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How To Buy A...Video Card
3-D: The Big Picture

If your video world seems a trifle flat, you might need a new perspective. With 3-D capability, you can add a third dimension (depth) to a normal 2-D (height and width) display. Displaying a 3-D scene is graphics-intensive, requiring more information processing than displaying a 2-D image, so it requires a special video accelerator.

Currently, two complementary 3-D standards exist: OpenGL and Direct3D. OpenGL defines 3-D modeling very precisely for CAD and other 3-D modeling applications. The OpenGL standard originated in the UNIX world for Sparc stations, and now runs on the Windows NT platform as well.

Direct3D concentrates on texture mapping (also called Gouraud or smooth shading) to enhance the realism of graphics. The standard is focused on the Windows 95 market. More than any other software, games incorporate effects produced using this standard. Right now, fewer than two dozen games take advantage of Direct3D. Some popular ones include Quake from id Software, MechWarrior 2: Mercenarie from Activision and Monster Truck Madness from Microsoft. However, some vendors predict that a wave of 3-D products, including business graphics, will flow into the marketplace in 1997, making this the year of 3-D.

A number of manufacturers-including Number Nine, Orchid Technology, Creative Labs, Matrox, Diamond Multimedia, Intergraph Corp., STB Systems and ATI Technologies-are currently shipping video boards that integrate 3-D features with middle-to-high-end 2D graphics

Copyright 1997 CMP Media Inc.

(From Windows Magazine, January 1997, page 246.)