10 April 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Coming later this quarter from Adobe Systems is its GoLive 5.0 Web authoring tool ($299). New features include an on-board interactive editor for editing multimedia, "360Code" for control over Web design source code, improved site planning and management, asset check in and out through WebDAV support, and "smart links" that provides drag-and-drop object-sharing with other Adobe products. Also, functionality such as Dynamic Link is said to simplify the incorporation of dynamic database and e-commerce capabilities. And, GoLive 5.0 offers improved extensibility and Adobe will provide a Software Development Kit (SDK).
GoLive 5.0 is integrated with Adobe’s Web and graphics products, including Photoshop, Illustrator, LiveMotion, After Effects and Premiere.
WebSideStory, a provider of Web audience analysis and Internet intelligence, last week announced a new service that tracks and monitors visitor activity on wireless Web sites. Called HitBox Wireless, the Web-based analysis service will monitor Web surfers who access a site through wireless-enabled devices, including Palm VII handheld computers from Palm, Inc. and Web-enabled phones.
The company claims its service, currently in beta, will track hundreds of real-time visitor statistics to a wireless site, including the type of wireless devices used to access a site; the make and model of the wireless phones used to access a site; browser versions of the wireless devices; screen resolutions; markup language support and most requested pages. HitBox Wireless can also show the service provider of each Web-enabled phone, and in some cases the area code of the visitor's phone. Other statistics include unique visitors, page views, top paths, and time spent on site. WebSideStory has filed a patent application covering certain aspects of the new technology.
Just out from Spyglass Inc. is Device Mosaic 4.0, described as an extensible, customizable, Internet-based application platform optimized for next-generation interactive television products, including televisions, digital set-top boxes and chipsets.
Coming soon from Blue World Communications is Lasso Studio for Dreamweaver version 1.5, a free update to its product for building data-driven Web applications for deployment using Blue World Lasso Web Data Engine.
New features include:
If you're getting ready to register a domain, you can save a few bucks by going with Dotster Inc. The ICANN-accredited registrar of .com, .net and .org domain names, last week announced a $15 pricing promotion for all domain names registered at www.dotster.com now through the end of April. The promotion includes annual registrations of all .com, .net and .org domain names and will end at midnight PST on April 30.
During the promotion, two-year domain name registration pricing is $30, five-year registrations are $75, and ten-year registrations are $150. The service features NameSpin, a tool that lets users search for and register still-available synonyms and word combinations, and Bulk Registration, where users can check and register up to 300 domain names in a single session.
SealedMedia says its new service, coming this summer, securely packages information, images, software, games, music, and video for sale via the Internet. The service also facilitates "pass-along" readership of protected content while giving publishers control over the content wherever it moves on the Web.
Sega is positioning its Website as Sega.com, Inc., an online interactive entertainment company based on SegaNet, a high-speed online console gaming network that will offer 3D multiplayer games, chat, community, cheat codes, tournaments and content. An ISP service for Sega Dreamcast and PC users, SegaNet will also provide content on such areas as music, TV, movies, sports and e-commerce.
SegaNet will launch in the U.S. on September 7 with 10-12 online games available by fall, including Quake III Arena, Sega Sports NFL 2K1, Phantasy Star Online, and Sega Sports NBA 2K1. The service will launch in Canada by year's end. As a promotion, Sega will offer a $200 rebate or a free Dreamcast and keyboard to consumers who signup for the SegaNet ISP at $21.95 per month.
GTE Internetworking will provide the managed Internet access services for the SegaNet ISP.
Newly available from Electric Rain, Inc. is Swift 3D ($139), a very cool product for 3D vector-graphics generation. The standalone design lets designers create or import 3D images and animations for export to the Macromedia Flash file format (SWF). Images can be created from fonts and basic 3D primitives within Swift 3D, or imported from other applications like 3D Studio (3DS), Adobe Illustrator (AI) or any program that exports Encapsulated PostScript files (EPS).
Swift 3D provides control over extrusion, rotation, coloring and animation of 3D images. Pre-built drag-and-drop animations and keyframe animation let users apply motion to new or imported images. These images are then converted into a vector format and exported as SWF files. Swift 3D supports four levels of export -- outlines, meshes, flat shading and gradient shading.
One of the best new graphics-related books is 3D Studio Max 3 Professional Animation, by Angie Jones, Sean Bonney, Brandon Davis, Sean Miller, and Shane Olsen. Published by good old New Riders, the 634-page book covers a wide range of animation techniques in an informative, no-nonsense manner. The first section, Animation Techniques, covers animating with multiple modifiers. Next, in Character Animation, you get to learn about character and creature setup (basic and advanced), animating a walk, facial animation, and using Character Studio for animation. Lastly, the Animating the Environment section deals with animating lights, cameras, and atmospheres, as well as particle systems, space warps, and dynamics.
If you need to learn how to animate with Max, this is one $50 ($35 at Amazon.com) you won't regret spending. If you get a chance, check out Jones' excellent Website at http://www.spicycricket.com.
Graphics studio and publisher Marlin Studios last week released its "Seamless Textures 6 - Classic Architectural Ornament" CD-ROM, created by artist Eni Oken. Oken is best known for her work on computer game titles such as Zork Grand Inquisitor, Zork Nemesis, Guitropolis and Lighthouse. She is also well known in computer graphics circles as a respected instructor and writer.
The "Classic Architectural Ornament" library of high-resolution seamless textures compliments Oken's recent release of "Texture Kit - Classic Ornament," a how-to collection of Adobe Photoshop dimensional elements and tutorials for creating ornamental textures. The new Seamless Textures 6 release contains 325 of these textures, all personal creations by Oken.
The textures represent the ornamental elements seen in various forms of classic architecture, such as Gothic, Greek and Roman. Oken created the elements from photos she shot of classic architectural structures while on a series of trips abroad. Typical textures in the library include arches, walls, windows, doors, octagonal patterns, window box frames, and tiles. The disc also includes a detailed Viewpoint mesh of the Notre Dame Cathedral, and a guide by Oken, which provides tutorials, inspirational reference photographs, and a wealth of information about the textures.
The $149 product features 325 textures and an equal number of bump maps (elevation maps), all presented in three resolutions: large (1024x1024), medium, (512x512) and small (256x256), all in JPEG format.
Jasc Software has released an update to its Trajectory Pro, a vector graphics and animation program based on the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) specification in development by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Version 0.2, a free preview version, features enhanced creative drawing tools and editing options.
Currently available as a public W3C working draft, SVG is an open-standard specification for adding XML-based vector graphics and animation to Web pages. It features small file sizes for faster Web page downloads, unlimited color and font choices, precision layout and design options, animation and high-resolution printing from a Web browser. Image effects include simple blurs and event-based animation.
Credo Interactive plans to ship Life Forms Studio 3.9 in June. A preview demonstration of the program, dedicated to 3D character animation, will be held at NAB from April 10 - 13.
New features include a model editor and rotoscoping. Enhancements to the motion-editing toolset include a mirroring location capability, snap-to-figure options, improved preview modes, and integration with other 3D applications.
Life Forms Studio 3.9 will be available on both Macintosh and Windows platforms, with a suggested retail price of $495 US. It includes PowerMoves 1 & 2, a motion library of over 600 keyframed and motion-captured moves. Features include import and export solutions to most 3D packages including LightWave, 3d Studio Max, Poser, ElectricImage, and trueSpace, plus file format support for .BVH, HTR, 3DS, LWS, SEQ, and VRML 97.
If you're going to NAB and haven't seen Studio Artist yet, be sure to stop by Synthetik Software's booth and check out the new version 1.5. Billed as a graphics synthesizer, with "Intelligent-Assisted" painting, drawing and auto-rotoscoping, the $329 Mac-only program is aimed at video professionals, computer artists, designers, photographers and hobbyists. It combines dynamic user-configurable painting and drawing tools along with an image-processing suite, real-time warping, morphing, symmetry effects, animation, auto-rotoscoping and video effects suite.
Coming this summer from Synthetik is Wack!, a $129 Photoshop filter based on Studio Artist’s Texture Synthesizer. Synthetik says it can generate an unlimited number of resolution-independent visual effects accessible via editable presets. Presets can also be evolved via genetic selection or morphed from existing presets. Each Wack! effect can consist of up to four visual effects generators, each with four integral Texture Synthesizers. Effects can be routed in series or parallel and combined together with selectable compositing operations and modulation capabilities. Wack! can also generate time-based effects by generating a Quicktime movie from within Photoshop via keyframe animation of its parameters.
Expected to ship this summer from Alias|Wavefront is a new $499 plug-in for Adobe After Effects 4.1 and Maya Fusion 2 that lets motion graphic artists use Maya Paint Effects technology within desktop compositing applications. The plug-in will be shown beginning on April 10 at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) tradeshow in Las Vegas, NV.
The software lets artists create and animate organic and painterly detail including animated paint strokes of plants, fibers, glows, water, metal, and other natural media along a mask, bezier path or motion path. The plug-in can share all of the hundreds of brush presets created for any Paint Effects product, including Maya itself.
Famous Technologies, a developer of facial animation software, introduced today at NAB 2000 vTracker 1.5. facial tracking software for Microsoft Windows NT. The product captures motion data from video for use with FAMOUSfaces Animator and Maya, 3D Studio MAX, Softimage, or LightWave 3D, for use in creating animated characters for film, television, games, location-based entertainment, live-action performances, and the Internet.
vTracker measures the 2D movement of a performer's face using small, colored markers that are applied directly to the face; and motion data can captured and saved for use with FAMOUSfaces Animator and popular 3D animation programs. vTracker can track from a live video source, or the marked actor can be recorded to tape, digitized, and tracked offline. It simultaneously records audio and video thumbnails of an actor's performance to aid in lip-syncing and enhanced keyframing.
Features include a stabilization algorithm that allows the use of a hand-held video camera as a capture source. Also, vTracker can be used in conjunction with any number of additional trackers, like puppetry devices, as well as for live performance animation and location-based entertainment.
FAMOUSfaces vTracker for Windows NT is currently shipping and priced at $4,990 (US), or offered as a bundle with FAMOUSfaces Animator for $7,990 (US). For more information, call FAMOUS Technologies at 415-835-9445, fax 415-954-7199 or visit http://www.famoustech.com.
Also new from Famous is FaceAce, a facial animation and lip-syncing plug-in for 3D Studio MAX R3. It lets users create areas of deformation on 3D face models, producing facial muscle groups that can be keyframed or morph targeted. Tools include paint-on clustering, weighting of clusters, and keyframing or pose targeting of characters to create expressive facial animation.
Israel-based Virtue, a developer of "Web-smart" 3D software, plans to launch its Virtuoso suite of graphics software tools at the end of May. The software is targeted at e-shoppers who want to "see, touch, and feel" merchandise in true 3D form – rotating it and interacting with it.
Virtuoso's technologies reportedly enable:
Venice, Calif.-based Nothing Real is porting its $9,900 Shake compositing/rendering and graphic user interface technology to the Linux operating system. Previously, Nothing Real Shake technology was available only on the NT and IRIX platforms.
As part of that effort, Nothing Real has been working with Hewlett-Packard Company to bring graphics solutions to the Linux operating system. HP recently announced its hardware-accelerated OpenGL on HP VISUALIZE fx+ graphics and its large model-rendering toolkit to the open-source community. As such, Nothing Real's compositing software will be available to run in conjunction with HP's hardware-accelerated OpenGL technology to now offer Linux users high- end graphics applications.
Intergraph-owned Intense3D's new Wildcat4210 graphics accelerator employs dual-pipeline graphics architecture said to let the card offer up to double the speed of the Wildcat 4110 in key areas of graphics performance. The 4210, which will not replace the 4110, is targeted for availability to OEM vendors in May and will include support for Windows NT and Windows 2000 drivers.
The 4210 reportedly achieves 60 frames per second in the SPEC/OPC ProCDRS-03 Viewperf benchmark, and scores an overall composite of 8.65 in the SPEC/APC Pro/ENGINEER 2000i benchmark. Features include dual-screen support, Multiview support (frame lock/genlock/rate lock), and antialiasing.
Now shipping from 3Dlabs, Inc. is a $299 PCI version of the Oxygen VX1 3D graphics accelerator with 32MB of memory, OpenGL 1.2 acceleration in hardware, Intel- and AMD-optimized, multi-threaded PowerThreads OpenGL drivers.
The card includes 3Dlabs' Virtual Texturing technology, which integrates on-board and system memory into a large hardware-managed virtual texture store that functions over the PCI bus; reportedly obviating the benefits of fast AGP texture access and unified memory.
3Dlabs expects to release drivers this summer to enable one or more Oxygen VX1-PCIs to be installed, together with an optional AGP Oxygen VX1, in a system to drive up to four 3D-accelerated displays as a single virtual desktop. These drivers will add multi-screen capability to Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000.
Just out from Microsoft is the IntelliMouse Optical, an ambidextrous mouse with a red, glowing taillight and silver detailing. The IntelliEye optical tracking technology replaces the mouse ball with an optical sensor and an on-board digital signal processor that tracks movement on most surfaces, thus eliminating the mouse ball, pad and cleanings. But there's still a cord.
The mouse has five customizable buttons including the scrolling wheel, which is easier to roll than on previous models. The two additional buttons, on the sides of the mouse, are preset to serve as Back and Forward controls for browsers and other programs that respond to Alt+Left and Alt+Right key combos.
We've been using one for the past week, and like it a lot; the buttons are more responsive, and the scrolling wheel and Back/Forward buttons save a lot of mouse travel. Only quibble is that its profile is lower than the IntelliMouse Pro, thus more prone to causing RSI.
List price is $54.95, but Costco has 'em for $40. Get it online at http://www.shops.microsoft.com.
Is this the beginning of the end for upstart audio card maker Aureal Inc.? Let's hope not; Creative needs some competition to keep it even marginally honest. Last week, Aureal filed a petition for relief under chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code with the Bankruptcy Court in Oakland, California in an effort to facilitate a reorganization of its financial affairs.
Most developers understand the advantages of using externally-developed game engines, but only a fraction actually use them. These and many other findings are published in TechTrends' new study, The Outsourcing Market for Game Engine: Strategies for Successful Next Generation Video Game Development.
TechTrends' research shows that technology outsourcing, specifically game engine licensing, offers substantial benefits to developers. "Outsourcing will become extremely important for many developers who support Sega's Dreamcast, Sony's PlayStation 2, Nintendo's Dolphin and Microsoft's X-Box," said Todd D. Wiener, managing director at TechTrends, Inc. "Licensing an engine from a third party can help developers reduce their time to market and slash their development costs by up to a million dollars per title."
The emergence of the game engine market has been attributed to the successful licensing program for id Software's Quake and Epic MegaGames' Unreal, two best-selling, 3D action game franchises. "According to our findings, id and Epic possess the strongest brand of any engine on the market. The success that these two companies have enjoyed has encouraged many other game developers to market their engines." In fact, TechTrends has discovered that nearly half of all surveyed developers with internally-developed engines plan to market their engines to other developers.
TechTrends' research finds that more than two-thirds of developers will license a third party engine only if it has been used in a commercially successful game. "Game developers feel more confident using an engine that has enjoyed some success, since it reduces the risk of licensing poor technology," says Wiener. "This is one reason why more than 83% of developers would rather license an engine from another game developer than from a dedicated engine vendor."
The Outsourcing Market for Game Engines: Strategies for Successful Next Generation Video Game Development contains profiles of vendors of game engines, such as Alias|Wavefront, Criterion Software, MathEngine, The Motion Factory and Numerical Design Ltd., as well as analyses of developers like id Software, Epic MegaGames, Monolith Productions and Shiny Entertainment. The report examines the market's landscape and usage trends by developers. It presents analyses of competitive positions, detailed discussions of engine application usage, product development and licensing issues, recommendations concerning product features and marketing, and the outlook for various companies, products and technologies.
This study also reportedly provides critical insight into the internal development of game engines by developers, while providing a meaningful evaluation of different engines (i.e. 3D graphics, physics, AI, networking), developers' most important product and vendor selection criteria and their licensing intent for the next year.
Sonic Foundry Inc., a developer of digital media and Internet software tools, last week announced a strategic alliance with Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment (SPDE) and its affiliates to include software, consulting, encoding and Webcasting services.
Additionally, the alliance includes an equity interest in Sonic Foundry taken by Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Under terms of the agreement, Sonic Foundry will provide software and a range of media consulting services to SPDE to support the newly formed company's Internet initiative. SPDE has also selected Sonic Foundry Media Services as its preferred encoding and live-event Webcasting partner to bring traditional Sony entertainment to the online entertainment space. Additionally, SPDE will provide Sonic Foundry with promotional consideration to cross-promote and market the software, technology and entertainment content through collaborated efforts.
Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment (SPDE), an operating unit of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), oversees the activities of SPE's digital production and online assets that include Sony Pictures Imageworks, Sony Online Entertainment and Columbia Tri-Star Interactive. SPDE focuses on three areas:
Just out from Activision is Alundra 2, an action RPG for Sony PlayStation. Developed by Matrix and produced by SCEA satellite Contrail, the game lets players assume the role of Flint, a young renegade who embarks on a fantastical journey to defeat the evil Baron and his reign of terror. Along the way, players attempt to solve hundreds of puzzles and unlock more than 10 mini-games integrated into the game's storyline. Using a real-time, polygonal 3D engine, the title lets players climb, jump, swim and slide through a variety of environments, including volcanoes, sunken ships, and underground caverns.
Sandbox.com and Everypath last week announced the availability of an interactive games site on "smart phones" and Web-compatible personal digital assistants. Sandbox.com games will be available to wireless device customers in the second quarter of 2000 and will be accessible from any personal digital assistant or "smart phone" by pointing the device's browser to http://www.sandbox.com. The first Sandbox games available on wireless devices will be the site's line of fantasy sports games. Users will be able to access these games in order to make roster changes and trades as well as view fantasy statistics and sports scores.
Spectrum is an independent news service published every Monday for the interactive media professional community by Motion Blur Media. Spectrum covers the tools and technologies used to create interactive multimedia applications and infrastructure for business, education, and entertainment; and the interactive media industry scene. We love to receive interactive media and online development tools and CD-ROMs for review.
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