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Epic drop real-time Reytracing into Star Wars via Nvidia’s RTX… and $122,000 worth of GPUs

Epic Star Wars

Let’s play a game of spot the difference. Can you tell if the above video is a live action scene from a recent Star Wars movie, or completely rendered in real time in the Unreal 4 engine? That’s the beauty of lighting and reflections powered by raytracing.

This sort of image fidelity is why you need a good panel, so check out our pick of today’s best gaming monitors.

We’ve already spoken about Microsoft and Nvidia announcing their real-time raytracing initiative, with the DirectX Raytracing API and the GeForce-exclusive RTX accelerator for the Nvidia Volta architecture, and this is Epic taking it to its Unreal 4 limits.

The above video, called Reflections, was created using an $122,000 (£86,000) DGX Station mini server box, packed with four discrete Tesla V100 graphics cards, to render the entire demo in real time. It’s running at 1080p and at a cinematic 24fps, and is barely distinguishable from a live action scene.

Nvidia DGX Tesla V100

Obviously at this stage this is showcasing what can be done in the movie industry, allowing graphics artists to render scenes in real time, and allow them to edit them on the fly before doing their final pass. When you need graphics horsepower that costs over $100K you’re going to need a Hollywood budget.

But history has shown us that, when Epic collaborate with Nvidia to create showreel demos on multiple current-gen GPUs, it doesn’t take more than a couple of years before a gaming level version appears on modern hardware. When we see this scene rendered with real-time raytracing on a single Nvidia Turing GPU we’ll know we’ve hit the motherlode.

Remember the Samaritan demo?

And while this demo is more Hollywood than gaming, 4A Games are promising to show off their own version of real-time raytracing, using Nvidia’s RTX tech, in a Metro Exodus demo sometime this week. Metro Exodus is launching later this year, and will likely be one of the first games to ever feature real-time raytraced lighting.

And I cannot wait.