Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 6 January 2003

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

--4D Business Kit Dreamweaver Plug-in Available

DEVELOPER'S TOOLBOX --Macromedia Ships Director MX
--Microsoft Releases DirectX 9.0 with High-Level Shader Language
--SGI Delivers OpenGL Performer 3.0
--Bias Ships SoundSoap for Mac,Windows
--Planar Releases $749 19" LCD Monitor

--Email Replacing Face-to-Face Communication, Survey Shows

--Zebra Releases Storyboarding Software
--Ulead Ships DVD MovieFactory 2.0
--Side Effects Updates Houdini Apprentice
--mental ray for Maya 1.5 Free Public Beta for Mac OS X Available

--Fielding Graduate Institute Launches New Ph.D. Program in Media Studies
--Side Effects Launches Houdini Apprentice Challenge
--Peddie Research Releases DCC Software Study

--EA Ships The Sims Online
--GarageGames Premieres Orbz
--Activision Releases Star Trek Mission
--Activision Ships Iron Man for GBA

--Videogame Market Flourishes, Sony on Top

--SharewareJunkies.com Awards Announced

--About Spectrum


4D Business Kit Dreamweaver Plug-in Available

4D, Inc., publishers of the 4th Dimension RAD/RDBMS Environment and 4D WebSTAR Server Suite, recently released its 4D Business Kit Dreamweaver plug-in (4DBK Dreamweaver) for rapid deployment of 4D Business Kit e-commerce Web sites from within Macromedia D reamweaver MX. 4DBK Dreamweaver is a GUI extension to Dreamweaver that allows HTML page designers to add specific 4D Business Kit tags directly into HTML documents.

The 4DBK Dreamweaver plug-in is designed for use with Macromedia Dreamweaver MX on both Macintosh and Windows platforms. It can be used with 4D Business Kit v1.0 or higher and downloaded free from the 4D, Inc. Web site at http://www.4d.com/downloads/produ cts.html.

Designed for rapid storefront development, 4D Business Kit provides catalogs, shopping carts, payment systems, tax calculations, shipping, customer management and order tracking, all integrated into a unified multi-language, multi-store e-commerce tool fo r $499. To learn more about 4D Business Kit, download a demo, or to purchase 4D Business Kit, visit http://www.4com/4dbk/.


Macromedia Ships Director MX

New from Macromedia is Director MX, a multimedia authoring environment for building interactive content and applications deployed on CD/DVD-ROM, kiosks, and the Web (via Macromedia Shockwave Player). Director MX includes integration with Flash MX, adoptio n of the Macromedia MX user interface, Mac OS X support, new workflow efficiencies, and the ability to create accessible content so that presentations can be accessed by people with disabilities.

Director MX lets users launch and edit Flash files from within Director to make quick content changes, and also gives developers direct control over Macromedia Flash MX content through Lingo. Director MX is integrated with Macromedia Flash server technolo gies, including Macromedia Flash Remoting, to enable a secure connection between ColdFusion MX and Shockwave Player. Director MX integration with Macromedia Flash Communication Server MX supports multi-user games, streaming Macromedia Flash video, and rea l-time collaboration. Director MX will ship with a copy of Macromedia Flash Communication Server MX, Personal Edition.



Microsoft Releases DirectX 9.0 with High-Level Shader Language

Microsoft Corp. recently began shipment of version 9.0 of the Microsoft DirectX Software Development Kit. The release marks the first public availability of Microsoft's new high-level shader language (HLSL).

Microsoft DirectX is a suite of multimedia APIs built into Microsoft Windows operating systems. It provides a standard platform that enables software developers to access specialized hardware features without having to write hardware-specific code.

Microsoft's HLSL is a key component of this latest release. HLSL is compatible with all DirectX-compliant graphics processing units and allows developers to define a similar visual effect for a wide range of graphics hardware. Based on the C programming l anguage, HLSL is said to be simple to use.



SGI Delivers OpenGL Performer 3.0

SGI recently announced the OpenGL Performer 3.0 application programming interface (API) upgrade for the IRIX, Linux and Windows operating systems.

OpenGL Performer is an API for creating high-performance 3D graphics applications in visual simulation, styling, analysis and entertainment environments. The software simplifies the creation of high-performance applications by providing visual effects, mu ltiprocessor, multipipe and multidisplay management, real-time performance, and a suite of tools and features spanning the spectrum of industries using interactive visualization. A unified interface supports IRIX, Linux and Windows development and run-tim e environments.

New capabilities and advanced features include:

A white paper is available from http://www.sgi.com/software/performer, and free evaluation versions for IRIX, Linux and Windows can be downloaded from that site.


Bias Ships SoundSoap for Mac,Windows

Bias, Inc. recently began shipping SoundSoap, a new digital-audio signal-processing tool for the Mac OS X and Windows XP computing platforms. The noise-reduction software lets users adjust two knobs to reduce unwanted hiss, room noise, rumble, electrical hum, and other background noise from digital media files including digital video (DV) soundtracks, PowerPoint and other presentation software soundtracks, Flash and other Web-tool soundtracks, digital audio workstation tracks, cassette or other analog tap e recordings that have been transferred to a computer, and other sources.

SoundSoap is initially shipping as a VST plug-in for Mac OS X as well as VST and Direct X for Windows XP host applications. Compatible host applications on Mac OS X currently include version 3.2 of Peak LE, Peak DV, and Peak as well as Cubase SX.

Windows XP users can use SoundSoap with Adobe Premiere 6.5, Cakewalk, Sound Forge, Wavelab, Cubase, Nuendo, and other XP Direct X and VST host applications.

SoundSoap will soon also function as a standalone application on Mac OS X and Windows XP without requiring a compatible host application. The standalone version of SoundSoap will be offered soon as a downloadable update to SoundSoap customers at no additi onal charge.

SoundSoap works by reducing "broadband" noise (such as room noise, tape hiss, road noise from a moving vehicle, or noise from air conditioners). It also removes low-frequency rumble, as well as hum - the 50Hz and 60Hz electrical "buzzing" sound common in many audio recordings. The software is said to be able to intelligently learn the difference between the noise and the desired audio.



Planar Releases $749 19" LCD Monitor

New from Planar Systems Inc. is the PL190M, said to be the first 19-inch flat-panel monitor priced under $750. The unit offers a slim bezel design, analog and digital inputs, integrated speakers, 170-degree viewing angles and a 25 ms response time. Other features include 500:1 contrast ratio and 1280 x 1024 (SXGA) resolution.

With the optional Video-EX video expansion accessory, the unit can connect to video game consoles, DVD players, digital video cameras and broadcast TV signals. It is available in white, black or silver bezels. Digital input (DVI-D) connection cables are s old separately.




Email Replacing Face-to-Face Communication, Survey Shows

In today's fast-paced corporate world, who has time to convene in person when you can hit "send"? In a new survey of executives, 92 percent of respondents say managers often send an email message rather than meet one-on-one. The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 150 executives with the nation's 1,000 largest companies.

Executives were asked, "In your opinion, how often do managers use email messages as a substitute for face-to-face communications?" Their responses:

Very often - 67%
Somewhat often - 25%
Not very often - 7%
Don't know - 1%

Executives also were asked, "Aside from face-to-face communication, which of the following is the most effective way to communicate with employees?" Their responses:

Email - 43%
Telephone - 31%
Videoconferences - 20%
Written memos - 5%
Don't know - 1%

Report sponsor Accountemps has more than 325 offices throughout North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and offers online job search services at www.accountemps.com.



Zebra Releases Storyboarding Software

Zebra Development recently released Storyboard Lite, its new software for the creation of storyboards. Storyboards are sequential images used to tell a story before filmmakers, game developers or advertising agencies invest in their final content. Storybo arding has been the backbone of film development for decades, and until now there have been few attempts to improve upon the method of drawing storyboard panels by hand.

Storyboard Lite lets traditional artists import, organize and modify their hand-drawn storyboards, as well as create boards in three dimensions using a library of props and characters included with the software. Its 3D capabilities let would-be directors change a panel's camera view by moving a virtual camera around anywhere within the scene.

The software lets users import a screenplay and automatically breaks it down into scenes within a project.

The $500 program is available for the following platforms: Windows NT 4.0, 2000, XP; Mac OSX; Linux; Linux PPC; Irix



Ulead Ships DVD MovieFactory 2.0

Just out from Ulead Systems is DVD MovieFactory 2.0 consumer-level DVD creation software. Users can create interactive scene selection menus with customizable templates, while adding music, text, and captions to DVD presentations. The software's new "on-d isc" editing and "Disc-direct" capture technology lets users transfer videos and photos onto a DVD with the flexibility to re-edit +RW and -RW DVD discs even after they are burned.



Side Effects Updates Houdini Apprentice

New from Side Effects Software is updated software and new online training materials for its Houdini Apprentice Program. Houdini Apprentice is a free, full-featured, non-commercial edition of the Houdini product family.

Houdini Apprentice includes updated versions of Houdini Select (modeling and basic animation), Houdini Master (animation and effects), Houdini Halo (compositing), Houdini Escape (characters) and Houdini Mantra (rendering). In addition to providing the lat est software, Side Effects Software is posting new videos that teach compositing concepts such as layering, re-lighting, rotosplines, re-purposing masks and depth of field to its community home page. For details and information on downloading the Houdini Apprentice Edition, visit www.sidefx.com/community/.

The Houdini Apprentice Edition lets users explore the Houdini product family and develop non-commercial projects that can be saved and rendered with a watermark. ___________________________________

mental ray for Maya 1.5 Free Public Beta for Mac OS X Available

Alias|Wavefront says its free public beta version of mental ray for Maya 1.5 software for the Mac OS X operating system is now available for download. mental ray for Maya is an integrated rendering plug-in.

mental ray for Maya 1.5 public beta version for Mac OS X is available for free and is useable only by licensed Maya 4.5 customers on the Mac OS X platform. The mental ray for Maya 1.5, free public beta offering can be downloaded at http://www.aliaswavefront.com/maya/getmental. ___________________________________


Fielding Graduate Institute Launches New Ph.D. Program in Media Studies

Dr. Bernard Luskin has been appointed director of the new Media Studies Ph.D Program in the School of Psychology at Fielding Graduate Institute. FGI President Judith Kuipers, in announcing the appointment, stated: "This new program is unique in that it pl aces psychology at the forefront of media communication. The program represents a new and significant opportunity to use media in new and creative ways in healthcare, education, commerce, publishing, government, and entertainment."

"Our vision for this program is to provide a meaningful opportunity for professionals interested in creating and using media effectively. Media psychology has become a cutting-edge subject offering new career options. This is a program whose time is here, " said School of Psychology Dean Ronald Giannetti.

Luskin, explaining the scope of this new program, stated, "Digital media are changing the ways we work and live. The study of media effects offers many research challenges and there is a great deal to discover. 'Pscybermedia' blends psychology, artificial intelligence, media and technology. Fielding's headquarters is located in the world's major digital media corridor, between Santa Barbara and San Diego, centered in Hollywood, and the entertainment industry. I look forward to speaking with industry profe ssionals having interest in this program," said Luskin.

In corporate life, Luskin served as CEO of major media and telecommunications companies, including Philips Interactive Media, which published interactive media in the Hollywood community.



Side Effects Launches Houdini Apprentice Challenge

Side Effects Software, developer of the Houdini family of 3D software, announces the Houdini Apprentice Challenge 2003, an art and animation contest based around the company's Houdini Apprentice Edition. The contest aims to support existing users and unco ver new animation talent for studios that use Houdini solutions within their visual effects pipelines. Through June 15, 2003, 3D artists are invited to create prize- and prestige-winning work in any of three categories ­ Models, Character Animation and Ef fects.

All entries must be created using the Houdini Apprentice Edition, Side Effects Software's free learning software that makes available full-featured versions of Houdini's tools for non-commercial use. Houdini Apprentice has been recently enhanced to includ e the latest Houdini functionality, and can now be conveniently downloaded online along with new video tutorials. (See details at http://www.sidefx.com/products/apprentice/.)

In preparation for the contest, participants can also sharpen their Houdini knowledge by accessing new free Houdini courses at 3D Buzz (www.3DBuzz.com) and other sites listed on www.sidefx.com.

The contest welcomes entries in the following three categories, each focusing on a different area of 3D production: * Models ­ building and texturing a model of a complex object, or scene
* Character Animation ­ building, rigging and animating a 3D digital character
* Effects ­ creating a natural phenomenon (melting ice cube, erupting volcano) or supernatural one (car disintegrating, spoon dissolving into morning coffee).

A best entry in each category, as well as a best entry overall, will be chosen to win a range of prizes including an HP XW4000 workstation, ATI Fire GL X1 cards and Houdini commercial licenses. Top entries will also be promoted around the industry via a g allery showcase on the sidefx.com Website, and shared with top employers. A Side Effects Software panel will initially pare down the pool of entries, with final winners chosen by judges from the visual effects field. All awards will be announced at Siggra ph 2003.


Peddie Research Releases DCC Software Study

Jon Peddie Research is proud to announce the availability of our latest report, The Digital Content Creation Software Market Study. The study was conducted by Jared Visney, a professional with knowledge of the digital content creation, management and dist ribution workflow. Jared has worked with the manufacturers creating tools, he has worked directly with artists using these tools, and he is an artist himself.

The report provides an overview of the digital content creation (DCC) software market for the following applications: 3D Modeling and Animation, Audio Editing & Compositing, Digital Video Editing & Compositing, DVD Authoring, Dynamic/Interactive Content A uthoring, and Graphics & Image Editing. For the total worldwide DCC software market, historical data and a forecast is provided through 2004, as well as individual segment market shares, industry composition and a ranking of the top vendors in the space.

For each segment of the DCC software market, the report provides a brief overview, a discussion of influencers and segment dynamics, the industries supported by the tools, and the total realized market for 2001 and share for each segment.

The report is available for $999, or $450 to subscribers of TechWatch, JPR's bi-weekly industry report. Contact Kathleen Maher at Jon Peddie Research 415.435.9368 (kathleen@jonpeddie.com), or Jared Visney at 408.559.6292 (jvishney@UCLAlumni.net).



EA Ships The Sims Online

Electronic Arts recently released its highly anticipated PC game, The Sims Online. The Sims Online is the Internet, multi-player version of the top-selling PC game of all time, The Sims. The Sims Online is a massive virtual world created and populated by thousands of players from around the world.

Said Don Mattrick, president worldwide studios for Electronic Arts. "I predict that a lot of people are going to skip work to play The Sims Online."

In The Sims Online, players create and control the actions of a character known as a Sim. Players enter the world with a small amount of money to spend as they wish. They can purchase their own piece of land to do with as they please or they can join with other players to create shared homes and businesses or host wild events.

Players can explore the neighborhoods around them and meet scores of other Sims along the way. Players get to know other Sims through live text chat and secret instant messages. As players type, their messages appear in speech bubbles above their Sims' he ads. Sims can also express themselves through hundreds of animations. A polka, pile drive, or a passionate kiss are just a few of the gestures available for Sims to use to convey exactly what's on their mind.

The Sims Online carries a monthly subscription fee of $9.99 with the first month being free.



GarageGames Premieres Orbz

Indie game developer 21-6 Productions has released its first multiplayer computer game, Orbz, with independent game publisher GarageGames.

Orbz is an online action/arcade game that uses a two-click interface; players can take aim, set shot power, and launch their orb at star-shaped targets scattered throughout detailed 3D courses. Power-ups provide an added layer of strategy allowing players to gain a competitive advantage against their opponents.

http://www.garagegames.com/pg/product/view.php?id=5 http://www.21-6.com/


Activision Releases Star Trek Mission

Fans of Taldren's tactical starship simulation, Star Trek Starfleet Command III, published by Activision, can get their hands on the most powerful ship in the universe with the release of the Star Trek Nemesis downloadable add-on. The downloadable add-on pack contains an exclusive single-player mission that allows gamers to take the helm of the Scimitar, Shinzon's powerful warship that appears in the movie. The add-on also includes several pieces of exclusive concept art from the film including detailed i llustrations of the Scimitar and Scorpion ships, as well as the latest modifications to the U.S.S. Enterprise 1701-E.



Activision Ships Iron Man for GBA

Handheld gamers can take on the role of the world's toughest human fighting machine in Marvel's The Invincible Iron Man for Game Boy Advance from Activision. As the crime-fighting superhero, players experience the powers of Iron Man as they track down and recover his stolen battlesuit technology from archenemies Blizzard and Crimson Dynamo.

Developed by Torus Games, Marvel's The Invincible Iron Man places gamers in the life of inventor, businessman and superhero Anthony Stark. After being injured by an act of industrial sabotage, Stark was driven to design a life-sustaining shell made of hig h-tech armor - the suit that allows him to become Marvel's The Invincible Iron Man. Now that the shell has fallen into the hands of evil, players must don an alternate suit and learn to master repulsor beams, boot jets, uni-beams and a flying shoulder cha rge while pursuing the villains who stole the technology. Features include diverse environments, multiple power-ups and unlockable bonuses.




Videogame Market Flourishes, Sony on Top

In an otherwise uncertain year for retail sales due to a sluggish economy, the videogame industry was largely recession resistant with sales of hardware and software climbing to unprecedented heights year-over-year, emerging as a mainstream form of entert ainment. As of last month, 2002 U.S. retail sales of videogame hardware, software and accessories exceeded $6 billion, a 25 percent increase in dollar volume versus the same period one year ago.

"The videogame industry overall is stronger than ever this year and continues to outpace other entertainment categories," said Michael Gartenberg, research director with Jupiter Research. "As the industry leader having prevailing market share, Sony Comput er Entertainment America acts as the barometer of health for the entire videogame industry -- if PlayStation does well, it's a good sign for other companies in the space, particularly those with ties to the company. Doing the heavy lifting for an entire i ndustry also has its rewards, and it is expected that PlayStation will outperform competitors this holiday season, which can be attributed in part to the company's introduction of online console gaming."

The videogame industry typically experiences about 50 percent of its annual videogame sales in the fourth quarter as holiday shoppers wrap up hardware, and particularly software, to give as gifts. According to NPD FunWorld, a division of The NPD Group, th e industry expected to have brought in an additional $4 billion by year's end, shattering 2001's high of $9.4 billion. Helping to meet this goal is the success of the Network Adaptor (Ethernet/modem) (for PlayStation2), which was on track to deliver 400,0 00 units into the market by year end.

The popularity of PlayStation 2 was due in part to new titles, including the first-party hit SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs, which sold more than 500,000 copies in just three months. Additional titles during the recent holiday season included first-party NFL Game Day 2003, ATV Offroad Fury 2, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus and Ratchet and Clank, as well as Madden NFL 2003 from EA Sports, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 from Activision and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City from Rockstar Games.

According to The NPD Group, the PlayStation 2 currently enjoys a 7.9 to 1 year-to-date tie ratio, which means that, on average, for every one PlayStation 2 sold, there have been 7.9 games sold. This is compared to the Xbox ratio of 5.7 and the GameCube at 5.5.



SharewareJunkies.com Awards Announced

WinZip, a software utility program designed to compress and decompress files, has won the Best Program of the Year honors in the 2003 SharewareJunkies.com Awards. WinZip, which is currently in its eighth version, was also named Best Windows Program in the sixth annual awards, sponsored by the Web site SharewareJunkies.com.

A global audience of software enthusiasts cast their ballots online during November and December for the best programs among the main operating systems: Windows, Macintosh and DOS. A fourth award, celebrating the Best Freeware Program, was open to program s available at no cost. Each program that earned the most votes in its category won the top prize therein, and the overall highest vote getter, in this case WinZip, won the Best Program title.

In addition, SharewareJunkies.com presented special awards to journalist Christopher Null, shareware industry promoter Tim Skipper and the online journal Newtopia Magazine. Shareware is an e-commerce distribution channel that lets people try software prog rams before purchasing them.

The winners of the 2003 SharewareJunkies.com Awards are: * Best Program of the Year/Best Windows Program: WinZip. From WinZip Computing Inc., Mansfield, Connecticut. http://www.winzip.com.

* Best Macintosh Program: Fetch, an FTP client for the Macintosh operating system; the program won the same award in 2002. From Fetch Softworks, Hanover, New Hampshire. http://www.fetchsoftworks.com

* Best DOS Program: Net Hack - Falcon's Eye, a single player dungeon exploration game. From Mike Stephenson, Toronto. http://www.nethack.org

* Best Freeware Program: IE Booster, a series of Browser Extensions that adds those "wished for" extra to the context menu in Internet Explorer for Windows. From Paessler GmbH, Fürth, Germany. http://www.paessler.com/products/ieb/index.html

* Distinguished Netizen Award: Christopher Null, for exemplary achievements in techonology journalism and online cultural commentary. http://www.chrisnull.com

* Literary Achievement Award: Newtopia Magazine, for raising the level of online journalism and social commentary. http://www.newtopiamagazine.net

* Special Achievement Award: Tim Skipper, for his distinguished promotion of the shareware industry and his unstinting assistance to those within the industry and through his work as the Euro-Share Mediator. http://www.euro-share.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 and online development tools and CD-ROMs for review.

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