6 December 1999
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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3D ANIMATION: TRAINING & CAREER OPPORTUNITIES!
3DMIRAGE provides 3D animation production, training and placement services. We conduct a unique, "real-world." project-based course for Broadcast, Multimedia, & Web design applications. COURSE CONTENTS: High-end Motion Graphics, Product Commercials, Virtual Sets, VRML and Special Effects. For more details and to register for a hands-on FREE CLASS, visit our web-site at www.3dmirage.com.
Shipping at the end of December from NetObjects, Inc. is NetObjects Fusion 5.0 ($300), the latest version of its software for building business Web sites.
New features and enhancements to NetObjects Fusion 5.0 include:
A new wizard-like online guide provides a variety of online services and support. Through an integrated browser, the guide helps the user plan, design, build, promote, and grow an e-business. Users can find solutions in each of the following sections of the Online guide:
Plan – Identify goals and build a site structure. Sign up for one year free hosting with NetObjects hosting powered by Concentric; users can use their own domain name. NetObjects estimates this to be a $290 value.
Design –Information on navigation strategies, color selections and choosing a styles. Download over 200 additional SiteStyles, or purchase WebSpice SiteStyles or Matrix Theme-Paks
Build – Add quality content and popular effects. Learn how to communicate with customers – add community interaction with WebBoard (download component/plugin), Poll customers with ClubPoll, ExpressPoll, or Pollit.com. Conduct site analysis with tools like HitBox or SiteReporter. Get free images and animated GIFs. Learn how to add drop-down menus.
Promote – Register site with search engines. Sign up for affiliate marketing programs, banner exchange programs
Grow – Add e-commerce and dynamic Web applications.
Customizable Navigation bars let users create easily navigable sites. Navigation bars can now include links to pages anywhere within a Web site or external Web locations, as well as email and file links.
The new Source tab in Page View lets the user view the HTML code generated by NetObjects Fusion so that they can add custom scripts or tags. Fusion makes it possible to add snippets of code or scripts anywhere—without losing the power of the visual drag-and-drop environment.
Improved StyleView gives the user greater control without having to write Cascading Style Sheets specifications. Users can create Cascading Style Sheets to guarantee consistent formatting of text throughout a web site, as easily as formatting with a word processor.
In Site view, the user can cut, copy, and paste pages and entire sections.
In Page view, users can preview the site inline and/or flip to integrated online browser.
Background publishing - users can work while FTPing, and clear out entire contents of server.
Also, coming next year from NetObjects is GoBizGo, a combined product/service designed to let small businesses build their sites with online-accessed applications, including Web site building, storefront building, e-commerce, promotion, and customer communications. We'll bring you more on this as it develops.
O'Reilly and Associates, Inc. is introducing an upgrade to WebBoard, its Windows discussion and chat server software. This incremental release extends WebBoard's message-management feature by giving users the option to mark messages as "read" on a conference-by-conference basis. It also incorporates bug fixes.
The WebBoard 4.1 upgrade is available online at http://Webboard.oreilly.com as a free download for registered WebBoard 4.0 users.
Digital Media Works is providing a Web site with free graphics editing and rendering tools to develop graphical elements for Web sites. The graphical elements available include buttons, logos, fonts, ad banners, and business cards.
Because the graphics are developed in a browser, the graphic is displayed exactly as it would appear when placed on a Web site. To view the output in different types of browsers, designers open Netscape and Microsoft browsers, develop the graphics in one and then update the other.
Digital Media Works also has developed a series of color tools that allow the user to rotate designs across a set of complementary colors. Thus, if the background in a given graphic is moved from a burnt orange to a burnt red, the other colors in the graphic are rotated across the color spectrum proportionally.
WildTangent, run by former Microsoft gaming evangelist Alex St. John, will release a beta version of its new platform for Windows game development during the Game Developers Conference. Plans for delivering the architecture to additional operating systems will also be unveiled.
"DirectX is getting a little gray around the temples. The Internet has changed everything about the way entertainment content should be authored, marketed, and delivered," states St. John. "Today it costs millions of dollars and years of development to create a blockbuster retail title -- that risk and development just isn't necessary. The barrier to entry for developers should be lower, and they should be able to know if they have a hit on their hands long before they've burned millions of dollars. Developers will be able to author games on an episodic basis, generate incremental revenue from online advertising, and when they've created a large enough body of content and fully refined the game play, drop it on a CD and ship it in retail. At the GDC next year, we're going to show them how it can be done for little games as well as the leading-edge titles."
"WildTangent's technology returns the game development community to the days when 1-2 talented people can produce leading edge titles on their own," comments Dean Martinetti, president of Rogue Studios, an independent game developer outside of New York City.
Developers interested in getting a head start on the next generation of game technology can download WildTangent's current product, the WildTangent Web driver, which allows Web developers to integrate 3D multimedia content into Web pages using standard scripting languages. The new game driver will be backwards-compatible for content developed with the Web driver.
The company says its current Web driver can be used to duplicate about 80% of today's multimedia titles for the Web in a fraction of the development effort ordinarily associated with creating game content. The game driver will be geared toward addressing the remaining 20%. As with the Web driver, use of the WildTangent SDK and distribution of content is free for small to mid-sized developers.
TEAC's new CD Duplicator (CD-D832S) will begin shipping early next year at MSRP $899. The new standalone 8X unit copies CDs independently of the computer via remote control or attaches to a computer (PC or Mac) for CD-Recordable applications.
The unit copies CDs at 1,200 Kb per second (8x) and reads at 4,800 KB per second (32X), freeing the computer system to perform its other tasks. It includes a remote control for standalone operation and an Adaptec PCI Bus Master SCSI card with SCSI Interface and power cables for installation. It also comes with a software suite that includes Adaptec CD Creator, Adaptec Direct CD, Take Two backup software for Windows and Adaptec Toast software for the Macintosh.
NovaWiz, Inc., developer of Odigo, a "next-generation" Web surfing, chat and messaging tool, last week released version 0.99, with three new features: "group chat," "contact history," and "recent contacts."
Among the more intriguing functions is the ability for users to initiate a private chat on any Website, in response to a visitor viewing that page. The latest improvement enables users to initiate a "multi-user chat" session, i.e., among multiple visitors, in the same way. Version 0.99 also includes a "history" function, which provides the user with their messaging history, including chats they've initiated, URLs sent, file transfers, and names they've added to their "friends" list. In addition, users can now recall their 20 most recent contacts, easing the ability to re-establish a previous dialogue.
These enhancements follow the recent addition to Odigo of "Homepager," which monitors a user's home page (or any other Web page they specify). When a surfer visits that page, Odigo signals them with a small "ping," much like a doorbell. The user can then send the visitor an instant message, initiate a chat right on the page, or ask to send them an e-mail. Or, the user can simply monitor the page, to see who comes and goes.
Odigo is a free Internet search and communications tool which combines real-time information, dynamic graphics and a search technique based on users' real-time interests. It merges instant messaging, chat-on-page and temporary Web-page note-posting tools.
Coming in mid-December from graphics studio and publisher Marlin Studios is "Seamless Textures5 - Downtown Surfaces & Signs" CD-ROM, by artist Geoff Holman. The royalty-free library features 495 textures, most of which are seamless and tileable, and many of which are clip maps with alpha channel map transparency defined. The CD-ROM also features a detailed 3D model of a city block with numerous buildings, normally $595 from Viewpoint, and a collection of 164 "Great Outdoors" color photos for use as backgrounds or artistic reference.
Textures and matching bump maps come in three sizes: Large (1600x1200 max.), Medium (66% of Large), Small (33% of Large). The Sign Textures come in two sizes: Large (800x800 max) and Small (33% of Large). The photos are presented as 1280x1040 images. The texture library is subdivided into 28 downtown surfaces and 6 signs categories, which include skyscraper walls, general building walls, rooftops, railways, roads, traffic and parking signs, street lights, traffic lights and parking lots. Also included are printable color index pages, depicting thumbnails of all textures and photos. The textures are presented in either high-quality JPG files - which provide minimal compression and non-discernable artifacting - and 32-bit Targa files with alpha channel transparency defined and no "haloing."
Newly available from LIPSinc. Is Ventriloquist for 3D Studio MAX R3.0, software that automates the process of synchronizing correct mouth movements to dialogue for animated characters. The product is priced at $595 with a 30-percent discount through December 31, 1999. Future offerings are planned for Maya, SoftImage, LightWave 3D and other leading animation packages.
Ventriloquist for MAX relies on LIPSinc.'s voice-analysis system called voiceDSP, which uses voice digital signal processing technology. The software analyzes speech and automatically outputs the precise corresponding mouth, jaw and lip-position data in three dimensions. Output data is generated as a stream of precise morph targets said to recreate lip-synched animation.
MetaCreations Corporation recently released KPT 6, the newest version of its series of Adobe Photoshop-compatible plug-ins for Wintel and Mac. The $200 product features eight plug-ins and two bonus filters.
The eight featured plug-ins in KPT 6 share a consistent interface with standardized workflow and control behavior provided via numerical controls; large previews; real-time performance; preset libraries; and effect reproducibility.
Plug-ins featured in KPT 6:
Also included are two bonus filters, KPT SceneBuilder and KPT SkyEffects (formerly known as RAYflect Photo Tracer and RAYflect Four Seasons).
Credo Interactive, a specialist in character motion, last week announced Active Avatars, a scaleable avatar solution for Active Worlds builders. Active Avatars reportedly enhance the experience of real-world motion in virtual space. Actions supplied with the avatars include: sit, spin, flip, cheer, shrug and more. The collection is available in a variety of file formats that range from simple drag-and-drop to fully editable solutions.
Active Avatars pricing starts at $99, and includes all 12 models in the collection.
Available: January 2000.
Thanks to CNET Shareware.com Dispatch, an excellent resource, for hipping us to this product: Newly available, gratis, from Madrid, Spain-based Eptron Multimedia is SoftFace 3D Lite. The program inputs two photographs, from slightly different angles, of a face, and outputs a 3D model of the face with an aligned texture. The catch? It saves only in its own proprietary format. For VRML output, you gotta buy the Pro version, which the company says is coming soon.
Features of both versions include:
FAMOUSfaces 1.5 for Microsoft Windows NT is currently shipping and priced at $4,990 (US) from developer Famous Technologies.
New features include:
Puffin Designs Knoll Light Factory AVX for light effects is now available as a plug-in set for Avid. Knoll Light Factory AVX is based on Knoll Lens Flare Pro, an application developed by John Knoll, co-creator of Adobe Photoshop and visual effects supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic.
The package includes individual lens components to create custom lens flares and light effects. Based on the Lens Primitives in Knoll Lens Flare Pro, these filters include elements modeled on professional camera lenses and various light sources. Knoll Light Factory AVX also includes an EZ filter for choosing from 39 pre-built effects for anything from headlights to glowing rocket engines, photon torpedoes, and many more.
Knoll Light Factory AVX for Avid is available for a MSRP of $695.00.
Order Knoll Light Factory by visiting www.puffindesigns.com or calling (800) 401-0009.
Sydney, Australia-based Step Ahead Software announces AnFX 3 for creating interactive content for the Web and CD-ROM. Designers use the point-and-click AnFX design studio on Windows 95/98/NT/2000 to combine text, images, sounds and mouse events with special effects such as motion, shrinking, expanding, fading and jitter to create rich media.
The AnFX player is a 20K Java applet that provides platform-independent, interactive media.
LuraTech last week released LuraWave SmartCompress, a free PC version of LuraTech's wavelet-based image-compression software. It can reportedly compress images to less than 0.5% of their original size.
Users can import common image formats such as JPEG, TIFF, BMP, PPM, and PGM and save as LuraWave's compression format LWF. To view LWF files, individuals need to have LuraWave software or download a free browser plug-in.
Newly available from MultiGen-Paradigm is a free, unlicensed Vega viewer for Microsoft Windows NT OpenGL-compliant and SGI IRIX systems. The NT version views OpenFlight, FST and VRML file formats, while the Vega Player for IRIX reads all files for which there is an IRIS Performer loader. Users will be able to fly through real-time, 3D databases.
MathEngine PLC, a provider of natural behavior software, which allows complex, physics-based interactive simulation, has joined in a technology and software licensing agreement with Atlus Co., Ltd. of Japan, which will use MathEngine’s “virtual human” biomechanics technology and engineering support for the development of their new Sony PlayStation 2 game.
Atlus will use MathEngine’s real-time constraint-solving technology from their dynamic Interactive Virtual Human technology to create realistic 3D environments for the game, which is still veiled in confidentiality. The Interactive Human Technology lets developers simulate human motion using rigid-body dynamic physics to model the joints and constraints of the human skeleton. This technology reportedly replaces standard animations and provides an infinite variety of non-scripted interactions. This is the first application of Interactive Virtual Human technology in a game.
The game will be released in Japan in March 2000 with the PlayStation 2.
Imagine Products, manufacturer of Image Mine asset-management software and The Executive Producer video-logging software, has been awarded a United States patent for its method and apparatus for detecting scene changes in a digital video stream.
The patent applies to Auto Capture Technology invented by Imagine Products to detect scene changes in a digital video stream. The technique is hardware independent and analyzes digital streams from any source displayed by the computer.
Developed in 1996, this component of image ingestion for media-management software is an integral part of Image Mine asset management software and The Executive Producer video logging software. The US Patent office issued a notice on September 16, 1999 that a patent would be granted shortly.
Image Mine is a turnkey modular image storage and retrieval system for Windows. The software has four modules, including ImageLog, for cataloguing video, and ImageLibrary, a relational database engine. ImageBrowse provides share, search and print capabilities across a LAN, and ImageTrack allows for physical tracking, inventory and labeling of tapes and other media assets.
Cahners In-Stat Group reports that DSL rollout is occurring faster than expected. Of the roughly 4,850 ISPs in the U.S. in 1999, approximately 31 percent claim to offer DSL. The market research firm expects that at the close of 1999, ISPs will have deployed 1.35 million unique, revenue-generating xDSL lines.
Cahners sees wireless data service potential in the following key markets:
The report, The High-Speed Stampede: U.S. ISPs Roll Out xDSL Service Faster than Expected, #IS9907SP, reports on the myriad aspects of ISP xDSL deployment, including number of unique lines deployed, ISP deployment budgets, ISP preferences for carriers and equipment suppliers, and various metrics for ISP DSLAMs
For more information on this service or to purchase a report, call 617.630.2139, or visit http://www.instat.com/catalog/cat-ia.htm#is9907sp to purchase online.
Electronic Arts last week announced the acquisition of Kesmai Corporation, a developer and publisher of multiplayer online entertainment. The Charlottesville, Virginia-based Kesmai Corporation is a unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Under the agreement, Kesmai will become a wholly owned subsidiary of EA.com, Electronic Arts' newly created Internet division. In addition, EA and Newscorp have concluded a nonexclusive distribution agreement for Fox interactive online games through the EA.com network. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approval. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
The Kesmai Corporation specializes in the design and development of multiplayer games delivered directly to consumers over the Internet and is a major provider of game content to the Games Channel on the America Online service. Kesmai also provides game content to various other online communities including Excite, EarthLink, GolfWeb, Fox World and Fujitsu.
Kesmai Studios launched the world's first graphic multiplayer online game, Air Warrior. Other titles from Kesmai include Aliens Online, Starship Troopers, and Multiplayer Battletech.
Other recent Internet content deals by EA were the acquisition of Carlsbad, Calif.-based PlayNation in September and a minority investment in New York-based Bottle Rocket, announced in October.
Activision recently shipped Interstate '82, the sequel to the combat-action game, Interstate '76. The title takes gamers on a rampage across America in the 1980s, complete with armed exotic sports cars, vivid 3D environments and a soundtrack featuring unreleased Devo songs.
In Interstate '82, players set out to unravel a conspiracy that brings together the Oval Office, Central American revolutionaries and would-be presidential assassins. Multi-player gameplay pits players against each other in cars and on foot as they fight through environments such as mines, sewer tunnels, a shopping mall and a unique depiction of Las Vegas.
Gamers throttle heavily armed '80s vehicles from exotic sports cars to American clunkers as they seek out and destroy the evil forces lurking at a super secret military base, Area 49. The title features more than 30 missions in 20 levels.
Expected for PlayStation in spring 2000, LucasArts' action-arcade title Star Wars: Episode I Jedi Power Battles presents an escalating series of one- and two-player clashes between lightsaber and Force-wielding Jedi Knights and an onslaught of menacing opponents from the Sith and Trade Federation.
Players choose from among five Jedi characters, and are immersed into a relentless barrage of clashes with the Sith and Trade Federation's most powerful droids, mercenaries and assassins, and ultimately, the dreaded Darth Maul. As they progress through the game's ten levels, players are challenged to learn a variety of fighting moves to help them face off against each level's boss. As players hone their skills, the game's points-based reward system and power-ups will allow them to unlock new moves, strengthen Force powers and enhance health.
Activision's new action/adventure odyssey, Star Trek: Hidden Evil, takes place nine months after the full-length feature film Star Trek: Insurrection. Story-driven missions involve combat, stealth and exploration. Players use Starfleet equipment such as phasers, communicators and tricorders to foil a Romulan plot and protect the Ba'ku planet. Viewed from a third-person perspective, players battle their way through dangerous situations using weapons and, for the first time ever, the Vulcan Nerve Pinch to gain the upper hand. Following orders from Captain Picard and data, players carry a Tricorder that displays a mission log to reveal tasks at hand. Clear goals and clues guide players' movements, and rewards await their success.
Origin Systems and parent company Electronic Arts announce the release of Ultima IX: Ascension. Created by Ultima guru Richard Garriott, Ultima IX is the ninth and final chapter in the 20-year legacy of the Ultima series.
The game's 3D fantasy environment includes over 5,000 objects to manipulate, real-life physics, day/night cycles and weather effects. Players will take on the starring role in a cast of more than 200 characters, all with full speech and a script that would be the equivalent of an 18-hour movie.
Like previous Ultima products, Ascension features the Ultima Code of Virtues. The Virtues (Honesty, Compassion, Valor, Justice, Sacrifice, Honor, Spirituality and Humility) are what true role-playing is all about, where advancement is based on your decisions and actions to uphold the Virtues, not your ability to hack and slash.
In Ultima IX, you play the role of the Avatar, the ultimate hero who must free Britannia from the ultimate evil antagonist, The Guardian, who is the embodiment of the anti-virtues. He has the power to drain all magic from Britannia and literally tear the land apart with eight massive columns that are growing out from dungeons, slowly churning the land and leaving a wake of destruction and chaos.
This epic saga features integrated combat, adventure and puzzle solving. There are more than 60 unique creatures and monsters you'll encounter while exploring Britannia's vast lands, cities and dungeons. Players also will have the ability to conjure 45 spells using circles of magic, alchemy and rituals.
Interplay Entertainment Corp. is hosting the 70 MB downloadable demo of the upcoming 3D action shooter Messiah at www.interplay.com. The game, developed by Shiny Entertainment, is scheduled to release this month.
Messiah lets the player possess and control over 30 different characters with the freedom to choose a stealth-like or violent path through the game. Each host body feels different due to form, abilities, weaknesses and maneuverability. The action is set across 15 levels with high-tech areas for exploration and combat. Players will also have the opportunity to enjoy a myriad of puzzles such as possessing the weaker rat characters in order to get access to stronger characters like the behemoth.
The demo of the game features one complete level of the game and allows players to cause havoc with five primary weapons and two secondary weapons. Gamers can try their hand at possessing 10 of the player characters from the game in the demo. The game requires 3D hardware acceleration and is optimized for VooDoo and TNT graphics cards.
Konami of America last week released Vandal-Hearts II for PlayStation, a sequel to the role-playing game (RPG) adventure Vandal-Hearts. Gamers are transported back in time when a world of mysticism, magic and religion enticed powerful gods and corrupt warlords to unlock the secret of Vandal-Hearts.
The game involves six classes of powers -- Fire, Ice, Thunder, Wind, Holy and Darkness. The natural relationships between the opposing powers create a foundation of rules in the game that effect character relationships, weapons, skills and body armor.
Gamers can choose from more than 120 different weapons and armor. Each weapon contains skills and magic unique only to that weapon and as each character gains more experience, the power of each weapon grows stronger and continues to build strength throughout the game. Weapon types include sword, shield, special, bow, dagger, lance, throw, wand and axe.
Vandal-Hearts II utilizes a special resource-management system, where each player's choice in weapons and armor determines the character's power, vulnerability and level class. The game's "Dual Turn System" allows free simultaneous movement of controlled characters and enemies during combat, enhancing the real-time strategy experience. Featuring more than 50 maps, adjustable vantage-point camera angles and special positioning, gamers can employ strategy and tactics to conquer their enemies. The title also features new geography -- twice the size of the original Vandal-Hearts world -- and multiple endings.
Loki Entertainment Software has signed an agreement with id Software to publish, package and distribute worldwide Quake III Arena for Linux. Through this agreement, Loki will publish the title for Linux on December 27, near-simultaneously with the Windows and Macintosh versions.
Quake III Arena, developed by id Software, is the third installment of one of the most popular computer game franchises of all time. Organic caverns, gothic cathedrals and futuristic spacescapes play host to Quake III Arena's blend of action, strategy and jaw-dropping technology as Linux gamers square off against 32 of history's greatest warriors. The game is built around a new graphics engine capable of curved surfaces and volumetric fog.
Shanghai: Second Dynasty, billed as the largest collection of Mah-Jongg games ever assembled, lets players match tiles and test their strategy against the clock or up to four other opponents. The game showcases 19 themed title sets such as Tarot, monsters, India and pets. Additionally, players can import custom tile sets. Tile animations and audio segments reward players for finding matches.
Game variants include:
Additionally, players can play Mah-Jongg - the traditional, centuries-old Chinese game - in the American, Western, Japanese or Chinese style. Mah-Jongg's play pattern is similar to rummy, challenging players to make a pair and four groupings of either three-of-a-kind or sequences.
Discreet, a division of Autodesk, Inc., last week announced that it has shipped more than 100,000 copies of 3D Studio MAX software. Unveiled by Autodesk's multimedia division in March 1996, 3D Studio MAX was the industry's first 3D modeling and animation software designed specifically for the Microsoft Windows NT operating system. Since then, the software has been used to create special effects for films and broadcast, and has established itself as the No. 1 choice among PC-based game developers. Currently, 3D Studio MAX has been shipped to a total of 116,000 users.
Films that have used content created with 3D Studio MAX software include South Park, City of Angels, Godzilla, Lost in Space, Anaconda, Contact, The Ghost and the Darkness, James and the Giant Peach, Deep Rising, The Craft, and The Sweet Hereafter.
TV series, miniseries, and special events include "King of the Hill," "The Simpsons," "Ally McBeal," "Storm of the Century," "Pandora's Clock," "The Visitor," "The Outer Limits," "The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest," "Van-Pires," and 1998 Winter Olympics event simulations. Television production and postproduction houses have also used 3D Studio MAX to create broadcast designs for networks and television events including the 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics, and on-air graphics for leading cable networks including Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel, MSNBC, and Cartoon Network, as well as hit WWF Wrestling productions. The 3D software is also used studios that produce television ads for national and global advertisers, including Tonka, IBM, E! Television, NFL on Fox, Coca-Cola, Honeycombs Cereal, Discover Card, Montgomery Ward, Cadillac, Pontiac, and Molson Canadian.
Game developers have used 3D Studio MAX software, along with the Character Studio 3D character-animation plug-in, to develop such titles as Tomb Raider I, II, and III, The New Superman Adventures, Madden NFL, Need for Speed, Jet Moto III, NCAA Final Four 99, COOL BOARDERS BURRRN, Ray Man, FRAME GRIDE, and Metal Gear Solid.
According to retail sales figures from PC Data Inc., Microsoft was the No. 1 PC games publisher on dollars in the United States for the first week of November. The company's rise to the top is fueled by strong licensed sales of "Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings," "Asheron's Call" and two versions of "Flight Simulator 2000", all of which are among the top 10 best-selling PC game titles in terms of dollar sales for the first week of November. In addition to being the only games publisher with four titles among the top 10, for the first week of November Microsoft also claims the best-selling retail golf and football titles on units for the PC: "Links LS 2000" and "NFL Fever 2000."
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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