2 July 2001
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Context Media, Inc. last week introduced a new Web authoring application called iBuilder, designed to let users access and use shared content in multimedia Web presentations.
iBuilder is a SMIL (Synchronous Multimedia Integration Language) authoring application that lets Web developers and authors synchronize video, text, animation and audio content and specify when and how those elements are presented.
SMIL presentations can be played by such multimedia players as RealPlayer 8 by RealNetworks; QuickTime 4.1 by Apple; the GRiNS player by Oratrix; and others listed at the World Wide Web Consortium SMIL Website.
Created and developed by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) SMIL is an open, XML-based layout format that specifies the playback of any combination of multiple media types over the Internet. As a layout language, SMIL supports the presentation of a wide range of container file formats, audio, video, animation, images, and text.
iBuilder will be available directly from Context Media in the third quarter at a SRP of $650.00. Those interested can register for iBuilder Early Access at http://www.contextmedia.com/ibuilder.html.
askSam Systems has begun shipping version 4.0 of its $1,495 Web Publisher software. Functionality includes creating new documents or importing existing documents and publishing this information in a searchable database on the Web.
The new version includes the following enhancements:
30-day trial version at: http://www.asksam.com
Front Porch Digital Inc. has just shipped its BitScream NLE software-based transcoder designed to automate the conversion of content generated by broadcast video servers into formats that can then be used in non-linear editing applications such as Avid's Media Composer and Symphony, Media 100's i and iFinish, and Adobe Premiere.
Analysts estimate that the total media asset management market will rise to $3.2 billion in 2001 from $507 million in 1997. The hardware component -- which includes broadcast video servers -- will account for $1.7 billion of that total, up from $175 million in 1995. The software component -- which includes encoding, transcoding, and indexing -- is expected to reach $1.29 billion, with associated services totaling $242 million.
BitScream NLE transcodes content generated in MPEG1 and MPEG2 formats and media produced on Pinnacle Systems MediaStream 300, 700, 1600 broadcast video servers into AVI formats on demand, in real time or faster. Transcoding can also be set up to run as unattended batch processes.
Unplugged Games, Inc., a North American wireless games publisher and platform company, last week launched its MobileStage 1.0 and the MobileStage Software Development Kit (SDK).
MobileStage reportedly provides functionality to enable wireless carriers to profit from multi-user applications--such as multiplayer games--over their wireless data networks. Its billing and provisioning support features integrate with legacy billing and provisioning systems, allowing carriers to begin charging for data on today's 2G networks. The platform is said to be scalable, able to support 100,000 simultaneous users per game. The platform also reportedly provides carrier-grade assurance, minimizing the risk of downtime or user loss with highly stable, redundant systems. MobileStage is device and protocol independent, supporting WML, HDML, HTML, C-HTML (iMode), as well as client technologies such as J2ME (Java2 Micro Edition).
Pinnacle Systems last week shipped Impression DVD 2.1, an enhanced version of its $995 timeline-based software for creating interactive CD and DVD titles. Available for the first time as a standalone DVD creation product, the tool is designed for video editors and graphic artists.
Impression DVD incorporates video-authoring tools that use a drag-and-drop interface and timeline that lets video editors see all of the video assets in the correct order, link any DVD asset to any menu and add new menus anywhere in the project timeline. Assets and title elements are icon-based and can be linked to menus with a mouse click.
After dragging and dropping audio and video files onto the timeline, video clips can be trimmed, split, and combined. In addition to including support for multi-camera angles, and motion video menus, the software enables up to 99 titles per DVD with up to 99 chapters in each title. Users can scrub the timeline and place chapter marks where needed. Chapter points and videos can be linked to buttons on the menus by dragging and dropping them from the timeline onto the menu.
Panasonic has begun shipping to its OEM customers the industry's first combination DVD-RAM/R drive, called DVDBurner. For retail customers, Panasonic will begin shipping its branded DVD-RAM/R drive in October, with DVD video recording/editing software, at under $600 for an ATAPI internal version.
In addition to reading from and writing to both DVD-RAM (rewritable) and DVD-R (write-once) discs, the multifunction drive provides all of the functionality of the DVD Forum specifications for DVD-RAM and DVD-R General, including compatibility with DVD video players, recorders and DVD-ROM drives.
By switching between 650 nanometer (nm) and 780 nm wavelength laser strengths and one objective lens, the drive can write to and read from general-purpose 4.7GB DVD-R discs, 2.6GB/5.2GB discs, and 4.7GB/9.4GB DVD-RAM. Other features include the ability to play back DVD video, DVD-ROM and DVD-R discs, and 24x CD media read performance.
Germany's BEA Systems, Inc., an e-business infrastructure software company, and Stockholm, Sweden-based independent software vendor Gamefederation recently announced that Gamefederation has launched a concept release of its GFX platform for on-demand gaming built on BEA WebLogic Server, a Java application server. The new platform is designed to enable end-users to play against one another using different devices such as mobile phones, PCs, PDAs and digital televisions.
The GFX technology is designed to enable game industry operators in the telecommunications, Internet and digital television industries to distribute the content to end user. By 2003, approximately $5 billion will be spent on online games, according to research firm Datamonitor.
SRSWOWcast Technologies recently announced its first commercial product for streaming media. The SRS-APC Audio Processing Center is a rack mount computer system with custom software designed to improve the quality of digital audio and voice material prior to compression or Web casting. The system includes software versions of proprietary audio technologies from parent company SRS Labs, Inc. It's targeted to encoding, post-production and media services companies.
The heart of the SRS-APC system is proprietary software that analyzes and enhances an audio signal before compression or transmission over the Internet. The software is said to improve the quality of various content types, including mono, stereo, voice and surround-sound, and allows the processing of all audio and video formats and platforms.
For online demonstrations and complete technology information, go to http://www.srstechnologies.com/demos.asp.
The SRS-APC Center is available directly from SRSWOWcast Technologies for a one-time setup fee and an ongoing usage-based licensing fee. For further information, contact SRSWOWcast Technologies' Business Development Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +1 949-442-1070.
Just out from USA- and Europe-based e-on software is Vue d'Esprit 4 ($199), the newest version of its 3D scenery animation and rendering software for Windows.
New features include:
A Macintosh OS X version is under development.
Coming next month from Corel Corporation is Bryce 5, the latest version of its 3D landscape-creation and animation application for Macintosh OS and Windows.
New features include:
StereoGraphics Corporation last week released StereoVue-3ds, a $129 stereoscopic visualization plug-in for 3ds max 4, 3D Studio MAX R3, and 3D Studio VIZ R3, allowing the creation of stereoscopic images and animations within the software by digital content creators.
The StereoVue plug-in allows the creation of 2 virtual cameras to create the left- and right-eye images required for stereo views. These images are then rendered in a virtual frame buffer window. The plug-in's Zero Parallax setting lets users determine how much of the scene appears out of the screen and how much goes into the screen. At the same time, it features a built-in parallax checker to ensure that the parallax stays within a preferred range.
The plug-in supports stereoscopic viewing of rendered images in all stereo formats supported by StereoGraphics Stereo3D visualization products, including CrystalEyes3, Monitor ZScreen 2000i and StereoEyes. These formats include above-and-below, side-by-side JPEG and stereo frame buffering as supported by VESA compliant stereo-capable graphics cards. All Windows platforms supported by 3D Studio are supported by the plug-in.
A downloadable update to version 4.2 for 3ds max is now available on the Discreet Web site. Enhancements include:
For a complete listing of all 3ds max 4.2 enhancements, visit: http://www2.discreet.com//docs/products/3dsmax/3dsmax42UpdateNotes.pdf
The update is downloadable from http://www2.discreet.com/products/d_products2.html?prod=3dsmax&cat=update
Web3D RoundUP is an event in which 3D content developers and tools providers demonstrate the latest in Web3D. In an hour and a half, two dozen developers present their work to the SIGGRAPH 2001 audience. Each presentation is limited to just 201 seconds. At the end, the audience chooses the winners of the honored Web3D RoundUP Golden Lassos.
Web3D RoundUP invites content creators and Web3D tools/technology producers to submit demos for juried review. A Web3D RoundUP Golden Lasso will be given to the best entry in each of the following categories:
Criteria for submission:
2d3 will introduce version 1.3 of its Windows-based automated camera tracker boujou at Siggraph this year (Siggraph booth 1437). New features include facilities for dealing with lens distortion, a batch-processing feature for 24/7 hands-off match moving, new scene geometry tools, and Flame, Inferno and Houdini added to the list of export formats.
Version 1.3 also adds to boujou's ability to track features that are occluded in part of the sequence by continuing to track when lighting conditions obscure all the information in the frame - for example during the momentary flare from an explosion or reflected sunlight.
New batch processing capabilities let effects facilities set up unattended processing of any number of scenes.
boujou 1.3 will ship from August 2001, priced at $10,000 US.
Just out from Media Lab is version 3.0 of its PhotoCaster software, an Xtra for Macromedia Director that lets users import Photoshop files, layer by layer, into their Director cast with one click. Each layer appears as an individual cast member -- indexed, anti-aliased, properly registered, transparency preserved and ready to go.
New features include:
PhotoCaster works with files from Adobe Photoshop 3-6 and LE or any application that can save in layered Photoshop .PSD format.
To download a trial version of the software, visit http://www.medialab.com.
Actiontec Electronics says its new Actiontec 4 Port Ethernet Broadband Router is the first product of its kind that requires no technical expertise for installation. Instead of asking for the user’s Primary DNS Server, IP Subnet Mask or other information familiar only to technical experts, the Web-based installation wizard asks for little more than user name, password, and whether the user is connecting to the Internet through cable modem or DSL.
Other features include:
The $129.95 Windows-based package will ship in August.
Also shipping in August is the company's Wireless-Ready Multimedia Home Gateway, which lets multiple users to share one cable or DSL line, computer files, peripherals and Internet appliances from anywhere in the house or the yard without any wires or via Ethernet.
The gateway plugs into a power outlet on one end and the cable or DSL modem on the other. Users then install Actiontec’s new 802.11b-compatible PCMCIA Wireless Network Card or any WECA-certified wireless 802.11b card of their choice in one of two PCMCIA slots. Other features include:
Motorola, Inc. Broadband Communications Sector recently announced its new RADD 6000 (Remote Addressable DANIS/DLS) hardware server and its newly designed NC-1500 Network Controller. These headend products are designed to let operators support larger, more complex interactive cable systems.
The RADD 6000 server accompanies Motorola's DAC 6000 (Digital Addressable Controller), increasing the capacity and performance of the advanced digital interactive system. By adding multiple RADDs, cable operators can scale their systems to several hundreds of thousands of digital subscribers. The server provides real-time repetitive messages, such as polling and software/firmware downloads, to Motorola's DCT population. Additionally, the unit can be monitored remotely via a Web browser, using a JAVA-enabled console - a remote user interface based on a JAVA applet.
The newly designed NC-1500 Network Controller allows operational support of up to 50,000 interactive subscribers. It functions as a gateway between the Internet Protocol (IP) network and the digital cable (HFC) network, providing the downstream and upstream communication paths from the application servers to the terminals.
ImagiWorks, Inc. last week introduced ImagiMath 2.0, a suite of three mathematics applications with enhanced capabilities, to educators attending the National Educational Computing Conference in Chicago. ImagiMath 2.0 for Palm handheld computers includes the ImagiGraph application, a mathematics visualizer; the ImagiCalc application, a calculator; and the ImagiSolve application, a mathematics worksheet and equation solver. With ImagiMath 2.0, users can import and analyze data from ImagiProbe 2.0, a sensor-based data acquisition system. Together ImagiMath 2.0 and ImagiProbe 2.0 offer an integrated math and science solution. ImagiWorks also introduced ImagiProbe 2.0 for the Palm m100 and m105 handhelds at the conference.
Newly available from Microsoft is the Asheron's Call: Dark Majesty, the first expansion pack for the company's multiplayer role-playing game. New additions include housing and storage. Players will be able to purchase their own homes on designated plots of land, as well as use their residence for secure storage purposes. The expansion also kicks off the next chapter in the ongoing Asheron's Call storyline by introducing the island of Marae Lassel. Marae Lassel is a sprawling new landmass with new quests, dungeons, and treasures which will all be accessible to all levels of players.
MindRover: the Europa Project, the robot simulation/strategy game from CogniToy, is now expanding into the realm of physical robots with the MR_RCX add-on pack. The new RCX add-on pack allows players to program and simulate two LEGO RCX Robots within the MindRover game.
With MindRover, players take on the challenge of programming virtual robotic vehicles for races, games, sports and robot combat. After choosing a base vehicle and components such as motors, sensors, and timers, the player then programs the robot’s brain using MindRover's innovative drag and drop "wiring" system. The autonomous robots then compete in a 3D arena taking on their friend’s vehicles or the games own AI robots.
The add-on pack provides 15 new components and an arena where players can program and simulate two robots designed with the LEGO RCX robotics kit. Once the player has created an RCX brain file, they can download it into the physical robot to watch it perform in their living room.
In this new 3D sci-fi role-playing game, you begin your journey as Sylvester "Sly" Boots, a down on his luck detective with a big debt hanging over his head. A quick protection job leads him on a mysterious quest across the galaxy. Features include:
Search through over 100 areas and fight a variety of alien creatures in the quest to find the truth behind the impending galactic calamity.
Interact with mischievous personalities, make critical decisions and explore unique environments and planets.
Manage a party of characters, gain experience through battles to develop their abilities, control vehicles and machinery, decipher puzzles, uncover secrets and play mini-games.
Features turn-based, real-time battle system where strategies, use of resources, and use of the environment affect the outcome.
iVAST, an MPEG-4 software platform provider, last week announced two additions to its board of directors: Carl Rosendahl, founder of Pacific Data Images (PDI) and SBVC (SOFTBANK Venture Capital) principal managing director, and David Likins, a partner at Venture Strategy Partners. Rosendahl and Likins join David Hull of Centennial Ventures, Paul Cataford of BCE Capital, Larry Schwerin of Vanguard Ventures, Chris DeMarche, CTO of Verio, and Elliot Broadwin, iVAST CEO, on the iVAST board. Also last week, iVAST completed a $25 million financing round with participation from BCE Capital, Centennial Ventures, Macrovision Corporation, SBVC, Sun Microsystems, Inc., Vanguard Ventures, Venture Strategy Partners and Vulcan Ventures.
Rosendahl is the founder, former CEO and chairman of PDI, the computer animation and visual effects studio purchased by DreamWorks SKG. He was also the executive producer of the computer-animated feature-film Antz and has received multiple Emmy awards for television graphics. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized him and his PDI co-partners with a Technical Achievement Award for the concept and architecture of the studio's animation system. Rosendahl is a founding member of the Visual Effects Society (VES) and vice chair of its governing board of directors. He also serves on the board of directors for a number of young companies, is a frequent public speaker, has been a guest editor for Animation Magazine and taught a graduate level course on computer animation and visual effects at the USC Film School.
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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- David Duberman
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