Xbox 720 or PS4 Graphics Simply Cannot be on Par with Avatar: Here's Why

There's a snowball's chance in hell for the next generation of consoles to sport Avatar-quality graphics.

by on 17th Sep, 2012

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There is a certain belief that the next generation of consoles, particularly the Xbox 720 and the PlayStation 4, are going to have enough horsepower to drive a movie like Avatar. If not Avatar, then something that looks almost as good as that.

A recent article on Cinemablend quotes Chris Doran, the co-founder of Geometrics, a middleware company currently developing technology for the next generation of consoles, as saying that new consoles like the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 will offer graphics comparable to the James Cameron movie.

"I am confident that the lighting itself could get close to Avatar quality. Then the question moves onto other aspects of content creation. Is that level of modeling detail feasible, and will the animation, physics, and AI all be equally plausible," said Doran of his company’s upcoming engine, Enlighten.

Plausible? Maybe if you’re high on something Walter White cooked up.

Considering the fact that current generation computers, the highest of which have arguably better specs than any next-gen console, lack the power to put out Avatar-quality graphics, it’s a stretch to think, much less say out loud that the next generation of consoles will be capable of doing just that.

As it goes with every generation of consoles, the next batch will be developed with a variety of criteria in mind, of which affordability will play a huge factor. Don’t expect them to sport the most powerful graphics cards and CPUs.

For those not in the know, movies like Avatar and Wall-E aren’t rendered in real-time engines. A second’s worth of frames—which can include up to 60 frames, depending on the director’s preference—can take an hour to render on a single, high-end computer set up with the right equipment. To cut down on the processing time, filmmakers typically daisy chain a whole bunch of graphics cards and processors—or what’s known as a render farm—to do the rendering work simultaneously.

It’s a little known fact that James Cameron’s Avatar took the New Zealand-based Weta Digital an entire facility of HP blades to process the movie in its entirety. Their processing power includes 40,000 processors and 104 terabytes of RAM. Hardly the kind of thing you’d find on a $400 console.

Could the Xbox 720 and PS4 serve real-time graphics on par with Avatar? Not by a long shot—and not for a few decades, either.

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