I also learned that the Control Center is customizable, so the decision to put the redhead there must have been a purposeful one by ATI. [http://www.tweaktown.com/articles/692/3] I also learned:
ATI introduced the Catalyst Control Center suite early in 2004 along with the release of the X800 family of cards. Up until late last year ATI made the CCC an optional driver, with older cards still able to use the old ATI Control Panel. With the release of the X1K series of cards, ATI chose to make the CCC a necessary component for the new cards." [http://www.motherboards.org/reviews/hardware/1577_4.html]Then, I discovered that different models of AT Radeon cards have different graphics on their Control Center Welcome Screen. Here's the one for the ATI Radeon 1950 http://support.gateway.com/s/VIDCARD/ATI/6008058R/6008057Rsi9.shtml:
Maybe, I thought, the higher-end cards have even more high-resolution images on their welcome screens! Then I found a box for the ATI Radeon 9550, which had this version of the redhead:
...and this one, probably supplied for the same reason:
It seemed to me that there must be some kind of backstory behind the woman: who was she, and what exactly is she doing in all these action shots? Clearly, she's a warrior. But for good? For evil?
Then, for some reason, THIS came up in an image search for "catalyst control center" welcome screen:
What the heck, I thought? Upon following the link (above this paragraph), no sign of this image. However, when I followed the Google prompt to "See full-size image," it took me to http://www.michellestafford.com/images/ms_burg_1.jpg.
What, I wondered, does Michelle Stafford have to do with the Catalyst Control Center Welcome Screen?
Then I looked again at Michelle, and then again at the redhead on the welcome screen. Hmmmmm......
Quite a resemblance there! Both redheads. Same face shape. Eyes similar.....
Is Michelle Stafford the redhead on the Welcome Screen?
I went to Michelle's web site, and found a couple of pictures that certainly suggest the Catalyst Redhead:
I didn't see anything like "Catalyst Control Center Welcome Girl" listed in Michelle's "Credits" section of her website, but I did learn she was a start in a film called "Attaction," which I googled, and found this Wikipedia article on Michelle, which informed me that her birthday is the day after mine (a VIRGO), and that she was born in the town where I live (Chicago), supports "The Earth Organization" (where's my checkbook!), and is a Scientologist (which I'm not).
Anyway, I haven't proven that Michelle is Ruby, but I wonder....
Then, I found another example of this image:
I decided that maybe Ruby represented more than just the Catalyst Control Center; maybe she was an icon for ATI in general. So I decided broaden my search to "ATI Radeon" images, and see whether any other images came up.
First thing I found was the highest resolution image of Ruby that I had found so far, over the caption:
(click to enlarge)
so of course I did, and found
And then, another very high resolution image, available as wallpaper for the computer desktop:
ATI created a new Ruby "Whiteout" tech demo to show off what the Radeon HD 2900 XT can do. In the new demo, the Ruby model has 200,000 triangles, and the entire video averages more than 1 million triangles per frame. In comparison, the Ruby from the Radeon X1000 series demo, "The Assassin," only has 80,000 triangles, and the demo averages just over 500,000 triangles per frame. The new Ruby also has 128 facial animation targets compared to four for the older models, which allows for more realistic facial expressions.
Following the link [http://ati.amd.com/developer/demos/rhd2000.html], I came at last to where I should have started, the ATI web site, where I learned that Ruby is a model, designed (and repeatedly redesigned) to demonstrate new capabilities of ATI graphics cards. Regarding "Whiteout":
Ruby's latest adventure takes place in a rugged, mountainous terrain where her skills as a snowboarder are tested and may just save her life. This fast paced, action packed demo exploits the power of the ATI Radeon HD 2900XT to create a rich and expansive landscape of snow, rock, and ice. From the procedural snow accumulation on the harsh terrain to the wrinkles on Ruby's brow and the physics that drive each strand of fur on Ruby's fur collar, the ATI Radeon HD 2900XT can handle it all.Sadly, since I only have an ATI 1550, I couldn't play the demo version of "Whiteout," which requires "
In order to create an expressive, compelling character our artists constructed 128 morph targets to drive Ruby's facial rig. All of these facial "poses" are combined using the GPU to create Ruby's final look. Ruby also uses a number of animated wrinkle maps to add additional subtle expressiveness to her brow, eyes, mouth and chin. High dynamic range imaging techniques are used through out the Whiteout demo to account for the brightest of outdoor environments as well as the darkest depths of Ruby's icy head quarters. Advanced light scattering techniques are employed to faithfully reproduce the complex interactions of light with snow and ice.
Windows Vista®, an ATI Radeon™ HD series product with 512MB of video memory and a high end CPU with 1GB of RAM." However, when I went up a level, to [http://ati.amd.com/developer/demos.html], I found a whole list of demos. Fortunately, some of the demos have MPG versions available, which (OF COURSE!) I watched, and you can too:
"Doublecross" introduces the near future world of ATI's "Ruby" and her arch enemy "Optico". In an action packed 1 minute and 40 seconds, Ruby has to outwit the cunning "Optico" as he attempts to cheat on an exchange. Ruby not only has to use her wits but battle Optico's Ninja henchmen. Culminating in an explosive ending, Ruby escapes, leaving Optico vowing revenge. Through the use of motion captured animation, depth-of-field, realistic image based lighting and dynamic shadows; "DoubleCross" borrows heavily from both gaming and movie genres to create a compelling demo that further raises the expectations for real-time graphics.
"Dangerous Curves" continues the adventures of ATI’s heroine, Ruby. During this 45 second sequence, Ruby has to avoid Optico’s automated drones intent on her demise. A high speed motorcycle chase ensues through a gritty tunnel, punctuated by yet another explosive conclusion. Dangerous Curves continues ATI's tradition of blending movie and gaming genres to create a compelling demo. The use of real-time motion-blur, glows and precomputed radiance transfer (PRT) technology delivers realistic lighting and is a compelling demonstration of the cinematic experience that is possible on today’s 3D graphics hardware.
Ruby’s latest adventure places our heroine in a large complex environment and uses high dynamic range lighting and dynamic soft shadows to set the mood. The villain of the piece, a cyborg called Cyn, is our most complex character to date, consisting of over 120,000 polygons – all lit, transformed, rendered and shaded using the power of the Radeon® X1800.Then, I went back to the HD2000 demo page, and discovered a version of Whiteout that I could play (hallelujah), at http://ati.amd.com/products/Radeonhd/demos/Whiteout.html with a link to a downloadable version. This is the point at which she jumps out of the plane with her snowboard!
And this, when she's about to evade a rocket fired at her:
And this, as she is taking her revenge:
(You can also get Ruby videos at http://machinima.com.)
Ah, Ruby! She is, of course, a "good guy"--fast, sexy, smart, with a European accent, and always victorious, just as you'd expect, looking at her. And she makes you want to run out at get the latest ATI graphics card, just so you can see her beauty mark with more detail.
Sadly, it seems that ATI may have moved on to a new woman. This is the box cover of the ATI Radeon 1650 Pro, released in early 2007:
However, even more sadly,with the release of Microsoft Windows Vista, ATI seems to have changed their favorite image related to the Catalyst Control Center to something much less interesting than Ruby or Sapphire:
PS. I could find no evidence that Ruby is modeled on Michelle Stafford. However, it was an odd coincidence that she came up in my search, only to not appear on the page where she was supposed to be. Does anyone know anything?
PPS. Now that I know Ruby's name, I can search Google Images for "ATI Ruby," and find a whole SLEW of Ruby images.
She even has her own fan site: http://atitech.com/ruby/index.html,
where fans (like me?) can download desktop wallpapers, screen savers, and videos. Ruby even has a biography:
Rumored to be the daughter of a high-ranking military officer and a foreign ambassador, Agent codename: 'RUBY' is listed in the agency database as ideal for covert missions and high-risk activities that are unsuitable for other freelance agents. This operative possesses Class One Security Clearance and Level 'A' computer expertise. Skilled in martial arts, demolition and surveillance, Agent RUBY is authorized in the use of extreme force and has global diplomatic immunity.
Prior to her working for ATI, RUBY operated internationally as a mercenary for hire. Her movements can be traced to various conflicts in Asia and Central America as well as operations involving the British Secret Service. Deep cover operatives have discovered documents suggesting her field rank within this organization as Security Director, Field Operations, Senior Grade (unconfirmed). Her associations with her employers have been verified as performing functions including: sniper, saboteur, hacker, spy, commando and as a diplomatic courier for various governments.
As an ATI operative, agent RUBY has dealt effectively with the billionaire technologist: 'Optico' ( see accompanying dossier ). In derailing Optico's use of secret technology, which he hoped to sell to hostile foreign governments, RUBY's intelligence-gathering network has allowed ATI unprecedented access to Optico's inner lair and the transfer of this highly sensitive technology, created by Optico Industries. Preliminary examination of this technology indicates unlimited potential.
Agent RUBY's past history, although free of overt criminal activity, remains open to further investigation. Although her loyalty is assured, close supervision of this freelance agent by staff administrators is advised.
There are even, at gaming shows, real-world imitators of the animated heroine:
Somehow, now that I know who she is and what she stands for, she seems a whole lot less interesting. What is it they say, about playing hard to get?