Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

23 Aug 2004
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
For editorial/subscription inquiries, send mailto:spectrum1@broadviewnet.net
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Editor's note: According to the official post-conference press release, Siggraph 2004, the 31st conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques, brought 27,825 attendees from nearly 90 countries to Los Angeles for the annual conference and exhibition 8-12 August 2004. A total of 229 exhibiting companies exhibited in 73,000 net square feet of space. This figure differs significantly from the 42,000 registrants reported in last week's Spectrum, but, said conference chair Dena Slothower, it was "an overall 14 percent increase in attendance over last year and close to a five percent increase in technical program attendance." At any rate, it was quite a show, and this week we bring you a slew of news items from the show, plus a few extras. If we missed your story, please let us know at spectrum1@broadviewnet.net. - David Duberman

Today's Headlines (details below)

--Turbo Squid Ships Three Discreet Certified 3ds max Plug-ins
--Luxology Launches modo Sub-division Surface Modeler
--Curious Labs Announces Shade 7 Preview at Siggraph
--Kaydara, Alias Announce Motionbuilder 6
--Kelseus Unveils Pre-Viz Tool
--Right Hemisphere Updates Deep Paint 3D, Deep UV
--Reflecmedia Ships Keying Plug-Ins
--Cinema 4D Plant Plug-in Xfrog Updated
--Maxon Announces Cinema 4D 9
--RTzen Updates RT/shader
--wondertouch Announces particleIllusion for After Effects
--Avid Cuts Softimage Prices
--Sensable Shows Haptics Plug-ins for 3ds max, Rhinoceros

--Oregon3D Offers Intro Course on Urban Simulation

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY --Sony Announces Hot Shots Golf Fore!
--GarageGames Updates Dark Horizons: Lore

--Havok Names Yates Director of Product Management

--About Spectrum



Turbo Squid Ships Three Discreet Certified 3ds max Plug-ins

New from 3ds max plug-in publisher Turbo Squid are Texture Layers 2, hairfx, and ThinkingParticles 2. Watch for Spectrum reviews of these products, coming soon.

Texture Layers 2 from Mankua (US$295) is an advanced mapping and texturing system for Discreet 3ds max software and Autodesk VIZ. 3D artists can create and animate all of their mapping channels within a single modifier, applying different mapping styles to parts of the same object. The software is described as being like having a modifier stack within a single modifier. Advanced mapping tools unavailable elsewhere include spline mapping, free form deformation, UVW frame and a pelt system.

Texture Layers 2 also includes its own sub-object selection mode so users can choose parts of their model on the fly, while allowing them to read in saved selection sets from elsewhere in the modifier stack. It also lets users copy, paste, save and load mapping channels within the same modifier, or from one modifier to another to suit their needs. Additionally, there is no need to use multi/sub-object Material IDs when assigning materials. After application, all material or parts of the material are put into other layered materials to control how the final material is displayed.

New features include:

Thinking Particles 2, from cebas Computer GmbH, is a rule-based particle system for 3ds max. When compared to an event-based particle system, which works on triggers and time dependent events, a rule-based system is free from constraints and instead applies simple behaviors. These behaviors govern all aspects of a particle's motion, life, death, and collisions in a true non-linear fashion.

ThinkingParticles 2 offers its particle system functionality through a “programmatic” approach. This approach lets artists use a visual "Wire Setup Interface" to procedurally build the rules and conditions that control the particle behavior.

New features include:

ThinkingParticles 2 has a suggested retail price of US$1295, with an introductory price of just $995 for pre-orders placed before first customer shipment in September, 2004. Existing users of ThinkingParticles may upgrade to ThinkingParticles 2 for $495 ($295 for upgrade orders placed before first customer shipment).



Luxology Launches modo Sub-division Surface Modeler

Coming next month from Luxology LLC, an independent technology company co-founded by Allen Hastings, Stuart Ferguson, and Brad Peebler of LightWave 3D fame, is modo, its next generation 3D modeling system. The program combines a real-time subdivision surface modeling engine with a user-centric, highly customizable interface and includes hundreds of production-oriented tools, which can be repeatedly modified to handle a variety of modeling tasks.

Feature highlights include:

  • artist-driven workflow: dynamic workflow with fluid user interface lets the user evolve modo to fit her specific method
  • added flexibility: tool composites let artists use tools easily and independently with any combination of modifiers to create a nearly limitless set of advanced modeling tools.
  • advanced help system: comprehensive, integrated help system provides users with training video clips.
  • seamless pipeline integration: designed for insertion into existing 3D pipelines

    modo will ship on a single disc supporting both Mac OS X and Windows, and will sell for a suggested retail price of USD $895, with a limited-time introductory price of USD $695.

    Also, at a special invitation-only preview held by Luxology at the nearby Museum of Neon Art (thanks, marK!), the company showed off Hastings's latest project, code-named Nexus, which we saw not only allow advanced modeling on an animated model (animation was ongoing), but render a scene comprising millions of (mostly instanced) polys in a few seconds. Nexus looks to be an awesome product, but probably won't see the light of day before next year.



    Curious Labs Announces Shade 7 Preview at Siggraph

    Curious Labs, Inc. plans to release Shade for the US market later this month. Shade is an 3D graphics suite for Mac OSX and Windows. Features include Bezier curve/surface modeling, an integrated set of plug-ins, and a global-illumination renderer. Shade has been available in Japan since 1986, with over 200,000 users and over 70% market share in the hobbyist user, product design and architectural design markets.

    Three versions of Shade 7 will be made available at different price points:

    Feature highlights include:



    Kaydara, Alias Announce Motionbuilder 6

    At Siggraph, Kaydara, Inc. and Alias announced the forthcoming release of Motionbuilder 6, the newest version of the company's character-animation software.

    Alias and Kaydara announced at the Alias Global Users Association (AGUA) on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2004 that Alias has signed an agreement to acquire Kaydara. The purchase is expected to close within 60 days, subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions, at which time Motionbuilder will be rebranded Alias Motionbuilder.

    Kaydara Motionbuilder 6 is intended for game development, feature film pre-visualization and layout, and television series. Features include “smart” character technology (HumanIK), 3D story-timeline tool, and real-time photorealistic rendering.

    New features in Motionbuilder 6 include:




    Kelseus Unveils Pre-Viz Tool

    Kelseus launched Antics Pre-Viz, its $1,225 pre-visualisation product that uses intelligent real-time 3D animation technology, at Siggraph 2004 in Los Angeles

    Aimed at the pre-visualisation process for both live action and complex 3D animated productions, Antics Pre-Viz lets users produce multi-cam action scenes involving multiple characters, storylines, shots and interactions, with which to communicate ideas to clients, producers, financiers and crew members.

    Kelseus claims Antics Pre-Viz is the first software application to allow both expert animators as well as members of a production team, such as directors, DOPs and editors, to create and manage their own animated pre-visualisation projects in a real time 3D environment. An intuitive tool set and logical workflow allow rapid set assembly and layout, easy camera setup and configuration and the creation of intelligent characters, shots and scenes. Scenes are stored as animated storyboards which can be cut together and output as either AVI or MOV files or as JPEG storyboards.

    Antics Pre-Viz is currently in use with early access customers; full version 1 release ships in Q4.



    Right Hemisphere Updates Deep Paint 3D, Deep UV

    Right Hemisphere announced new versions of its Deep Paint 3D and Deep UV software. The new versions include support for recent releases of digital content creation applications. Deep Paint 3D is a tool to paint and texture 3D models interactively. It uses textures or natural medium that can be brushed directly or projected onto 3D models and scenes. Available later this month, the new Deep Paint 3D 2.2 version now includes support for LightWave 3D 8, Maya 6, Photoshop CS, and Softimage|XSI version 4.0.

    Also available later this month, Right Hemisphere's new Deep UV 1.3 software release now includes support for Maya 6 and Softimage|XSI version 4.0. Deep UV locates the UV coordinates on a model to let the artist to drape and arrange textures on top of it. Once a satisfactory texture arrangement is in place, the artist can then use Deep Paint 3D for further modification. Deep UV can be used as a standalone software application or in conjunction with Deep Paint 3D.



    Reflecmedia Ships Keying Plug-Ins

    Just out from chroma key specialist Reflecmedia is Mattenee, a new line of software plug-ins designed for use with its studio and portable Chromatte solutions. Developed by The Pixel Farm, producer of PFTrack, PFMatch and associated plug-ins, Mattenee V1.0 ($395) is designed for NLE and compositing applications including Apple's Final Cut Pro and Shake, Adobe's Premiere Pro and After Effects and also Digital Fusion from eyeon. Mattenee's algorithm is designed to recognize the specific blue or green color of light generated by Reflecmedia's LiteRing.



    Cinema 4D Plant Plug-in Xfrog Updated

    The Xfrog plug-in for Cinema 4D for creating organic models such as trees, flowers and octop was recently updated to version 4.2.

    The main new feature is support for pruning. This tool permits use of arbitrary geometric objects as branch growth limit or cut branches where they hit that object. This lets the user control what shape an object grows into or define places where it shouldn't grow.

    Xfrog 4.2 can now create start and end caps for branch objects. This is helpful when the new pruning feature is used to cut branches. Invisible selections and useful texture coordinates are automatically created to apply different materials to the branches. Texture Coordinates are automatically created to apply different materials to the branches.

    The update also provides bug fixes and internal improvements.



    Maxon Announces Cinema 4D 9

    Coming next month from Maxon Computer is the 9th generation of Cinema 4D, its 3D modeling and animation tool. The upgrade features new modeling tools and enhanced workflow, plus over 100 new functions and features.

    Release 9 development focused on refining areas of the program as well as adding new features such as cloth simulation, sub-polygon displacement, N-Gons and much more.

    Many of the new features of Release 9 can be found within the core application, which offers an entry-level price point. Additional modules can be purchased to maximize each users performance and fit their budget.

    A re-engineered modeling core now includes full N-Gon support and additional tools said to make modeling easier and faster. Using N-Gons, users can create complete models based on polygons with any number of points. An upgraded modeling toolset now includes improved polygon knitting and stitching. A brush tool lets users paint point deformations on a model.

    The interface now includes the HeadsUpDisplay (HUD), which displays configurable information in the editor as well as dynamic highlights to preview mode before they are executed. As the HUD can display virtually any function within the editor, users can adapt their interface to a full screen editor while still having all the tools they use at their disposal.

    The enhanced MOCCA module includes the new Clothilde functions for adding clothing to characters as well as simulating any type of cloth. Cloth dynamics ensure accurate collision detection and as the engine has been made specifically for simulating cloth. Hard-IK now offers more kinematics mode for character motion. Also, motion blending lets different motions be blended into each other. When used in conjunction with the extended FBX support, this feature enables capturing simple motion and creating complex animations. Also, the Advanced Render module adds sub-polygon displacement, which uses optimized algorithms to generate more details during rendering.

    Cinema 4D now includes direct export of multipass rendering data to discreet's combustion compositing application and Apple's Final Cut Pro editing system.



    RTzen Updates RT/shader

    New company RTzen, Inc. previewed at Siggraph the next release of its RT/shader editing tool. Code-named Ginza, it allows 3D programmers and artists to create new shaders that utilize real-time effects like shadows, dynamic reflections and refractions, bloom and blur, as well as depth-of-field. Artists can also customize more of RT/shader via templates and custom high-level shader graph nodes.

    Available since March, RT/shader is a 3D editing tool with the capability to automatically generate high-level shading language code in real time, allowing artists to create hardware shader effects. RT/shader is certified to work directly within software such as 3ds max from Discreet and Maya from Alias. It also is designed to be compatible with the installed base of Microsoft DirectX 9.0-compatible 3D graphics accelerator boards that support programmable hardware shaders, such as those from ATI and Nvidia.

    RT/shader: Ginza will be available later this year. Pricing has not yet been announced. RT/shader 1.0 is available now from RTzen for US$1,995.00 and can also be purchased from Turbo Squid at www.turbosquid.com. Customers purchasing version 1.0 can upgrade to Ginza for no additional cost.



    wondertouch Announces particleIllusion for After Effects

    At Siggraph 2004, wondertouch, a developer of particle-effects tools, demonstrated beta technology of its particleIllusion 3.0 plug-in for Adobe After Effects. The particleIllusion plug-in will provide access to the particleIllusion 3.0 software engine from directly within After Effects. The software is scheduled for release early in the fourth quarter of 2004.

    particleIllusion is a standalone, sprite-based particle effects application designed to add particle effects to image, animation, and video footage. It features a growing collection of over 1,100 preset effects such as smoke, fire, explosions, water effects, sparkles, and artistic effects. With OpenGL hardware acceleration, particleIllusion provides real-time (or near real-time) previews of most effects and fast rendering of final output.



    Avid Cuts Softimage Prices

    Avid Technology, Inc. announced at Siggraph new pricing for its Softimage|XSI product line. Pricing for Softimage|XSI v.4.0 software is now available in the following three scalable configurations:

    * Foundation for $495 USMSRP - Designed for individual 3D users, this version includes polygon-modeling tools, subdivision surfaces, and the nonlinear animation and interactive rendering toolset. The software is currently available from the Softimage Website (www.softimage.com/store) or from authorized Softimage resellers. A 30-day trial version of Softimage|XSI v.4.0 Foundation is also available at: http://www.softimage.com .

    * Essentials for $1,995 USMSRP - a customizable package with an integrated pipeline environment, including rigid & soft body dynamics, character-rig systems and SDK, and the custom display host. Currently available from authorized Softimage resellers.

    * Advanced for $6,995 USMSRP - the premier VFX package, featuring customization features and flexibility. Feature set includes compositing; resolution-independent paint, hair, and fur; Syflex cloth; and rendering. Also currently available from authorized Softimage resellers.

    For a limited time, all new purchases of Softimage|XSI v.4.0 will also ship with the Softimage Production Series, a suite of professional training DVDs providing nearly 50 hours of materials.

    Also, Avid says customers working on complex CG productions - including games, films, simulation, broadcast, and postproduction projects - can experience workflow advantages by building an end-to-end Avid Computer Graphics production pipeline around Softimage|XSI software. The environment can be customized with a combination of product offerings to meet a wide range of budgetary and content creation needs, and can include systems such as Alienbrain Studio software for digital asset management and Avid DS Nitris systems for film and video editing, compositing, and finishing. Customers using this type of end-to-end CG production environment can:


    Sensable Shows Haptics Plug-ins for 3ds max, Rhinoceros

    At Siggraph 2004, SensAble Technologies, Inc. previewed new technology demonstrations of haptics plug-ins for Discreet 3ds max 6 and Rhino 3.0 from Robert McNeel & Associates. The demonstrations leveraged SensAble core technologies including the new OpenHaptics toolkit, the Phantom Omni haptic device, and voxel modeling.

    For additional information about the 3ds max and Rhino prototype haptics plug-ins, or for more information about adding haptics to plug-ins and applications using the Phantom Omni Developer Kit with OpenHaptics toolkit, contact info@sensable.com or +1-781-937-8315.



    Oregon3D Offers Intro Course on Urban Simulation

    Oregon3D Inc., The Academy for Digital Arts & Sciences, will offer an Intro to Urban Simulation course. Scheduled for Sept. 14, 2004, the $195 one-day course offers an introduction to the field of urban simulation and is aimed at students seeking a general overview for projects in entertainment, business and government.

    Urban Simulation is used for special effects, game development, architectural fly-throughs, virtual sets, city and transportation planning, and homeland defense. Utilizing Oregon3D's Viz Room One visualization center, the course will include real-world examples of the technology and familiarize students with the tools and methods used in urban simulation.

    The course will cover theory and methodology pertaining to urban simulation including imagery sources and manipulation, terrain models, coordinate systems, GIS vs. simulation, texture mapping, scenegraph optimization, Level of Detail (LOD), hardware for urban simulation, and displays for urban simulation. Students will be exposed to a variety of software, data and display technologies, including VRML, Autocad, ESRI, Multigen, 3ds max, Global Mapper, Photoshop/Gimp, Mok 3, Open EV, and OpenSceneGraph. This course also includes a two-day pass for Oregon3D's Lab program, which will allow students to spend extra time working individually on projects and tools.




    Sony Announces Hot Shots Golf Fore!

    New from Sony Computer Entertainment America is Hot Shots Golf FORE! for PlayStation2. Developed by Clap Hanz in conjunction with SCEA Santa Monica Studios, Hot Shots Golf FORE! returns as the fourth installment in the franchise with online gameplay via the Network Adaptor that lets players to share the course with thousands of others in head-to-head play and real-time tournaments, as well as providing an offline mode for up to four players.

    The game includes new graphics and golf physics plus more golfers and caddies--34 in all featuring new off-the-wall characters, returning favorites and popular PlayStation 2 characters including Jak, Daxter, Ratchet and Clank. During gameplay, players can enjoy a variety of 15 different courses, ranging from challenging 18-hole layouts to demanding par three executive courses. Miniature golf also returns to the franchise, adding more variety to the gameplay.

    Hot Shots Golf FORE! features touch-sensitive controls that demand careful consideration to golf's many variables, such as wind, ball lie and course elevation. In addition, players can test their golf skills in several different modes including Tour, Tournament, Versus (VS) Mode, Training, and online play. "Hot Shots Points" is also back where players redeem points to unlock more prizes than before including advanced golf equipment, new courses, characters, and tons of wacky golf gadgets.

    Online features include tournaments, message boards, and universal rankings.



    GarageGames Updates Dark Horizons: Lore

    Just out from GarageGames is an update release of Dark Horizons: Lore from MaxGaming Technologies, LLC. featuring new and enhanced interfaces, weapons, sound, maps and unlimited play demo on Windows and Mac.

    Dark Horizons: Lore is a persistent player, first-person action game, in a near-future Earth setting where factions fight for control of North America using remotely piloted Mechanized Assault Vehicles (MAVs). The faction wars are driven by player stats as they fight for control of objectives scattered throughout North America. Stats and player management can be viewed online and in-game. The game is built on a distributed server model that allows players to play online for free while offering the immersive qualities of subscription-based games.

    Key features of the updated release include:

    A free feature-limited trial version is available for download for both Mac OS X and Windows (Linux version coming soon) at http://www.garagegames.com/lore . The online retail version is currently available for $24.95.



    Havok Names Yates Director of Product Management

    Havok, a developer of middleware physics tools and technologies for the gaming and film industries, announced an expansion to its management team in the United States, naming Jeff Yates as director of product management. Yates will drive the implementation of worldwide product strategies and manage launches of Havok's new middleware products and technologies.

    Yates brings to Havok over 15 years experience developing commercial software solutions for creators of interactive 3D content in games and movies. Yates most recently served as engineering director for Discreet, a division of Autodesk, Inc. During his seven years at Autodesk, Yates helped direct development of 3ds max and character studio, content creation solutions for the games and movie special-effects industries. He also logged over eight years directing engineering, customer relationships, and product strategies at Alias|Wavefront and Electronic Arts. Yates's focus and formal education are in software and mechanical engineering.




    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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