Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Just out from Macromedia is Contribute 2, its $99 toolset for updating and managing content on existing Websites. Contribute 2 now works on Mac OS X, and reportedly connects to Websites faster and more securely.
New features include high-performance site connections with support for SFTP, new FlashPaper Web-document technology, and drag-and-drop integration with PayPal to add commerce hooks to Websites.
At Siggraph The ManyOne Network announced that version 1.0 of Flux, a platform for developing real-time, network-aware 3D rich media applications based on open standards, will ship in mid-August. ManyOne acquired Flux developer creator Media Machines, founded by VRML guy Tony Parisi, earlier this month.
The Flux technology suite comprises components for developing and deploying interactive real-time 3D content over the Web, including animations, virtual worlds, physical simulations, information spaces and advanced user interfaces. Flux is compatible with Extensible 3D (X3D), the new ISO standard for 3D graphics. Potential applications include engineering, entertainment, simulation, and geographic visualization.
The suite includes the Flux Engine, an extensible system for managing the low-level details of 3D graphics rendering and animation; Flux Web, a set of utilities for supporting Web applications, including X3D and VRML97 file readers and application programming interfaces (APIs); and the Flux Media Player, a Web browser-hosted ActiveX control that loads Flux scenes, provides user-level navigation features and connects to other Web page elements via XML/DOM scripting.
Flux Version 1.0 is available for Windows; in the future other platforms will be supported within the product lifecycle. The public beta version of Flux is available at http://www.mediamachines.com. In 2004, Flux will be integrated with the ManyOne platform, enabling the development, deployment, and distribution of 3D interfaces to Web-based information.
ManyOne is a privately held, for-profit company that will become wholly owned by the non-profit ManyOne Foundation in 2004. The company and the Foundation say they are pioneering a new standard of social responsibility in organizational governance, objectives, and conduct. The ManyOne Foundation is guided by the Earth Charter, a roadmap of principles for a just and sustainable world. The foundation's board of directors includes social leaders such as Jane Goodall, Paul Hawken, and Maurice Strong.
At Siggraph, BlackBall Inc. announced BlackMagic personal edition, a product utilizing RMFS (Rich Media File System) for storage management. The product utilizes on-the-fly descriptive metadata indexing technology, enabling users to perform Web-style searches on local and network storage devices to retrieve rich media files. BlackMagic is said to be content aware and features built-in metadata support so that separate database tracking and querying of rich media file metadata is not required. Users attach keywords and description indexing terms directly into the file system.
BlackMagic integrates with users' existing platforms, tools, and networks, as well as their current workflow. On Microsoft Windows desktops, it extends the Windows Explorer and file open/save dialogs a user is accustomed to using with extended Web-style searching on rich media content. A convenient Web-browser-based user interface allows users to access the BlackMagic RMFS repository at any time and from any place.
The BlackMagic TimeTraveler version manager provides file and system rollback capabilities to file states at virtually any point in time. The underlying RMFS reduces multiple work files to one file name with multiple deltas.
BlackMagic KrystalBall is a portal-management interface for back-end systems administration that allows management and reporting on the system. The usage-tracking feature enables the system to be secure and enables accountability on users and on who is reading or writing to a file, what they are doing to it, and providing each with identification to ensure uniqueness and security.
KrystalClear is a media player that allows RMFS rich media files to be delivered and viewed or played through desktop interfaces such as Internet Explorer, File Explorer, and Open Dialog boxes. Supported devices include cellular telephones and some PDAs.
Last week’s top story was, of course, the annual Siggraph
conference, held this year in the lovely town of
The highlight of the show was The Computer Animation Festival, whose jury selected "Eternal Gaze," produced by Sam Chen with Maya, as the Best Animated Short, and "Tim Tom," produced by Supinfocom/One Plus One, for Jury Honors. "Eternal Gaze" is a poignant story of the creative life of sculptor Alberto Giacometti. The piece was selected because although it is entirely computer generated, that fact is quickly lost due to the powerful story. "Tim Tom" is the tale of two fantastical characters, Tim and Tom, who want to meet but are hindered by their creator, a giant omnipotent hand. The piece was selected for its creativity expression encompassing all that is inherent in the art of animation versus live-action. We also liked Bjork’s “Nature Is Ancient” music video, which included some of the most organic-looking CGI to date, and Ritterschlag, a witty and impressive-looking short featuring two dragons, a damsel in “distress,” and any number of hapless knights.
ACM Siggraph presented three awards at the conference to
recognize individuals who have made a significant contribution to the computer
graphics community. Pat Hanrahan,
The Emerging Technology pavilion was the usual hodgepodge of
mind-bending, blue-sky, but always fascinating, applications of computer
graphics and human interaction, including a really oddball food simulator (http://intron.kz.tsukuba.ac.jp). But
perhaps the most intriguing item here was Fogscreen.
Created by Mika Herpio of
The next Siggraph, the 31st International Conference on
Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, will be held in the
Besides the major announcements at this year’s show, featured in separate stories in this issue, we offer here a rundown of what else was revealed in capsule format:
Right Hemisphere announced version 3.0 of its Deep Exploration software for the translation, processing, and management of 2D and 3D graphical data. The latest features include new object manipulation and grouping tools allowing users to quickly and easily visualize complex models with many different viewing options. The addition of animation tools allows the creation of multi-level 3D animation sequences and the editing of imported animation. The new clipping plane can create dynamic cross sections helping to give a better understanding of complex 3D models. http://www.righthemisphere.com/deepexploration
Side Effects Software announced the winners of the Houdini Apprentice Challenge. The contest winners were: Best Overall: Matthew Clubb for "BMW 507"; Best Model: David Rindner for "Cthullu Centaur"; Best Character: Andre De Souza for "Wheely" and Best Effect: Kim Seung Hyuk for "Smoke." http://www.sidefx.com
We missed the event, but Luxology, the company founded by ex-LightWave luminaries Allen Hastings, Stuart Ferguson, and Brad Peebler, gave a sneak preview of modo, its new subdivision surface modeling application. The main buzz so far seems to be about the highly customizable UI. http://www.luxology.net/
New company Instant Effects showed FXThemes: interactive, layered, customizable 3D templates for PowerPoint. Users of 3ds max will be able to create new templates to offer to FXThemes users. http://www.instanteffects.com
The Web3D Consortium announced that its Extensible 3D (X3D) standard recently received all necessary approvals from ISO for advancement to final-form Draft International Standard. Separately, the Web3D Consortium continues a strategic partnership with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), ensuring the broadest possible X3D interoperability with the growing family of Extensible Markup Language (XML) specifications. http://www.Web3d.org
In a related item, Virtock Technologies announced the release of Vizx3D v.1.0 Beta, a new real-time 3D visualization tool and Web3D authoring platform to create X3D content. The new application combines the capabilities of the new X3D format with the interface and usage of Virtock’s Spazz3D. http://www.vizx3d.com/
Journey Publishing Inc. and Digital Video, creator of Toonz animation tools, are offering TAB 2.0, a new paperless animation software package. The product, based on new technology that includes a vector-handling technique that uses dynamic control points and an adaptive fill system, is being offered an introductory price of $99.98 through October 1. http://www.JourneyEd.com
RackSaver introduced NemeSys, its new line of high-end graphic workstations. The NemeSys 720 series incorporates dual Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron processors. Additional features include memory options for up to 16GB of RAM and storage options to house up to 8 hard drives allowing for up to 2TB of storage capacity. Support for high-end graphics cards such as the NVIDIA Quadro FX family is also included. http://www.racksaver.com
Immersion Corporation invited Siggraph attendees to try the beta version of VirtualHand for MOCAP, a plug-in for Immersion's CyberGlove hand-sensing hardware. The system lets users capture, edit, and blend motion animation with Kaydara's MOCAP real-time capture software while creating animated films or games. Immersion also showed third-party software that uses the recently announced Mac SDK for the MicroScribe G2 digitizer. The new SDK allows 3D Mac software developers to integrate MicroScribe desktop digitizing systems into their applications that run on Apple computers. http://www.immersion.com
Maxon Computer released BodyPaint 3D 2, whose major new feature is “projection painting,” said to allow textures to be painted onto 3D models without UV seams appearing. The software also has new unwrapping algorithms, 15 new UV tools, enhancements to OpenGL support, Photoshop filter support, reworked data-interchange plug-ins, and support for the latest Wacom graphics tablets. http://www.maxon.net
We didn’t get a chance to check it out, but Vital Idea was showing Crowd!, its crowd-simulation software with a novel licensing system: $1,000 for 30 days (or buy it outright for $10K). Features include artificial intelligence, neural interactive simulation, and a node-based UI. http://www.vitalidea.com
Martian Labs showed its ocean-surface simulator called Martian Hydrous Tools ($2,500 and up). The initial version, which integrates with Houdini, features customizable source-code tools, automatic whitecapping, and waterline extraction tools for creating wakes and splashes. http://www.martian-labs.com
Virtools, a France-based developer of 3D interactive-media authoring tools, released its Virtools 2.5 Runtime Player for Macintosh. The new player supports Virtools’ scripting language, the client-side behavioral server pack, and the multi-user pack. http://www.virtools.com/
Imagina, billed as the
International Digital Entertainment & Interactive Contents (sic) Trade
Show, will take place February 2-5 in
Ngrain promises detailed, realistic, interactive 3D world creation for developers. http://www.ngrain.com
InDex calls its immersive modeling system “hands-in modeling.” It uses two hand-held controllers and a magnetic tracking unit to model and manipulate 3D scenes interactively. We tried it briefly, and it seems to work well. http://www.dartforms.com
New Swedish company Turtle showed Liquidlight, a ray-tracing and global-illumination renderer for Maya, with caustics, color bleeding, final gather, soft shadows, and skylight. Why not mental ray? Turtle says its product is much faster. Coming for 3ds max next year, pricing TBD. http://www.illuminatelabs.com
Terrashader is a “wavelet-based plug-in that lets artists incorporate very large maps and textures into high-end animation software.” http://www.terrashader.com
Plenoptics’ $5,000 SceneStealer generates 3D models from photos, and is said to be fast, easy to use, flexible, and offers automatic texture generation. It uses block shapes to build models, includes 3D tools to create custom shapes, and supports a number of file formats for import and export. It will go beta in a few weeks, and is scheduled to ship in Q4. http://www.plenoptics.com
Reiss Studio released BodyStudio 2.0 for Windows. The software integrates Poser 3D characters into 3ds max and Maya. Features include playback of character animation and dynamic cloth, translation of Poser shaders to native shaders, scale conversion, and importation of poser lights in 3ds max. http://www.reiss-studio.com
Splutterfish released version 1.2 of its Brazil Rendering System software, a free upgrade to 1.0 users. Advancements include distributed rendering, advanced shadow plug-ins, an advanced skin shader, improvements to the toon shader, and support for IES photometric file formats. Splutterfish is also newly offering Joe Alter’s Shave and a Haircut hair-creation software of LightWave renown as a plug-in for 3ds max. Features include spline-based creation, embedded dynamics, combing/styling interface, and displacement parameters for effects such as wetness and frizz. http://www.splutterfish.com
And last but by no means least,
Coming this fall from Discreet is version 6 of 3ds max, its 3D modeling, animation, and rendering solution. New features include: advanced schematic view for easier viewing and better management of complex scenes; integrated mental ray rendering software; vertex color painting; design visualization tools and interchange support with Autodesk and other computer-aided design (CAD) and CAD-related solutions; integrated reactor 2 with stuntman and vehicle dynamics; distributed network texture baking, and features that provide greater accessibility to the software for power users. Also included in the release will be the event-driven Particle Flow system for creating fountains, fog, snow, splashes, contrails, explosions, and other environmental effects.
New software developer wondertouch gave Spectrum a great demo of the new version of its cornerstone 2D, sprite-based particle effects software application, particleIllusion. particleIllusion 3.0 lets artists working in film post-production, film pre-visualization, commercial broadcast, standard and HD video, and Web graphics to customize and modify effects, or create entirely new and realistic effects.
particleIllusion is a standalone particle-effects application designed as a high-performance tool to add particle effects to any image, animation, or video footage. particleIllusion features a growing collection of hundreds of preset effects such as smoke, fire, explosions, water effects, sparkles, colorful artistic effects, and many others. The software features OpenGL hardware acceleration to provide real-time (or near real-time) previews of most effects and fast rendering of final output.
New features include:
Watch this space for a review of particleIllusion 3.0, coming soon.
At Siggraph, Darkling Simulations showed its brand new DarkTree 2.5 texture-creation software, a free upgrade to users of version 2.0. Spectrum is a big fan of this powerful, versatile software, so it’s nice to see that the talented three-person development team has been hard at work making it even better.
New features include:
At Siggraph, Turbo Squid released Turbo Toolkit, a suite of
eight Discreet Certified 3ds max plug-ins in a single product. When purchased
separately the products sell for nearly $4,000
The Turbo Toolkit includes these plug-ins:
Alias Systems announced at Siggraph a new version of its Maya Personal Learning Edition software. Based on the newest release of its Maya software, Maya Personal Learning Edition 5 is a fully functioning version of Maya Complete software for non-commercial use.
Features include new additions such as:
Macromedia last week announced the start of its 2003 Back to School Student Contest. The contest is designed to inspire students to create digital experiences that challenge, provoke, educate, and entertain, while rewarding and providing exposure for student authors.
The contest features a People's Choice Award and a
Macromedia Expert Award in each of three categories: Build Stuff, Create, and
Not Normal. Students compete against their peers and vote for their favorites
in December. The deadline for submissions is
Joey Lott's new book, "ActionScript Cookbook" (O'Reilly, US $49.95), is designed to help Flash MX developers be home in time for dinner while still impressing the powers-that-be at work with their coding prowess.
Aimed at the budding coder as well as the experienced ActionScript scripter, the book offers new perspectives and approaches to ActionScript development. The nuts-and-bolts toolkit offers ready-made answers to common ActionScript problems. A complement to O'Reilly's "ActionScript for Flash MX: The Definitive Guide, 2nd Edition," "ActionScript Cookbook" shows developers how to assimilate the information taught by more theoretical books.
Lott begins with the premise that readers are familiar with the Flash authoring tool and have used some basic ActionScript in the past, then breaks it all down into tasks. The book follows a logical progression from short recipes for small problems to longer, more complex scripts, which allows developers to start linking modular ActionScript pieces together to create solutions for Flash applications. Among the 28 recipe-laden chapters (including seven full chapters of sample applications) are:
Chapter 16, "Storing Persistent Information," is available free on line at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/actscptckbk/chapter/index.html
For more information about the book, including table of contents, index, author bio, and samples, see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/actscptckbk/
Coming this October from Electronic Arts is The Sims Makin' Magic, a new expansion pack to the hit PC game. In this edition, Sims can cast spells that are playful or deviant. Players can venture to a new magical, carnival-themed destination, experience new gameplay, gain over 150 new items, and encounter a new cast of quirky characters.
At home, players can use their suburban magic to transform
everyday objects into helpful minions, hypnotize their friends and enemies, or
turn their pesky neighbor into a frog. Every spell has a unique backfire, such
as toad plagues, snakes, and lightning strikes. When players are ready to
venture out, they can teleport to the
Enlight, an entertainment software developer and publisher, last week unveiled the Official Website for their recently announced title Wars and Warriors: Joan of Arc. The site, http://www.enlight.com/joa, contains the latest screens released from the Enlight development team and will serve as a central location for players to receive the latest information on Joan of Arc.
Set for release this fall, Joan of Arc allows players to
command forces in the Hundred Years War between
Crave Entertainment, a publisher of budget-priced videogames (its new strategy), last week released three new titles for PlayStation2.
Mojo! ($10) is a puzzle game whose object is to successfully collect all of the colored cubes in a level in order to get to the "MOJO" cubes in the shortest amount of time. Mojo also features a 3D puzzle editor that allows players to create and share their own Mojo stages Mojo! for Xbox will be available later this month.
eJay Clubworld ($10) lets users create sounds and compose music. Tools include a synthesizer, drum machine, and virtual turntable.
Race futuristic vehicles with Butt Ugly Martians: Zoom or Doom ($20). Players fight off enemy attacks in O.M.A.B.s (One Martian Air Bikes) across nine intergalactic landscapes as they race, chase, and conquer opponents.
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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