By Susan Smith
This week Matrox Graphics announced its v1.02 beta drivers and digital video plug-ins for the Matrox Parhelia
graphics card, with final driver release to be released for later in October. In addition, the Matrox Parhelia
was named the best graphics card for brilliant image quality and signal source by DisplayMate Technologies in
their Best Video Hardware Guide awards.
In September Matrox Graphics and TORNADO Technologies Inc., a provider of collaborative 3D visualization and
communication software, announced a strategic partnership that delivers to AutoCAD® users exclusively with the
Matrox Parhelia™ graphics card a combination of Matrox graphics card technology and TORNADO's AEC|VIZ 3D
Parhelia technology includes Surround Design, which is hardware accelerated 3D across three displays,
TripleHead maximum screen real estate for the desktop, PrecisionCAD drivers for AutoCAD which are customized
AutoCAD drivers, AEC|VIZ from TORNADO Technologies, and UltraSharp Display Output technology that offers
high quality analog, digital and TV-output.
For the AEC market, Parhelia has developed PrecisionCAD drivers that are compatible with all the ARX core
technology-based Autodesk products. Although PrecisionCAD drivers do not work with Revit, Inventor and
some other software programs, Matrox is working on extending their compatibility.
AEC|VIZ has three distinct features 1) it is a plug-in mechanism able to accelerate the manipulation of
objects, which doesn't skip frames when you are manipulating very large models, and 2) collaboration and
annotation -- within the 3D model you can include text, circle information, create slide shows. You can send
the model to coworkers with suggested changes. Because it's a 3D model environment, the person receiving the
model can manipulate it in AutoCAD. 3) There is a special file format that is called .VIZ that uses a high
compression mechanism for the file. If you have a large model file of approximately 100 MB, sending that
via email to someone in another office or sharing it on the network drive becomes a problem. AEC|VIZ allows
you to seamlessly transfer the model between AutoCAD and AEC|VIZ from the AEC|VIZ interface. You can save
the file as .VIZ, it will include the 3D model, the annotation, the slide show, walkthroughs,
minipresentations, etc., and it will compress that to 100s of KBs instead of MBs, for example, then you can
easily attach that to an email and send it over. The receiver can view the model and communicate back and
forth easily because the file is much smaller. You can also save the file as executable, then the person
receiving doesn't need AutoCAD or AEC|VIZ, because AEC|VIZ is encapsulated in the exe.
Alain Thiffault, global software product manager of Matrox, explains that the communication between AEC|VIZ
and AutoCAD ARX type applications allows transfer of 3D data to the viewer. The viewer has been highly
optimized for performance with Parhelia with really high frame rates, so that it interacts with really
large models. Once it moves the camera position around or into the model it tells AutoCAD to move specifically
to that position and avoids times when the really large model saturates the CPU and the graphics hardware
stands idle. When this happens, the designer can only get a few frames a second and it is difficult to
manipulate the object.
The new breed of CAD "Building Information Modeling" software will do fine with this display technology,
because as Thiffault says, the intelligent information, whether graphical or non-graphical, resides in
their applications. You can display different views of a 3D model and the intelligent information on different
monitors, or display email or collaboration software on another and not need to "switch" between views. No view
is obstructed, and this information can be spread across three different monitors.
"Sometimes you have several different documents that are needed to qualify a design -- specifications from a
customer, city guidelines that you have to follow, existing design elements -- and you need to reference all
of them for the project," says Thiffault.
For more than 25 years, Matrox Graphics Inc. has been the manufacturer of 2D/3D and video graphics accelerators,
and pioneered the DualHead technology, fully-symmetric multi-display support from a single graphics chip, that
is able to display dual analog outputs at 2048 x1536, or dual digital outputs at 1600 x 1200 with
independent gamma-correctable hardware overlays. With Matrox's TripleHead feature, three displays can be powered
from a single chip, stretching the desktop real estate to a maximum resolution of 3840 x 1024.
Matrox enters the CAD market with the intention of bringing the expertise they built in the corporate and
financial markets, following through with Matrox certified and ISV certified applications. They recently
received a certification for MicroStation which will be announced in the near future. Because the requirements
of each 3D workstation application are so unique, Matrox performs both in-house and ISV certification for key
applications and those certified applications are listed on the web site.