When someone says “real-time 3D” it may sound like mumbo jumbo, too boring and too intellectual to follow. What you may not have realized is that real-time 3D is used for video games!
Games like “Gears of War” or “Call of Duty” all use real-time 3D. All real-time 3D is is computer generated 3D content rendered as a 2D visual on a TV or computer screen. The graphic processing is rendered fast enough for us to actually control or interact with a character or the environment.
3D with consoles like the Wii and the Playstation 3 differ from the 3D used in modern films like “Avatar” and “Finding Nemo.” To create lifelike imagery in cinema, every single frame is rendered with multiple computers that calculate lighting and more. Motion picture makers often work with more computational power than what’s available on your average iMac. Live graphics of video games and the 3D graphics of Hollywood blockbusters are like apples and oranges.
Most modern games run on a specialized piece of computer hardware known as the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). The GPU is designed to process simplified 3D objects and imagery at an extremely fast rate, which allows developers to create responsive experiences.
Games like “Crysis” have pushed the boundaries of what is possible for modern video games. Instead of having incredible 3D background models, the developers of “Crysis” use a mix of layered images that fake “realistic” lighting. They pre-compute large areas of the environment as static images. None of these tricks are perfect, but to the untrained eye the graphics blend naturally. As games progress in quality, video games are discovering more ways to imitiate cinematic graphics in real-time.