Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 15 April 2002
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)
--Expandable Updates ChangeAgent Site Repair Tool
--MS Launches Corona, Next-Gen Windows Media Tech --Firms Collaborate for Wireless 3D
--DMOD Updates Copy-Protection Software
IN THE INFOGROOVE
--iTV Players Introduce Open Standards
--GoldPocket Interactive Provides iTV Content Production Solution
--Right Hemisphere Updates 3D Texture Tools --NXN Updates Softimage Integration
--Digimation Licenses Viewpoint 3D Model Catalog --NewTek Releases Aura DV Paint
--Caligari Releases trueSpace for Atmosphere
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
--Alias|Wavefront Launches Maya Learning Tools --O'Reilly Releases "Jython Essentials"
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
--Activision Developing Wreckless for PS2 --Sierra Announces Aliens versus Predator 2 Expansion Pack --GameWorld, Mforma Reach Wireless Game Distribution Agreement --Microsoft Releases Dungeon Siege
Expandable Updates ChangeAgent Site Repair Tool
Expandable Language's new version 1.2 of ChangeAgent, software designed to automate the process of Web site repair for large-scale sites.
Functionality includes discovering, investigating, and repairing broken links and removing orphan files.
The UI provides a three-pane view of folders, files, and file details.
ChangeAgent highlights the orphan files and broken links in a Web site.
Orphan files can be removed in a batch operation. Removal can occur to a separate folder or the Recycle Bin, and files can be previewed before deciding to remove them. Individual files can be excluded from orphan removal, as can entire folders, such as a private section of a Web site that is not linked to the home page.
New feature in 1.2 include:
* improved orphan handling, allowing exclusion of entire folders * optimizations for enterprise-sized sites (>50K files) * improved processing of <OBJECT> and <APPLET> tags * inclusion/exclusion of report sections for broken links, orphan files, and syntax errors
MS Launches Corona, Next-Gen Windows Media Tech
Microsoft says developers of professional video and audio production hardware and software intend to support the next version of the Microsoft Windows Media technology, code-named "Corona," in upcoming products.
According to Microsoft, this support from developers of video acquisition, video production and high-resolution multichannel audio authoring solutions shows that Windows Media is swimming upstream in the production process to make it a format used by the professional media-authoring community.
The developers are working to integrate Corona audio and video technology, including the new Windows Media Audio Professional and Windows Media Video codecs, into a range of hardware and software solutions, which will assist video and audio professionals with high-end media authoring, video production and Web-based distribution.
Video acquisition and production solutions supporting Corona that were at NAB2002 include the following:
* Accom Inc.'s WSD/HDX DDR will offer a UI-based tool that enables one-button encode to Corona software developers or hardware developers.
* Adobe Premiere and After Effects plug-ins will support both standard and high-definition Corona audio and video encoding support.
* Avid Technology is demonstrating Avid DS | HD with export of Corona's high-definition Windows Media Video
* Discreet will equip its desktop encoding software Discreet cleaner with high-definition encoding and playback of Windows Media Corona.
* Drastic Technologies will feature its next-generation digital disk recorder (DDR) that captures both SD and HD source content to native uncompressed Windows Media. The DDR then functions as a VTR and a server, integrating existing studio VTRs into the underlying studio network infrastructure.
* Thomson Broadcast Solutions' Grass Valley Aqua Internet encoder will offer real-time capture and digitization of video from camera, file, tape or physical media to Corona Video.
* Winnov will offer real-time capture and digitization of video from camera, file, tape or physical media using XStreamEngine Broadcaster to Corona Video.
Audio-production software and hardware solutions are including built-in support for the upcoming Windows Media Audio Professional technology in Corona. This is the first codec to enable Web-based delivery of 6-channel surround sound with 24-bit/96kHz sampling audio. The companies that intend to support this technology are:
* Creative Labs will update its Sound Blaster Audigy 5.1 product to support the new Windows Media Audio Professional codecs with 24 bit/96 KHz multichannel audio playback. It will also be adding support for the new Sound Blaster Extigy external soundcard.
* Echo Audio's upcoming Echo 5.1 is a capture and playback PCI-based system supporting multichannel WMA Professional.
* M-Audio/Midiman's The Delta 1010 PCI digital recording system will support playback of WMA Professional Audio.
* Steinberg Media Technologies will offer its Nuendo Windows Media Audio Professional Export plug-in.
* Syntrillium Software Corp.'s Cool Edit Pro 2.0 audio recording, editing and mixing application will let users encode 5.1 audio channels to a single Windows Media Audio stream at a variety of bit resolutions and sampling rates.
A new version of the Windows Media Video codec is said to provide a 20 percent efficiency boost compared with the previous version and introduces the ability to provide high-definition 720p video resolutions at file sizes half that of today's DVDs, for local playback on the PC. Corona technology will be available in beta later this summer.
Firms Collaborate for Wireless 3D
ARM, a provider of 16/32-bit embedded RISC processor solutions, Imagination Technologies, developers of the PowerVR range of 3D, video and graphics IP cores, and Superscape plc, a specialist in interactive 3D for mobile platforms, are collaborating to develop and deliver 3D experiences to users of mobile devices. The three companies plan to integrate their complementary technologies to provide developers with a compatible hardware and software solution.
Superscape's Swerve 3D-enabling software technology (comprising of Swerve Client, Swerve Author and Swerve Applications) has been developed in collaboration with ARM to deliver interactive 3D user experiences to mobile phones. Imagination Technologies' PowerVR MBX graphics core is designed for integration alongside ARM microprocessor cores in a SoC (System-on-Chip) solution and will enable the migration of 3D and video graphics content to mobile platforms.
Developers of Swerve technology-enabled content can now also access hardware 3D acceleration features comparable to the capabilities of games consoles or PC platforms. By working with both PowerVR and Swerve technologies, ARM can offer its Partners scalable solutions for 3D content across a wide range of mobile devices.
DMOD Updates Copy-Protection Software
Just out from DMOD, Inc. is a new version of its WorkSpace for secure digital media collaboration and distribution. Version 2.0 adds new business rules for copy protecting digital media, integration with the QuickTime player, and new delivery options allowing digital content creators to share media over any network including the public Internet or existing FTP, VPN, Instant Messaging or email systems. The DMOD WorkSpace Version 2.0 is available now in a desktop-to-desktop implementation on Macintosh, Windows and Linux platforms.
DMOD says its WorkSpace simultaneously addresses inefficiencies in the digital production workflow and the need to protect content against piracy.
Version 2.0 delivers persistent copy protection from content origination through to playback, letting content creators and owners control how media may be used across organizations, between production and distribution partners, or on an individual basis. Definable copy protection rules in Version 2.0 include release dates, expiration dates, specific number of plays, or full export to native formats.
IN THE INFOGROOVE
iTV Players Introduce Open Standards
At the recent National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, a group of television and interactive production companies, programmers, and technology providers for the first time introduced open standards for producing iTV content. The standards enable producers and studios to write interactive content once for distribution on all major set-top box and personal computer platforms.
The production standards will reportedly increase the amount of iTV programming in the U.S. by making it more economical and efficient to produce and deploy interactive programming.
The XML-based production standards, initially developed by two-way iTV provider GoldPocket Interactive, establish a method for content production and presentation description for interactive programs. In particular, the content0production standards specify the timing and content of interactive assets such as trivia games, polls, interactive advertising, leader boards, and more. The presentation description standards specify the visual elements of the program, the location of these elements, and a method for mapping content to these locations.
XML was chosen for the standard because of its general acceptance as an open method for transferring data and its compatibility with all of the major iTV platforms. The standard will support the leading one- and two-screen platforms, including middleware from Liberate, OpenTV, Microsoft, and PowerTV; AOLTV, UltimateTV, and MSNTV/WebTV set-top boxes; and PCs and Macs.
A white paper outlining the standards and information on participating in the effort is now available online at http://www.itvstandards.org/, and a draft of the specification is available to current working group members. A more detailed release of the combined board's specifications will be made available at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association convention in May. There are no licensing fees collected for the use of the standards.
GoldPocket Interactive Provides iTV Content Production Solution
GoldPocket Interactive says it has developed an iTV content-production solution that allows editors to interface with the new Avid MetaSync functionality available in the next releases of Avid Symphony, Media Composer and Xpress.
The new technologies are said to offer a uniform way for content producers to synchronize interactive elements such as trivia, games, live leader boards and bracketing, real-time polls, chats and user-generated feedback, with video. The two-way nature of the interface between the GoldPocket iTV solution and the Avid MetaSync functionality enables networks and advertisers to gather information from viewers and engage them in a real-time dialogue. Viewers can use either a PC or iTV-enabled set-top box to interact with the programming.
Right Hemisphere Updates 3D Texture Tools
New from New Zealand's Right Hemisphere is the next generation of its Deep Paint 3D and Texture Weapons. Deep UV replaces Texture Weapons as Right Hemisphere's UV mapping solution.
Deep Paint 3D 2.0 includes advances in projection painting technology allowing artists to work more efficiently with larger models and manage changes during the texturing process. Other new features include: * spline tools for painting accurate outlines and shapes * Projection Paint is now part of the standard Deep Paint 3D package * perform batch operations such as scaling color correction and channel operations on multiple material selections * new brush-size cursor works in Projection or on surface paint modes * new image and clone brush feature - capture any image instantly and use it as an image stamp or texture paint in 2D or 3D * enhanced management of multiple objects and automatic file naming * manual and automatic material grouping * choose different projection resolutions, suitable for high-resolution film work
* save and restore Projection Paint sessions with no loss of quality or Projection Paint layer structure
* export Projection Paint or all layers as a single .PSD file
More information on Deep Paint 3D is available at http://www.righthemisphere.com/dp3d.htm
Using new mathematical techniques, Deep UV provides tools for the creation, optimization and modification of UV mapping for 3D models within an interactive 2D and 3D UV mapping environment. It includes tools for managing the texturing and mapping production workflow to allow changes to UV mapping to be made without the need for re-texturing. New and key features include:
* Unfold is a new automated UV unwrapping tool that automatically unwraps folded or twisted surfaces.
* Preserve Bitmap lets you make changes to the UV mapping after the object has been textured and preserves the texturing, regardless of UV changes * real-time preview of UV editing simultaneously in 2D and 3D * advanced relax tools that automatically minimize local or global distortions by selection
* support for quads, pents and n-sided polygons
More information is available at http://www.righthemisphere.com/duv.htm
NXN Updates Softimage Integration
NXN Software has begun shipping an upgrade to the its alienbrain plug-in for Softimage|XSI v.2.0. Using the XSI NetView technology, users can access asset and alienbrain's workflow-management features directly from a pop-up window. This lets users access, edit, roll back and version-control their scenes, textures and animations using alienbrain's secure client/server environment. In addition, the plug-in lets users assign a status and due dates to files, as well as lock files from further changes once a file is approved for use. The Softimage|XSI integration comes as standard with the latest Service Release of NXN alienbrain 5.0.
Scheduled for release in May is a new Reference Manager that will let artists handle local and networked file collections, directly import scenes, textures and animation files to the NXN alienbrain database and create frequently used asset folders.
Digimation Licenses Viewpoint 3D Model Catalog
Digimation, Inc. has become the exclusive licensor of Viewpoint's catalog of digital 3D models. Viewpoint models have been used in game development, broadcast, visual simulations and feature films. Its library of assets contains approximately 30,000 models available in all popular 3D formats, as well as textures, high-resolution satellite imagery and motion capture data.
"This arrangement will free Viewpoint to focus on our graphics technology platform, the Viewpoint Media Player, and the numerous cross media services that further that platform," commented Bob Rice, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Viewpoint Corporation.
NewTek Releases Aura DV Paint
Today, NewTek is scheduled to release Aura DV Paint, its real-time DV paint and animation system. The software lets users paint directly on video in real time, and edit in real time on the display of a digital video camera or other video monitor. Aura DV Paint has a retail value of $695, but will be given free for a limited time to consumers who visit an authorized NewTek reseller in North America and receive a demonstration of any NewTek product.
Aura DV Paint can be used for projects ranging from adding titles to a video project to producing animated shorts. Feature include: * import or export DV files
* write directly to the frame buffer on a digital video camera or any other DV device
* more than 100 preset video effects included * stroke recorder to animate and reproduce brush strokes over time with support for pressure, size and noise parameters * line, spline curve, shape draw with circle, ellipse and rectangle * filled or outline drawing
* control of pen, pencil, colored pencil, chalk, crayon, airbrush, watercolor, gouache and oil painting
* control pen/brush tip, tension, pressure, size, opacity and more * rotoscoping; draw/paint operations over time and animated video brushes over time
* Wacom (or compatible) tablet support with 256 levels of pressure and speed, plus Intuos support
* 2400 available image processing/drawing combinations * text tool supports TrueType fonts and a parameters including rotation, italics, opacity, spacing, border and glow * four user-defined color palettes plus unlimited colors and ranges * color, chroma, luminance and alpha channel keying * time-line based animation and video element editing environment * unlimited layers for stills, animation or video * resolution independent = any frame rate or size for animation and video * animated, 32 bit brushes
* keyframe animation and video, motion blur and opacity * move any element in x,y or z heading, pitch or bank space * real-time overlay and alpha channels for every graphic layer * interactive layer rearrangement
* PSD file format support and Photoshop filter support
Caligari Releases trueSpace for Atmosphere
Caligari Corporation last week launched a custom version of its trueSpace5 3D authoring software for Adobe Atmosphere. Currently available as a public beta, Atmosphere is a Web tool for authoring, viewing and interacting with virtual 3D worlds.
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
Alias|Wavefront Launches Maya Learning Tools
Alias|Wavefront is releasing six new Maya learning tools. The new offerings consist of two books, four DVDs and one courseware offering and are aimed at users with some exposure to Maya. Topics covered by the tools include: character rigging, dynamics, rendering, and modeling.
The new learning tools are entitled:
* Maya Dynamics
* Maya Techniques | Rendering 2D Effects in a 3D Environment - DVD * Maya Techniques | Patch Modeling for Visual Effects - DVD * Learning Maya | Character Rigging and Animation - Book * Learning Maya | Games and Interactive - Book * Maya Techniques | Integrating a Creature Animation Rig Within a Production Pipeline - DVD
Learning Maya | Character Rigging and Animation explores what is needed to achieve effective character set-up and animation in Maya. The book includes theoretical discussions, data files and instructor presentations. Maya Techniques| Rendering 2D Effects in a 3D Environment explains how to leverage Maya's node-based architecture in order to spice up renders and create incredible effects. Patch Modeling for Visual Effects will help readers achieve the best results when modeling organic shapes and characters and teach them the industry standard for entertainment models through the exploration of various scenarios and body connections.
O'Reilly Releases "Jython Essentials"
Jython is an implementation of the Python programming language written in Java.
"Jython is an increasingly important target platform for client and server side applications with a wide range of powerful existing tools," explains Noel Rappin, coauthor with Samuele Pedroni of "Jython Essentials" (O'Reilly, US $24.95). "Jython offers an alternative to the Java language for using these tools, offering shorter programs that are easier to write, read, and maintain. Using Jython can cut development time significantly."
As Pedroni and Rappin explain, Jython combines a scripting language with an operating environment. Just as Python was originally conceived as glue to bind together other programs, Jython acts as glue to help developers get the most out of Java-based tools. In particular, Pedroni and Rappin assert, Jython excels at simplifying the use of complex Java programming libraries and APIs, such as the Swing graphical interface toolkit or the JDBC database connectivity API.
"Jython Essentials" provides an introduction to the Python language, offering a tour of Python concepts necessary to use Jython effectively. The book makes frequent comparisons between Python and Java with emphasis on the different object-oriented semantics of the two languages.
The book also covers the various ways in which Jython and Java can interact. For example, Jython code can create instances of preexisting Java classes and call methods in those instances. Programmers can write Jython classes that are direct subclasses of existing Java classes and use introspection to discern the capabilities of JavaBeans components.
"Jython Essentials" provides examples of how to use Jython with existing Java libraries, including the Swing GUI toolkit, the JDBC database API, the Servlet API, and various XML tools.
Chapter 1, "Introduction to Jython" is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/jythoness/chapter/ch01.html
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
Activision Developing Wreckless for PS2
This fall, Activision is bringing the Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions video game series to PlayStation2. The title, which has been selling well on Xbox, adds to the mission-based driving action with platform-specific features including free-roaming interactive environments, more cars to drive, a variety of sub-mission objectives that unlock game-enhancing cheats and a multiplayer mode for head-to-head action.
The game immerses players in the unpredictable underworld of Hong Kong by allowing players to choose from two distinct storylines, as part of an elite task force assigned to take down the Hong Kong mafia or as a high-level government agent trying to uncover links between the mafia and the police. Players pursue Yakuza thugs in 20 missions and 20 sub-missions.
Gamers choose from 25 different vehicles as they race through a free-roaming interactive city and maneuver real traffic patterns, tear through parks and drive on sidewalks to complete their mission.
Sierra Announces Aliens versus Predator 2 Expansion Pack
Coming soon from Sierra Entertainment and Fox Interactive is the Aliens versus Predator 2: Primal Hunt expansion pack, with new single-player and multi-player levels, weapons, and new player characters.
Primal Hunt, developed by Third Law Interactive, has the Predalien and Predator stories moving back 500 years prior to the events of Aliens versus Predator 2. Before the humans set up the research facility on Planet LV1201, Predators frequented the planet for the sole purpose to hunt Aliens.
On a routine hunt, a Predator stumbles upon ancient Pilot ruins and discovers an Artifact of great power that, as legend has it, controls Aliens and keeps them at bay. That same fateful day an accident causes our hero Predator to become trapped in a stasis field. 500 years later, he is discovered and inadvertently revived by a human named Dunya who is trying to retrieve the Artifact for the mercenaries she works for. As the Predator secretly follows her back to base, he unknowingly allows Aliens access to the human facilities. While the Aliens wreak havoc, a lone Predalien searches out the Artifact to try to destroy it before it becomes active again.
GameWorld, Mforma Reach Wireless Game Distribution Agreement
GameWorld Technologies recently announced a distribution agreement for three of its wireless games with Mforma Corporation, a wireless application platform and services provider for mobile operators. GameWorld Technologies is the creator of the PureVis development environment and server family for building and deployment of networked applications across any Java-enabled system, wireless device and the Web. Amongst the GameWorld titles for worldwide distribution to carriers by Mforma is Slam, winner of the 2001 Sprint PCS Java Micro Edition (J2ME) Application Development Contest. The action-puzzle game features four artificial intelligent (AI) opponents; future versions! will enable people to play directly against one another via the PureVis multi-user server system.
Two other wireless games from GameWorld will be available to wireless subscribers through SMS (text messaging) and WAP (the wireless Web). Based on SMS, Women Are Smarter? is a mobile trivia game in which players have the option to make a double-or-nothing wager on which gender player most often answers the question correctly. Real-time SQL database access allows instant updating of question difficulty and gender responses for up-to-date information on the game. GameWorld provides a Web interface through which players can submit their own questions for inclusion in Women Are Smarter?.
GW Bowling is a WAP action sports game featuring a real-time animated power-bar interface where players aim and bowl the ball, then watch which pins fall. Until now, this type of animation and arcade-style user interface controls have been limited to JAVA-enabled handsets. GW Bowling functions on legacy WAP phones, even those lacking graphical displays.
Microsoft Releases Dungeon Siege
Microsoft Corp. recently released its action-RPG (think Diablo) Dungeon Siege, developed by Gas Powered Games Corp. and Chris Taylor. The game's 3D graphics technology showcases environments from forests to subterranean caverns.
Players explore the game world with parties of up to eight characters.
Beginning as a farmer, the player joins forces with additional characters as they embark on the single-player campaign. Players can use their strength to become a fighter, archer, or magic-caster. The game offers more than 1,000 types of weapons and armor and more than 100 spells.
Multiplayer gamers can play in the single-player world, or enter a separate world, the Utraean Peninsula, nearly twice the size of its single-player counterpart with new quests and adventures. Up to eight gamers can play via ZoneMatch, the Internet or a local area network (LAN).
Available shortly after release will be a game-design tool, the Siege Editor, which will let players create new worlds, with the ability to rework many aspects of the game, including dungeons, spells, AI and story sequences.
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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