Yesterday, at Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference, Russell McMurdie of Nike gave a talk about the impact of GPUs on the development of Nike's shoes. Russell himself, started out his talk by talking about what he expects from visualization when it comes to seeing graphics to be productive. He then proceeded to explain how visualization has evolved over the years to a point where we have reached the ability to realistically produce product visuals inside of a computer relatively quickly and efficiently with lots of flexibility.
This is especially important because Nike needs to be able to produce a lot of variations of the same shoe that fit the multitude of different visions, seasons, and review cycles. This means that Nike saves a lot of money and time by creating an accurate digitally rendered version of the shoe rather than constantly trying to create mock-ups. When you take into account that Nike's Running, Basketball, Global Football, Men's Training, American Football, Baseball, Women's Training and Sports wear are all served by GPU rendering, that's a lot of cost savings and a much quicker time to market.
Nike's Kobe System 8
Russell stated that at Nike they tend to prefer to use Bunkspeed
which is a renderer designed for rendering realistic materials and real world geometries in ways that are hard to discern from reality. The realism of Bunkspeed allows for them to virtually create and visualize the near finished product before a single stitch is even made. In addition to being overall fast, Bunkspeed is easy to use (accessible by non-specialists), the quality is impeccable, and the program is very scalable in terms of GPUs being added to improve performance. This is also not limited to updating GPUs, which Bunkspeed is also good at. Finally, Bunkspeed enables good exportability to other platforms so that the renders can be easily shared and sent around for review.
Bunkspeed, however, does have some limitations including the need for preparation of the program and parameters in order to achieve a certain look/result. It also has some unique control/features which include FX and custom shaders which are not necessarily easy to reproduce.
Overall, Bunkspeed and Nvidia's GPUs have enabled Nike to not only come up with more creative shoes over the years but to do it more quickly, cheaply, and to produce more of them every year with a shorter development cycle than ever before. Thanks to fast GPUs, we have better shoes that get to us faster than ever before. Also, do note, that both of the shoes pictured above are renders that Nike has made using Bunkspeed.
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