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<p><b>Abstract</b>—This paper describes the first use of a Network Processing Unit (NPU) to perform hardware-based image composition in a distributed rendering system. The image composition step is a notorious bottleneck in a clustered rendering system. Furthermore, image compositing algorithms do not necessarily scale as data size and number of nodes increase. Previous researchers have addressed the composition problem via software and/or custom-built hardware. We used the heterogeneous multicore computation architecture of the Intel IXP28XX NPU, a fully programmable commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology, to perform the image composition step. With this design, we have attained a nearly four-times performance increase over traditional software-based compositing methods, achieving sustained compositing rates of 22-28 fps on a <tmath>1,024 \times 1,024</tmath> image. This system is fully scalable with a negligible penalty in frame rate, is entirely COTS, and is flexible with regard to operating system, rendering software, graphics cards, and node architecture. The NPU-based compositor has the additional advantage of being a modular compositing component that is eminently suitable for integration into existing distributed software visualization packages.</p>
Hardware-assisted image compositing, high-performance computing, image compositing, Network Processing Unit, parallel rendering, PC clusters, visualization, volume rendering.

S. Poole, C. Connor Davenport, D. Pugmire, L. Monroe, A. DuBois and D. DuBois, "NPU-Based Image Compositing in a Distributed Visualization System," in IEEE Transactions on Visualization & Computer Graphics, vol. 13, no. , pp. 798-809, 2007.
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