SGI Intros Tezro, Onyx4

Graphics systems seek better price/performance ratio
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SGI is making its next leap this week with the introduction of the Tezro visual workstation and the Onyx4 UltimateVision advanced visualization system, two products that it believes will double its business from the broadcast and production markets.

The Onyx4 is designed for high-end live graphics or virtual-studio processing. Tezro is for intended for post-production and video compositing, editing and mastering.

Tezro will be available in 2RU or 4RU rackmount configurations ($24,495 list for 2RU) as well as the more traditional workstation configuration ($28,000 for two processors and $40,500 for four).

According to Director of Media Industries Jason Danielson, development of the Tezro is the result of SGI efforts to push the robustness of media-data throughput and increase input/output options. For example, the workstation has up to seven PCI-X slots, and the rackmount versions have six PCI-X slots and a PCI slot.

Tezro also has 10-bit-per-channel color depth, which means a faster system bus and graphics subsystem. It's also possible, Danielson says, to have two separate applications running at the same time on a four-CPU version of Tezro, which could prove attractive in a broadcast environment. "The rackmount workstation can be put in the machine room, and then cables can be run to the desktop," he explains.

The workstation is expected to ship in August and will also be demonstrated later this month at Siggraph 2003 in San Diego.

"We're not pushing Tezro for on-air graphics," Danielson says, "but the two-rack-mountable system is great for broadcast operations, and we think companies like Discreet will be able to sell more products into the broadcast market because the price point will be more attractive."

He sees the Onyx4 as holding the most promise for the broadcast market. It can handle up to eight CPUs, but the unit's ability to scale with the addition of up to four graphics cards will make the difference, he believes. "It's a revolutionary change: For the first time, we're treating graphics cards like CPUs. You want more graphics power? You put a second card in."

He says the architecture allows "compositing" of multiple cards' polygon performance. Combining the performance makes it easier to handle high-end demands like HD virtual sets. At this point, the virtual-set market has pretty much been a European phenomenon. But Danielson says the Onyx4 cuts hardware costs in half (prices start at $45,000 and rise to $110,000) and may increase interest in virtual sets.

"This can fit into a lot more budgets," he says. "And broadcasters will see that, for the cost of building a set for one program, they can have a virtual set and do other programs as well."

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