5 June 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Media 100 Inc. is offering Sonic Solutions DVD Fusion‘ SL authoring software, a new version of the Mac-based DVD production system, with Media 100 MediaPress Suite‘ MPEG authoring solution. The product is said to accelerate the DVD production workflow by giving content creators high-quality MPEG files for use in DVD creation or Internet streaming.
MediaPress Suite with DVD Fusion is available in two configurations — MediaPress Suite which includes Composite, S-video and Component video inputs; and MediaPress Suite SDI which adds support for Serial Digital Interface (SDI) as well as AES/EBU and S/PDIF digital audio. MediaPress Suite is available from resellers at an introductory price of $6,699; MediaPress Suite SDI retails for $8,199.
Hypercosm last week began offering its 3D authoring technology, previously available only to Windows users, to Linux users. Hypercosm Studio includes an OMAR -- Object oriented Modeling, Animation and Rendering -- compiler. Rich media in the Hypercosm format, called "applets," are actually compiled ultra-small OMAR programs that run in Web browsers under Linux, Microsoft's Windows and Apple's MacOS.
Because Hypercosm employs a modern general-purpose programming language, Hypercosm Studio users can create arbitrarily sophisticated animation and simulation applications. The company claims these "meaningfully interactive" applets go way beyond the very limited cause-and-effect interactions provided by other Internet 3D technologies. Hypercosm 3D transforms geometric 3D models into a communications medium that can inform, educate or entertain.
Free Linux-compatible Hypercosm Studio and Player downloads are available at http://www.hypercosm.com/download.
Coming June 30 from Credo Interactive is version 3.9 of its Life Forms 3D character animation package. New features include:
Avid Technology subsidiary Softimage Co. last week shipped its 3D animation Softimage|XSI system. The remarkably fact-free press release made vague reference to a "first-of-its-kind, truly non-linear animation system."
Softimage offers two versions of the system: Essentials and Advanced. Essentials (Version 1.0) replaces the Softimage|3D system and is available for $7,995 USMSRP. For those with deep pockets, the Advanced package includes simulated particles, softbodies and an additional mental ray license and is available for $11,995 USMSRP. Add-on options include Cloth Extreme for fabric simulation, and Image Processing Factory, which contains MatchMover, ImageModeler and Stitcher software.
Fire GL Professional Graphics, a division of S3 Incorporated, expects to ship two new graphics accelerator cards this fall: the Fire GL2 and the Fire GL3.
The $1,200 Fire GL2 accelerator includes 64MB of memory as well as rendering and geometry engines from IBM. The $2,000 Fire GL3 accelerator features the IBM chipset as well as 128MB of memory and can drive two monitors.
The two new accelerators include the IBM RZ 1000 256-bit graphics rasterizer and a 256-bit double data rate (DDR) memory interface that doubles the usable bandwidth to provide fast frame rates at higher resolutions and color depths. The new accelerators also feature the IBM GT 1000 hardware geometry engine with 30+ GFLOPS of performance. The IBM GT 1000 geometry engine provides 100% OpenGL support as well as full geometry transform processing and full lighting calculations for 16 simultaneous sources.
The accelerators utilize a dedicated hardware geometry engine to accelerate wireframe design. The IBM GT 1000 geometry engine is located on a separate bus to speed the transfer of data into the graphics accelerator. The engine also supports 16 simultaneous lights, including directional, positional and spot. Both accelerators also provide gamma corrected anti-aliased lines and a 10-bit triple RAMDAC for enhanced image quality.
The rasterizer supports single-pass bump mapping and multi-texture support as well as anisotropic filtering via rectangular mip-maps to reduce warping. In addition, the cards support bilinear scaling, video overlays and a YUV-RGB converter for video and textures. The Fire GL3 also provides full scene anti-aliasing.
NewTek announced last week that LightWave  now supports all Windows platforms including Windows NT, Windows 98 and Windows 2000. In addition, NewTek also announced a new LightWave  Certification Program for graphic board manufacturers.
NewTek says it has optimized LightWave  OpenGL support to make it compatible with Windows 2000 and Windows 98. It further claims that users will realize up to a 10x increase in speed with OpenGL performance during modeling.
Under its Graphic Board Certification program, NewTek will work with graphics cards vendors including 3dfx, 3DLabs, ATI, ELSA, Evans and Sutherland, Intense 3D, Matrox and Nvidia, to help design specialized drivers that take full advantage of LightWave . Upon acceptance to the program, vendors will receive a LightWave certification with special LightWave  certified logo for use in their packaging as well as collateral materials.
Meta Motion, a new company offering motion capture hardware, software, and services, has formed to provide mocap solutions in the visual effects, gaming, Internet and entertainment communities. The company has formed strategic partnerships with motion capture hardware and software developers such as Kaydara, Famous Technologies, and Analogus.
"3D character animation is the driving force in computer games and visual effects for television, film, Web cyberhosting and location-based entertainment," says Lee Dickholtz, president of Meta Motion. "Increasingly tighter production deadlines have many studios relying heavily on mocap to reduce production times and quickly bring their 3D characters to life."
As an extension of its motion capture offerings, Meta Motion has partnered with Animazoo of San Francisco and Paris to offer motion capture rental services throughout the U.S. and Europe. Animazoo utilizes the Gypsy Motion Capture system, a skeletal and character motion capture system that supports Maya, 3D Studio MAX, Softimage, LightWave 3D, Life Forms Studio, Poser, Mirai, FiLMBOX, Movido, and Typhoon. Animazoo also offers facial motion capture using FAMOUSfaces Animator and vTracker for FiLMBOX, 3D Studio MAX, Maya LightWave 3D and Softimage.
Most books about 3D graphics are either aimed at programmers, or at users of a particular program. If you just want to learn about 3D graphics in general from a user's point of view without getting into the specifics of one program or another's UI, the available resources aren't plentiful. But publisher John Wiley & Sons has just come out with a new version of an excellent reference for just that audience. The Art of 3D Computer Animation and Imaging, Second Edition, is a mostly color, non-platform specific book that gives readers the essential info without overwhelming with jargon. Of particular value is author Isaac Kerlow's practical approach, as he discusses the use of such 3D tools as lights and cameras in terms of their real-world analogs. The new edition is fully revised and updated, and covers such topical subjects as subdivision surfaces, image-based rendering, and motion capture. Highly recommended for new and experienced users.
Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) last week acquired the online games company Verant Interactive, Inc. and named digital gaming executive Kelly Flock as president and CEO of Sony Online Entertainment (SOE).
Verant, a San Diego-based development studio that creates and markets online games, including EverQuest, Tanarus and Sovereign, will be merged into SOE. With a staff of more than 150 software developers, Verant has been responsible for operating the online games. Verant president John Smedley will remain with SOE as executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Flock will supervise the development of engaging new interactive games by SOE and Verant, and will oversee SOE's Web site, the Station@sony.com, which features single and multiplayer versions of Wheel of Fortune, JEOPARDY! and Trivial Pursuit Online.
Flock was appointed president of Sony Imagesoft in March 1995. Imagesoft evolved into Sony Computer Entertainment America's (SCEA's) sole North American development studio before launching as 989 Studios, an SCEA wholly-owned independent PlayStation publisher, in April 1998. In that position, he was responsible for day-to-day operations of the cross-platform, multimedia entertainment software company and reported directly to Ken Kutaragi, the chairman and chief executive officer of Sony Computer Entertainment America, Inc., who was recently named to the board of directors of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation.
Before joining Sony, Flock held various senior executive positions at LucasArts Entertainment Company and other interactive entertainment companies, including Electronic Arts and Activision. He obtained his B.A. in English literature from San Francisco State University.
Sierra Studios last week shipped Ground Control, the debut PC title by Swedish-based developer Massive Entertainment. The real-time strategy title won IGN PC's "Best Strategy Game of Show" at E3 last month.
Ground Control combines classic strategy elements with 3D technology previously used in action games. Gameplay focuses on tactics, strategy, and the art of battle. Played out through a variety of missions, players command customizable squads of soldiers, tanks, hovercraft, aircraft, and other units, as they fight for control of a distant world.
Eidos Interactive last week announced it will ship Deus Ex, the eagerly anticipated latest RPG from superstar designer/nice guy Warren Spector (ex the late, lamented Looking Glass) June 30. The title reportedly incorporates role-playing, action, adventure, and first-person shooter genres into a chaotic blend of real world conspiracies, cliffhangers and plot twists. Eidos says Spector has crafted a richly simulated world of unparalleled interactivity, engineered to react logically to your every action. The decisions and consequences are yours.
The company describes the game as a globe-hopping, epic adventure. Travel the world from New York to Paris to Hong Kong exploring locations recreated from detailed maps, blueprints and photographs. It's also said to feature character interaction that matters, in that how players choose to deal with scores of non-player characters affects the outcome of the game, minute to minute, mission to mission, and start to finish. The player can also create an alter ego by selecting and developing a unique set of skills and nanotech augmentations.
Loki Entertainment Software plans to bring Interplay 3D action title Descent 3 to Linux gamers by July 2000. The game, developed by Outrage Entertainment, is a 3D action shooter, with 360 degrees of movement and 15 large, detailed levels with multiple objectives and puzzles. Players travel underground as well as above the surface, engaging in combat with enemy air and ground forces and encountering a new legion of devious robots and other enemies.
The Linux version of Descent 3 will support the Rock 'n' Ride simulator, which moves a gamer and monitor up to 55 degrees for interactive motion. It also supports Internet play with 16 players at one time.
Developed by Sinister Games and set to be published in August by SouthPeak Interactive, Soldier is a 3D, action-arcade, third-person shooter where gamers play as warriors fighting to stave off government forces while dealing with a planet's natural predators. The government forces don't relent, but send genetically engineered second generation soldiers to kill the player. Features include:
Templar Studios, LLC announced today the successful launch of the Stormrunner Video game last month. The Java game was designed and built by Templar Studios and produced by Lego Mindstorms.
Over a year in development, Stormrunner comprises over 40,000 lines of Java code, and incorporates integrated cinematic Macromedia Flash elements. The company describes the game as a self-installing, persistent single-player environment, with an expansive and complex universe. Players explore and solve problems by building and programming virtual robots modeled after the Mindstorms Robotics Invention System. It is said to be not only one of the biggest games written using Sun Microsystem's Java language, but one of the largest and most sophisticated games ever created for a Web browser.
The latest batch of interactive ad awards are out, and according to Macromedia, its software is at least partly responsible for the winners' success. Four of the six Gold Clio award winners and the majority of the 90 finalists in the interactive category used Macromedia products. Arnold Communications of Boston took top honors, winning both a Grand and a Gold Clio for the http://www.turbonium.com site. The site was built entirely with Macromedia Flash.
Said Bill Whelan, Arnold associate creative director, "We had just three weeks to build the Web site. Macromedia Flash was the only way … to deliver a futuristic, multi-media experience on the Web in a timely fashion."
The other Clio Gold winners (complete list of winners available on http://www.clioawards.com) that used one or more Macromedia products were Columbia TriStar Interactive for the film “The Messenger,” Blast Radius for work on Casio G-Shock watches, and Deepend, London, for the London Design Museum site.
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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