2015's WWDC keynote to the majority of the world was about Music, but for digital creatives the most interesting part of the presentation was during the OS X EL Capitan segment when Metal for OS X was announced.
Metal is the part of OSX that involves graphics rendering, which means everything from vector graphics in appliations such as Illustrator through to High end games and the software used to create it.
We were keen to find out what the makers of some of our favourite content creation software thought about Metal.
We reached out to The Foundry who were name checked by Craig Federighi to find out what is Metal and how it can help in the digital content creation workspace.
Here is Jack Greasely, the Head Of New Technology at The Foundry who is currently at WWDC and kindly took the time to answer our questions.
Hi Thanks for taking the time to speak RGBHQ during a hectic WWDC. Is Metal a complement or direct replacement for OpenGL and OpenCL for OS X?
Metal is designed to perform the same functions as modern OpenGL and OpenCL combined so could be considered a direct replacement.
In the Keynote, Adobe were quite as saying that they were seeing an 8 times quicker response times in After Effects when using Metal, is this borne out by your experience with Metal?
In some of our testing we saw a 3x speed up. We saw the most benefit when rendering complex scenes. The more complex the scene, the more you hit the API. If you end up hitting the API a lot, the benefit becomes really obvious. Metal is simpler and doing less work behind the scenes which means it's faster to run.
Is Metal 'easier' to work with than the existing technologies such as OpenGL which always seem to be deprecated on the Mac in comparison to Windows?
Metal is a simpler API than OpenGL. OpenGL has accumulated a lot of functionality over the years, some combinations of which are well tested and robust and others which are not. The sheer number of things OpenGL does means you get exploding complexity. Metal does less for you but quicker. Traditionally if you needed feature X, X would be added to the OpenGL API and would have to work nicely with everything else.
In Metal if you need X, you write X. It may seem like more work but we'd prefer to have control over the features ourselves. We can decided what is included and can test / debug / optimise easily.
Does Metal benefit from using the GPU? if so does that mean for example Mari could potentially run on Macs with Integrated rather than dedicated GPU’s?
Metal is a library that an application uses to talk to GPUs. A version of Mari running on Metal *may* be better suited to integrated graphics, but many more factors come into play than just the overhead of the graphics API.
There have been grumblings about Mac Performance with Modo 901 on the Foundry forums, will MODO 901 (and other Foundry Products) benefit from OS X EL Capitan when it launches in the fall, or will users need to wait for the next major release of their software?
All I can on this is that we're actively exploring the possibilities of Metal and hope that they will be useful in addressing any concerns our users have. We don't have a timeline or roadmap for this.
As Metal originated in iOS does this mean that there is the potential to run 'serious' applications, such as MODO, NUKE or even MARI on an iPad one day?
Anything is possible. Having a common graphics API between the two is certainly a start. What is maybe more interesting is a WYSIWYG workflow between IOS and OSX. You could use your Mac to design assets in MARI / MODO / NUKE and then have them display / rendering live on a mobile device looking exactly the same.
Once again our Thanks to Jack and everyone at The Foundry for answering our questions so quickly. We are excited at RGBHQ to see what Metal means for content creation apps for OS X. As Jack mentioned the potential improvements from Metal could benefit developer and artists alike.....and makes rumors like the larger potential iPad Pro suddenly exciting products.
If you want to know more about Metal or have something you would like to say, plese leave a comment below.