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Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

6 December 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
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Today's Headlines (details below)

DEVELOPER'S TOOLBOX
--Virtools Releases Service Pack 2
--GarageGames Announces Strategic Starter Kit on Mac OSX and Linux

GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING
--SensAble Updates Modeling Software
--Alias Ships MotionBuilder 6
--Avid Announces Softimage|XSI 4.2
--Discreet Introduces Cloth Extension for Subscribers
--Digimation Announces 3December Sales
--Turbo Squid Announces Forum for Mobile Game Developers

THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
--O'Reilly Releases "Flash Out of the Box"
--Kelseus Changes Name to Antics Technologies

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
--Nyko Ships Wireless Controllers for Gamecube, Xbox

NUMBEROLOGY
--Report Cites New Personnel as Largest Studio Cost Allocation Category
--Mobile Multimedia User Count Exceeds 100 Million

HAPPENINGS --Registration Opens for 2005 O'Reilly Emerging Tech Conference

F.Y.I.
--About Spectrum

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DEVELOPER'S TOOLBOX

Virtools Releases Service Pack 2

Virtools, a provider of 3D interactive-media authoring tools, has released Virtools Software Suite SP2. Originally released last February, the Virtools Software Suite 3.0 is designed for creating interactive 3D content, primarily for virtual reality/simulations, video games and marketing/multimedia applications.

The suite comprises Virtools Dev 3.0, the flagship development platform, and add-on packs Virtools Physics Pack, Virtools AI Pack, Virtools Server, Virtools VR Pack, Virtools Xbox Kit and, coming soon, Virtools OpenCAD.

In addition to providing bug fixes, Service Pack 2 offers new features:
* evolution of rendering capabilities via support for Shader Model 3.0 and compatibility with DirectX 9.0c
* improvements to the interface and optimizations to production processes including: new keyboard shortcuts, user-definable parameter color-coding, new contextual menu items, and new texture and material setup capabilities.

For SP2's full feature list: http://www.virtools.com/support/30_80_Patchbugfix.html

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GarageGames Announces Strategic Starter Kit on Mac OSX and Linux

New from GarageGames is its RTS Starter Kit for game developers using the Torque Game Engine (TGE) on OS X, Linux and Windows platforms.

The kit's goal is to provide foundational technology and modifications to the Torque Game Engine to make it easier for independent developers to produce their own strategy games. GarageGames says the starter kit isn't just limited to RTS games, though. A top-down RPG, similar to Dungeon Siege or Baldur's Gate, could greatly benefit from the selection and camera features, as well as the built-in, efficient multi-player support.

The TGE currently ships with a FPS Starter Kit and a Racing Starter Kit. The RTS Starter Kit expands the capabilities of the TGE by adding customized features specifically focused for strategy-style games.
* Customized Camera System - The new camera system provides “god-view”-style behavior and lets players control the position, zoom, and pitch of the camera.
* Specialized RTS-Unit Class - The specialized RTS-Unit class have an optimized networking scheme for efficient managing of large numbers of units. The RTS-Unit's simplified physics help make it easier to process large numbers of units.
* Specialized RTS-Building Class - Players can place DTS buildings in real-time, complete with build, idle and destruction animations. The RTS-Building's simple script interface allows buildings to receive commands, and scripted behavior can easily be hooked-in.
* Unit Selection System - The RTS Starter Kit ships with an example selection system in place. Combined with some group management optimizations, the RTS Starter Kit lets players click- or drag-select units, group them, bind groups to hotkeys, and rapidly issue commands.
* Multiplayer Lobby System - A simple multiplayer Lobby is included, defining a customizable system to allow players to gather, chat, and prepare before their game, like in most RTS games.
* Documentation - GarageGames is becoming known for its voluminous documentation and the RTS Starter Kit continues this tradition.

The RTS Starter Kit requires ownership of the TGE and can be purchased from GarageGames for $49.95 with support for Mac OS X, Linux and Windows. http://www.garagegames.com/RTS

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GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING

SensAble Updates Modeling Software

Coming this month from SensAble Technologies is version 8.0 of its FreeForm Modeling Plus software. The system is a 3D touch-enabled Computer Aided Sculpting (CAS) system that allows users to produce highly detailed organic models. The version 8.0 software includes new multi-representational geometry technology (MGT), which combines multiple geometry types in an integrated environment and provides expanded CAD interoperability with native Parasolid, IGES, and STEP file formats. With MGT, users can add surface texture and organic details to imported NURBS models. The version 8.0 software allows users to choose the best geometry for specific tasks within the job.

The version 8.0 software combines voxel modeling with imported NURBS models. Users can import solid models directly from design packages such as SolidWorks, then voxelize specific regions to add blends and details while preserving the integrity of the original NURBS model. When finished, users can surface the voxelized areas within the system or export the model and surface in other surfacing tools. Alternatively, the combined model can be sent for Rapid Prototyping or to CAM. Additionally, the system provides a model-to-mold workflow for organic models with complex parting lines and import/export of industry-standard 2D and 3D file formats that make it complementary to existing CAD/CAID/CAM design and manufacturing tools.

The FreeForm Modeling Plus v8.0 software utilizes the industry-standard Parasolid geometry modeling component software from UGS. Native Parasolid XT, IGES, and STEP import and export capability along with new surfacing features to speed up the export of NURBS surfaces and solid models improve interoperability with both upstream and downstream applications and help shorten the product development cycle.

http://www.sensable.com

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Alias Ships MotionBuilder 6

Newly available from Toronto, Ontario-based Alias is MotionBuilder 6, its recently acquired 3D character-animation software. Features include an advanced Story Timeline and enhanced keyframing, intelligent character technology (such as auto-rigging with Human IK) and precision-animation tools. The software includes motion-editing, motion-layering, and storytelling tools.

http://www.alias.com

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Avid Announces Softimage|XSI 4.2

Avid Technology, Inc. recently announced version 4.2 of Softimage|XSI software, offering enhancements for artists working on CG productions including games, films, broadcast, and postproduction projects. Features such as crowd simulation, compositing, and paint capabilities, are now included with different versions of the software.

XSI Essentials now comes with the resolution-independent professional compositing and paint features, previously only included in the XSI Advanced package. In addition, XSI Advanced is now bundled with version 2.0 of Softimage|Behavior, the company's behavioral crowd simulation software, which offers integration with Softimage|XSI software and mental ray rendering as well as an integrated development environment (IDE) with debugging functionalities. Users can now build CG crowd scenes with Softimage|Behavior software and independently control any of the characters created in Softimage|XSI software as part of a crowd consisting of more than 100,000 characters. Other highlights include terrain following, obstacle avoidance, dynamic path-planning, automatic motion blending, character rag doll and stunt force creation.

For game developers, XSI 4.2 features normal map generation as well as new film and broadcast enhancements that streamline the workflow between editing and compositing tools. These enhancements include support for industry-standard file formats such as 10-bit and HD Material Exchange Format (MXF), which facilitate metadata and media exchange between products, and OpenEXR, the open-source extended dynamic range image file format developed by Industrial Light & Magic. Enhancements to XSI Foundation include a new Linux version and increased rendering capabilities.

http://www.avid.com/

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Discreet Introduces Cloth Extension for Subscribers

Discreet says its 3ds max 7 software subscription members will receive their first extension of this release cycle. Called Cloth Extension, the 3D modeling addition delivers a cloth simulation system that lets artists to build clothing for 3D characters in film, television, advertising and games projects. Artists can turn modeled geometry into cloth, or design and import clothing patterns for the design of garments for characters.

While the Cloth Extension, based on Size8 Software's ClothFX plug-in, is still available separately for US $595 from the Discreet Certified 3ds max Plug-in Program (DCP) through Turbo Squid, the Discreet Online Store, or via Discreet resellers, the cloth-creation technology will now be integrated directly into 3ds max 7 software and will be delivered in January as part of the Discreet subscription program.

Cloth extension features:

http://www.discreet.com/subscription/

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Digimation Announces 3December Sales

Concurrent with Alias's 3December Celebration (www.3december.com), Digimation is running a sale on select Maya products. The sale will run for the month of December. Some of the products be on sale include:

* Hypermatter $550 (normally $695)- real-time dynamics and soft bodies for Maya
* MEL Studio Pro $100 (normally $125). development environment for Maya users to create MEL scripts with. Supports loading multiple files, color coding, and automatic code completion.
* BlastCode Kiloton $235 (normally $295). A simplified version of BlastCode Megaton for creating fracturing and explosive effects.
* BlastCode Megaton $1195 (normally $1495). Create dynamic demolition effects, with support for fracturing, debris, and complex simulations.
* Digimation Model Bank Collection for Maya $795 (normally $995) - over 4500 fully textured models in Maya format.
* FaceStation 2 for Maya $1595 (normally $1995) - software for facial motion capture and animation

http://www.digimation.com/software/asp/3december.asp

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Turbo Squid Announces Forum for Mobile Game Developers

Turbo Squid last week launched a new discussion forum for mobile game developers. The Mobile Developer's Forum, or MDF, was designed primarily for developers creating 3D content for Java M3G (JSR 184). The MDF was created with support from graphics technology developer Hybrid Graphics, whose M3G implementation is used in Discreet's 3ds max 7 software to aid in mobile content creation.

The MDF is intended to aid mobile content developers by providing a forum to discuss and find solutions to technical issues, to bring developers together, and to help artists and other content creators distribute their work.

Several M3G experts from the industry, including engineers from Hybrid Graphics, have agreed to support the forums by answering technical questions and taking part in the discussion.

As the MDF evolves, mobile ready 3D content from Turbo Squid's partner artists will be added.

The MDF is being moderated by professionals from Hybrid Graphics and other mobile content experts. The MDF is also a distribution channel for products developed in conjunction with Turbo Squid partners Face2Face and Versaly, as well as the partner artists who currently sell their 3D products at Turbo Squid.

http://www.turbosquid.com/mdf/

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THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER

O'Reilly Releases "Flash Out of the Box"

"I've read a lot of Flash books," says Robert Hoekman, Jr., "and one thing I've noticed is that they tend to offer instruction out of context. A typical book will cover each major piece of Flash in one chapter instead of integrating the subjects to create a more effective learning experience." In his new "Flash Out of the Box" (O'Reilly, US $29.95), Hoekman reportedly delivers a user-centric introduction to Flash MX 2004.

"It occurred to me one day," says Hoekman, "that everything that can be done with Flash can be done inside of a single shape: a box. The 'Out of the Box' concept is intended to inspire the reader to think outside the proverbial box by first studying what comes inside of it." In "Flash Out of the Box," Hoekman has his readers dive straight into the Flash box so they quickly become intimately acquainted with every nook and cranny of it.

"This is not another how-to book; it's a when, why, and how book," says Hoekman. He admits that Flash MX 2004 comes with a higher learning curve than any previous version, which is to be expected when technologies develop and evolve.

"Flash Out of the Box" covers different projects possible with Flash and includes tools such as trial software to create and publish Flash content for the Web, for handhelds, and for CD-ROM. New users will learn the basics while more experienced programmers and developers (ActionScript or otherwise) will master the design aspects of Flash. Readers can learn to animate, work with video, load external assets, draw, mask, modularize, and many other essential Flash techniques.

Chapter 3, "Your First Animation," is available online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/flashbox/chapter/index.html

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Kelseus Changes Name to Antics Technologies

Cambridge, UK-based real-time 3D applications developer Kelseus recently changed its name to Antics Technologies Ltd.

Commenting on the change, sales & marketing veep Mark Burton said, ''We have developed a strong brand identity in Antics and are now corporately identified with it to the point where it makes little sense to continue with the Kelseus name.”

The first Antics-based product, Antics Pre-Viz for real-time pre-visualization, ships in January 2005.

Antics Technologies develops and markets software applications, based on its Antics technology, said to let users produce and communicate concepts, information and entertainment media faster and more easily than with traditional 3D tools.

Antics is a real-time, 3D animation software environment in which characters can intelligently navigate their surroundings and interact with props by following point-and-click instructions.

http://www.antics3d.com

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GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

Nyko Ships Wireless Controllers for Gamecube, Xbox

Nyko Technologies, a manufacturer of peripherals for video and computer games, has begun shipping its Wireless Air Flo controllers for GameCube and Xbox. The cable-free units provide gamers with a flow of air through the controller handgrips and feature a new variable-speed control for custom hand cooling.

The Wireless Air Flo controller promises lag-free gaming up to 50 feet from the dongle inserted into the console. Nyko's wireless technology includes a multi-channel design to accommodate up to eight players without interference. Error correction eliminates interference from household appliances and other sources of RF interference.

The Gamecube version features a Playstation-style button configuration and a D-pad with a detachable joystick for arcade-style and fighting games. Also included are automatic power save mode and four AA batteries.

http://www.nyko.com

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NUMBEROLOGY

Report Cites New Personnel as Largest Studio Cost Allocation Category

TrendWatch Inc., a market information company for the pro-video, visual effects, content creation, and graphics markets, recently announced the availability of its "Cost Allocation Report," a 50-page special report on how U.S. studios allocate costs when adding new capabilities to their operations. Based on original TrendWatch research conducted with a range of U.S. studios and facilities, the report includes data and analysis.

"Today's studios are facing difficult decisions on how they invest in talent, technology and physical facilities," says Jim Whittington, TrendWatch founding partner. "Given the importance that studios and their clients place on their capabilities and their people, understanding how costs are allocated for return on investment (ROI) is crucial for studios and the suppliers that sell to them."

TrendWatch says the cost allocation data contained in the report is some of the first syndicated research of its kind. Its writers and experts discuss industry cost allocation and present specific conclusions and recommendations for industry suppliers, educators, trainers, studio and facility owners and managers, and industry analysts. Some of the key findings in the report include:

Some of the cost allocation categories included in the report include: design/creation workstations; editing/compositing systems; hardware peripherals/video cards; internal network upgrades/storage; new software applications; new employees and freelancers; training; tech support and maintenance; physical facilities (furniture, space, etc.); software scripts and customization; and new software add-ons and plug-ins.

The TrendWatch "Cost Allocation Report" is available for USD $575. The report is published in electronic Adobe Acrobat PDF format, and is available in the TrendWatch eStore. For more information and details on this report's contents, key findings and excerpts, visit http://www.trendwatch.com/special.html .

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Mobile Multimedia User Count Exceeds 100 Million

In a new report, Telecommunications Management Group, Inc. (TMG) identifies the leading nations in mobile multimedia. Entitled "Superstars of the Mobile Internet," the publication provides the statistical basis to show which countries lead in using mobile handsets to download entertainment, exchange picture messages and access the Internet. The report compares often conflicting, exaggerated or vaguely defined mobile operator statistics with government surveys on mobile Internet use to arrive at its conclusions.

Japan and South Korea are neck and neck, leading the world in mobile multimedia use. The only other nation with double-digit penetration is France, part of a quartet of large European countries in the top ten (along with Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom). The tech-savvy Nordic nations are also present in the list, represented by Finland, Norway and Sweden. The only other Asian country in the top ten is Singapore, ranked number four.

Japan and South Korea accounted for over three quarters of all mobile multimedia users in 2000; by 2003, their share had declined to 57% of the 86 million mobile multimedia users around the world. TMG forecasts that the number of mobile multimedia users around the world will near 110 million in 2004.

Michael Minges, Senior Market Analyst at TMG notes "the launch of higher-speed mobile networks around the world is finally beginning to have an impact on mobile multimedia usage. Greater bandwidth coupled with a growing proportion of Internet-enabled handsets is leading to more compelling content and starting to increase demand for mobile multimedia."

TMG estimates that mobile multimedia and text messaging services generated US$45 billion in revenues for mobile operators in 2003.

For more information about the report, see http://reports.tmgtelecom.com/

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HAPPENINGS

Registration Opens for 2005 O'Reilly Emerging Tech Conference

Registration has just opened for the next O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, aka ETech, happening March 14-17, 2005 in San Diego, California. Because new applications, services, and devices are simultaneously converging and morphing as never before, ETech 2005 explores the culture of "Remix." Hackers and other innovators have embraced the do-it-yourself renaissance, tweaking here, integrating there, and creating new tools for the rest of us to use. These unexpected combinations--and the opportunities they present--are the driving force behind ETech.

The O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference doesn't just bring together new technologies--it's also is a place for invaluable human interaction, particularly for developers, IT decision-makers, lead users, engineers, and researchers of every stripe. Just a few of the intriguing people and projects coming to the conference include:

As in past years, ETech allows for exposure to new ideas and technologies through tutorials, plenary presentations, breakout sessions, an exhibit hall, and events.

http://conferences.oreilly.com/etech/

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F.Y.I.

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.

Send your interactive multimedia business, product, people, event, or technology news by email only to: spectrum1@broadviewnet.net.

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©Copyright 2004 Motion Blur Media. All rights reserved. No reproduction in any for-profit or revenue-generating venue in any form without written permission from the publisher.