Scott Wasson Joins GN To Talk HDR Display Tech & Frametime Testing

By Published March 16, 2016 at 6:00 am

We welcomed AMD's Scott Wasson on-camera at the company's Capsaicin event, where we also spoke to Roy Taylor about driver criticism and covered roadmap updates. Wasson was eager to discuss new display technology demonstrated at the event and highlighted a critical shift toward greater color depth and vibrancy. We saw early samples of HDR screens at CES, but the Capsaicin display was far more advanced.

But that's not all we spoke about. As a site which prides itself on testing frame delivery consistency (we call them “low frametimes” – 1% and 0.1% lows), it made perfect sense to speak with frametime testing pioneer Scott Wasson about the importance of this metric.

For the few unaware, Wasson founded the Tech Report and worked as the site's Editor-in-Chief up until January, at which time he departed as EIC and made a move to AMD. Wasson helped pioneer “frametime testing,” detailed in his “Inside the Second” article, and we'd strongly recommend a read.

Full details in the video below, but some key quotes have been pulled for our audience favoring text:

Why do these HDR displays excite you?

“I'm just into this stuff – I'm just geekin' out about this […] This [demo] is HDR content video, it's 4K resolution, high-dynamic range, high-color gamut, it is 60 frames per second – so it's super fluid […] – and it's tone-mapped for the particular TV that it's being shown on, so it's color-correct and range-correct for that display. It's something we can't put on camera because all your equipment isn't as good – right? – but it's just the best thing I have ever seen on an electronic display. We're able to show it running on one of our Polaris GPUs. Video is being decoded in real-time and sent to the TV over an HDMI 2.0 port.”

Do game developers have to do anything special to create content for these displays?

“The interesting thing about the gaming side is that, because DirectX 11 is a high-precision API internally that requires lots of bits of precision per color channel, what game developers need to do is simply tone-map to the higher-dynamic range displays. All their lighting engines – there's goodness in them right now, and you're not seeing it because your display is incapable. As this moves along, I expect we'll see games that tone-map to displays.”

What are some important points about frametime testing for readers to understand?

“An average [framerate] conducted over a period of time masks variance that happens from frame-to-frame, so you need to have a better metric. You need to look at the entire distribution of frametimes and ask the question, 'was I getting the frame on time, every time, as consistently as possible?' So we built some metrics around that – and I think one of them you guys [GamersNexus] are using is based on kind of a percentile thing. You know where that came from? I was doing database benchmarking for servers. In servers for databases, you have to get every query back quickly. Well, it turns out you can take some cheap little Xeons, and you can get a really good rate in a database benchmark, but there are some queries that will take a long time to get back.

“So you're standing there at the ATM and it takes a long time – you're mad. You get the big Xeons with the big cache and everything – it turns out, in that case, even if your rate is lower, you eliminate those long-latency transactions. I started thinking about that in the context of graphics, and it turns out you want to deliver every frame consistently, just like you want to do for transactions in a database.”

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Editorial, Host: Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke
Video Producer: Keegan “HornetSting” Gallick

Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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