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Tuesday, September 07, 2004
Software Turns GPU Into Audio Coprocessor


Massachusetts developer BionicFX has come up with a way to run audio effects processing through an Nvidia graphics card.

The company has released Audio Video Exchange, or AVEX, a framework which converts digital audio into graphics data, and then performs effect calculations using the 3D architecture of the graphics processor. BionicReverb, the first effect to use the technology, will debut at the NAMM conference in January 2005.

The software takes advantage of the fact that a graphics chip is nothing more than a sophisticated math coprocessor dedicated to moving graphics data in and out of memory at high speeds. Because of their dedicated nature, a GPU can perform its specialized calculations far faster than a host processor, which is why dedicated 3D graphics is usually far superior to software-based host processing.

"The latest generation of video cards from Nvidia and ATI are capable of 40 gigaflops or more of processing power," according to a a statement on the BionicFX web site . "So, the last time you were cranking out your latest hit record, and had to resort to fancy freeze, dither, and effect bus tricks to keep your CPU from staying pegged at 100 percent usage, you were probably wishing that you could afford a full-on studio while screaming, 'What the heck is wrong with this freaking software?!'"

AVEX works by transforming audio streams into the structure and colors of graphics data, BionicFX said. The graphics data is processed on the video card by pixel or fragment shaders that run audio effect algorithms, which read and write to textures in video memory. The final calculations are retrieved from off-screen buffers and decoded into audio.

A diagram of how the software works is on the BionicFX web site. The site credits John Carmack, the legendary programmer and architect of the id Software Inc. games like DOOM , for jump starting the graphics industry and making the BionicFX software possible.



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