20 January 2003
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Coming soon from Namo Interactive is WebEditor 5.5, with new features including WebCanvas, a vector-based Web graphic drawing tool optimized for use with WebEditor. WebCanvas supports the SVG file format, allowing the preview of SVG files in a Web browser and export images in SVG format. The WebCanvas application replaces the Smart Button Wizard, which was an integral part of Namo WebEditor 5.0. WebCanvas provides enhanced Smart Button features as well as vector image editing.
Namo Interactive is a South Korean developer and supplier of software solutions for the World Wide Web. Last November, it took over North American sales and support of WebEditor, a visual Web authoring tool formerly handled by Jasc Software.
Webstyle also offers template-based Web-graphics creation, from button bars and animated banner ads to headings and others, including complete themed graphic sets. Among the graphic types is button bars with DHTML menus, to which Xara has added further controls to the menu creation, including menu separators and borders, variable transparency and a set of new button bar template designs.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has issued Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 1.1 and Mobile SVG Profiles as W3C Recommendations. SVG 1.1 separates SVG capabilities into reusable building blocks, and SVG Mobile re-combines them in a way optimized for mobile devices. Advancement of these documents to Recommendation indicates that these W3C-developed specifications are stable, contribute to Web interoperability, and have been reviewed by the W3C Membership, who favor their adoption by the industry.
The graphical capabilities of SVG 1.1 are the same as those of the widely implemented SVG 1.0 , which has been a W3C Recommendation since 4 September 2001. What has changed is the way the language is defined. For SVG 1.0, the Document Type Definition (DTD) was a single, monolithic unit. In SVG 1.1, the DTD is divided up into smaller, more flexible functional building blocks that can be reassembled in different ways for different purposes. The SVG Working Group used the same proven modularization techniques pioneered by the HTML Working Group for XHTML modularization.
There is an explosion of interest in handheld devices and mobile phones with color screens and improved processing power, which can deliver enhanced multimedia functionality. These still fall short of the capabilities of desktop and laptop machines, but are now capable of displaying Web-standard technologies such as XHTML, SMIL and SVG. W3C has used the SVG 1.1 building blocks to make two profiles or subsets of full SVG; SVG Tiny, aimed at multimedia-capable cell phones such as the recently announced 3G units, and SVG Basic for handheld and palmtop computers.
"Cell phones allow Internet and Web access for millions of people who don't have access to desktop machines, temporarily or otherwise," said Dean Jackson, W3C Fellow from CSIRO. "With 3GPP already incorporating Mobile SVG, we are already starting to see more rich and useful content in third generation cell phones."
Instead of sending text messages or canned, bitmap logos, SVG Tiny now makes it possible to send a colorful animated multimedia message. Instead of juggling a laptop or taking a static printout to the factory floor, construction site, hospital ward, or trading room, SVG Basic now enables the mobile professional to consult up to date, interactive, informative graphics on a convenient pocket computer which is dynamically updated over a wireless network connected to the XML information hub of the enterprise.
Another way that W3C and others are making use of the modular SVG 1.1 building blocks is to combine them with building blocks from other W3C technologies to produce more powerful, integrated solutions. Examples include the combination of SVG and XForms to construct graphically rich, interactive input forms, or SVG and SMIL Basic to combine vector graphics with streaming audio and video, or XHTML, MathML and SVG for scientific and technical communication including text with headings, lists and tables; mathematical equations, and interactive graphs and diagrams.
"As with all W3C Recommendations, SVG builds on established, open W3C technologies such as XML, CSS and DOM. SVG also has received rigorous review for Internationalization and Web Accessibility requirements, which results in natural integration with existing technologies. This maximizes application power while minimizing its footprint," said Chris Lilley, chair of the SVG Working Group and member of the W3C Technical Architecture Group (TAG). "Adopting open, truly standards-based solutions has already shown return on investment; the pieces fit together in powerful, extensible and economical ways." SVG Mobile is now deployed
Commercial services using SVG Mobile are now being deployed, including location based services using geographical metadata embedded in the SVG. Fifteen implementations were tested in November 2002, including SVG Tiny implementations from Bitflash, CSIRO, KDDI, Nokia, ZOOMON and SVG Basic implementations from Bitflash, CSIRO, and Intesis; others were also under development but were not tested at that time.
As a result of these compatibility trials, SVG implementations are available now from multiple vendors for integration into cellphones or deployment on PDAs in addition to the increasing number of implementations for desktop and laptop computers. Conformance to one of the two profiles, rather than each manufacturer choosing their own subset, ensures widespread interoperability of content across mobile devices from different manufacturers, thus lowering content development cost while ensuring widespread deployment that does not depend on the single source of supply of proprietary alternatives. As Mobile SVG is a true subset of SVG 1.1, all conformant desktop players will correctly display all Mobile SVG content, ensuring the Mobile and desktop worlds continue to share a common, standards-based Web.
Discreet last week shipped character studio 4, its character animation plug-in for 3ds max, with new features such as dynamics-based mixing, constraint-based mixdowns, and quaternion function curves.
Dynamics-based mixing is an animation system that provides propagation of dynamic balancing from the upper body to the lower body, useful in making body-part mixes look natural and coherent. Constraint-based mixdowns lets animators combine nonlinear sequences into a single clip while satisfying foot IK and knee-joint motion constraints. This enables smooth blending of multiple files as well as the blending of motion-capture with key-framed data.
Quaternion function curves give animators a more exact method of fluidly controlling character joint rotation without the usual caveats found in other animation systems.
Discreet also released 3ds max 5.1, a maintenance update available to 3ds max 5 customers as a software download from www.discreet.com/support/max. The update improves performance, reliability, and workflow with enhancements in several functional areas such as scripting, animation, modeling, rendering and mapping.
Lastly, Discreet has initiated the Discreet Subscription Program, a new service giving 3ds max 5 users an online automated method of purchasing, managing and obtaining maintenance software. Subscribers receive automatic notices for software maintenance, as well as educational materials and feature "extensions". The first feature extension available to members is the "Design Extension," giving users tools for design visualization projects.
Unreal Tournament 2003 utilizes Right Hemisphere's Deep Character technology for a customization utility that ships with the game. Upaint is a 3D painting application that lets Unreal players paint directly on their character. Players can also import a digital photograph of their face and put it directly on a game character.
Right Hemisphere's Deep Character technology, used in UPaint, is designed to create customization applications for players and creators of 3D games. It provides texturing, painting and parametric mesh editing capabilities. The user interface can be developed to suit usability requirements can be designed to fit the look and feel of different gamer profiles and markets.
Apache is the most widely used Web server platform in the world. Both free and rock-solid, Apache runs more than half of the world's Web sites, ranging from huge e-commerce operations to corporate intranets and smaller hobby sites. "Netcraft reports that there are now more than ten million active sites running Apache," says Peter Laurie, coauthor with Ben Laurie of "Apache: The Definitive Guide, Third Edition" (O'Reilly, US $39.95), adding, "The normal turnover of life must mean that several hundred thousand Apache Web sites change Webmasters every year, and the newcomers can't all be experts, so we figure that there must be one or two Webmasters out there who could use some basic guidance in getting started."
In addition to providing detailed information for site administrators, the authors have included information in several different categories, including introductions to using Apache with open-source scripting languages and databases. Covered languages include PHP, Perl, Python, and Java via Tomcat, with sample scripts to show how to use the languages to extract data from a database, to generate HTML forms on the fly, to extract new data from the returned messages and save it again in the database.
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bios, and samples, see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/apache3/.
Graphics programmers aren't the only ones who need to be proficient with graphics. Web and applications programmers know that with the use of well-planned graphic elements, a dull Web page can be transformed into one that's interesting and lively. Fortunately, the skills of a fulltime graphics programmer aren't required to use graphics effectively. From access counters and log report graphs to scientific plots and on-the-fly animated GIFs, graphics scripting is within the grasp of most Web programmers. Using open source software, like Perl, they have the power to dynamically generate graphics based on user input and activity, manipulate graphics content, and optimize graphics for compression and quality. O'Reilly's new book, "Perl Graphics Programming" by Shawn Wallace (US $39.95), is a guide to creating and manipulating the graphics that bring Web pages to life.
Geared toward Perl users and Webmasters, the book focuses on open-source scripting programs that can be used with graphics files on the Web. It begins with a tour of the most common Web graphic file formats--PNG, JPEG, GIF, SWF, SVG, Postscript, and PDF. Readers will then explore the most powerful tools and Perl modules available for manipulating these graphics, such as GD, PerlMagick, and GIMP. Included in this part of the book is a thorough description of the Ming module for creating on-the-fly Flash files.
Next, a "cookbook" section includes practical, all purpose recipes: GIF animation, generating images within a dynamic application, communicating between SWF front-end and Perl back-end, XSLT transformations, compression, and much more. Readers will learn how to:
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bio, and samples, see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/perlgp/
Discreet has entered into an alliance with Colorfront, a privately-held software development company based in Budapest, Hungary, to jointly develop, market and sell digital color-correction systems.
The details of the agreement provide for the joint development of a new digital color-grading solution based on both Colorfront and Discreet technology. Colorfront will carry out core product development, with certain components provided by Discreet. The new product, expected to be announced and launched April 2003 at NAB in Las Vegas, will be part of the Discreet inferno, flame, flint, fire, smoke and backdraft systems product line.
Colorfront has been in partnership with Discreet for several years, having developed the Color*star-digital film grading and color correction, and Star*dust-film mastering and image restoration sparks (plug-ins) for Discreet's inferno, flame, flint, fire and smoke systems.
Electronic Arts last week released The Sims for PlayStation2, developed by the company's Walnut Creek-based Maxis studio in conjunction with Austin-based Edge of Reality, Ltd. Features include new level-based game play, two-player modes, and 3D graphics.
In a new level-based mode called "Get a Life," players can start with just one Sim and move him or her through life's big moments including moving out of Mom's house, getting a job, and having a family. As players progress through new challenges their Sim can unlock objects exclusive to the PS2 version such as a teppanyaki table, aroma master, and a strip poker game.
For the first time, players can play with or against each other, challenging friends for popularity points and bragging rights, and saving houses and Sims on a memory card to transport to a friend's system.
Players can create and tailor their Sims with accessories such as stylish hats, trendy glasses, cool hairstyles, and a variety of clothing options. Players will also be able to make changes to their Sims appearance mid-game with the unlockable vanity mirror.
As in the original version of The Sims, players will be able to play the classic open-ended game play. In this version of the game, players can also explore and create in a new 3D world that harnesses the PS2. Also unique to this version is a cast of wacky neighbors and creatures, including a monkey butler that can be unlocked to serve the Sims.
Sony Computer Entertainment America last week released War of the Monsters, a fighting game for PlayStation2. Incog Inc. Entertainment, developer of Twisted Metal:Black, teamed up with the company's Santa Monica Studio to bring epic monster movies to life.
Inspired by 1950s and 1960s classics, War of the Monsters allows users to experience all out destruction as 100-foot tall monsters let loose in a raging battle on planet Earth. With 10 monsters, 13 destructible environments and numerous weapons at their disposal, War of the Monsters allows gamers to take part in gargantuan monster movies.
Players can choose from 10 unique monsters equipped with special short and long range attacks, including Congar, a super gorilla with a sonic roar, Ultra V, a giant space age robot with an energy sword, and Preytor, a huge flying mutant mantis with piercing appendages. A two-player split screen merges into full-screen action as combatants approach one another.
In each of the 13 destructible and interactive environments set in locations such as thriving cities, an airfield, and a volcanic island resort, players can scour the battlefield for weapons such as steel girders, army tanks and radio antenna to bring down buildings or opponents. Fighters can employ uppercuts, grapples, combos, weapons, and environmental attacks such as tidal waves and earthquakes.
Gamers can clash in battles with up to three opponents at once, either against three CPU-controlled monsters in single-player mode, or challenge a friend and two CPU-controlled opponents in two-player mode.
GarageGames last week released the Mac OS X version of its title, Marble Blast. The Mac demo features five playable levels and access to several of the game's power up items. The $14.95 full version includes 72 levels, a variety of power-up bonuses and additional hazards.
Produced by GarageGames in cooperation with Monster Studios, Marble Blast is the first title to use the Torque Game Engine. The arcade-style action game has players racing against time as they navigate their marbles through moving platforms and dangerous hazards, collecting treasure along the way.
Under development from Interplay Entertainment Corp. and Vivendi Universal Games is Hunter: The Reckoning Wayward for PlayStation2. Developed by High Voltage Software and due out this summer, the game continues the story of the action-adventure title Hunter: The Reckoning.
Welcome back to the sleepy town of Ashcroft, where two years ago a supernatural evil was destroyed by four Hunters. In the last two years the town has put the past behind them...or so they thought. A cult has formed underground and now two years later events reminiscent of the past have begun to occur. After receiving a distress call from a mysterious new Hunter, the four original Hunters realize they must return to the town. Evil has again resurfaced and the Hunters are Ashcroft's only hope of deliverance.
Electronic Arts last week released SimCity 4, featuring new simulation and graphics engines, new regional game play, and the new ability to track the lives of individual Sims as they go about their daily routine.
Players experience new godlike powers of creation as they lay the groundwork for their cities by molding mountains, carving valleys, seeding forests and laying rivers.
Unlike earlier games in the series, SimCity 4 cities do not live in isolation from the world; they are part of an entire region. Each city a player creates becomes part of an ever-growing tapestry of municipalities that, once connected by transportation networks, share and compete for resources. Depending upon the choices made by a player, this multi-city game play can result in a variety of outcomes within that region.
For the first time, players can follow a Sim as they go about their life in the city. Players can personalize their Sim and immediately move him or her into any area and watch them experience life in the city, first hand. Is he or she enjoying a happy existence in an urban utopia or enduring a futile fight for survival in the inner-city? A player's Sim provides clues to improving the city.
Individual buildings and their lots now provide feedback to the player who lives there. Bigger, better and more relevant disasters are also available along with the ability to dispatch the police or fire department to areas in the city where they are needed.
Alias|Wavefront has been awarded an Oscar for its development of Maya 3D animation and effects software. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Oscar recipients for scientific and technical achievements earlier last week.
Used in many films nominated by the Academy in the category of best visual effects since its inception five years ago, Maya was employed most recently in such films as Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Spider-Man, Ice Age, Hollow Man, and Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones.
While this is Alias|Wavefront's first Oscar, employees previously have been honored by the Academy for achievements in the Scientific and Technical category. Recognition was bestowed upon: Jim Hourihan in 1996 for the primary design and development of the interactive language-based control of particle systems embodied in the Dynamation software package; William Kovacs in 1997 for his creative leadership; Roy Hall in 1997 for his principle engineering efforts that led to the Wavefront Advanced Visualizer computer graphics system; and John Gibson, Rob Krieger, Milan Novacek, Glen Ozymok and Dave Springer in 1997 for the development of the geometric modeling component of the Alias PowerAnimator system.
The winners of the first annual media industry newsletter (min) Best of the Web awards demonstrate both the value of experience and the importance of brand integration in an increasingly fickle Web environment. The award-winning sites provide a benchmark for the magazine publishing community struggling to make some sort of living online.
AOL Time Warner's Parenting.com and People.com; CondeNet's Style.com; Thomson Media; Hanley Wood and IDG were among the big winners in the annual awards program, presented by media industry newsletter, min's b2b and min magazine.
"All of min's picks showed an extraordinary understanding of how the Web's three I's - immediacy, intimacy and interactivity - can do more than extend a publishing brand in cyberspace," says Steve Smith, new media editor of min and min's b2b and consultant for the awards program. "From BHG.com to YM.com, magazine execs have moved beyond seeing the Web as just another publishing platform."
The winners of 2002 min's Best of the Web Awards are:
* Consumer Winner: Style.com
* b2b Winner: Network World for Customer Access Management
Application of E-commerce
* b2b Winner: PC World for PC World Product Finder
* Consumer Winner: iVillage for Hearst Magazines
* Consumer Winner: The New Yorker for NewYorker.com
* b2b Winner: Advisor Today for AdvisorToday.com
* Consumer Winner: Style.com
* b2b Winner: Hanley-Wood for ebuild.com
* Consumer Winner: Meredith Corporation for BHG.com
* b2b Winner: Travel Weekly
* Consumer Winner: Parenting.com
* b2b Winner: Network World for Network World Email Newsletters
* b2b Winner: Thomson Media for Financial-Planning.com
* Consumer Winner: Newsweek for Newsweek.MSNBC.com
* Consumer Winner: Consumer Reports for American Consumer
* b2b Winner: Variety for Variety.com
Uses of Interactivity
* Consumer Winner: Primedia for gurl.com
Oregon3D, The Center for Visualization Technologies, announced last week that Scott Gaerisch has joined the company as director of sales and Rick Verbeck has joined as chief technologist. Both come from SGI.
The center is an immersive-visualization facility that allows commercial access to high-end supercomputing visualization technology. Powered by the same technologies used in automotive manufacturing, aerospace, and top research labs, Visualization Services' customers will be able to view and manipulate huge data sets, complex models and entire structures on a very large screen.
Oregon3D's Visualization Services provides support in creating innovative solutions for presenting, visualizing and interacting with large complex datasets in a way that is easily understood.
What interests "alpha geeks" these days--and why should we care? "Hackers and other lead users are a great early warning system if you want to think about the future of technology," contends Tim O'Reilly, founder and president of O'Reilly & Associates. "They do things today that everyone else will be doing in a couple of years." Learning from hackers and showcasing what alpha geeks are playing with now is the premise behind the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, convening in Santa Clara, CA from April 22-25, 2003.
Adds O'Reilly, "This conference will continue to explore the themes from past conferences, including peer-to-peer, Web services, the idea of the 'internet operating system,' Rendezvous and other mechanisms for ad hoc networking, and wireless. We'll also be looking at biological models for computing, lessons from complexity theory, and lots of other juicy ideas from the hacker noosphere."
Speakers such as Howard Rheingold, Alan Kay, Clay Shirky, Eric Bonabeau, Tim O'Reilly, David S. Isenberg, Brewster Kahle, Dan Gillmor, Steven Johnson, David Weinberger, Meg Hourihan, Wendy Seltzer, and Ben Hammersley lead sessions and tutorials in the following tracks:
Other sessions investigate work in systems that use biological materials as computational tools, consider the nexus of personal digital rights management and legislated DRM, and study what the new business models will look like.
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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