23 July 2001
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Macromedia last week announced the availability of the public beta for Macromedia Sitespring, a new Web-based application for managing the Web site-production process. The software is designed to let Web teams to be more productive by reducing cycle time, eliminating file rework, and decreasing time spent on non-business focused activities.
The public beta runs on Windows 2000 Server and Windows NT 4.0 Server, supports Windows and Macintosh clients, and can be downloaded at http://www.macromedia.com/go/get_sitespring_beta
For detailed information on Macromedia Sitespring, visit http://www.macromedia.com/software/sitespring/
Macromedia Sitespring is expected to ship in early fall of 2001. Pricing for Macromedia Sitespring starts at $1,999 for the Sitespring Server plus three-user licenses (users are named Web team users, there are no additional charges for unlimited client accounts).
MGI, a provider of visual media software and infrastructure solutions, and Tuxia, a provider of embedded Linux software for Internet appliances and thin clients, last week announced a non-exclusive partnership to develop and market a complete multimedia and TV software infrastructure for Linux-based entertainment devices. The companies say they're working on a soon-to-be-announced entertainment device with a major consumer electronics manufacturer.
Said Ihor Petelycky, MGI chief product strategist, "Our partnership will provide manufacturers with [an] entertainment software infrastructure including an optimized operating system, digital VCR, time shift TV, DVD playback, and Web browsing."
The strategic partnership will involve the exchange of technical know-how, co-development, cross licensing, and joint marketing activities worldwide.
Both companies also intend to review and identify other areas of cooperation and collaboration during the term of their agreement.
According to market researcher eTForecasts in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, worldwide unit sales of information appliances (IAs) will surpass PCs in 2004. Worldwide IA sales will grow more than 10-fold from 29 million units in 2000 to 302 million units in 2005. The subset of entertainment information appliances, products designed to deliver, store and manage entertainment, are expected to grow from 2.27 million units in 2000 to 49.3 million units in 2005.
Coming later this summer from digital video firm Pinnacle Systems is Pinnacle Pro-ONE (SRP $1,299), a DV-based editing and authoring solution. The system includes a hardware DV capture and effects card with digital and analog video and audio inputs and outputs. Bundled software includes Adobe Premiere 6.0, Pinnacle's Hollywood FX-RT, TitleDeko RT for video editing and Pinnacle Impression DVD-SE for DVD authoring..
Steinberg Media Technologies AG, a provider of music and audio software, last week released of Cubasis VST 2.0, its entry-level software-based digital recording studio for the MacOS. Cubasis was previously available in a PC version.
The $99 program lets users compose, arrange, record, press and distribute music on Power PC-equipped Macintosh computers. Features include:
Essential Reality, which develops and manufactures 3D control glove-like products for interactive gaming, entertainment industry and educational uses, introduced its new P5 glove-like peripheral at MacWorld, last week in New York.
Currently in beta form, P5 will be available for Mac OS X this fall.
P5, compatible with Mac OS X, provides the computer gamer with a glove-like device that controls the action in 3D game software through hand gestures. Pull the trigger finger in 3D space and the on-screen gun shoots in real time. Flick fingers away and a game character is thrown against the wall. Lift a palm and an animated helicopter slowly rises into the air.
P5 uses Essential Reality's proprietary bend sensor and tracking technologies to enable interaction with a 3D environment. The USB-compliant unit will be compatible with Macs, PCs and next-generation gaming systems, including PS2 and Xbox.
Worldwide broadband Internet subscribers will total over 15 million in 2001 and over 30 million in 2004, according to a new report from Multimedia Research Group, Inc. (MRG, Inc.). An additional 24 million have broadband access through office LANs.
Within this context, revenues for IP (streaming) media servers and storage are at $3.2 billion worldwide, with a forecast of over $5 billion in 2004. The $3,495 report, IP Video & Streaming Media 2001: Worldwide Server, Services, Content & ROI Analysis with Market Forecast-2001-2005, shows continued growth in streaming is driven mainly by demand for high-speed (broadband) Internet, by high expectations of broadband users, and by big advances in corporate use of streaming.
States MRG Analyst, Krista Christian, "Streaming also is a real outgrowth of the high broadband demand and of well-run media companies and departments with business models far more robust than the dot-coms."
While cable broadband Internet is likely to stay ahead of DSL in the U.S., DSL is likely to pass cable in global broadband markets. In North America, massive last-mile upgrades for cable broadband have continued on schedule in 2001, in contrast to last-mile infrastructure pullbacks by large U.S. telcos.
"This pull-back can be very dangerous for the big telcos," states MRG CEO Gary Schultz, "because large (and well-run) cable companies like Comcast and AOL/Time Warner can stay ahead of DSL and steal some voice business as well." Satellite and MMDS broadband also are poised to provide new threats to Telco-dominated DSL.
Analysis of streaming usage measured in the report includes breakdowns by geographical region, industry sector, and application (for business and consumer users), each with a revenue/unit allocation and growth projection. Also included are profiles of over 50 streaming suppliers in five value-added groups; and profiles of 15 streaming users including ROI analyses.
WorldSpace, a provider of direct-to-receiver digital satellite audio and multimedia services, has introduced a PC card that transforms a computer into a satellite receiver enabling access to both WorldSpace Satellite Radio and the WorldSpace Direct Media service. The WorldSpace Multimedia & Satellite Radio (MMSR) PC Card kit will be available to consumers first in Kenya and will be introduced to other markets in Africa and India by the end of 2001.
Following its trial debut in Kenya, the enhanced service provides users with Web-based multimedia content direct from satellite. A multimedia service operating at download speeds of up to 128 Kbps, WorldSpace Direct Media provides PC content, including entertainment, education, news, sports, weather, business, medicine, and human affairs.
ARM, a provider of 16/32-bit embedded RISC microprocessor solutions, has announced the availability of its MOVE multimedia acceleration technology. MOVE technology, initially targeted at MPEG-4 and other video coding schemes for wireless applications, combines software and hardware components said to enable video encoding and decoding at up to twice the speed of existing codecs.
MOVE technology components, designed to work with any ARM core-based processor, comprise a set of optimized encoder and decoder software components, plus an encode acceleration coprocessor, the MOVE video encoder acceleration coprocessor. A range of implementations of digital audio standards such as MPEG-4 AAC is also available to enable a full multimedia solution.
The MOVE technology components feature pre-processing functions such as color conversion and scaling, motion estimation, motion compensation, DCT/iDCT (discrete cosine transform), bitstream pack/unpack and post-processing filters for deblocking/deringing. The components can be licensed separately or as a complete package to increase the performance of existing MPEG-4-based video codecs or as a key part of any new development. The technology currently addresses MPEG-4 Simple Profile video.
In a bid to unseat Nvidia from its long-held perch atop the CG hardware heap, ATI Technologies Inc. last week unveiled Smartshader technology, a next-generation graphics architecture the company claims will narrow the gap in visual quality between the "big screen" and the "computer screen."
ATI says Smartshader technology incorporates advances in the area of pixel shaders, which are small programs that execute on every pixel rendered to the display device. With support for up to six textures in a single rendering pass, the memory bandwidth constraints associated with multi-pass rendering can be reduced, which translates into better rendering performance. By doubling the maximum allowable length of the shader programs, more complex effects can be created to accurately model the visual properties of materials and surfaces, including hair, skin, wood, water and more. Additionally, Smartshader Pixel Shaders introduce a simplified instruction set said to let developers design a wider range of graphical effects with fewer operations.
Smartshader technology also includes support for vertex shaders, which are small programs that are executed on the vertices that form the building blocks of all 3D objects. These shaders can modify the shape and position of objects and are useful for handling advanced character animation, objects that bend and ripple like cloth or water, particle effects like sparks and rain, and much more.
Shown last week at Macworld, Painter 7 will be the first application launching under Corel's new, suggestively named "procreate" line of design software. Painter 7 is scheduled to ship in August for both Macintosh and Windows. New features include:
Newly available from SensAble Technologies is FreeForm Version 4.0, the latest version of its $15,000 (and up) touch-based modeling system. Among the 60+ new features, enhancements and improvements:
With the Version 4.0 release, the FreeForm system is now available in two distinct products. The original FreeForm system has been enhanced with sketching and shelling and continues as the premier styling tool. A new product, FreeForm Plus, adds sophisticated shape creation and deformation techniques that offer industrial designers an extra measure of control to assure design criteria compliance.
Toon Boom Technologies, a supplier of 2D animation software, last week released Toon Boom Studio v1.0 for Mac and PC. The new software enables Web animation for artists, advertisers and Web developers. Features include improved drawing accuracy, an automatic lip-sync feature, 3D scene planning, and Flash-compatible file rendering. The software package also incorporates the feel of traditional animation with a rotating light table, "X" sheet visual representation of the work, and an onion-skinning or "flip-book" feature.
Studio is a native Mac OS X program and also is available for Windows (98, ME, 2000). It is available via download for $349 USD and via mail, which includes a disc and printed documentation, for $374 USD. Also, it is available at a student pricing of $99 USD.
Coming this August from Electric Rain, Inc., a Boulder, Colorado-based 3D and multimedia software company, is the $475 Swift 3D XSI plug-in that will allow Softimage|XSI users access to vector-based 2D formats, including Macromedia Flash (SWF). The technology is designed to let users re-purpose their 3D content for use on Web pages and in printed media.
RAViX II, Electric Rain's vector-rendering technology, converts 3D model meshes into vector-based gradient shaded 2D images, and forms the core of the Swift 3D XSI plug-in.
The plug-in provides access to four vector formats: Flash (SWF), EPS, AI, and SVG, a new vector-based Web standard similar to Flash, which was recently approved by the W3C.
It can render with a variety of animation styles, from cel animation to shaded models with gradient fills. Fine detail is preserved for technical drawings, while the gradient fills preserve the realism of the original 3D scene. The Swift 3D XSI plug-in will work within the XSI system to support animations, lighting schemes, vertex colors, and camera angles.
Alias|Wavefront says its $7,500 Maya Complete software for Mac OS X will ship on or before September 25.
The company is launching a special two-part order promotion: Customers ordering the product before December 31, 2001 will be entitled to receive 12 months of maintenance, including upgrades and support. In addition, those who place orders before the product ships in September will receive a free productivity pack with a voucher redeemable for a Wacom tablet; a copy of the coffee-table-style resource book, The Art of Maya; a three-button mouse; a Maya jacket; and a Maya training DVD.
Pantone, Inc., a provider of color standards for the graphics, fashion, interior and industrial design industries, announced last week at MacWorld Conference & Expo its support for Apple's Mac OS X. The company has released a beta version of its ColorWeb Pro that provides for system-level support that takes advantage of the new architecture and features of Mac OS X. ColorWeb Pro provides Web authors and others the RGB values for the Pantone Matching System, a standard for color communication. The full version of ColorWeb Pro 2.0 for Mac OS X will be available in fall 2001 and will include support for the entire 1,114 Pantone Matching System colors.
Coming in Q3 of 2001is Boris Graffiti 2.0, an upgrade to the company's graphics and titling application. Features include 2D and true 3D compositing, text on path, and Type On and Title Containers for auto-animated rolls, crawls, fades, shuffles and zooms. Also, map text to 3D shapes, and extrude and composite in three dimensions. Graffiti 2.0 also supports the addition of third-party Adobe After Effects filters.
Other features include:
Coming this summer from Media 100 Inc. as a free download to current customers is an upgrade to Cleaner 5 software for creating streaming media that ensures support for output to QuickTime 5, RealSystem 8.5 and Windows Media 8 (Windows Media 7 for Mac). The new version also includes support for the Sorenson Video 3 codec, for the delivery of streaming media for QuickTime.
Thanks to a new $99 plug-in, Caligari Corporation's trueSpace 5.1, a 3D modeling and animation package, now supports the Macromedia Flash format, including three Flash rendering options: outline, cartoon (with and without gradient), and photorealistic output.
Web developers can convert trueSpace5.1 objects (including NURBS) and scenes to Flash format, including geometry, materials, lights, views, and animation techniques such as scripts, bones, and key-frame animations. The plug-in also provides a progress indicator, the ability to specify output resolution, frame rate, background color and animation interval, and can be used in any view, including perspective.
Discreet, a division of Autodesk, Inc., announced last week a licensing agreement with Microsoft Corp to create, publish and distribute gmax game packs for multiple Microsoft game titles. The first confirmed title is Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002: Professional Edition, which is set for delivery in the third quarter of this year.
Microsoft Flight Simulator has sold millions of licensed units worldwide since it was first published nearly 20 years ago. The professional edition of the latest version, Flight Simulator 2002, will ship this fall with an integrated gmax game pack and the free gmax application. With gmax and the Flight Simulator game pack loaded, users can import game content—aircraft, buildings, trees and other 3D objects—and customize those objects. Users can also build detailed new objects for use with Flight Simulator 2002: Professional Edition.
According to Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc., first-day sales of Gran Turismo 3 A-spec for PlayStation2 surpassed those of any other game in history. Senior VP Jack Tretton said initial product shipments exceeded one million units.
SCEA says the title is driving hardware sales for the platform: In addition to the standalone software release, the company recently introduced its first official PS2 bundle, the $329 GT3 Racing Pack, which includes a copy of Gran Turismo 3 A-spec along with the PlayStation 2 hardware.
Last Wednesday, July 18, 3,000+ folks turned out in San Francisco to bestow Webby Awards on the year's best Web sites and to honor individual achievement in technology.
Capping a year of dramatic highs and lows for the Internet, an eclectic roster of luminaries, including Intel CEO Andy Grove and ABC News' Sam Donaldson, was also on hand to present this year's awards. Grove presented the Technical Achievement Award to Microsoft Windows Update http://www.windowsupdate.microsoft.com, while Donaldson presented The People's Voice Awards, which are chosen by the public.
A highlight of the evening included the presentation of the first-ever Best Practices Webby Award to Google, http://www.google.com, the site that received the highest overall marks in each of the Webby judging criteria: content, structure and navigation, visual design, functionality, interactivity, and overall experience.
The ceremony also marked the debut of the first Webby Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented to Ray Tomlinson and Douglas Englebart, two of the key contributors to the invention of email. Vint Cerf, one of the founders of the Internet, made the presentation on behalf of award sponsor WorldCom, where Cerf serves as a vice president.
The awards are presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, a diverse, 350-person organization whose membership includes musician Beck, Esther Dyson, Susan Sarandon, David Bowie, and Simpsons creator Matt Groening.
Big winners included Craigslist http://www.craigslist.org (yay Craig!), which was named Best Community Site by both the Academy and by the more than 150,000 people who registered to vote in the People's Voice Awards.
Other sites earning a Webby Award and a People's Voice Award included: Requiem for a Dream http://www.requiemforadream.com (Best Film Site), PBS Online http://www.pbs.org (Best TV Site), The Onion http://www.theonion.com (Best Humor Site), and Peter Pan's Home Page http://www.pixyland.org/peterpan (Best Weird Site). Thanks to an aggressive write-in campaign, HOTorNOT http://www.hotornot.com nabbed a People's Voice Award in the Fashion category.
A list of all Webby Award and People's Voice winners is available at: http://www.webbyawards.com/main/webby_awards/nominees.html.
ACM Siggraph last week announced the Computer Animation Festival's Best of Show and Jury Honors Award for Siggraph 2001, the 28th International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, being held 12-17 August, 2001 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The award winners were chosen by the Computer Animation Festival jury from 678 entries for achievements in computer animation. Sande Scoredos, Sony Pictures Imageworks, is the SIGGRAPH 2001 Computer Animation Festival chair.
3rdTech's NanoManipulator DP-100 Visualization and Control System has been selected by R&D Magazine as an R&D 100 Award winner for 2001. The magazine's winners are products chosen "on the basis of their importance, uniqueness and usefulness."
The NanoManipulator DP-100 combines interactive 3D computer graphics with the functional capabilities of a scanning probe microscope (SPM) to produce a research and development product for the nanotechnology market.
The product consists of a SensAble Technologies Phantom Desktop force-feedback device, a PC with 3D graphics and the NanoManipulator DP-100 software -- and is integrated with an SPM from ThermoMicroscopes. Users of the system can interactively view "nanoscale" objects such as carbon nanotubes and individual viruses in 3D, feel the surface of the structures and interactively manipulate them. The ability to do real-time exploration and manipulation of atomic-sized structures makes the system suitable for research and development in a wide variety of areas, including nano-electro mechanical systems (NEMS), material science, physics, biochemistry and genomics.
The NanoManipulator DP-100 is now shipping; you can equip your hobby room with one for a mere $85,000, which includes on-site installation and training.
The system is based on technology first developed by the Departments of Computer Science and Physics and Astronomy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This initial technology received funding from the NIH National Center for Research Resources through the Biomedical Technology Resource at UNC-Chapel Hill.
E2, Experiential E-Commerce is a conference that promises to look at the future of online shopping. Companies like Lands End and The Sharper Image say that interactive 3D presentation of their merchandise help them keep customers interested and buying more, thus other online retailers are making the move to interactive 3D graphics to show their products. At the conference they'll talk about their experiences, hear the latest academic research results concerning the new technology, and see products for implementing Experiential E-Commerce.
E2 is being presented by the MIND lab at Michigan State University, and will take place at the Kellogg Center on the MSU campus, a short drive from Detroit, September 27-29, 2001. Keynoting the meeting are Clifford Nass, professor of communication at Stanford University and author of The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Televisions, and New Media Like Real People and Places, and Rick Robinson, senior VP of Sapient, a developer of e-commerce solutions.
The two days of presentations will be supplemented by hands-on workshops, a reception, and an exhibit hall featuring companies in the Experiential E-commerce Field.
If you're dying to learn more about the powerful but obscure multimedia presentation program Scala, or you just want an excuse to visit the Mall of America, plan to visit Bloomington, Minnesota this September 19-21.
The first official Scala Worldwide User's Group will offer info on :
Photoshop books are a dime a dozen, but when multimedia specialist Peachpit issues one, especially in the Wow! series, graphics aficionados should take note. This full-color extravaganza doesn't disappoint, with a comprehensive guide to new features, scads of handy (and essential) tips, and chapters covering a range of useful techniques. Among the latter are Color in Photoshop, Retouching & Enhancing Photos, Combining Images, Painting, and Using Filters & Liquify.
You won't need to scrutinize this book in the store for long to know that authors Linnea Dayton and Jack Davis know the software inside and out, and provide far more value than the $50 cover price suggests. The CD-ROM is a full-fledged toolkit in itself, with over 300 preset layer styles, 50 automated rollover styles (with a printed guide in the book), and improved actions. If you like to learn by doing, do this book asap.
When New Riders published John Chismar's 3D Studio Max 3 Media Animation a couple of years ago, it represented something of a revolution in how-to books, guiding the user through a single, full-blown project instead of presenting a number of unrelated short tutorials. It must have been a successful revolution because it received rave reviews, including a five-star rating on Amazon.com (based on 22 user reviews), and did nicely for the publisher. Just out from New Riders is the follow-up, 3ds max 4 Media Animation. This time out, Chismar, a senior 3D animator at MSNBC, expands his palette somewhat, providing in-depth guides to three new projects using Discreet's latest, and throws in three real-world case studies for good measure.
The first project, Funhouse, takes you through a hypothetical project creating a commercial for a scary new theme-park ride. It covers such basics as extrusion and UVW mapping, and more advanced techniques including special effects and animation. Next, the 2002 Vote Machine project puts you in charge of creating an animation for a computerized voting machine. Maybe they'll install them in Florida, and we can have a more entertaining election, if not an honest one. The last full project, TV3 News Open, teaches you how to develop the opening animation for a TV news show from a storyboard. All these imaginary projects cover techniques Chismar uses every day in his job; the real-world case studies provide overviews of actual projects he undertook, and include the relevant files on the CD-ROM.
Chismar writes intelligently, and offers some of the best tutorials I've seen in print. If your goal is a job like his, involving down-to-earth work in practical animation, rather than fanciful character work that might be more fun to do but is less likely to keep you regularly employed, you'd be smart to get this book and work through each and every exercise.
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