Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

2 Aug 2004
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
For editorial/subscription inquiries, send mailto:spectrum1@broadviewnet.net
Search the Spectrum archives at http://www.3dlinks.com/spectrum
Editor's note: Spectrum will take off next week to attend Siggraph in Los Angeles, and will be back the following week with a report from the show. - David Duberman


Today's Headlines (details below)

--New VisDev Tool Delivers Cross-Platform Web Applications

--Scene7 Offers Rich Media Solutions
--Verbatim Announces 30GB Optical Media

--Mediathink Releases RSS White Paper

--Discreet Announces 3ds max 7
--nPower, Datakit Announce Power CatiaToMax
--LightWork to Show New Tech at Siggraph
--Maxon Announcements
--SensAble Lowers Force-feedback SDK Price, Announces Developer Challenge
--Kodak Returns to Siggraph with Stereo Display
--Kaydara Claims FBX Industry-Standard Interchange Format

--Oregon3D Announces Free Siggraph Unreal Tech Seminar
--CGW Mag to Host World's Smallest Animation Festival
--Discreet Launches Certified Trainer Program
--Art Institute of Atlanta Introduces Interactive Media Design

--Midway to Publish Three "Unreal" Titles
--Crave, Empire to Co-Publish $20 Bad Boys: Miami Takedown
--N-Gage QD Game Deck Released in U.S.

--About Spectrum



New VisDev Tool Delivers Cross-Platform Web Applications

New from NextApp, Inc. is EchoStudio, an application development tool said to be capable of creating Web-based applications that work and act like rich clients. EchoStudio ships with the next generation of the open-source Echo Framework, version 1.1, an engine that reportedly lets Web applications more closely approximate the characteristics of rich clients. Echo abstracts Web development from the page-based, request-response nature of HTTP, allowing developers to focus on the interactions of an application using the component-oriented and event-driven paradigm preferred in user interface development.

By building EchoStudio atop the Eclipse 3.0 platform, EchoStudio provides source editing, refactoring, unit testing, collaboration and debugging tools. NextApp says Eclipse-based products offer superior platform look-and-feel integration compared to traditional Java-based development environments. For seasoned Eclipse developers, EchoStudio is also packaged as a plug-in only version that can be added to existing Eclipse 3.0 installations.

Features include:

EchoStudio is available as a 30-day free trial download at http://www.nextapp.com/products/echostudio . The product can be downloaded as either a complete development environment or as an Eclipse 3.0 plug-in. Licensing of EchoStudio is done on a per-developer basis. The underlying Echo engine is free open-source software licensed under the GNU LGPL, providing royalty-free development for both open-source and proprietary applications.



Scene7 Offers Rich Media Solutions

Scene7 last week announced the availability of five rich-media solutions for the multi-channel selling environment, all built on a common, integrated platform for dynamic media production, management and delivery. The solutions are: * Dynamic Imaging -- dynamic pan and zoom; "hot spot" or guided zoom; color and texture swatching; 360-degree spin; and graphical templating. Image effects are dynamically generated from single master images, graphics and database-driven attributes. Imbed single image commands directly in Web pages and emails or use with a variety of rich media viewers. Scene7 provides viewers in both Flash MX and DHTML, which are configurable with custom "skins" for branded look and controls. * eCatalogs -- Present enhanced Web versions of existing printed marketing materials. Features include a back-office system to streamline managing, authoring (creating) and publishing catalog pages, "free form" zoom, dynamic panning, custom help with rollover tool tips, annotated sticky notes, email to a friend -- available in both Flash MX and DHTML formats with over 40 configuration parameters for a custom user interface. * eVideos -- Add product video clips to Websites, emails, or displays. An end-to-end, outsourced video services offering, Scene7, in partnership with QVC's in-house product-marketing agency, will produce, deliver and serve Web-ready videos of products. Includes production, hosting and serving of videos to customer Website. * Dynamic Customization -- From monogrammed gifts to custom kitchens, custom design products by dynamically applying product options and accessories such as trim, borders, fabrics, textures, materials, colors, fonts, decals or logos. * Dynamic Asset Management -- Manage the production and publishing of Scene7 rich media solutions. Access with a Web browser or via Microsoft Office Systems 2003.



Verbatim Announces 30GB Optical Media

Coming this month from Verbatim Corporation is a new family of 5.25-inch Ultra Density Optical (UDO) Write-once and Rewritable media. The next-generation media meets the retention requirements specified by agencies such as the SEC, HIPAA, ISO and BSI. The 30GB dual-sided UDO media costs about $2 per Gigabyte. The new media supports UDO drives and optical jukeboxes from Plasmon and HP.

The UDO media line is based on the Plasmon-developed UDO format and optical technologies cross-licensed between Plasmon and Verbatim's parent company, Mitsubishi Kagaku Media (MKM). Based on blue laser technology, the UDO write-once and rewritable media use the same basic media format, but have different phase change alloy compositions optimized for their specific applications. The company claims a data life of 50 years for the write-once media, and more than 10,000 direct overwrite cycles for the UDO rewritable media.

The double-sided UDO discs feature an ISO-standard 5.25 inch cartridge based on the previous generation optical media. Most library vendors that have integrated UDO will support configurations with both UDO and MO media. This mixed media support is designed to provide a simple transition path for existing optical customers and to minimize the need to migrate data from older media. The cartridge is also treated with anti-static material said to help reduce electrostatic charges that can cause problems in jukebox/library mechanisms.

List price for 30GB UDO write-once media will be $60 USD (yielding $2.00 per GB) and $70 USD for 30GB Rewritable media.




Mediathink Releases RSS White Paper

Marketing firm Mediathink last week released a white paper entitled "RSS - The Next Big Thing Online." The white paper, resulting from three months of research, outlines the marketing and media implications of this new online channel and evaluates 12 RSS application vendors across XX criteria. Active Refresh, Amphetadesk, Feeddemon, Feedreader, Meerkat, MyNetscape, Newsgator, Newzcrawler, Scopeware Newswatcher, Sharpreader, Syndic8, and Tristana were evaluated as part of the Mediathink study.

RSS ('Really Simple Syndication' or 'Rich Site Summary') is a messaging platform that allows content providers the ability to publish content without forcing users to visit a Website or fight through the increasing clutter in their email Inbox. RSS feeds are easily syndicated, repurposed and distributed. To receive an RSS feed, a third-party RSS application is needed. Mediathink's RSS White Paper detailing the marketing impact of RSS can be found here: http://www.mediathink.com/rss/whitepaper.asp

Tom Barnes, Mediathink CEO, commented, "RSS, now growing out of its infancy, is currently both lauded and dismissed by marketers and media professionals. RSS's current adoption pattern is remarkably similar to email marketing in 1998 and Blogger in 2000. We strongly believe that RSS is the Web's 'next big thing' because it offers users increased control, efficiency, and online privacy while avoiding the pitfalls of spam and Web usability."



Discreet Announces 3ds max 7

Coming this fall from Discreet is 3ds max 7, the newest version of its 3D modeling, animation, and rendering software. max 7 will be shown for the first time publicly at the Siggraph Exhibition in Los Angeles, CA (August 10-12).

The big new feature: bundled character studio. Features include constraint-based non-linear animation mixer, scalable behavioral crowd simulation capabilities, and motion capture filtering and editing facilities.

New features in the core program include:



nPower, Datakit Announce Power CatiaToMax

New from nPower Software and Datakit is Power CatiaToMax for 3ds Max / Viz. The software provides translation of native Catia models directly into 3ds Max / Viz format. It utilizes a NURBS-based boundary representation object within Max / Viz for the most accurate modeling representation. Instead of importing imprecise polygonal approximations, Power CatiaToMax uses generates smooth, crack-free renderings without polygonal artifacts. Power

Power CatiaToMax leverages a CAD geometric modeling kernel that has been added to 3ds Max. It performs dynamic tessellation at render time to generate a render mesh with the appropriate level of detail based on the size of the object in the view, eliminating the need for multiple levels of detail. Power CatiaToMax is powered by Datakit's translation tools for reading Catia models, and by SOLIDS++, a NURBS-based modeling kernel from IntegrityWare Inc.

Features include:



LightWork to Show New Tech at Siggraph

LightWork Design, a supplier of rendering solutions for developers of 3D computer graphics software, will be exhibiting at this year's Siggraph Computer Graphics Exhibition in Los Angeles, California. Visitors to the LightWork Design booth - 1130 - will see new technological developments slated for release in the coming months.

The LightWorks rendering engine is embedded in over 80 software applications and used by more that a million users worldwide. It is structured as a suite of components, each focusing on a specific area of rendering functionality, including photorealistic rendering, lighting simulation, real-time rendering and non-photorealistic rendering.

New features include:


Maxon Announcements

Graphic software provider Maxon last week announced an agreement with Digimation to provide an online marketplace for 3D content used by Maxon customers. The Model Bank's Maxon Marketplace offers 3D content suitable for use in the production of film, broadcast, Website development, print and other creative projects.

The site is now live and can be found at (maxon.modelbank.com). Access to the Maxon Model Bank is also available from Maxon's Web site (www.maxon.net), and directly from within Maxon's Cinema 4D and BodyPaint 3D applications.

Also, visual imaging facility Cinesite has used Maxon's 3D paint software BodyPaint 3D to help create visual effects for the movie King Arthur. Cinesite provided all of the digital effects and the visual effects supervision for the movie. One of the major sequences created by Cinesite involves a battle on an ice lake that is surrounded by a steep-sided mountain gorge. The entire ice lake environment was textured using BodyPaint 3D.

Maxon's paint app was also used by Cinesite to texture other elements in King Arthur, including a computer-generated hawk and some of the Saxon armies.

Read Maxon's interview with Cinesite's Digital Effects Supervisor for King Arthur at http://www.maxon.net/frm/01027_01027.html


SensAble Lowers Force-feedback SDK Price, Announces Developer Challenge

SensAble Technologies, Inc., a provider of 3D touch-enabled digital solutions for commercial software development, academic and commercial research, and product design, has lowered the US MSRP for its Phantom Omni Developer Kit, which includes the Phantom Omni haptic device and new OpenHaptics toolkit, from $3,900 to $1,950. For a limited time, entrants in the SensAble 3D Touch Developer Challenge, also announced last week, can purchase the same Phantom Omni Developer Kit for just $800.

The new SensAble OpenHaptics toolkit, scheduled to ship this month, moves haptics beyond the limits of scientific research to practical commercial deployment. Using the toolkit, software developers can add the sense of touch and 3D navigation to a range of applications, including 3D design and modeling, medical, games, entertainment, visualization, and simulation. The toolkit is patterned after the OpenGL API, making it familiar to graphics programmers, and facilitates reuse of OpenGL code and integration with OpenGL applications.

SensAble's 3D Touch Developer Challenge is open to developers worldwide who will compete to create commercially oriented applications that take advantage of the company's OpenHaptics toolkit and Phantom Omni haptic device. The competition will begin on August 9, 2004 and will conclude with the submission of applications on December 31, 2004. Winners will be chosen by a panel of industry experts and will be announced in early 2005. A total of $22,500 in prize money will be awarded.

The winners will be chosen by a panel of experts representing the fields of graphics, haptics, and digital content creation. Current judges include: * James D. Foley, founding director of the GVU Center at Georgia Institute of Technology, and co-author of Fundamentals of Interactive Computer Graphics (with Andries van Dam) and of Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice (with van Dam, Steve Feiner and John Hughes). * J. Kenneth Salisbury, Jr., known for his seminal contributions in the fields of robotics and haptics, and currently a professor in the departments of Computer Science and Surgery at Stanford University. * Mandayam Srinivasan, expert in haptics and founding director of the Laboratory for Human and Machine Haptics: The Touch Lab at MIT.



Kodak Returns to Siggraph with Stereo Display

Eastman Kodak's New Business Ventures division will demonstrate new professional applications for its Stereoscopic Immersive Display system, based on Nvidia Quadro solutions, at Siggraph 2004, in Booth #1162 of the Los Angeles Convention Center, from Tuesday, August 10 to Thursday, August 12th. The exhibit marks Kodak's return to Siggraph after a seven-year absence.

Said to be the industry's first desktop stereoscopic imaging display system, the Kodak SID system does not require viewers to wear glasses or headgear of any type. With the Kodak display, images are viewed in true, binocular stereo vision, the same way that the human eye works in real life. Using pupil imaging and high-resolution LCD displays, the Kodak stereo display system provides a true stereo image to the user with no loss in image resolution.

Pupil imaging eliminates cross-talk, which, combined with the virtual image optical design, reportedly eliminates sources of eyestrain found in other autostereoscopic solutions. The system has a unique viewing zone, which makes it easy to see where the "sweet spot" is, and the image quality is identical across the entire viewing zone.

The desktop display has a 45-degree by 36-degree field of view with a resolution of 1280 x 1024 pixels and 32mm viewing pupils. This field of view is said to give the viewer the feeling of floating in a movie theater about 1.5 screen heights away from the screen.


Kaydara Claims FBX Industry-Standard Interchange Format

Canada's Kaydara Inc., a developer of 3D character animation and motion editing solutions, said last week that its FBX 3D authoring and interchange format is now supported by over 30 industry partners, including Alias, Discreet, Maxon, NewTek, Softimage and Strata. With the community of industry supporters continuing to grow, Kaydara claims FBX is the de facto 3D interchange format.

Kaydara FBX is a binary file format that supports all the major 3D data elements, as well as 2D, audio and video media elements. It provides access to all the major 3D vendors, which allows artists and production companies to exchange data from multiple software packages.

FBX is also available for Apple QuickTime. By adding the FBX component to QuickTime, content creators have a new way to work with high-end 3D and no longer need to rely on an individual application for their 3D project review or transport. FBX for QuickTime lets both Mac and PC users visualize as well as interact with 3D content. Combined with QuickTime Pro, FBX for QuickTime provides digital artists with a new media type for authoring, allowing them to combine and composite 3D with video, audio, and images from all supported QuickTime formats. (Editor's comment: QuickTime isn't exactly the top format for authoring interactive 3D, but who knows; maybe this'll change things. Then again, maybe it won't)




Oregon3D Announces Free Siggraph Unreal Tech Seminar

Oregon3D will offer a series of classes devoted to content creation for the Unreal Engine, a 3D technology platform from Epic Games. Scheduled during the Siggraph 2004 Conference, this one-day session is free of charge and will run on both Monday, Aug. 9 and Tuesday, Aug. 10, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Los Angeles Room at The Wilshire Grand Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

Co-sponsored by Alias and Epic, Oregon3D's Unreal Technology Seminar will be hosted by Jason Busby and the 3D Buzz team, and will provide attendees with tips and tricks for maximizing content creation for the Unreal Engine. Classes include a knowledge for game developers and visual effects artists, and cover everything from modeling for Unreal using Alias Maya and importing digital 3D assets, to real-time film production using Matinee, Unreal's integrated movie creation system.

Schedule and class details on the Oregon3D Unreal Technology Seminar are as follows:

Registration is required at http://www.oregon3D.com


CGW Mag to Host World's Smallest Animation Festival

At Siggraph 2004 in Los Angeles, August 8-10, Computer Graphics World will sponsor a unique event: the World's Smallest Animation Festival, featuring an animation contest to create content for mobile phones. Partnering with BigDigit.com, Computer Graphics World is bringing this contest and event to Siggraph for the first time, presenting finalists and other made-for-mobile content at their booth #1455. Contest entry details are available from http://www.cgw.com .

The World's Smallest Animation Festival will showcase digital media produced for small-format mobile phones and communications-enabled mobile devices. Among the highlights of event will be daily presentations of made-for-mobile films, TV series, cartoons, and music videos produced by many of the leading artists in this emerging field. The contest winners will be selected by an independent panel of judges.

During Siggraph, finalists in the animation contest will be shown on wide-screen plasma displays, and will be available for viewing on mobile devices at the Computer Graphics World booth #1455. On Thursday August 12, the winner of the contest will be announced at the booth. In addition to prizes, the winning entry will also be featured in the BigDigit.com library which is available for license by mobile phone operators and device makers.

Archives and further information on submitting content to BigDigit are available at http://www.bigdigit.com .


Discreet Launches Certified Trainer Program

Discreet last week launched the Discreet Certified Trainer Program, initially geared toward 3ds max animation-software trainers. Aiming to provide the 3ds max community with clear definitions and benchmarks for user skill levels, the program is open to those working at educational institutions and training centers, as well as freelance and corporate trainers. The first 3ds max three-day Fundamental Workshop will be held immediately after Siggraph 2004, from August 13-15 in Long Beach, CA. Additional workshops will be held in Long Beach, Chicago and New York in the coming months.

Discreet is providing a set of standardized topics and features to help trainers develop the necessary skills to teach animation with 3ds max software. These standards are the result of interviews with artists, trainers, and managers at prestigious game and film companies, and consist of industry-specific topics common to all skill levels. For every skill level, a set of appropriate 3ds max software features have been defined. Four levels of 3ds max software competency are now being offered: Fundamentals, Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert.



Art Institute of Atlanta Introduces Interactive Media Design

The Art Institute of Atlanta has remodeled its multimedia & Web design program. The new curriculum in Interactive Media Design is intended to give students the skills necessary to enter the graphics and Web design industry. Today, interactive designers must have comprehensive design skills, as well as being able to work efficiently with a variety of tools, communicate with and listen to clients, and provide solutions for the Web site's users.

With a shift in focus to Web design and interactive media, the program will prepare students to design the interaction between user and screen, including both the underlying information architecture and the screen interface. Graduates will be professionals who are artistically creative, yet also knowledgeable in the technical aspects of Web production.

In the late 1990s, "new media" was the term used to define the specialty that represented Web site and CD-ROM interface design. However, in the 2002 edition of Becoming a Graphic Designer, the operative term is "interactivity." The design of Web sites seems so simple that anyone can do it, but outstanding Web sites also require graphic design skills, an understanding of navigation and information architecture, and the grasp of technical limitations.

Students studying Interactive Media Design will learn these concepts as they prepare for a career in the Web industry. Graduates will be "user- centered designers" - designers who create user-friendly solutions - and will be prepared for entry-level positions such as Web designer, content developer, and Web producer. The curriculum will offer students classes in graphic and Web design, Photoshop and other layout programs, "back end" Web page development, information design, marketing, and business strategies.

Applications for interactive media design are being accepted now for the fall quarter beginning Oct. 4. For more information, call 1.800.275.4242 or visit http://www.aia.artinstitutes.edu/programs.asp .



Midway to Publish Three "Unreal" Titles

Midway Games Inc. will publish three new videogames based on Epic Games' Unreal franchise. The agreement marks Midway's entrance into the premium PC games sector with a property that has sold more than seven million units worldwide and generated nearly $200 million in revenue at retail since the introduction of Unreal Tournament in 1999.

Under terms of the agreement, Midway obtains worldwide publishing rights for the three Unreal titles from Epic, including Unreal Championship 2, an Xbox-exclusive title scheduled to ship in 2005, and two future installments of Unreal Tournament on PC and upcoming next-generation consoles. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Only Korean PC rights were excluded from the deal.

Scheduled for Xbox in February 2005, Unreal Championship 2 gives gamers superhuman agility that arms them for battle against deadly characters or readies them for hand-to-hand melee combat. Taking the battle online, the title pits players against each other in an eight-person Xbox Live! multiplayer challenge. Designed for Xbox, Unreal Championship 2 features new gameplay elements, including a deep melee combat system that blends in with the ranged weapon combat the series is known for, a story-driven single-player mode, dozens of new maps, new game modes, and new weaponry.



Crave, Empire to Co-Publish $20 Bad Boys: Miami Takedown

Crave Entertainment will co-publish Bad Boys: Miami Takedown with Empire Interactive for PlayStation2, Xbox, and GameCube in Q3 of 2004 in North America. This officially licensed game, based on the Bad Boys movies and developed by Blitz, features first and third person action on the streets and waterways of Miami.

A new drug has emerged in Miami, and its use is spreading fast. As key members of the Tactical Narcotics Team (TNT), players take on the roles of either Mike Lowrey or Marcus Burnett and must stop the highly organized cartels that are flooding the market with this new drug. Players need to move fast to make sure the TNT cops are not DOA.

Game features include:

http://www.cravegames.com/ http://us.empireinteractive.com/


N-Gage QD Game Deck Released in U.S.

Death to the taco! Nokia announced the latest addition to the N-Gage platform, the N-Gage QD game deck, is now available for the US market. Bundled with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, and with a $100 (and up) street price, the new product promises a compact package, new ergonomic design, and enhanced gaming features.

The N-Gage QD game deck is a pocketable device with a hot-swappable multimedia (MMC) slot for instant gaming, longer battery life, improved gaming controls, brighter screen, smartphone features and the new N-Gage Arena launcher application. Gamers can play N-Gage titles, connect to the worldwide mobile gaming community over mobile networks via the N-Gage Arena, and take part in close-range mobile multiplayer gaming via Bluetooth wireless technology.

The N-Gage QD game deck supports existing N-Gage hits like Spider-Man 2, The Sims Bustin' Out, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 as well as upcoming exclusive N-Gage titles like Pathway to Glory and Pocket Kingdom: Own the World.

The new N-Gage Arena launcher makes accessing the N-Gage Arena easier, with access to the N-Gage Arena community directly from the game deck. N-Gage Arena allows gamers to communicate with one another, challenge each other in head-to-head multiplayer games, download exclusive content, access rankings statistics, participate in events and activities, and more.

A GSM phone with hands-free loudspeaker, the N-Gage QD game deck also supports advanced smart phone features such as personal information management (contacts, calendar, and notes), XHTML browser, email and the ability to download and install additional Series 60 applications.




About Spectrum

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/online-development tools and end product for review.

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