utilizing NVIDIA  GPUs

NVIDIA: What role does the CUDA-based OptiX ray tracing engine play?
Steve: OptiX is the core of the ray tracer that we shipped with CS6. Although it will work on any computer (falling back to the CPU), OptiX fully leverages CUDA on the GPU to perform ray-tracing calculations at an amazing speed.

At the same time, by utilizing OptiX, we can guarantee pixel identical results irrespective of GPU –- meaning that what the artist creates will be identical irrespective of the workstation it is rendered on. This is one of the huge benefits of utilizing OptiX both on CPU and GPU, as well as maintaining creative control for the artist.

I have seen some amazing work across the spectrum from artists utilizing the ray tracer in CS 6. Many freelancers have demonstrated to me broadcast design packages for companies like Viacom, NBC and the BBC that look extremely compelling.

It's also created a beautiful list of demands in which direction these artists would like to see the technology progress. As a product manager, that makes my job very clear :)

NVIDIA: How did you become interested in the field of motion graphics and visual effects?
Steve: At first it was from the computer science perspective. Motion graphics and visual effects place a HUGE demand on ALL components of technology. CPU, disk, GPU, networking and RAM are pushed to the extreme in conjunction with the other, whereas most other computational problems are usually dependent on only one or two of those components. So in short, the main reason why I became interested in the beginning was me being a performance geek.

That said, the main reason now is seeing what artists create when all this technology is working in harmony. Every time I walk in an airport, go see a movie with my kids, flake out on the couch in front of the TV or browse the web, I see something created with Ae.

I absolutely love how artists take some innovative technology that we provide, and ALWAYS find a way to push it in directions we never even thought of. This is what fuels the next wave of innovation, seeing how and what artists create, and then trying to come up with a new technology to make that easier. At that point, the circle starts again, as they then take that latest innovation and push it again in a new direction. For me – that's why I go to work every day.

Bio for Steve Forde

Steve is responsible for Adobe's visual effects product line, including Adobe After Effects in Creative Suite 6. Previously he was founder and CTO of GridIron Software (makers of Nucleo Pro).

Relevant Links

Contact Info
stforde@adobe (dot) com