21 August 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Adobe Systems last week began shipping Version 5.0 of its GoLive Web authoring software. The $299 program is integrated with Adobe's other design tools: Photoshop, Ilustrator, LiveMotion, Premiere, and After Effects, and provides workflow enhancements for collaborative Web design.
Among the "over 100" new features, are 360Code, said to enable control over any Web source code, and native support of .psd, .ai and .liv files, as well as the utilization of the Photoshop imaging engine within GoLive.
SGI last week released the source code for its Open Inventor 3D graphics toolkit to the open source community. The company says Open Inventor is the de facto standard for rapid development of graphics applications and is used in almost every industry, including CAD, geosciences, medicine, academia, chemistry and movie production.
Said Kurt Akeley, SGI's chief technology officer, "We have received numerous requests for a Linux version of Open Inventor. By open sourcing this toolkit, we are making it available on Linux and at the same time enabling this large and very active user community to study, understand and enhance the toolkit."
Earlier this year, SGI released the OpenGL Sample Implementation source code to the open source community, clearing the way for OpenGL implementations on Linux.
The Open Inventor source code is available for download from SGI's open source developer Web site at http://oss.sgi.com.
Sega.com announced last week a worldwide license for NexGenIP, a complete embedded TCP/IP stack developed by NexGen Software, a French software company. This license will allow Dreamcast developers to access a networking suite to design online games for Sega Dreamcast, an Internet-ready videogame console with a built-in modem and its own high-speed console gaming network and ISP - SegaNet. The license was acquired by Sega of Europe.
NexGenIP is reportedly designed to meet demanding requirements in terms of size, performance and architecture resulting in a portable TCP/IP suite.
Just out from developer David Gould is version 5.0 of Illustrate, his $395 vector-graphics plug-in for 3d studio max and 3D Studio VIZ (i.e., it renders 3D scenes to vector formats, including Flash). New features include:
Autodesk division Discreet has started shipment of combustion (US$3,495), the company's visual effects application for the desktop. Essentially a combined, updated version of the two former products Paint and Effect, combustion is Macintosh and Windows-based software that offers a unified paint, animation, and 3D-compositing environment for graphics and visual effects creation.
combustion's interface provides "in-context" tools: keying, motion tracking, color correction, vector-based nondestructive paint animation, true 3D compositing, network rendering, and support for Adobe Photoshop and After Effects plug-ins. Artists designing effects in combustion can share common motion tracking, keying, and color correction setup data with inferno, flame, flint, fire, and smoke systems.
Users can paint or use composites directly in 3d studio max, create textures and background plates, or post-process scenes in combustion using 3d studio max's Rich Pixel Format (RPF) file format interchange. Effects created in combustion are available directly within the edit bins or timelines for immediate effects-to-editing integration.
combustion employs technology from the Discreet effects systems family, such as keying, color correction, motion tracking, and stabilization modules. The 3D compositing capabilities offer true perspective, with moving camera, lights, ray tracing, and realistic shadows and reflections. Nesting of composites is available for multilayered effects. The software supports Adobe Illustrator vector files and Adobe Photoshop layers as well as After Effects plug-ins.
Coming from Apple at the end of August is iMovie 2, the next version of its $49 consumer digital video editing software. New features include:
iMovie 2 is preinstalled on Apple's new iMac DV, Power Mac G4 Cube and Power Mac G4 systems.
And the Siggraph stories keep on coming: Scheduled for release this November from Kaydara is FiLMBOX v2.7 ($4,995) with real-time character animation triggering. The new technology lets animators use a joystick or keyboard to sequence character animation clips in real time, similar to playing a game.
Additional features in FiLMBOX v.2.7 include:
Legacy character animation tools include smart character mapping, nonlinear motion blending and re-targeting, and motion capture and traditional animation controls. FiLMBOX is also a 3D authoring system providing all the major elements of a production -- 3D, video, audio, images and camera data -- to be composited and edited in real time.
Platforms include the Microsoft Windows NT (Intel and Alpha), Red Hat Linux and Silicon Graphics IRIX operating systems.
Just out from hardware manufacturer NVIDIA is GeForce2 Ultra, which the company claims is the most powerful 3D graphics processing unit (GPU) for the desktop PC market. The unit reportedly processes 1 billion pixels and 31 million triangles per second.
Also, NVIDIA says its new Detonator 3 (D3) driver increases the processing power of current NVIDIA-based graphics processors by up to 50%.
D3's enhanced feature set includes:
Spinwave.com has released a $149 Windows 95/98/NT version of its Optiverter software, which provides batch optimization of JPEG images. Optiverter is said to be capable of processing thousands of images per hour without compromising the quality of photos.
Optiverter is a scriptable command-line utility for Microsoft Windows 95/98/NT that is capable of high-speed conversion to and from over 50 image formats, and includes the same engine used in Spinwave's JPEG Cruncher product. It was originally developed in custom Unix-based projects requiring conversion of high volumes of documents for use on the Web.
Some of Optiverter's features include:
Aportis Technologies, publisher of AportisDoc, a program for viewing eBooks, has entered into a partnership with MemoWare, repository of eBooks for PDAs. Visitors to the new Aportis eBook Library have access to over 3,000 documents for free downloading to their Palm Powered handheld computer, including Palm handhelds and the Handspring Visor. Categories include adventure, mystery, novels, religion, entertainment, and business.
The free eBooks and other documents in the library are available in AportisDoc format.
A new technology that tracks a person’s gaze-point and facial expression through a pair of video cameras, created by researchers at the Australian National University, will be commercialized by startup Seeing Machines.
The company will market systems targeted at a key areas including: detecting pilot / driver fatigue and inattention, interactive multimedia applications such as game and Web avatar interfaces, motion capture for both high-end and real-time computer animation, and marketing analysis tools for television ratings, website design, and critical analysis of visual impact.
Current eye-tracking systems require some form of headgear such as goggles or a helmet, or depend on the conventional technique whereby corneal reflections are analyzed for movement (using the red-eye phenomenon). In comparison, Seeing Machines face-interface technology uses passive image processing techniques to find the face, determine the orientation of the head, and then home in on the eyes.
Montreal-based Kutoka Interactive last week released Mia 2: Romaine’s New Hat on a $20 hybrid CD for Wintel and Mac. Designed for children 5 to 11, Mia 2 mixes a storyline with a variety of science activities addressing subject matter ranging from the solar system, the human body and the weather to the classification, habitats and eating habits of animals. The two-CD title also features over a dozen animated characters, a sound track and scenery seen magically from the perspective of a mouse. Mia can move anywhere on the computer screen where the child points the computer mouse, giving players complete control over the main character.
The title includes eight full-featured science games as well as a variety of scientific information and mini-science activities. The content varies according to which of the four age-appropriate difficulty levels the child has selected at the beginning of the game. The title is designed to minimize frustration, in that if the child needs help anywhere along the way, clicking on Mia’s head will give the child more precise clues on how to proceed.
Manex Entertainment, known for visual effects in such films as Polygram's "What Dreams May Come" and Warner Brothers' "The Matrix," recently launched a new multimedia division called Manex Interactive. It will focus on the creation of Web sites, CD ROM products, video games, interactive kiosks and digital video production.
The new division recently contributed creative segments for the Webby 2000 award winners. It also has been selected by San Francisco-based SilverTech, Inc. to create content for its upcoming Web-based "eKIDS" product targeted at children. Manex Interactive recently also completed a Web interface design project for Santa Monica-based medschool.com.
GAMEproducer, an online service that matches interactive game developers with publishers and other firms that require their services, will waive all fees for RFPs posted by charter members on GAMEproducer.com through September 30, 2000. In order to become charter members and be eligible for the free posting, publishers must register before the site goes live on August 24, 2000.
Publishers can post RFPs on a non-exclusive basis on the GAMEproducer site and generate multiple bids for projects from leading developers, without the time and effort required to establish these connections through traditional channels.
Once an RFP is submitted and approved, publishers receive multiple responses from accredited developers. Publishers then receive detailed proposals from the developers they feel best suited for the project, allowing them to select the developer who represents the optimal combination of skill and value for the project.
The interactive entertainment industry has grown exponentially in the last few years, reaching and exceeding revenues and successes previously attained in the motion picture industry. The Wall Street Journal reported that in 1999 in the US alone, sales of video game consoles and software reached $8.9 billion, surpassing US movie box office receipts of $7.3 billion. The $20 billion industry is rapidly expanding as new software and console developers churn out new product at an alarming rate.
GAMEproducer is a joint venture combining the game industry expertise of SR-71 Game Scouting and the technological talents of askSam Systems. SR-71 Game Scouting specializes in finding products for computer and video game publishers that support their product line and improve their profitability. SR-71's contact manager includes contacts at over 2,500 computer and video game publishers and 1,000 developers, as well as extensive information on their product lines and strengths.
indiqu, a provider of "alternative mobile entertainment programs" for wireless-centric devices, has signed an agreement with The Games Kitchen for the creation of exclusive games designed for mobile phones and other wireless devices.
The games will be part of a portfolio of original titles being launched this summer as part of indiqu's quVox Mobile Destination game platform. The Games Kitchen will develop three games by year-end 2000 that will be available only on indiqu's platform.
The parlor games being developed are Solitaire, Gin Rummy, and Blackjack, popular card games that appeal to the widest possible audience. They will now be available on mobile devices globally.
Loki Software, a publisher of games for the Linux operating system, last week announced a strategic alliance with Berkeley Software Design, Inc. (BSDI), a supporter of the FreeBSD Project.
Loki introduced shrink-wrapped commercial games to the Linux community in 1999. While Loki has released Alpha and PPC versions of their games whenever technically feasible, FreeBSD users had been left to their own devices to make the games function on their open-source operating system of choice.
Through this new partnership, Loki and BSDI will work together to ensure Loki's gaming titles are compatible with FreeBSD using the Linux-compatibility features. Certified games on this configuration will be supported by Loki.
"Many people do not take games seriously, and this is a mistake," said Jordan Hubbard, vice president, Open Source Solutions. "Availability of Loki's … lineup of Linux games is a huge win for us, as we realize that games drive a large part of the overall acceptance of any operating system, even a serious operating system like BSD."
Loki is preparing several titles for certification, including SimCity 3000 Unlimited and Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri with the Alien Crossfire expansion pack. Other programs to be certified soon include Quake III Arena, Soldier of Fortune, and Descent3.
Activision's latest contribution to the stealth-action genre is Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins for the PlayStation game console. The game, the prequel to the million-selling title Tenchu, is set in Japan's period of Warring States and gives players control of three young ninja warriors--Rikimaru, Ayame and Tatsumaru--as they begin a journey that will take them across the kingdom of Lord Gohda, test their skills in stealth, strategy and fighting and ultimately define their future.
Features include 29 story-based missions that take place during night, dusk and day, new ninja tools and weapons from blow guns and blinding dust to exploding arrows and smoke bombs, and new mission objectives and character abilities, including the ability to swim, search and hide bodies.
A new mission editor mode lets gamers create their own missions by choosing from 12 different environments in which they can place objects and enemies and determine AI behavior before saving their creations to a memory card. The mission editor mode also allows players to play and modify 15 pre-built missions.
Just out from Sony's 989 Sports division is NFL GameDay 2001 for PlayStation. Features include
Sontage Interactive, a division of Mindmaker, Inc. and maker of Game Commander voice recognition software for games and simulations, will release Game Commander 2 in October 2000.
Game Commander is a voice-control application for Windows games and simulations that lets users speak commands instead of memorizing keystrokes. The software can be programmed with up to 256 keystrokes per voice command, which the company says provides players a strategic advantage in complex simulation, racing and shooter games with many commands and nested menu options. No voice training is required, and any word or phrase can be used to trigger a command.
Game Commander 2 gives users more editing capability and flexibility in creating, maintaining, and customizing commands. It's also designed to ensure that optimum recognition speed and the correct command file is always ready for every game, without user intervention.
CMP Game Media Group has announced the advisory board for its Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2001, a trade-only event that will take place at the San Jose Convention Center, March 20-24, 2001. The board includes:
CMP Game Media Group also announced a call for speaking proposals at the GDC with a deadline of October 3. The submission form can be found at http://www.gdconf.com/speakers/.
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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