Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

8 December 2003
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)

DEVELOPER'S TOOLBOX --NewSoft Launches Presto! DVD PowerSuite

IN THE INFOGROOVE --Browser Security Software Chosen for Compilation CD

GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING --Cinema 4D Adds Kaydara FBX Support
--FrameCycler Stereoscopic Software Opens New Vistas for Science
--Sneak Preview of New Toon Boom at MacWorld
--@Last Announces a SketchUp Plug-in for Architectural Desktop
--Side Effects Updates Houdini
--TMSSequoia Updates Browser-Based Image Viewer

THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER --Sybex Publishes Intro Maya Book

DEALS --O'Reilly to Distribute for No Starch, Paraglyph, Syngress
--Alien Skin Store Announces Software Bundle

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY --Eidos, Ion Storm Ship Deus Ex: Invisible War
--EA Ships GBA The Sims Bustin' Out
--Enlight Launches Warlords Battlecry III Website

DIGERATI ILLUMINATI --Brazil Rendering System Wins CGW 2003 Innovation Award

F.Y.I. --About Spectrum


NewSoft Launches Presto! DVD PowerSuite

Just out from Fremont, Calif.-based NewSoft is Presto! DVD PowerSuite for capturing, editing, authoring and burning DVDs. The $70 program supports DVD ±R/RW recording formats as well as DVD-RAM, DVD-Video, and CD formats.

The company claims its MPEG-2 codec is the fastest in the industry, providing full video capture capabilities with real-time MPEG-2 encoding to all leading video file formats that can be burned on the fly to compatible discs. Users can also connect a camcorder or VCR direct to the notebook or PC's IEEE 1394 port or USB 2.0 port to capture raw video footage direct to DVD±RW or DVD-RAM for immediate direct-to-disc editing. Users can cut and remove unwanted scenes as well as add still or motion menu templates, titles, transitions, effects, background music, and DVD menus. PowerSuite offers real-time preview enabling users to preview edits and revisions without waiting for the video to be rendered.

PowerSuite can also be used to burn data, music, or make a personal backup copy of non-copyright protected educational, multimedia and business software, music CDs, as well irreplaceable personal photo CDs and home video DVDs. Lastly, a video editing tool lets users edit video clips using either the storyboard feature or an advanced mode with five separate timeline tracks. Presto! DVD PowerSuite also includes a built-in DVD Player with all common DVD functions as well as the ability to create playlists and set parental controls.



Browser Security Software Chosen for Compilation CD

Web browser security developer Winferno Software announced that WUGNET Publications Inc. has selected its Web browser security tool Secure IE 2003 as one of the software titles featured on the new "101 Greatest XP Applications and Utilities" CD.

The CD title showcases 101 applications that were selected as "Must Have Utilities" for XP from nine different categories, ranging from security and Internet enhancements to video applications and file management. The collection lets users try out applications for Windows XP in one collection.

The 101 Greatest XP Applications and Utilities CD was a joint project of MPS Multimedia, a publisher of retail CDs, and WUGNET Publications Inc (WUGNET). The CD is now available online at http://www.101greatestxp.com, and will soon be available in major retail stores throughout North America.

Winferno's Secure IE 2003 protects computers at the main point of external contact - the Web browser - and restricts what Websites can and cannot do to a user's PC. Secure IE eliminates security threats while browsing the Web, delivering security features for home users and businesses.



Cinema 4D Adds Kaydara FBX Support

Kaydara Inc. and Maxon Computer GmbH have integrated Kaydara's FBX 3D interchange format into the new upgrade Cinema 4D R8.5, Maxon's 3D modeling and animation tool. Kaydara FBX allows for the universal interchange of 3D data between 3D packages and second-tier applications.

Kaydara FBX is a platform-independent 3D authoring and interchange format that provides access to 3D content from a variety of applications and source material providers. FBX is a binary file format that supports 3D data, as well as 2D, audio, and video media elements


FrameCycler Stereoscopic Software Opens New Vistas for Science

Iridas, a creator of digital solutions for the film, broadcast and digital content creation industries, is finding growing interest in the science and medical communities for its high-resolution digital playback technologies. A new presentation facility at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm is providing a first taste of stereoscopic projection that displays sequences at seven times higher resolution than that of typical TV video.

Among the first films to be created for high-definition stereoscopic playback at the Institute was a depiction of the development of the human embryo and a sequence showing actual cell division of neural stem cells by Dr. Lennart Nilsson, author of the international bestseller, A Child is Born. Detailed three-dimensional pictures of such highly dynamic processes have, until now, only existed in the minds of scientists. Now, using technology developed originally for the film industry, scientists can study complex three-dimensional processes as they unfold.

Iridas's playback applications have their origin in the film industry where complex special effects require uncompressed, full resolution playback with a high degree of user control, for example to loop, or "ping-pong" sequences. The company claims also to have pioneered direct playback of frame data without first compressing or converting the material to a video format (such as QuickTime or AVI), thus saving users the time required to convert files and the loss of image quality that comes with low resolution video.

Depending on hardware capacity, Iridas products can play back sequences in resolutions up to three megapixels per frame (typical video resolution for a single frame is about 0.4 megapixels). The company's stereoscopic playback software comes in two versions, both of which are software-only solutions that run on regular PCs and do not require hardware extension cards.

FrameCycler 3D gives users access to high-resolution stereoscopic playback on PC workstations. FrameCycler DDS Bichannel can play back two-channel sequences of virtually any length when connected to a RAID subsystem. The applications also provide full sound playback capabilities.

Both versions include playback controls such as slowdown or speed up playback, reverse playback, zoom and crop to allow for detailed examination.


Sneak Preview of New Toon Boom at MacWorld

Toon Boom Technologies will present a sneak preview of Toon Boom Studio version 2.5 for the Mac at the upcoming MacWorld San Francisco, January 6-9, 2004. The team will also be participating at the Mac User Group University Event January 5 at the Argent Hotel.

The new release will include new features such as sound scrubbing in the timeline, the ability to draw in Sceneplanning, and support for scanning. The customer release is scheduled for spring 2004.


@Last Announces a SketchUp Plug-in for Architectural Desktop

@Last Software, developer of 3D design software for the AEC Industries, last week announced the availability of a software plug-in that allows the import of SketchUp's native 3D geometry directly into AutoDesk's Architectural Desktop (ADT) program. Translation of data from SketchUp to ADT can be automatic or user specified.


Side Effects Updates Houdini

New from Side Effects Software is version 6.1 of the company's Houdini family of 3D software. Claimed new features include the ability to create, publish and use digital assets within and across projects with greater control, integration, and speed. The new software, available now via download from http://www.sidefx.com, additionally features enhanced character-animation tools, global illumination rendering, interactive light and camera controls, and an embedded help browser.

Feature highlights for Houdini 6.1 include drag-and-drop support for promoting handles and parameters onto a digital asset; a streamlined pose tool that reportedly makes it easier to animate digital asset characters; support for inverse kinematics squash-and-stretch of bones; pick-walking in a bone chain; new muscle and wire deformers; the ability to transfer attributes to a new piece of geometry; and a Flipbook feature for fast preview of OpenGL-rendered animations with audio. Additional features range from a new pelt surface operator for "unwrapping" texture UVs in a manner similar to real-world pelting to numerous interface and compositing enhancements, such as the customer-requested return of the Render COP.

During the course of the "Early Access" program, a pre-release of Houdini 6.1 rolled out this summer, Side Effects Software built additional features into Houdini 6.1 including: a UV Pelt Tool for unwrapping texture UVs by choosing cut lines then stretching out from a specified center point; a UV Brush Tool for editing and smoothing UVs by brushing either in the UV viewport or directly on the 3D geometry; Edge Loops for a streamlined edge selection workflow; a Poly Bevel Tool for quickly beveling edges and points; a Path Tool for creating curves at the object level that work with path animation and follow curve solutions; a Bones-on-Curve Tool for quickly distributing a set number of bones on a curve, with follow curve kinematics if desired; a Wire Deform Tool for capturing and deforming geometry using curves as control objects; and other interface and compositing enhancements.


TMSSequoia Updates Browser-Based Image Viewer

TMSSequoia last week released the Prizm Viewer VII, a new version of its browser-based TIFF image viewer, previously called the Prizm plug-in. The plug-in lets users view, manipulate, annotate and print document images and PDF files. The Prizm Viewer is a Microsoft Windows application that extends the capabilities of Internet Explorer and Netscape browsers, allowing corporate, academic and government organizations worldwide to offer Web-based access to their document image management systems.

The viewer provides zooming, panning and rotation tools, as well as accelerated printing for both Postscript and general Windows printers. The new release automates and enables enhanced remote configuration of the viewer and the toolbar menu so that a single viewer can be deployed across the organization in support of different viewing needs; providing cache security and encryption options as a means of supporting organizations with HIPAA and Graham-Leach Bliley compliance issues and accelerating deployment by providing the ability to detect previous versions of the viewer on end-user workstations.

The Prizm Viewer can reportedly save time by providing access to images using TMSSequoia's list file technology, rather than requiring users to access images one hyperlink at a time. Best of all, the Prizm Viewer opens large document images like well logs, engineering drawings and EKG or heart monitor printouts.

Key new capabilities and features of Prizm Viewer VII include:

TMSSequoia also offers browser-based TIFF image viewing support for those companies who support multiple UNIX platforms including Sun Solaris, HP-UX, AIX, SGI and DEC Alpha. The Prizm plug-in for UNIX is used largely to support engineering applications due to its ability to open and print extremely large engineering drawings in the Netscape Browser. Feature sets for the UNIX platforms are available on the TMSSequoia Website at http://www.tmsinc.com .


Sybex Publishes Intro Maya Book

Computer book publisher Sybex recently released Introducing Maya 5: 3D for Beginners, an initiation to Maya software and 3D animation. Created through a publishing agreement between Sybex and Alias, the maker of Maya 3D animation and effects software, the tutorial includes Maya Personal Learning Edition software.

According to Sybex, readers of the book will:



O'Reilly to Distribute for No Starch, Paraglyph, Syngress

O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. will provide distribution, sales, and fulfillment services for three other independent publishers--No Starch Press, Paraglyph Press, and Syngress Publishing--starting January 1, 2004. O'Reilly will handle retail and direct sales, warehousing, and shipping, as well as provide direct marketing and PR support.

Since 1994, No Starch Press has published unique books on computing, with a focus on Open Source, security, hacking, Web development, programming, gaming, and alternative operating systems.


Paraglyph Press was formed in 2002 by Keith Weiskamp and Jeff Duntemann, founders of Coriolis. Its list includes titles focused on game development, programming, operating systems, Mac technologies, wireless computing and networking, and Web design.


Syngress Publishing is an independent publisher of print and electronic reference materials for information technology professionals seeking skill enhancement and career advancement.



Alien Skin Store Announces Software Bundle

Graphics software developer/publisher Alien Skin is running a holiday special bundle called the Rest of the Best. It includes Image Doctor, Splat!, and Xenofex 2 for $199 (normally $357). The bundle is available only direct from Alien Skin, and is available until December 31.

Also, the Alien Skin store is expanding to carry plug-ins from other developers. The Alien Skin Partner Store currently carries Acclaim Software's Focus Magic, and more titles will be added through 2004. Feel free to recommend some of your favorite, little-known plug-ins that could benefit from some more exposure.



Eidos, Ion Storm Ship Deus Ex: Invisible War

Eidos plc last week released Deus Ex: Invisible War for Xbox and PC. Developed by Ion Storm, the follow-up release to the adventure game Deus Ex leaves actions, decisions and consequences in the hands of the gamer - a rookie anti-terrorist agent named Alex D.

"Deus Ex was conceived as a game that would put players in charge of their gameplay experience. Instead of playing the way we wanted them to play, we wanted to allow each person who picked up the game to make his or her own decisions about how to interact with the problems we threw in their paths - fight, sneak, talk, and explore," said Warren Spector, Studio Director at Ion Storm.

The player creates an alter ego through the selection of futuristic biomods, weapons and hundreds of objects. As in the original game, character choices, weapons and objects work in combination with an interactive world to let players to solve game problems in various ways. Gamers can sneak, hack, bribe or kill their way past any problem encountered within the game world.

The game also features an enhanced physics system, AI, character modeling and animation, a new sound propagation system and lighting and graphics.


EA Ships GBA The Sims Bustin' Out

Electronic Arts last week shipped The Sims Bustin' Out for Game Boy Advance under the EA Games brand in North America. Players can control their Sim to explore 20 new GBA-exclusive locations as they work their way from rags to riches. The Sims Bustin' Out Game Boy Advance version will support connectivity with the Nintendo GameCube version scheduled to release in mid-December.

True to the original The Sims games, Game Boy Advance players will create a Sim with a customizable appearance and personality to control throughout the game. As players make their way through the adventure, they will need to satisfy the traditional eight core Sim motives including bladder, comfort, hygiene, and, of course, hunger.

Players begin their adventure on Hayseed Farm, but will soon make their way to various locations in SimValley eventually living in the coolest cribs, such as the swanky Waterfront Villa. Players will explore over 20 locations such as Olde Salty's Fish and Chips Stand and the rockin' Club Rubb. They will meet a wild cast of over 30 new characters exclusive to the Game Boy Advance such as Old Salty, Lottie Cash, and Detective Dan. In addition, players will unlock a scooter that will let them make their way around SimValley with speed and style. Players can even visit an animal shelter and adopt a dog or cat to keep them company.

New to The Sims Bustin' Out is a close-up social interaction screen that will let players have conversations with other Sims, making friends and enemies in order to advance through levels and complete goals. Players also will be challenged with eight new career mini-games including Smoothie Slider, Cliff Diver X, and Pizza Pandemonium.

Unlike previous The Sims games, players will not purchase items from a catalog. Players will now collect over 150 Game Boy Advance exclusive objects such as a Pinball Machine, Giant Tiki Head, and Beejaphone Guitar. Players obtain objects by attending once-a-day auctions and shopping in stores. The Sims Bustin' Out supports the Game Boy Advance Game Link Cable; players can link to a friend's Game Boy Advance to trade or sell rare objects through live auctions. By linking with their friends, players can also unlock a special location, Paradise Island, that features a special store with exclusive objects.

The Sims Bustin' Out Game Boy Advance version will support connectivity with The Sims Bustin' Out Nintendo GameCube version. When connected, Game Boy Advance players will unlock a hidden game cabinet that will allow them to use their Nintendo GameCube Sims to play mini-games on the Game Boy Advance and earn extra Simoleons. Players will also be able to download and play their Nintendo GameCube Sim in the Game Boy Advance world and obtain Simoleons, motives, and skills to bring back with them to the Nintendo GameCube version.

The Sims Bustin' Out for the Game Boy Advance was developed by EA's Maxis studio in conjunction with Griptonite Games, an Amaze Entertainment Studio.


Enlight Launches Warlords Battlecry III Website

Entertainment software developer and publisher Enlight recently announced the official Warlords Battlecry III Website is live at http://www.enlight.com/wbc3.

The Website features a storyline, overview of the new features in this series, and downloads of concept art, screenshots and wallpapers. The site will also serve as an online information hub for updates on the next installment in the Battlecry series.

Set once again in the land of Etheria, Warlords Battlecry III transports players into the ever-changing continent known as Keshan, where allies become enemies and provinces are disrupted, captured, and ruled through the struggle for dominance and control. However, something has changed and a new race threatens all who had once ruled before them. The destiny of the players is left open ended, as they must decide which path to choose and the method needed to hunt down and banish this creature from the realms of the land.

This next RTS title will feature a new hero-development system, three new spheres of magic with over 30 new spells, a new lair system, and five new races. Warlords Battlecry III is published by Enlight Interactive and will be available in Q2 of 2004 for PC.



Brazil Rendering System Wins CGW 2003 Innovation Award

Computer Graphics World recently gave its 2003 Innovation Award to the Brazil Rendering System Version 1.2 from SplutterFish LLC, a 3D rendering software solutions provider. The Innovation Award winners are selected annually by the editors and contributing editors of Computer Graphics World Magazine for technology released over the previous 12 months. Brazil r/s V. 1.2 was recognized for product excellence in the rendering category.

A spotlight of Brazil r/s V. 1.2 will appear in the December 2003 issue of Computer Graphics World, at which time its Innovation Award win will be formally announced. Information on the Awards is also available at: http://www.cgw.com .



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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