22 January 2001
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Interactive Video Technologies (IVT), an interactive media technology provider, last week introduced version 1.1 of its Internet Video Operating Platform (IVOP).
Combining its own development technology with a variety of widely used, commercially available technologies, IVT's IVOP is a Web-based infrastructure platform designed to let Web sites merge e-commerce and interactive elements such as chat, polling, or games with streaming video.
The platform, which integrates a variety of media players, hosting providers, and other infrastructure components, provides customers with the following components:
Available business applications include:
Anark Corporation revealed last week that it is developing an integrated media platform designed to provide digital media developers and Web developers with a complete solution to create, deliver and broadcast-quality content.
Anark Client lets Web and digital media developers integrate 3D and 2D graphics, video, audio, and text into an interactive experience on the Internet. It also provides network-enabling and broadcast-server applications through its back-end content delivery applications. This network technology consists of server-side software products that enable digital media developers and integrators, ISPs, edge-of-network hosting companies, and major Web sites to target and serve content to customers. These server-side components of the Anark Media Platform will be released throughout 2001.
Anark Client will be available for public download in Q2 2001.
Texas-based Metrowerks has updated its CodeWarrior for PlayStation2 development tool set, which now provides developers with a multi-core debugger to help speed development time. The company reports that over 1,700 registered users are developing PlayStation2 games with CodeWarrior tools.
CodeWarrior for PlayStation2, Version 2.5 also provides support for video streaming and audio/peripherals, and an interface for art package plug-ins. Also included is an improved Integrated Development Environment (IDE) specifically enhanced for game designers.
CodeWarrior for PlayStation2, Version 2.5 provides debugging support for the Input-Output Processor (IOP) and the Vector Processing Units (VU), as well as compiler support for the IOP. With CodeWarrior, PlayStation2 developers can debug the VU microcode, the IOP's memory and the Emotion Engine's (EE) processor within one debugging interface.
For artists and developers, Metrowerks has added CWComUtil, a COM-based server interface for art package plug-in clients supporting 3D authoring tools suites, as well as custom authoring tools. The read/write memory feature in CWComUtil allows a developer to set up a command-line or menu-driven interface that allows artists to change aspects of their executable -- such as characters, scenes or background -- without having to download the entire executable after every change. With minimal effort, the developer sets up the interface, and then the artist takes over, saving development time.
New IDE features include: improved Find dialog/engine search; user pref/window layout that can be saved; import/export of window panels to Web-based format; and find-and-compare operation on project folders during builds.
Developers can license the CodeWarrior Analysis Tools Construction Kit to create their own custom analysis tools. Custom tools created with the Analysis Tools Framework can increase the efficiency of engineering, testing and quality assurance teams of both middleware companies and game development companies by helping developers locate specific problems without having to guess where code-related problems exist.
In addition, Metrowerks provides its own analysis tools based on the Framework APIs. The CodeWarrior Analysis Tools for PlayStation2 help PlayStation2 game developers improve code performance by allowing them to quickly and easily find bottlenecks in their code, and help improve code quality by analyzing test suite coverage.
NxN Software last week shipped alienbrain 4.0, an upgrade to its game development software. The new version adds features for project control, software integration and customization.
alienbrain 4.0 integrates with widely used game development software. In addition to plug-ins for the standard 2D and 3D art programs -- Photoshop, Maya, 3D Studio Max and XSI -- the new version of alienbrain offers integration with developer tools like Visual Studio.
Its customizable interface and new feature set are designed to simplify production tasks and make it easier for users to navigate and operate within the alienbrain framework. Users can customize list and tree views, previewing, toolbars, client features and more.
To increase project control and minimize file management errors, such as file deletions or collisions, alienbrain 4.0 offers a new administration client. The new client simplifies the set-up of projects and eases the management of user rights.
The alienbrain client/server solution simplifies the production process in major game development projects by combining data management, team collaboration, workflow management and project management tools to provide a production infrastructure.
Zenith Electronics Corporation recently introduced its interactive television -- an integrated, Web-enabled TV that comes with "free" Internet access. The 27-inch TV will offer consumers access to interactive TV services such as email, chat, Internet browsing and shopping, without the need for a set-top box.
The new Zenith TV, which integrates patented technology from TeleCruz Technology Inc. and Internet access by Transcast, is expected to sell for under $600 beginning this spring.
Designed for fast and easy navigation between the Web and TV channels, Zenith's interactive TV features a 2-tuner Picture-In-Picture feature for simultaneous Web and channel surfing. Other features include a flatter color picture tube, 3-line digital comb filter, built-in modem, and infrared remote and keyboard.
C-Cube, a developer of digital video processors, recently unveiled its DoMiNo Network Media Processor architecture, an integrated system-on-chip architecture combining audio-video (AV) processing with network connectivity. Customizable for a range of applications in the networked digital home entertainment market, C-Cube DoMiNo is designed to meet the requirements of today's hybrid analog-digital world as well as tomorrow's all-digital, connected environment.
C-Cube's DoMiNo, a multi-stream, multi-format AV system codec architecture, leverages the company's legacy in digital media processing, extending it to new entertainment environments where broadband access and home networking will be the norm.
The technology will reportedly let OEMs cost-effectively integrate personal video recorder (PVR) functions such as pause, rewind, or command slow motion or fast forward with live TV, into interactive digital set-top boxes (STBs) while maintaining attractive retail-level pricing. Potential capabilities include watching a DVD movie while recording a TV program, converting music from CD audio to MP3 format for listening on the go, or editing a home video using a digital camcorder, archive it onto DVD and send it to friends and family via MPEG streaming capabilities.
At the heart of the C-Cube DoMiNo architecture are the full-duplex, multi-stream AV codec and integrated transport stream and IEEE1394 network interfaces. It can transcode between different AV formats and transrate between different bit rates, letting consumers view or listen to digital content in the format best suited for a particular device or situation.
Chips based on the C-Cube DoMiNo architecture will be introduced during this year, and the first consumer products based on this technology are expected to reach the market as early as the fourth quarter of 2001.
Coming soon from Electric Image is a professional version of its $379 Amorphium real-time 3D sculpting and painting program for Mac and Wintel. The new version adds new modeling, animation and rendering capabilities, and the ability to save 3D objects and animations in a Flash format (.SWF), which can then be used independently or imported into Macromedia's Flash application.
Amorphium Pro also produces optimized GIF and QuickTime animations, imports and exports all major 3D file formats, converts EPS graphics into 3D objects and supports industry-standard 2D images for integration with design programs like Adobe Photoshop.
Amorphium Pro has a new interface design with layered project menus, tear-away tool palettes, a larger workspace and multiple windows views. A number of both conventional modeling and real-time sculpting tools have been added for more flexibility, faster creation of objects and scenes and greater control when detailing complex objects. The new version also adds more robust morphing and animation capabilities with a keyframe-based timeline and support for virtually any number of objects, morph targets, lights, backgrounds and scene effects. New rendering capabilities include ray tracing for surface reflections and refractions and radiosity for realistic scene lighting, as well as advanced smoke and lighting effects.
Brilliant Digital Entertainment, Inc. says its Digital Projector technology will be available for Macintosh computer users beginning in February 2001. Brilliant also plans to integrate its Digital Projector technology into Apple's forthcoming QuickTime 5 player as a downloadable, integrated QuickTime component.
The Brilliant Digital Projector will support Mac OS X as well as earlier versions of the Macintosh operating system from Apple. The subsequent QuickTime 5 player compatibility will provide multi-platform access.
The Brilliant Digital projector can display interactive 3D content full screen with synchronized audio and with animation content with which the user can interact to alter story lines, explore the content or experience from a different viewpoint. Content produced in the b3d format, using Brilliant's b3d Studio software, can be accessed and viewed using the projector, a free download available over the Internet. The projector houses the features that move characters, initiate interactivity, control speed and sequencing, and selects special visual effects. Once the projector is downloaded into a computer, viewers can experience Multipath movies currently available over the Internet.
Currently available b3d content includes characters like Superman, KISS, Xena, and Ace Ventura on entertainment portals, as well as the forthcoming Brilliant Animated Music "BAM" 3D music Web-videos featuring artists from Dreamworks Records and Island Def Jam Records, featuring HipHop artists JaRule, JayZ and many more.
Just out from Adobe Systems Incorporated is Adobe Premiere 6.0 ($549), the newest version of the company's digital video editing software for Mac and Wintel. The new version lets users edit digital video on a desktop and publish it to the Web in multiple formats including RealNetworks RealMedia, Microsoft Windows Media, and Apple QuickTime. Additional changes include an enhanced user interface, new professional editing tools and integration with other Adobe applications including After Effects, Photoshop and GoLive. New audio features include an audio mixer and a SmartSound QuickTracks CD for creating custom length soundtracks inside Adobe Premiere.
ParallelGraphics, a developer of Web-based 3D technologies, last week released a new version of its Cortona VRML Client, Cortona v 3.0.
Cortona has been optimized for the Intel Pentium 4 processor, and now supports advanced anti-aliasing, reflection mapping, joystick input and stereo glasses support.
Cycore, a developer of interactive 3D for e-business, and bioVirtual, which makes technology for photo-realistic 3D human models, characters and avatars, recently released "3DmeNow with Cult3D Exporter." The new software converts animated 3D humans into interactive 3D images for use on the Web and in multiple applications, such as Microsoft PowerPoint presentations and Adobe Acrobat. The exporter lets users create interactive photo-realistic 3D human models, characters and avatars, for use in entertainment, security, and scientific applications. Users snap photos of a model from the front and side, and then load the images into the 3DMeNow program.
Kaon Interactive last week released its free Activate! customization tool for use with its free HyperSpace 3D viewer. the tool lets HyperSpace users adjust lighting and compression settings, create shadows, add 2D and 3D hotspots, specify rollover images and sounds, add hotlinks, and more, for all types of Web-enabled 3D content.
Kaon's Activate! tool has also been designed to save users money by allowing customized photorealistic models to be re-purposed for specific applications, such as remote sales training, e-commerce, and Web-based customer support. CAD and 3D content developers can import standard format CAD and other 3D content, assemble multiple parts into a single object, adjust color and texture, and adjust the orientation and position of imported objects.
Cryonetworks, a Paris, France-based developer of interactive 3D virtual applications, recently released its SCOL Technology for the Macintosh platform, with a planned release for Apple's next generation operating system, Mac OS X.
The SCOL Technology is a programming language that renders 3D in real time and allows the creation of multi-user sites. These sites can be:
Products currently using the SCOL Technology include:
When people visit your Websites, can they navigate intuitively, or do they have to stop and ponder before making a move? If the latter, check out Don't Make Me Think, a new book by Steve Krug, published by Que. Subtitled A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, the book is based on the common-sense premise that people won't use your site if they can't find their way around it. For example, Krug advocates that you employ "you are here" indicators in navigational lists (etc.), and moreover, use multiple visual distinctions to make them really stand out, such as combining boldface and different-colored text. The book is only 185 pages long, with large text and lots of white space, but it contains so much useful information that you won't mind parting with the $35 it costs.
So you've just upgraded to LightWave 6.5, and you're wondering what to do with it. Is that your problem? Well, fret no longer, bunky, 'cause help is on the way in the form of LightWave 6.5 Magic from New Riders. Edited and partly written by Dan Ablan, with contributions from a host of others, the book/CD combo walks you through a variety of procedures that cover everything from Motion Blur to Motions. Under Lighting Techniques, you'll learn to build a campfire, fake a radiosity effect, produce ocean surf, and project volumetrically. Other tutorials cover falling rain and snow, smoke plumes, underwater effects, and quite a bit more.
Just woke up and you're anxious already, eh? At least you're not alone, as amply demonstrated in Information Anxiety 2, just out from Que. If the title seems familiar, it's because prolific author Richard Saul Wurman produced the unnumbered original in 1989, alerting us to the need to "architect" information so that it can be easily accessed and understood. The heavily updated new version contains a wealth of thoughtful and provocative commentary, grouped into chapters with intriguing titles such as Let Them Make Mistakes, Discriminating Between Interests and Obligations, and Doing What You Want to Do Each Day. So calm down, get this book, and learn to manage information before you turn into a quivering wreck!
"In 1996, my brother yelled out the studio window and said 'Hey, you gotta come check this out!' I ran up the stairs and got my first earful of RealAudio streaming over the Web," says Josh Beggs, coauthor of the newest O'Reilly release, "Designing Web Audio." "As artists and producers we knew it was going to be revolutionary. Here we were in start-up mode doing business on a shoestring dreaming about how we were going to pay for CD's and packaging to publish our music... and even more daunting find an audience... then kaboom... streaming audio over the Internet... It was like we had just been handed the keys to a global satellite broadcasting center. It was an epiphany moment."
Beggs' book, "Designing Web Audio" (O'Reilly, $34.95), explains how digital audio is encoded from microphone to hard disk; how sound is processed using compression and equalization; and how to turn audio source material into a great soundtrack using loops and ambient soundscapes. "Designing Web Audio" demystifies its subject with informative step-by-step techniques for encoding, compression, and streaming audio over the Web.
"I especially wanted to make sure the new techno tribe of digerati and programmer heads had the benefit of understanding the connection between sound and music and human interaction with technology and emotions," says Beggs. "Audio is such a compelling part of our lives and of how we define ourselves as humans belonging to a specific culture. Specifically, audio plays a huge role in making media more real and lifelike, especially our movie watching experience. Someday soon audio will enjoy a similar role on the Web."
The book offers step-by-step instructions on using the leading audio formats for streaming music over the Web. "'Designing Web Audio' looks to the future when audio becomes a more integral part of the Web, not just a file format to be stored on a server and downloaded," explains Beggs. "Our book is written for the next era when surfing the Web becomes much more like watching a movie. "
The book also includes basic digital audio and sound wave theory, practical tips and techniques for recording and editing audio for the Web, and a buyer's guide to building an effective sound studio.
An article by Josh Beggs, "Web Mastering: The Art of Optimizing Sound Files for Napster and the Internet" is available at http://Web.oreilly.com/news/Webaudio_1200.html
Chapter 5, Introduction to Streaming Media, is available free online at http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/sound/chapter/ch05.html
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bio, and samples, see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/sound/
Electronic Arts plans to release this spring, The Sims House Party Expansion Pack, a new add-on disk to the hit PC title The Sims. Three new architecture styles and dozens of new objects will let players hoedown at a country barn dance, chow down at a tropical luau, or go underground at a rave with their Sims. Within each entertaining theme, a festive variety of costumes and décor options are available to add breadth to the bash.
Players can build a dance floor for their Sims and watch them keep to the rhythm of the DJ's music. They can hire a flashy caterer to keep the buffet table and punch bowl full. Or they can roll in a mechanical bull or the giant cake "full of surprises" and kick the party into high gear.
Macromedia last week announced revenues of $103.3 million for the third quarter ended December 31, 2000, a 61% increase over revenues of $64.3 million reported in the quarter ended December 31, 1999. Pro forma net income grew 97% year over year to $16.2 million, or $0.29 diluted earnings per share during the third quarter of fiscal 2001, compared to pro forma net income of $8.2 million, or $0.15 diluted earnings per share in the same period a year ago.
Revenues for the nine months ended December 31, 2000 increased 72%, totalling $300.5 million, as compared with $174.9 million for the nine-month period a year ago. Pro forma net income for the nine-month period increased over 150% reaching $45.7 million, or $0.81 diluted earnings per share, as compared with pro forma net income of $17.8 million, or $0.33 diluted earnings per share, a year ago.
Also last week, Macromedia and Allaire Corporation announced a definitive merger agreement. The latter is best known for ColdFusion, its cross-platform Web application server. The combined company will enable Web professionals to build the look of a Web site and the application logic behind it.
The merger is valued at approximately $360 million on a fully diluted basis. In the merger, Macromedia will exchange 0.2 shares of its stock and $3 in cash for each Allaire share. The merger will be accounted for as a purchase combination and is expected to be accretive in Macromedia's fiscal year 2002. This transaction is subject to certain closing conditions, including regulatory approvals and the approval of Allaire shareholders, and is expected to close by the second calendar quarter of 2001. In connection with the merger agreement, Allaire has granted Macromedia an option to acquire 19.9% of Allaire's stock, exercisable in certain circumstances.
Macromedia provided updated growth targets for its fourth quarter fiscal 2001. Beginning with the fourth quarter fiscal 2001, the company will no longer report shockwave.com revenue as part of its consolidated financial statements. Therefore, excluding shockwave.com revenue, the Company said that revenue and pro forma earnings for the fourth quarter fiscal 2001 for its software business only will be similar to the December quarter due to softening macroeconomic conditions.
In addition, the Company provided preliminary targets for FY02 on a pro forma combined basis including Allaire. Revenues in FY02 are expected to be approximately $630 million or approximately 60% growth over expected FY01 revenue for Macromedia's software business. Pro forma combined earnings for fiscal year 2002 are expected to be approximately $1.70. This preliminary combined outlook will be updated at the closing of the merger, expected in calendar Q201.
As we reported here a couple of weeks ago, the USC Annenberg Center for Communication will hold a conference entitled Entertainment in the Interactive Age January 29-30 down L.A. way. The free conference is fully booked, but we thought you might be interested in knowing that the keynoter will be Simster Will Wright. Other announced speakers include Steve DiPaola of Stanford University, David Perry of Shiny Entertainment, Warren Spector of Ion Storm, IDSA's Doug Lowenstein, Hal Barwood of LucasArts, ex-Bullfrog game god Peter Molyneux, and a number of folks from USC, including Celia Pearce, Skip Rizzo, and Eddo Stern.
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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