FA 4 Version 4.02 Released

Release Notes ===============

Bug Fix: for Loop/Morph Basic Animations being classified as Complex animations
Bug Fix: for Gallery fractals not rendering
Bug Fix: for final assembly of movie failing with sandbox exception
Bug Fix: for Quicktime Player not opening after movie rendered
Bug Fix: for Make Video not working with either variation weights or variation parameters

Render Performance comparison across different Mac models

One of the minor changes in FA 4 is that it reports render performance in a manner that allows you to compare the performance between CPU and GPU and between different Mac models. The app reports performance in Mips (millions of iterations per second) which is  the number of iterations per second done by the outermost loop in the Fractal flame algorithm. It measures the render time only during histogram construction, as that is the performance bottleneck in flame fractal rendering. I hope other flame fractal products report this figure in the future.

You can find the render performance in the Window > Render Status Log menu after a render to file is finished.

I have been using the Worlds Gallery fractal as the basis of comparison. I always render it at 1440 x 900 pixels at quality 3000.

There is a huge difference in render performance across different Mac models from the same model year.

A 2013 Macbook Air with 1.3 GHz Intel Core i5 CPU achieves 9.71 mips (400.61 secs to render the final image with FA 4 v 4.0.1 Yosemite 10.10.3).

A 2013 Mac Pro with upgraded twin D700 GPUs and Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-1650 v2 @ 3.50GHz – 6 core CPU achieves 778.22 Mips (5.00 sec to renderr the final image with FA 4 v 4.0.1 Yosemite 10.10.3).

Rendering with just the CPU on the 2013 Mac Pro achieves 37.72 Mips (103.13 sec to renderr the final image with FA 4 v 4.0.1 Yosemite 10.10.3). . On this Mac Pro, the twin GPU rendering time is 20.6X faster than on its CPU.

So the Mac Pro renders  over 80X faster than the Macbook Air (same year model)!

Even using its CPUs alone, it is almost 4X faster rendering than the 2013 Macbook Air.

For single image renders, FA 4 on a 2013 Macbook Air has reasonable performance during a typical editing session.  But movie rendering will be painfully slow.

Apple’s 2013 Mac Pro is a spectacular rendering workhorse. And the price difference over 2013 Macbook Airs is very reasonable (about 3.5X higher cost for 80X rendering performance).

Note: 2015 Macbook Airs are faster than 2013 ones at the same price point – but I did not want to compare Macs across different model years.

Way to go Apple!

Rendering FA 4 fractals on FA 3D

In case you already have FA 3D (the previous FA app version), this news might be of interest.
The last update to FA 3D included an update to read files created in FA 4.
The renderer in FA 3D does not support the new features in FA 4, so if a fractal built with FA 4 uses either Pre or Post variation groups, it can’t be rendered in FA 3D.
If the fractal uses just a single Normal variation group per transform in all transforms, it can be rendered in FA 3D. Its a little confusing to understand, but all Flam3/Apophysis fractals have a single variation group per transform. (They do not use this terminology).
Apophysis pre/post variation types (as distinct from Pre/Post variation groups), can be rendered in FA 3D.

How To Tell if  a Fractal uses the New Features in FA 4

Open the Info window on the fractal,  Look at each transform and their variations.

Note in this example, transform #1 uses a Pre and a Normal Variation Group:

Xform #1 weight: 0.9634 colorIndex: 0.0536 color_speed: 0.785 opacity: 100% var_color: 1 rotates: YES
Variation Group Pre#1 ========
 npolar #1: -0.6421 parity: 0.1687 n: -1.5161 
 post_flatten #1: 1.384 
Variation Group Normal ========
 julia #1: 0.3463 
 post_flatten #1: -0.1504

This transform has a single normal variation group.

Xform #2 weight: 0.5347 colorIndex: 0.0615 color_speed: 0.5 opacity: 100% var_color: 1 rotates: YES
Variation Group Normal ========
 julian #1: 0.7325 power: 6 dist: -0.1098

Why GPU Rendering is an Optional In-App Purchase

Today in 2015, my guess is that only in 1 in 4 customers have Macs whose GPUs are compatible with FA 4 GPU OpenCL rendering. Before Mavericks, almost 100% of Macs (those with Nvidia or ATI GPUs)  could use FA 2’s GPU rendering.
There are multiple OpenCL driver issues causing this and frankly there is nothing that can be done to fix it as a small app developer.
That is why free GPU Trial was put in the app and why GPU rendering is an optional purchase.  We did not want customers to feel they spent money on a broken feature, especially when we have no ability to fix the underlying bugs in Mac OS X’s OpenCL drivers.

Keeping GPU Rendering Support in the Product

When FA 3D was under development in 2012, Mountain Lion was the current of OS X and its OpenCL GPU drivers worked very well. Basically GPU rendering worked on all Macs with discrete Nvidia or AMD (excepting the AMD 4XXX series GPUs) from 2009 and later.

Then Mavericks appeared and OpenCL driver hell began for so many FA customers. FA 3D was released right after Mavericks release. We had no idea that Apple would release such bad drivers and for most Mac models, never fix them. Continue reading Keeping GPU Rendering Support in the Product

State of OpenCL GPU Rendering on Macs in 2015

Fractal Architect is testament to the power of OpenCL powered GPU rendering.

The 2013 Mac Pro OpenCL drivers are world-class and deliver amazing performance. The 2011 and 2012 Macbook Pros are solid GPU rendering workhorses.

The Intel CPU OpenCL driver was greatly improved in Yosemite with a doubling of performance over Mavericks.

It is also serves as a stark reminder of what happens when the OpenCL driver/compiler/runtime provided by Mac OS X is not maintained and bugs are ignored. The Intel OpenCL GPU drivers on the Mac OS X platform are best described as: unusable, broken.

We have no control over the state of these drivers. Apple can do amazing things with their drivers, as the Mac Pro team did. They can also give you a miserable experience, when bug reports are ignored and years go by without useable drivers.

Unfortunately, for most of you having Macs that are powered by Intel GPUs, you will not have the chance of using GPU rendering.

These are the Mac models currently having OpenCL driver issues and a short comment on why they don’t work:

  • All Intel Iris, HD 5×00, HD 4000 GPUs

    OpenCL LLVM compiler targeting those GPU’s can’t compile our kernels.

  • 2014 Macbook Pro with Nvidia 750M GPU

    Automatic GPU switching breaks OpenCL apps. Other Macbook Pro models also use automatic GPU switching, but they work fine.

  • 2010 and earlier Macbook Pros

    GPU rendering worked fine on Mountain Lion. Mavericks and Yosemite drivers are broken/useless.

Apple – you have shown what you can do. Please give attention to your OpenCL driver stack.

FA 4 – Animation – What’s New

A Fractal Animation Product Is Born

  • Fastest Integrated Production Flame Fractal Renderer Available Today
    • Multiple GPU Rendering for Mac Pro’s
    • OpenCL rendering on either GPUs (if available and compatible) or CPU
  • Render to Video with Pause/Resume Render
    • Quit App & Resume Render later where you stopped at before
    • Savable Movie Rendering State
  • Audio Integration
  • Virtually every parameter is animatable

Continue reading FA 4 – Animation – What’s New