Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 1 July 2002
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Editor's note: Spectrum will take the next week off for the holiday, and will return July 15. Have a great Independence Day!
Today's Headlines (details below)
--4D Releases Free Web Portal Tool for Mac OS X --Xara Releases Web-Database, Content-Management Modules
--Cycling '74 Announces Graphics Processing Extensions --Bias Ships Deck 3.5
--BHA Updates DVD Recording App
--Panasonic DVD Burner Supports New Multi Standard
--Discreet Announces 3ds max 5
--3dMe Launches Character-Based Messaging Platform --Electric Rain to Distribute Flash Compression Tool --Pixologic Announces ZBrush 1.5
--Ulead Unveils Digital Imaging Software for Mac --Canopus Offers ProCoder Demo
--Dosch Releases 3D Garden Models
--3Dlabs Announces Programmable Graphics Accelerator
--ScanSoft Launches Dragon NaturallySpeaking v6
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
--O'Reilly Announces Bioinformatics Conference --O'Reilly Updates Perl Book
--Personal Video Will Drive Home PC, Recordable DVD Sales
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
--Id, Activision Release Wolfenstein GOTY Edition --Wizards of the Coast Launches Magic: The Gathering Online --Activision Launches Medieval: Total War Site
--Kurzweil to Keynote Sensors Expo
4D Releases Free Web Portal Tool for Mac OS X
4D, Inc., publishers of the 4th Dimension RAD/RDBMS Environment and 4D WebSTAR Server Suite, last week released 4D Portal v1.5 along with the Web portal application's source code.
4D Portal v1.5 supports Mac OS X and contains several feature enhancements to the "portlet" components. The source code for 4D Portal v1.5 allows customization of individual portlets in the 4D Portal Web application with the 4D development environment.
Comprised of components or "portlets" such as Calendar, Task Manager, Forums, Surveys, Chat, and more, 4D Portal is designed to handle the information-management and productivity needs of a variety of businesses and organizations. A stand-alone application, 4D Portal includes a built-in Web server or can be run as CGI to 4D WebSTAR V. Users can create Web-enabled, data-driven applications.
Xara Releases Web-Database, Content-Management Modules
Xara Online last week released the second of its Data Manager modules. The modules are building blocks that enable non-programmers to build Web-based database, email, SMS and content-management applications.
The Data Manager comprises the Form, Database, Query, Database Writer, Mailer and Reporter Modules. New features in version 2 include the capability to use HTML within an application, allowing customized emails to be used for newsletters, auto-responses, etc. Such emails are created using a WYSIWYG rich-text editor. The Reporter module allows for the customized display of search results, database data or site content. It can be used for site-content management to add, edit, or delete data on a Website without having to use an authoring tool.
Cycling '74 Announces Graphics Processing Extensions
Reason enough to buy a Mac? Mmmm, could be! San Francisco-based Cycling '74 last week announced Jitter, a set of video, matrix, and 3D graphics objects for the Mac-based Max graphical programming environment for real-time interactive music and media
Jitter includes over 120 new objects for describing and manipulating matrix data -- any data that can be expressed in rows and columns, such as video and still images, OpenGL-based 3D geometries, text, spreadsheet data, particle systems, voxels, and audio.
Applications include real-time and interactive video/3D graphics, data visualization, custom video effects creation, video rendering, and classroom applications.
Although the architecture is general, Jitter is optimized for use with video data. Jitter includes mathematical operators, keying/compositing, analysis, colorspace conversion and color correction, alpha channel processing, spatial warping, convolution-based filters, as well as less-traditional video processing objects. Users create modular video processing "patches" out of Jitter components and matrix patch cords in the same way that Max/MSP users create custom audio and MIDI applications.
Jitter includes support for Apple's QuickTime architecture, including the recording and playback of all QT supported file formats, editing operations, import/export capabilities, integrated real-time QT effects, video digitizing, QTVR, file format conversion, and support for QuickTime audio in the Max/MSP environment.
Jitter also includes a set of OpenGL objects for reading and rendering of 3D text and models, video and image texturing, hardware and software rendering support, and low-level access to geometry data and the OpenGL API.
The use of a single, generalized matrix data format (of up to 32 dimensions and up to 32 channels or planes) allows for transcoding data for cross-media experimentation. For example, text can be interpreted as an image, video images converted to 3D geometries, audio turned into particle systems, video data played as audio.
Jitter supports digital video (DV) camera control as well as input and output via FireWire and provides multiple-monitor support for performances.
Jitter users can develop and share programs and algorithms, and create standalone visual applications, as with Max/MSP. A free runtime version will be available that runs any application created with Max/MSP. Jitter includes a complete set of objects, documentation, tutorials, and a number of useful examples.
Jitter 1.0 is scheduled to be available in August 2002. For existing Max/MSP users, an upgrade to Jitter will cost $395. A bundle with Max, MSP, and Jitter will be available for $850. Educational discounts will be available - contact Cycling '74 for details. A trial version will be available for download from the company's web site at http://www.cycling74.com.
Bias Ships Deck 3.5
New from Petaluma, California-based Bias, Inc. is Deck 3.5, an upgrade of the company's multitrack digital audio workstation software for the Macintosh. The new version brings full support for Mac OS X, plus features such as OMF file importing and 5.1-channel surround mixing.
Support for OS X includes CoreAudio support for multichannel and multiclient hardware, low latencies, high sample rates, and a multithreaded operating environment. Deck 3.5 is a Carbonized application, and therefore will also run under OS 8.6 or 9.x.
In addition to import/export QuickTime movies Deck 3.5 imports OMF sessions from video editing and authoring applications such as Final Cut Pro, Avid, and others. Sessions from OMF-capable DAWs - including Pro Tools, Digital Performer and Nuendo - can also be imported. Deck is also suitable for spotting effects, editing dialogue, processing soundtracks, and recording ADR voiceovers.
Additionally, Deck 3.5 can output surround sessions to DVD authoring applications that include AC3 or DTS encoding, such as Apple's DVD Studio Pro.
The surround interface includes a 360-degree surround mixer, a "virtual joystick" with a choice of three optional panning algorithms: Radius, Variable-Width, and Room Ambiance. Each channel in the mixer displays its own 360-degree panning window, and as with Deck's conventional stereo channels, each also supports up to four simultaneous VST signal-processing plug-ins. The master output window features a fader for all of the six surround outputs (including the subwoofer/LFE channel), plus individual meters. Additionally, the interface offers control over output assignments for each of the six channels (requires ASIO or CoreAudio audio hardware with at least six output channels, and drivers).
BHA Updates DVD Recording App
B.H.A. Corporation announced last week the latest version of B's Recorder Gold for Windows, Gold5. Compatible with Windows 98/98 SE, Windows Me, Windows XP, 2000 and NT operating systems, the software supports MP3 encoding, decoding and burning, audio filter, WAV editor and at once conversion, CD label editor/printer, and prevents buffer underruns with BurnProof and JustLink compatibility.
B's Recorder Gold5 (full version) will be available for direct download through the BHA Web Shop the end of July at ESP $50. B's Recorder Gold5 DX, which will include B's DVD for DVD-ROM burning, DVD-Video creation, DVD video authoring, mini DVD (writing MPEG2 on CD), AVI editing (capture/trimming) and AVI to MPEG2 encodeing, will also be available for direct download through the BHA Web Shop the end of July at ESP $70.
Enhancements include an all-new GUI, a modular architecture, an audio editor and added support for DVD+R/ +RW and DVD-R/-RW combinations. The digital-audio editor lets users play, edit, mix, and analyze audio files.
Special effects include fade, equalizer, gargle, distortion, echo, reverb, and users can remaster and restore old recordings. Connecting tape or record players, users have the ability to digitize, sequence and burn audio tracks directly to the computer from a complete range of sources.
B's Recorder Gold5 allows users to perform either single or multi-recording sessions for applications involving data, audio or video files, as well as any combination of the three on a single disk. Gold5 automatically formats write-once and re-writable DVD media.
Panasonic DVD Burner Supports New Multi Standard
Panasonic's new $500 DVDBurnerII, scheduled to begin shipping in October, is a combination DVD/CD drive that meets DVD Multi specifications, with read/write support for all Recordable DVD formats approved by the DVD Forum and read/write support for CD-R/RW discs.
The DVD Multi specifications ensure disc compatibility for all recordable DVD formats established by the more than 200-member DVD Forum--both for consumer electronics products and personal computers. In addition to reading and writing DVD-R, DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, CD-R and CD-RW discs, the DVDBurnerII can also play DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio and CD-ROM discs.
When writing to a 4.7GB DVD-R General disc, the new drive achieves speeds of up to 2x, with DVD-R playback at 6x.
Discreet Announces 3ds max 5
First there was 3D Studio (DOS), and then there was 3D Studio MAX, and now, as of the last revision, there's 3ds max. This summer, the Windows version of Discreet's flagship 3D software turns 5 (in revisions), sporting lighting enhancements, bundled reactor plug-in for soft- and hard-body dynamics simulation, and improved texture-mapping capabilities. The new Set Key system gives users more control over setting keyframes, and the old Track View feature has been split up into Curve and Dope Sheet editors. One of my favorite new features is the Ink 'n Paint material for comic-style (but not vector) rendering with variable-width ink. There's lots more; check the link below for a full list.
3dMe Launches Character-Based Messaging Platform
3dMe last week launched 3dMe Messenger, a character-based messaging platform where users put their words in the mouths of an array of 3D animated characters, which speak the words and send them across the Internet.
Users select a 3D character, animate its expressions and record or key in the messages that the character will speak to the recipient of the message.
The user can then create and send the message via email or an Instant Message attachment on their PCs. The Mood Wheel feature lets the user select and control a character's facial expressions and moods, ranging from excited or silly to sad or bored.
Speech and lip synchronization is created from either text-to-speech functionality or from real-time voice recognition. 3dMe is introducing several character personalities including Shmenk, Floyd, Leona and Albert for people to use in communicating messages. The company will create, license and release new characters every month
The 3dMe service is initially targeting heavy Internet communicators including power users of email, Instant Messaging, Chat and games, and will also unveil cross-platform initiatives to appeal to WAP, SMS, MMS and picture messaging users. The 3dMe Messenger platform is available on a free trial basis from http://www.3dMe.com. The annual subscription price for the platform, all upgrades and a new character-a-month is available at the introductory price of $9.95.
Electric Rain to Distribute Flash Compression Tool
Electric Rain, Inc. is the primary U.S. distributor and reseller of Ideaworks3D Optimaze!, a forthcoming compression tool that lets users optimize Macromedia Flash (SWF) files for better distribution and playback on the Web.
"... we ran one of our Swift 3D Extreme showcase files through Optimaze!
and saw a 50% reduction in file size ..." says Mike Soucie, president/CEO of Electric Rain, Inc.
The Flash-based Optimaze! post-production tool interfaces with a vector-compression engine to accomplish increased file compression.
Pixologic Announces ZBrush 1.5
Pixologic, Inc. will unveil ZBrush version 1.5 at the upcoming MacWorld Expo 2002 in New York and Siggraph 2002 in San Antonio.
ZBrush, a digital art creation program, features 2D and 3D painting, texturing and modeling tools. Version 1.5 enhancements include a new 3D-modeling tool, new painting and sculpting tools, enriched texturing features, enhanced lighting and rendering options, and a customizable streamlined interface.
Ulead Unveils Digital Imaging Software for Mac
Ulead Systems last week introduced Photo Explorer 2.0 for Mac, a $25 media-management tool for acquiring, organizing, and sharing image, video and other media files on Macintosh computers. The software is carbonized for OS X, yet also supports Mac users who are still running on OS 9.x and OS 8.6.
* Tools to manage photos with folder-tree views, thumbnail previews, and drag-and-drop sorting capabilities and support for video, audio, animation, 3D, and EXIF files. Auto conversion features let users convert multiple images from one format to another while auto-rename renames files after transferring them from a digital camera.
* Photo-enhancement capabilities remove red eye, crop, rotate and flip photos, and adjust hue, saturation, brightness and contrast, color balance, sharpness, and blur. Photo Explorer can also add captions or text to photos. All photo-enhancement features can be applied to a single photo or a batch.
Canopus Offers ProCoder Demo
A 30-day trial version of Canopus's ProCoder transcoding software is available from the company's Web site. The standalone program supports MPEG-1, MPEG-2, Windows Media, RealVideo, Apple QuickTime, Microsoft DirectShow, Microsoft Video for Windows, Microsoft DV, and Canopus DV.
Users can convert single or multiple source files at one time and can output to multiple files in multiple formats simultaneously. The stitching feature lets users combine multiple input files of different formats and frame rates into one output file, eliminating the need to combine them in a separate editing application. ProCoder also employs video and audio filters.
Dosch Releases 3D Garden Models
"Dosch 3D: Garden Designer" is a 3D-object library with elements for the design and planning of a garden, or a particular landscape. The product provides the user with 200 3D models of hedges, shrubs/bushes, flowerbeds, park benches, fences, walkways, lawn areas, as well as a number of decorative design elements and potted plants.
The models are provided in the formats 3DS, LWO, OBJ und C4D.
3Dlabs Announces Programmable Graphics Accelerator
Creative Technology-owned 3Dlabs recently shipped the Wildcat VP family of workstation-class graphics accelerators. Wildcat VP uses 3Dlabs' Visual Processing Architecture to integrate over 200 32-bit processors into a single Visual Processing Unit (VPU) for a reported 200 Gflops and over 1.2 TeraOps of programmable power.
Additionally, Wildcat VP's programmability throughout the graphics pipeline is said to provide a superset of traditional graphics-processor functionality and, says 3Dlabs, is a step towards interactive RenderMan-class rendering. Wildcat VP supports the emerging high-level shading languages, such as OpenGL 2.0, that extend the boundaries of interactive visual realism. The cards are offered in three price/performance models.
* Wildcat VP970, $1,199: 225M Vertices/Sec * Wildcat VP870, $599: 188M Vertices/Sec * Wildcat VP760, $449: 165M Vertices/Sec
ScanSoft Launches Dragon NaturallySpeaking v6
Belgium-based ScanSoft has launched Dragon NaturallySpeaking v6, the latest release of its speech recognition software. The software is available in three levels of features and functionality: Preferred, Standard and Essentials.
New features include a standard vocabulary of more than 250,000 terms, as well as Nothing But Speech, which automatically filters out the vocal hesitations such as "um" and "ah".
Preferred provides the highest level of functionality and features of the retail product family and is designed for those users who wish to speech-enable many aspects of their home computing experience, including the entire suite of Microsoft office applications.
Standard enables consumers to employ automated speech functions and operate most Windows-based programs hands-free, including Microsoft Word and Corel Word Perfect.
Essentials provides consumers with basic speech automation functions to most Microsoft Windows programs, and enables consumers to increase productivity at a reasonable price.
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
O'Reilly Announces Bioinformatics Conference
O'Reilly & Associates invites participation in its second annual Bioinformatics Technology Conference. The conference takes place February 3-6, 2003 in San Diego, CA.
From food to cancer drugs to combating terrorism, bioinformatics is an emerging discipline with far-reaching implications. Biologists and computer programmers are developing powerful tools for storing, managing, and analyzing enormous data sets from biological systems. Given today's economic challenges, these pioneers are focusing more than ever on developing tools that they can put to immediate practical use.
In an interview conducted last year, just before O'Reilly's first Bioinformatics Technology Conference, keynote speaker Dr. Leroy Hood made a prediction for the future of bioinformatics. "With the enormous increase in hardware capacity, I don't think there are going to be any technical limits on what we can do. So I think the grand challenge is the successful integration of computational biology, or bioinformatics, with biology itself."
The conference begins with one day of tutorials, providing coverage of essential issues in bioinformatics, such as: data privacy and access; building, managing, and using databases; microarrays; data modeling; sequence analysis; and high-throughput analysis techniques.
Three days of conference sessions follow, organized into four tracks: tool design; algorithm design; system administration and infrastructure; and end-user applications. Each track focuses on the technologies, techniques, and tools used to understand and analyze biological data. Specific topics to be explored are: data formats, mining, structures, and visualization; emerging data types; structural and comparative genomics; building and using clusters; pharmacogenics; pattern recognition; mark-up languages; proteomics; gene annotation; workflow and knowledge management systems; dynamic programming; bio-ethics; ontology creation; and employing BioJava, Bioperl, and Biopython.
O'Reilly invites submissions of ideas and techniques that focus on innovative and practical ways of using tools to extract, process, or predict information that advances biological science, research, education, or commercial activity. They're particularly seeking proposals that highlight case studies, best practices for a tool or system, fundamental skills, and novel solutions to difficult problems.
Individuals and companies interested in making presentations, giving a tutorial, or participating in panel discussions are invited to submit proposals for tutorials and conference presentations (sessions).
Presentations by marketing staff or with a marketing focus will not be accepted; neither will submissions made by anyone other than the proposed speaker. If you are interested in participating in or moderating panel discussions, or otherwise contributing to the conference, let them know (and include your area of expertise). If you have a suggestion for a panel topic, or for a particularly provocative group of panelists that you'd love to see square off, feel free to send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The submission deadline for all proposals is September 9, 2002. Presenters will be notified of selection results by October 7, 2002.
O'Reilly Updates Perl Book
Throw together a bunch of Perl programmers and you will have a diverse crowd. Part of the beauty of Perl is that it is accessible to those who have only an incidental interest in programming while it also provides a powerful set of tools for expert programmers with more ambitious goals.
Thus, in your bunch of programmers you'll find everyone from the Perl novice, sublimely pleased with his or her first simple scripts, to the Perl guru, who can write anything in Perl and probably does. Because you don't need to know everything there is about Perl before you can write useful programs, you can put your knowledge--at whatever level it may be--to use right away. The publisher says Perl programmers will find the new edition of "Perl in a Nutshell" (Patwardhan, Siever & Spainhour, O'Reilly, US $39.95) to be a useful reference.
The book ranges through the Perl programmer's universe, with information about Perl itself and its application to CGI scripts, network programming, database interaction, and graphical user interfaces. The second edition has been expanded to cover Perl version 5.8 and the technologies with which Perl programmers are working today, such as XML.
Some of the topics covered in the new edition are: basic Perl reference
* quick reference to built-in functions and standard modules -CGI.pm and mod_perl
* XML and SOAP modules
* DBI, the database-independent API for Perl * LWP, the library for Web programming in Perl * network programming with the Net modules * Perl/Tk, the Tk extension to Perl for graphical interfaces * modules for interfacing with Win32 systems and ODBC
Chapter 4, "The Perl Language," is available free online at http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/perlnut2/chapter/index.html
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bios, and samples, see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/perlnut2/
Personal Video Will Drive Home PC, Recordable DVD Sales
At the Independent Software Vendors (ISV) meeting hosted by the Recordable DVD Council (RDVDC) Monday, attendees learned that camcorder household penetration, the driving force for consumer-recordable DVD sales, is approaching 40 percent. The RDVDC, a coalition of 90 or so DVD technology developers and users, held the information exchange at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City the day before the opening of TECHXNY/PC Expo. The half-day meeting included technology discussions on all of the DVD Forum Recordable DVD formats - DVD-RAM, DVD-R, DVD-RW and applications for consumers and businesses that ranged from A/V entertainment to computer data.
To emphasize the key reasons DVD video recording is becoming mainstream, members of the RDVDC demonstrated the transfer of video from a camcorder to a personal computer equipped with a recordable DVD drive. After showing how a novice user can edit a video, the compatibility of the recorded video was illustrated by playing it back on a range of DVD drives and players.
Wolfgang Schlichting, research manager for IDC's Optical Removable Storage Program, presented highlights from IDC's recently completed consumer and storage market research studies. The IDC report projected that while in 2003, ten percent of home computers will incorporate recordable DVD drives; by 2006, more than 35 percent of the systems sold will be video publishing-enabled.
These systems, as well as the growing array of external recordable DVD drives will stimulate an increase from more than 3 million recordable DVD drives shipped this year to nearly 50 million in 2006.
For more information on IDC's report - 2002-2006 Optical/Removable Storage Report, US DVD-Recording Usage Study and Optical/Removable Media Forecast & Analysis - contact Cheryl Toffel, 800-343-4952, extension 2489 or email@example.com. For more information on IDC's research, visit http://www.idc.com.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
Id, Activision Release Wolfenstein GOTY Edition
id Software and Activision have released Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Game of the Year, a special edition of the title, which has shipped more than 1.2 million units. The Game of the Year edition includes the original game, new multiplayer maps, the WolfRadiant map editor, the making of Return to Castle Wolfenstein feature AVI and the full version of the game that started it all, Wolfenstein 3D.
The seven included official post-release multiplayer maps were developed by Nerve Software and Splash Damage, including Chateau, Dam, Ice, Keep, Rocket, Tram and Trenchtoast. The package also includes "Behind Enemy Lines," the official making-of video, as well as wallpapers, screenshots and cartoons for fans to savor the action on their desktop.
Wizards of the Coast Launches Magic: The Gathering Online
Hasbro's Wizards of the Coast took its Magic: The Gathering Online game live last week. The online version of the popular trading-card game features dozens of game rooms for every level of player and approximately 1,500 digital Magic cards to play with, trade and collect.
Other features include:
* practice rooms and a step-by-step online tutorial for new players * buddy lists, chat and private chat
* online trading room, where players can chat about cards they want to trade * collection tracker that can be used both online and off-line * deck analysis and deck-building tools * leagues, tournaments, player rankings and prizes * built-in, automatic rules management
Magic Online was developed for Wizards of the Coast by Leaping Lizard Software of Gaithersburg, MD.
Magic Online transforms players into wizards and puts them in control of a fantasy world of creatures, spells, artifacts and lands with which to battle opponents. In head-to-head duels, wizards try to be the first to reduce their opponent's life score from 20 to 0, employing strategies and playing cards from their Magic deck. Players can choose ready-to-play theme decks or build a custom deck, collecting and trading cards with others in the Magic community.
Activision Launches Medieval: Total War Site
Publisher Activision and developer the Creative Assembly last week relaunched the official Web site for the upcoming strategy game of epic battles, Medieval: Total War. The site, located at www.activision.com/games/medieval_totalwar/, includes news, game features and custom wallpaper. The site will also display screenshots that showcase the game's graphical enhancements. For example, the game's units now have with four times the detail and resolution of the troops in Shogun: Total War.
Medieval: Total War allows players to take control of one of 12 world powers as they attempt to rewrite history through a mixture of trade, diplomacy, resource management and epic wars of conquest. The game supports real-time 3D battles of more than 10,000 troops and more than 100 unique unit types, including knights, infantry and siege engines, in terrain such as deserts, forest, plains and mountains. Players will unleash their forces against medieval castles and fortresses with battlefield weapons including longbows, muskets, cannons and catapults.
Kurzweil to Keynote Sensors Expo
Inventor, author, and futurist Ray Kurzweil will present the keynote address, titled "The Rapidly Shrinking Sensor: An Intimate Merger with Our Bodies and Brains," at Sensors Expo & Conference in Boston, September 24, 2002.
According to Kurzweil, the exponential growth of the power of information-based technologies is not limited to the price-performance of computers. Communication bandwidths, the shrinking size of technology, our knowledge of the human brain, and human knowledge in general are all accelerating. Within the next couple of decades, computers with microscopic sensors will be deeply integrated into the environment, our bodies, and our brains, providing extended longevity, full-immersion virtual reality, and enhanced human intelligence.
Kurzweil will be inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame on September 21 in recognition of The Kurzweil Reading Machine, the first computer to transform random text into computer-spoken words, enabling blind and visually impaired people to read printed materials. Also an author, Kurzweil has published The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence and The 10% Solution for a Healthy Life: How to Reduce Fat in Your Diet and Eliminate Virtually All Risk of Heart Disease and Cancer.
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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