10 January 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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MessageBay's new VoiceEnabling Software Development Kit, free to download and evaluate, reportedly lets Webmasters with basic software programming skills integrate two-way voice messaging features into their Websites.
The SDK includes basic Perl scripts and sample HTML pages and images. The plug-in must be downloaded from the Messagebay site, but the Webmaster controls the look and feel of all pages. Voice is hosted and streamed "invisibly" from a MessageBay server, so there are no additional storage or bandwidth considerations for voice-enabled Websites.
iHTML is a Web programming language for building database-derived, interactive Web environments. In the past year, Inline has expanded iHTML's availability to include more UNIX platforms. iHTML now supports Linux, FreeBSD, BSDi, SCO, HP-UX and Solaris. iHTML Pro for both Windows and UNIX is priced at $590US per server.
To extend iHTMLAEs capabilities to Web commerce, the iHTML 2.18 Pro edition includes the iHTML Merchant 1.06 system, a customizable, turnkey software solution for small and medium-sized businesses. Features include browser-based administration, real-time credit card verification, banner ad management, 11 different payment processor options and the ability to handle complex shipping and tax calculations.
Newly available from Steinberg North America is the Pro-Five software synthesizer, developed by Native Instruments of Denmark. The $200 virtual instrument, fashioned after the Sequential Circuits Prophet Five, can be run as a sequencer plug-in within any VST 2.0 system or as a standalone synthesizer on Mac or Windows.
According to Steinberg, Native Instruments' NSP-Technology (Native Signal Processing) provides users with a software synthesizer that is equal to its legendary hardware predecessors, with no fixed limit to the number of voices, more preset memories, velocity sensitivity, MIDI automation of all available parameters and the option to run several Pro-Five's in parallel.
Open Door Networks is shipping version 1.1 of its DoorStop Firewall, Personal Edition. DoorStop Personal is an end-user version of Open Door's server firewall software, specifically focused on protecting Mac OS 9's new Internet services. Version 1.1 adds a requested notification feature along with other improvements.
DoorStop Personal Edition, which runs on Macs back to Mac OS 8.1, is a security enhancement aimed at Macs that are connected to the Internet for long periods of time, for instance through a cable or DSL modem or an intranet. DoorStop was originally developed by Open Door for use on servers such as AppleShare IP and Open Door's ShareWay IP Professional. DoorStop Personal Edition is a simplified version of the server product.
New features include:
The 1.1 upgrade is free to all registered DoorStop Personal users, and available from http://www.opendoor.com/doorstop/
Synthetik Software last week announced several new enhancements to its $329 Mac-based Studio Artist software, which the company describes as a graphics synthesizer. New features include enhanced interactive paint tools, support for embedded alpha channels in movies and source images, multiple movie compositing, real-time intelligent image mosaicing, enhanced batch processing, and time-based particle and paint effects.
Studio Artist 1.5, scheduled for a spring 2000 release, offers editable keyframe time animation of all features, plus a new resolution-independent core effects processing module called the Texture Synthesizer, intelligent auto-regionization, and new gradient effects.
Studio Artist, said to incorporate research results from cognitive neuroscience investigations into the nature of visual perception in the brain, uses human visual modeling to construct an internal representation from a source image that is used to direct smart assisted painting and drawing.
It combines dynamic user-configurable painting and drawing tools along with an image-processing and video-effects suite. A hybrid imaging model allows individual paint strokes to have the visual richness of raster paint with the editability of vector paths. Dynamic expressive paint tools or custom art processes can be constructed and applied to still images or motion sequences. Users can either paint and draw manually or direct Studio Artist’s automatic Intelligent-Assisted painting actions.
The software includes over 800 factory presets, each with hundreds of parameters that can be individually adjusted to control the look and feel of the paint. These synthesizer parameters can also be interactively modulated while painting.
Studio Artist 1.5 Paint Action Sequences will be automatable over time via keyframe editing on an animation timeline. Every editable parameter within Studio Artist can be animated over time. This includes everything in the four main effects modules as well as all of the selection options available within the program.
Studio Artist 1.5's new core processing module, the Texture Synthesizer, provides a range of resolution-independent visual effects. By combining the core visual processing modules of the Paint Synthesizer, Texture Synthesizer, Image Processing Operations, and Image Warping and Morphing, an unlimited number of visual effects can be generated for use in painting on 2D canvases or within video sequences.
Wack!, a Photoshop filter based on Studio Artist’s Texture Synthesizer, can generate resolution-independent visual effects via editable presets from a source image or generate abstract images from scratch. Wack! presets can also be evolved via genetic selection or morphed from existing presets.
Each Wack! effect can consist of up to four visual effects generators, each with four integral Texture Synthesizers. Effects can be routed in series or parallel and combined together with selectable compositing operations and extensive modulation capabilities. Wack! can also generate time-based effects by generating a Quicktime movie from within Photoshop via keyframe animation of any or all of its editable parameters.
Coming this quarter from NewTek is a new release of LightWave 3D, animation software for film, broadcast and video, for the PowerMac Platform. LightWave  adds character animation tools, advanced rendering capabilities, a new architecture and a refined work environment. In addition, LightWave  is accelerated for the Macintosh G4 velocity engine.
Among the changes in redesigned software, LightWave  offers real-time subdivision surfaces as a modeling and animation tool, radiosity, caustics, high dynamic range image support, 96-bit floating-point rendering, a hybrid Inverse/Forward Kinematics engine and new character-animation technologies: IntelligEntities, Skelegons, Endomorphs and Multi-meshes.
New rendering technologies include:
The character animation tools called IntelligEntities consist of Skelegons, Endomorphs and Multi-meshes, which allow objects to carry data well beyond simple geometry.
The hybrid inverse/forward kinematics engine includes free-form and locked IK goals that let users have goal items that are locked to the length of the chain or that use a rubberband-style goal that can float in space away from the chain itself.
Real-time sub-division surface modeling features include point weights; control of UV mapping with infinite layering; use of orthogonal and perspective view modeling ports; and direct control over polygons, vertices and patches. The software reportedly offers infinite layers of projection; procedural, gradient and UV maps, and these layers can feed into each other for texture blending and manipulation. Animatable surface attributes include all general surface settings and can be linked to other items in the scene. The new gradient layers tool, which can be added to a texture, can be used to change a surface attribute with inputs such as incidence angle, light incidence, distance to another object or the height of the bump. New translucency and glossiness mapping capabilities expand the options for animators of complex and realistic scenes, while content management tools (e.g., filters and comments) simplify the animation of large projects.
Phoenix, just out from 3D Studio MAX plug-in vendor Digimation, is an impressive-looking procedural fire routine. The user can choose any object or particle system as the emitter, and Phoenix wraps it in volumetric flames. Controls include how high the flames reach and how violently they churn. Price is $395, and if you buy before Feb. 4, Digimation will include Chameleon, said to give objects a charcoaled look.
Graphics studio and publisher Marlin Studios today announced the release of its "Virtual Trees & Foliage Clip Maps " 2 CD-ROM Set. The company also sells "FireCD," a collection of animated clip-mapped fire sequences. The $179 royalty-free texture library of over 200 high-resolution trees and foliage clip maps was created by graphics artist and photographer David Campbell.
The clipped-map textures have the backgrounds dropped out and made transparent. Each texture can be mapped onto a single plane in a 3D program, resulting in a photorealistic tree or plant that can cast a shadow. Clip maps let an artist create a virtual forest while using a fraction of the system resources required for high-poly tree meshes. Typical textures in the library include trees, shrubs, hedges, flowers, leaves and branches.
The double CD-ROM set also includes two detailed Viewpoint Digital tree meshes, plus 202 planar objects in DXF and LWO formats, fitted to size each texture; 5 landscape meshes in DXF and LWO formats; 20 landscape panorama backgrounds, with widths up to 7,800 pixels; a tutorial on using clip map textures; and a collection of 60 high-resolution photos for use as backgrounds or artistic reference. All textures are present in JPEG and Targa formats.
product information is available at http://www.marlinstudios.com/products/products.htm#vtf
Free sample textures can be downloaded from http://www.marlinstudios.com/samples/samples.htm#vtf
Puffin Designs' Commotion 2.2 for digital video effects is now available for a new MSRP of $1,995, and as a free upgrade for all existing Commotion 2.1 users. The new release is optimized for the Power Mac G4 with Velocity Engine which improves the performance of Commotion’s Motion Tracker and Color Balance filters.
Commotion 2.2 also addresses requests by Mac and Windows NT users to enhance features such as the ability to retouch mattes with the FX Brush; control b-spline tightness; and export non-square pixel aspect ratio. Commotion’s FX Brush now works in the alpha channel allowing sub-pixel painting for retouching. Infinite variable tension controls on b-splines allow the user to interactively change the tightness of a spline. Also, Commotion now supports non-square aspect ratio export to Adobe After Effects.
San Francisco-based PuppetTime, Inc. has released its Mac-based PuppetTime Producer 1.0, billed as an easy-to-use 3D character-animation program that implements the concept of digital actors. Users can create 3D animations by selecting characters, typing dialog, recording sounds and voice-overs, and choosing actions. 3D modeling or animation experience is said not to be required because the digital actors, or puppets, are predefined and know how to draw and animate themselves. Puppets can have many animations, costumes, and emotional states to choose from.
"Everyone has a story to tell," says Deeje Cooley, Chairman and CTO, "Storytelling is everywhere in our society, from movies and television, to commercials and now the Web. With PuppetTime Producer, the TV-watching generation is now empowered to become the TV-making generation."
Puppets have a number of emotional states built in, chosen from a list. Puppets also automatically create their own mouth shapes (visemes) from dialog text, using the MacOS Text-To-Speech technology. The user can then overdub his or her own voice speaking the dialog, giving the puppet characters unique inflections and personalities. Sound tracks can be imported for use as sound effects and background music. Still images can be imported as backgrounds. The program also supports multiple puppets and cameras for true cinematic freedom.
A finished animation can be saved in a number of different file formats. Saved as a PuppetTime track inside a QuickTime movie, the rendered 3D animation will be compressed as low as 1K per second. The animation can be rendered to video, using any of the video codecs, at up to 60 frames/sec. It can also be used to generate an animated storyboard (animatic) and to print a set of storyboards from a color printer.
The shareware version of PuppetTime Producer is available for US$89.00 from the company's Website at http://www.puppettime.com. Academic pricing is available at $495.00 for a 10-seat license, with additional seats at $49.00 each. Volume and site licenses are also available.
Coming this spring from BeatWare, Inc., is e-Picture 2.0 for Windows, MacOS and the BeOS. The $200 ($179 downloaded) animation software lets artists create multi-dimensional Web graphics that can be exported to Flash, Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), animated GIF, and a number of video formats including QuickTime, RealNetworks' G2, and AVI. Additional enhancements include non-linear animation capabilities and the ability to create, import and animate 3D within 2D Web graphics.
e-Picture lets artists combine vector and bitmap images, creating movement sequences on a single layer. By noting an object's initial and final positions, the software automatically generates the object's position in the intermediate frames as required to create the desired effect. Designers can control objects' paths and velocities. Designers can import 3D models from other sources or transform or "extrude" 3D text from 2D text from within the application.
Call For Participation:
Web3D RoundUP @ Web3D - VRML 2000
22 February, 2000 Monterey, California
Web3D RoundUP is the high-speed, high-tech shoot-out where top 3D content developers and tools providers demonstrate Web3D technology and applications in a fast-paced format. Web3D RoundUP is now inviting Web3D tools, technology and content providers to submit demos for juried review.
In less than an hour and a half, over two dozen developers from all over the globe have one to four minutes to demonstrate their latest Web3D content and applications with the goal of winning over the technically demanding crowd. The audience will choose the winners of the honored Web 3D RoundUP Golden Lasso Awards.
To win a Web3D RoundUP Golden Lasso Award and prizes at Web3D-VRML 2000, submit entries for the following categories:
The judges will choose the top five submissions from each category to present at Web 3D RoundUP on February 22, 2000. Winners and runners up will also have the opportunity to submit one page write-ups and screen images of their work for inclusion in a special issue of SIGGRAPH's quarterly journal, COMPUTER GRAPHICS.
Criteria for Submission:
All submissions either selected for the RoundUP or not will be eligible for inclusion in the RoundUP Online Gallery. Those who cannot make the Web3D-VRML 2000 Conference in Monterey can submit entries for the Web3D RoundUP Online Gallery, a collection of amazing Web 3D content and demos.
1 February 2000 Deadline for submissions:
10 February 2000 Selected participants notified
22 February 2000 Web 3DRoundUP Night!
About Web3D RoundUP
Attendees at this twice-annual event are all armed with noisemakers (for approval and disapproval) and the front rows are equipped with Ping Pong ball launchers, ready for demos that run overtime. Since 1996 this event has successfully played to marketing-sizzle intolerant packed houses at SIGGRAPH and VRML 9X.
Visit the Web3D - VRML 2000 Website at www.vr.edu/conf/Web3D.
Stay informed. Get on the RoundUP Events mailing list by sending email to mailto:signmeup@Web3droundup.org.
AllNetResearch.com, part of the internet.com Network, announced last week that Internet research buyers will now have access to over 500 research reports and newsletters from 50 research publishers. AllNetResearch.com
The site provides Internet market research reports and newsletters from leading research organizations from North America, Europe and Australia. Current publishers include International Data Corporation (IDC), Cahner's In-Stat Group, ActivMedia, UK-based Fletcher Research, Computer Technology Researchers, Simba and Plunkett Research. Other recently added publishers include Australian-based APT Strategies, Zona Research and eMarketer.
AllNetResearch.com covers reports on Internet demographics, geography, e-commerce, telecommunications, finance and advertising. Prospective Internet research buyers can conduct keyword searches for reports online, retrieve descriptions of publications, tables of contents, as well as buying and shipping information.
AllNetResearch.com has experienced significant growth since its launch in April 1999. The site has added 25 publishers and over 325 new research reports and newsletters. Traffic has increased to over 260,000 page views monthly. A weekly newsletter is now available featuring updates on brand new reports as well as special offers. To subscribe visit http://www.allnetresearch.com.
Organizations interested in selling their Internet research on AllNetResearch.com can contact Gina Calabro, Director of E-commerce, at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or (203) 662-2924.
Pogue Press and O'Reilly & Associates promise that computer users will find "the book that should have been in the box" in their new Missing Manual Series. Missing Manual series creator David Pogue, author of O'Reilly's "Palm Pilot: The Ultimate Guide," is editing the series and writing several of the titles. The first three Missing Manual titles tackle high-profile Mac OS applications. "Mac OS 9: the Missing Manual" is slated for a March 2000 release, followed in Q2, 2000 by volumes on AppleWorks 6 and iMovie, Apple's video-editing software.
Future titles will cover Windows 2000, FileMaker Pro, Mac OS X, and a host of other desktop software programs.
Each Missing Manual offers readers:
For more information about the books see: http://www.MissingManual.com
Jupiter Communications, Inc., a research firm focused on Internet commerce, is expanding its coverage of the exploding online health industry, and launching a new event later this month, The Jupiter Online Health Forum.
On the heels of initial research in this market during 1999, the company is adding analyst coverage, data research, and additional reports in making Health a major research practice.
"This is another business opportunity where Jupiter is placing bets based on what our research is telling us, then focusing on what we do best: helping companies understand the marketing, selling and distribution dynamics that are unique to a huge traditional industry as it is being transformed by Internet commerce," said Gene DeRose, Jupiter chairman and CEO.
At the first Jupiter Online Health Forum, to be held in Orlando, Fla., January 26 and 27, three online health industry executives will be featured as keynote speakers: C. Everett Koop, former US Surgeon General and chairman of drkoop.com; Bill Razzouk chairman and CEO of PlanetRx, and W. Michael Long chairman and COO of Healtheon/WebMD.
The forum will focus on revenue, regulatory, marketing, and structural issues and their impact of the nascent online health market.
"More than any other medium, the Internet is uniquely positioned to address consumers' health-related needs, and the $1 trillion US health care market is definitely in play online," said Claudine Singer, an analyst with Jupiter's Health Module. "Traditional industry players and newly created Internet ventures are competing for ad and commerce revenues in reaching those consumers," Jupiter has produced, and is conducting, research examining a range of issues affecting this industry. Some recent research includes:
To register or to receive information on the Jupiter Online Health Forum or the 2000 Forum calendar, contact Jupiter at 800-611-0391 (international callers can dial 917-534-6424) or visit Jupiter online at www.jup.com.
Mac gamers will be happy to know that Activision and id Software have released Quake III Arena for the Macintosh. The online multiplayer shooter's enhanced graphics engine displays 3D environments using advanced features such as curved surface rendering and high-resolution textures. Fog effects and specular lighting give an ethereal other-worldly feel to the arenas, while simulated warriors, or "bots," each fight with a different style and finesse.
Features include an arsenal of nine weapons, 26 deathmatch and four capture-the-flag levels, and a single-player "training" mode.
Microsoft's new soccer game for the PC, International Soccer 2000 ($20), was jointly developed by Microsoft and Rage Software PLC, based in Birmingham, England. The title reportedly features realistic movement and a variety of play options. Using guidance and assistance from England's top soccer coaches, the tactics and strategy of world-class soccer are captured in the game's artificial intelligence feature, said to provide sophisticated on-field action, including player positioning, making space and marking, along with intelligent reaction to teammate and opponent positioning.
The game's one-touch control system lets gamers low-kick, high-kick, make contact and sprint down the field. Other features include over 200 moves, 9,000 frames of motion-captured animation, eight stadiums, over 70 international teams complete with customized home and away uniforms, and players that reflect the varied ethnic makeup of the game.
Activision, Inc. in collaboration with Disney Interactive announces Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue for Sega Dreamcast. The game is slated to be launched in March 2000.
The game, a third-person, 3D free-roaming adventure, pits the resourceful hero Buzz Lightyear against five big bosses in a perilous quest to save Woody from an overzealous toy collector. Backed up by a crew of fellow toys, players travel across 15 huge levels, interacting with characters and exploring environments from the movie.
Players can obtain special powers to complete their missions by unlocking toy accessories, which include rocket jet boots, a grappling hook, an arm laser and moon spring boots. They must enlist the assistance of their favorite toys in getting long-lasting power-ups, and let Hamm, Slinky Dog and Rex help them along to save Woody. Gamers can jump, swing, bounce and somersault through the air and even combine these moves in rapid succession as Buzz Lightyear does in the movie.
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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