SGI vs Mac vs PC


Established Member
I would like to ask to the technologically knowlegeable members of this forums, what are the technical advantages (if any) that SGI systems posses over standard PC and Mac systems.
Nowadays, not much. But back when SGI was king of the hill they were very impressive. SGI's machines always had a lot of memory bandwidth. Also, keep in mind that SGI invented OpenGL. They still have regular SGI GL, which has features that OpenGL lacks. Ever seen the 'world' demo running on an SGI? That is an example of the architecture at work. Additionally, SGI was using RISC processors and hardware 3d acceleration long before these things became commonplace.

Another advantage they had back in the day was the OS. Irix, although certainly not the best Unix ever made, was by far better than the older versions of Microsoft's and Apple's OSes, and could be relied upon to crunch numbers for rendering all day.

Another advantage that SGIs used to hold was the tools. Many high-end graphics tools either originated on or were ported to the SGI platform before a PC version ever appeared. Take Softimage for example - still one of the best tools available, and it was only on SGI machines for a long time.
The "bus" in SGI systems operated very differently, reminds me more of what they do with multiple HT links in Athlons now. The machines and Irix were symmetric multiprocessing oriented, they were less bottlenecked than trying to use PC hardware for that sort of thing.

In more recent times, as Ish pointed out, they're irrelevant. Relatively inexpensive PC-compatible hardware (including graphics cards, as they long ago caught up to what SGI pioneered) can build massively powerful systems now. But back then, there was no comparison. SGI was much more powerful, especially for simulation/CAD/other visual apps. SGI systems often come with extra inputs/outputs/controllers/etc that you'd have to add later to a PC workstation.

Check out this page for some interesting info and benches.
Thank you both very much for your replies - I have also been discussing this with Artemio Urbina, and he has helped me a lot as well in understanding that happened with the famous Silicon Graphics Inc.

Now that you mentioned Softimage, this software has been used by development teams to make games like Virtua Fighter 1, 2 and 3, Half-Life 2 and many more. I also have seen games that were done in Maya, like Dino Crisis 3, Killer7, Virtua Cop 3, Gran Turismo 3 A-spec, and others.

Do you have any comments/opinions on this software? Is there any other worth mentioning (Renderware?)? How do this professional software compare to Discreet's 3D Studio platform?
This thread further demonstrates why I stay away from the computer discussion forum.

Majority of the posts = :huh :huh:
Renderware is more of a 3d game development environment/game engine. They provide libraries, etc. I know there is a Renderware level editing tool, but I don't know if they provide modelling software or not.

Maya is a pretty sweet package. Its animation capabilities are second to none, although IMHO its modelling tools aren't that great and neither is its default renderer (doesn't matter for games unless you're talking about producing CGI cutscenes). Max is a powerful piece of software, but Maya is equal or better in just about every way. Keep in mind that Max is used for a fair share of game development as well. It's every bit as much of a professional product as Maya or Softimage (although it may be less expensive). I don't have extensive experience with XSI, but I do believe it's targeted more towards high quality cinematic/commercial applications.

Last but not least, we have Lightwave 3D. This is a great program too, and you can kind of look at it as the reverse of Maya -- its modelling tools and interface are awesome, and it has a great built-in renderer, but its animation capabilities aren't up to scratch with what Maya offers (Lightwave can do most of the same things, but the interface for animating isn't as easy to use). Lightwave is used in a good number of games as well, and it's the package that I myself use. It's not unheard of for companies to use Lightwave for modelling and rendering, and Maya for doing the animation work -- in fact, I believe this was done with the CGI sequences for Microsoft's Age of Mythology. Lightwave's interface, unlike that of Maya or Max, is custom built, rather than being oriented around the Windows GUI. This gives it a better feel, IMHO. It's also a fair bit cheaper than any of the above mentioned products -- I recommend it if you're looking to get in to 3D (although keep in mind that there is an excellent open source package called Blender available as well).
Hey Ish, have you ever used any of the other freeware stuff like 3D Canvas, Anim8or, Morph3D, OpenFX, VirtuaLight? What about GMax or Maya PLE, how gimped are those freebie versions?

I noticed that Softimage has an XSI EXP specifically for HL2 modelling. So its obviously immediately limited, but is it free? It looks like you just have to register to use it. That would help modders a whole ton.

Finally, there's something called Panal, which is basically a distributed cruncher on a small scale (clustering without the cluster) for Maya and Lightwave on Windows boxes. That could be really handy for a budget setup, if you used those programs.
The only other free package I've used is POVray, which obviously isn't that great when it comes to modelling and what not. I've used the Maya PLE that comes with UT2003/2004, and it's basically the full version, although you can only render at a low resolution and all renders are watermarked. It also doesn't have the extra stuff like the hair generator that comes with the highest end version of Maya. However, for creating UT models and static meshes, it does everything you'd want.