Ten years ago, in 2002, NVIDIA released the original Dawn tech demo to show off the capabilities of its new GeForce FX line of graphics processors. A decade later this memorable demo is definitely due a refresh and here we have it. The new Dawn demo is called A New Dawn and everything has been enhanced thanks to the advances and power of modern hardware.
NVIDIA says that the original Dawn demo was “…the first time a fully animated and totally credible character was brought to life in real time.” The new demo doesn’t need to take any shortcuts to achieve the realism depicted on screen, the new environment is fully animated and lit beautifully, and she exists within a forest, among fellow woodland creatures. At its peak, the new environment within which Dawn lives is rendered with 4 million triangles. In 2002 the environment never used more than seven thousand triangles.
2002 Dawn, below
2012 A New Dawn, below
Looking at Dawn’s fully animated flowing hair in the new demo shows a dramatic improvement too. In the original demo her hair had 1,700 stationery strands set in super-strong hair gel, now the demo has 40,000 animated natural looking hairs which blow in the wind and partially reflect environmental lighting. NVIDIA are particularly proud of New Dawn’s hair “Because hair is so thin, aliasing is a major problem. Traditional antialiasing doesn't work well here, as a strand is often smaller than a pixel and may not be picked up by any of the four-or-so sample points. To alleviate this problem, A New Dawn has a special hair smoothing shader that inspects each strand and blurs them in the combing direction. The final result looks soft and silky, as if she just jumped out of the shower after an extensive conditioner routine.”
The New Dawn’s skin is lit using a sub-surface scattering shader. “Dawn's new skin is not immediately striking and that, in fact, is its greatest strength. It doesn't appear too glossy or too matte. It's doesn't glow visibly. It interacts subtly with the three lanterns that light her world. The skin doesn't draw attention to itself mostly because it actually looks right.” Click on the re-sized image of dawn below, to really see some skin detail.
click for close-up
The new DirectX 11 demo allows you to move the camera, change the time of day, alter special effects and more. The New Dawn demo is designed to show off the GeForce GTX 690 graphics card but due to feedback following the demo announcement last month it has been tweaked to run on GTX 680 and GTX 670. Get it from NVIDIA’s servers here (just under 800mb).