Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 24 June 2002
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)
--Propellerhead Updates Reason Music Software
IN THE INFOGROOVE
--Good Spelling Lends Web Sites Credibility --Nielsen//NetRatings Launches Web Multimedia Format Report
--LifeMode Introduces Facial-Animation Software --Virtools Releases VR Pack
--Alias|Wavefront Launches Texture CD
--Faceworx.com Launches 3D Design Models --Electric Rain Announces Swift 3D/Flash MX Bundle
--Tyzx Announces 3D Vision Tech
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
--Convergence: Call for Papers on Digital Cinema
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
--Sony Releases Two Lilo/Stitch Titles
--Doom III Wins E3 Best of Show
--GameDev Mag Reveals Salary Survey Results
--Cerny to Headline Euro-GDC
Propellerhead Updates Reason Music Software
Coming July 18 from Propellerhead Software, the Swedish company behind music software Reason, Recycle!, and ReBirth, last week announced Reason 2.0, an upgrade to its flagship music program.
Reason, for Windows and Mac platforms, emulates a rack of electronic synthesizers, samplers, drum machines, FX's and sequencers. New features in 2.0 include:
Malström Graintable Synthesizer: Combines granular synthesis with wavetable synthesis. Graintables are flexible sound sources that allow for comprehensive manipulation. This includes being able to move through a sound by controlling the movement with real-time controllers, velocity, modulators and finding new possibilities by controlling its spectral harmonics.
Malström's two filters both have five different modes including 12dB/oct low pass, band-pass, subtractive and additive comb-filters and an AM mode.
A shared filter envelope can control either or both of the filter sections at the same time.
As part of the second filter, the Malström's Shaper shapes the input signal with either a sine wave, noise or can transform the sound using saturation, digital distortion or bit-reduction. The oscillators can be routed in many different ways to the two filter sections providing a variety of sound-manipulation options.
Malström also feature two modulators/LFOs with a variety of available curves. Used in one-shot mode, these can be used to generate attacks or envelopes and can also be used as tempo synched LFOs.
The sound-generating parameters can be controlled using CV and gate controls from the Matrix sequencer and other Reason devices. Malström also provides audio inserts between oscillators and filters with the added benefit of being able to use both filters as standalone devices.
NN-XT Advanced Sampler: Rather than a "fast-track" sampler, the new NN-XT is for more demanding sampling tasks. Features include automatic pitch detection and mapping of samples, graphical zone editing, loop editing, layering plus zone velocity switching, and crossfading.
Each selected zone (or zones, if multiple are selected) can furthermore be programmed individually using the extensive synthesis facilities. These include filter with six different modes, two LFOs, two envelopes, micro tuning capabilities and routing to any of the 16 audio outputs.
The alternate function is another unique NN-XT feature. By randomly alternating between zones whenever the same key is played repeatedly, the NN-XT makes sure the same sample is never triggered twice in a row. The result is added realism.
The graphical editing display can even be folded in or out depending on whether advanced editing is required. Macro controls located on the front panel eases editing of the most commonly used parameters. The NN-XT also loads SoundFont 2 patches and samples, providing access to a huge existing library.
Enhanced sequencer features: In Reason 2.0, the main sequencer breaks free from the rack and can expand fully across the screen or be resized and moved, even to a second monitor. New tools also make this already flexible sequencer, even more flexible. These include Zoom, Line and Eraser tools.
All existing devices in Reason now also have this tempo-synchronizable LFOs.
The Orkester NN-XT Sound Library: Reason 2.0 of course also comes with patch and library material for the two new instrument devices. Also, an extensive orchestral ReFill, created exclusively for the NN-XT, is also included. Recorded in Stockholm, these sample patches feature live, classically trained musicians and the samples are designed to blend in with the sounds from Reason's other devices. The Orkester NN-XT Sound Library spans from single woodwinds to complete string sections, and covers many playing styles.
New OS support: Reason 2.0 fully supports both Windows XP and Mac OS X. Mac OS X support include Core Audio, Aqua GUI and any MIDI interfaces recognized by Mac OS X.
IN THE INFOGROOVE
Good Spelling Lends Web Sites Credibility
Companies that fail to check their spelling on their corporate Web sites risk damaging their online credibility just as badly as if they faced financial or legal troubles. And while people uniformly trust Web sites they consider useful, they also have strong doubts about those sites that carelessly mix editorial content with advertising.
These are some of the findings from a new study of over 1,600 American and European Internet users conducted by Stanford University's Persuasive Technology Lab and sponsored by Makovsky & Company, a New York business-communications firm, which provided financial and editorial support. "The Stanford - Makovsky study emphasizes the importance for organizations of embracing their Web sites as an integral element of their communications with different constituencies, one that can either enhance or detract from its reputation overall," said Ken Makovsky, president of Makovsky & Company.
The study highlighted various factors that determined why certain Web sites enjoy greater levels of credibility than others:
* Study participants listed respect for the organization that created the Web site, quick responses to customer service questions, an online mention of the organization's address, the timeliness of site content, and a contact phone number as important characteristics of a credible site in addition to its overall usefulness.
* The same group reacted unfavorably to sites that use pop-up advertisements or fail to update copy. Broken links, poor site navigation, and links to sites perceived to be non-credible were also among the highest negative influences.
* Americans appear to place greater trust in sites that provide valid content and respect privacy than their Europeans counterparts. Americans gave much higher credibility rankings to Web sites that offered privacy statements, sent e-mails to confirm transactions, indicated the source of site content or provided credentials for its authors.
* Women attached greater credibility to Web sites with privacy policies, e-mail confirmations of transactions and contact phone numbers than men.
"If Web sites were cars, it would be the trusty Toyota not the flashy Ferrari that would win the Web credibility race," says Stanford consulting faculty member BJ Fogg, who runs the Persuasive Technology Lab. "This study confirms previous research we've done, but in many ways it expands our understanding about what leads people to believe - or not believe - what they find online."
The Web sites of non-profit organizations enjoyed greater credibility than commercial operations, but in general, how an organization made a profit or accomplished its mission seemed less important than how they presented and managed the information contained within their Internet properties. That's why Makovsky executive vice president Robbin Goodman suggests that companies retain a high degree of control over their online reputations.
"Certainly it helps to start with a company that enjoys a strong standing in the real world, yet this study indicates you can improve an organization's online reputation with a series of simple actions," says Goodman, who supervises the agency's technology and interactive practices.
"Keep content current and free of advertising influences. Design your site so your audiences can easily find the information and features they want.
Make sure everything is spelled correctly and that the site links work."
The Stanford-Makovsky team developed 55 observations to describe a Web site's design, content, performance and ownership, and asked study participants to indicate how each statement affected believability from a score of 3 (high) to -3 (low). The study then ranked the average scores for each statement to highlight the various factors that determined why certain Web sites enjoy greater levels of credibility than others.
While a company's existing reputation played a factor, the highest scores emphasized a Web site's usefulness and features: * The site has proven useful to you before (2.02) * The site is by an organization that is well-respected (1.97) * The site provides a quick response to your customer service questions (1.83) * The site lists the organization's physical address (1.67) * The site has been updated since your last visit (1.65) * The site gives a contact phone number (1.56) * The site looks professionally designed (1.54)
The lowest-ranking scores emphasized the factors that detract from credibility: * The site makes it hard to distinguish ads from content (-1.9) * The site is rarely updated with new content (-1.65) * The site automatically pops up new windows with ads (-1.64) * The site has a link that doesn't work (-1.42) * The site is difficult to navigate (-1.38) * The site links to a site you think is no credible (-1.38)
The study encompassed 1,649 online users (with a 55/45 male-to-female ratio), primarily from the United States and Finland. The average participant was a college-educated person in his early 30s with an annual income of $50,000. Almost two-thirds have been on the Web for five years or more and averaged 10 hours of Internet usage each week. The study was conducted through an online survey between December 2001 and February 2002.
Fogg's team conducted a similar global study on Web site credibility in 1999.
You can find a complete report on the Stanford-Makovsky Web Credibility Study 2002 at http://www.makovsky.com/ or http://www.Webcredibility.org/.
Nielsen//NetRatings Launches Web Multimedia Format Report
Nielsen//NetRatings, a provider of Internet audience measurement and analysis, last week announced a new online multimedia-measurement report measuring use of content for the three largest proprietary formats, regardless of the media player or environment. The new report provides online publishers and content providers a perspective on the encoding and consumption of rich-media content to drive technology decisions, form strategic partnerships and affect the sales of rich media advertising.
Due to the new methodology, this report does not permit comparisons to previously published market sizes and positions. The actual market positions and user bases of the tracked companies remain fundamentally the same.
The new report includes:
* audience and active reach percents for RealMedia, Windows Media and QuickTime * segmented activity with enhanced breakdowns of multimedia consumption into "audio/video" and "images/text" categories * top-requested audio/video content
* an overall Web-multimedia unique audience number using the three proprietary formats
Following are the Web Multimedia Format reports for April 2002 for at-home and at-work.
Nielsen//NetRatings Web Multimedia Formats, April 2002 (U.S., Home) Format Class Unique Audience (000) Reach (%) Total Proprietary Formats Total 28,336 26.94 Total Proprietary Formats audio/video 28,031 26.65 Total Proprietary Formats images/text 2,164 2.06 RealNetworks' RealMedia Total 17,069 16.23 RealMedia audio/video 17,059 16.22 RealMedia images/text 159 0.15 Microsoft's Windows Media Total 15,150 14.41 Windows Media audio/video 15,148 14.40 Windows Media images/text --* --* Apple's QuickTime Total 7,874 7.49 QuickTime audio/video 7,278 6.92 QuickTime images/text 1,976 1.88
Nielsen//NetRatings Web Multimedia Formats, April 2002 (U.S., Work) Format Class Unique Audience (000) Reach (%)
Total Proprietary Formats Total 19,224 44.53 Total Proprietary Formats audio/video 18,915 43.82 Total Proprietary Formats images/text 2,074 4.81 Microsoft's Windows Media Total 12,223 28.32 Windows Media audio/video 12,223 28.32 Windows Media images/text --* --* RealNetworks' RealMedia Total 11,650 26.99 RealMedia audio/video 11,633 26.95 RealMedia images/text --* --* Apple's QuickTime Total 5,692 13.19 QuickTime audio/video 5,021 11.63 QuickTime images/text 1,803 4.18
* Note: Data falls below Nielsen//NetRatings' normal reporting levels.
LifeMode Introduces Facial-Animation Software
LifeMode Interactive, Inc. last week released LifeStudio: Head, a complete facial animation solution for interactive game and multimedia developers.
Created using LifeMode's Macro-Muscle Technology, LifeStudio: Head is a compound set of developer tools directed at modeling, texturing and the real-time animation of lifelike human heads for use in computer- and console-based entertainment titles and other multimedia presentations.
"Games are a more interactive form of entertainment than movies, but what they often lack is the emotional connection the audience develops with the actors or characters," commented Alan Gassanov, VP of marketing and lead game designer at LifeMode Interactive. "That emotional message is delivered by speech, gesture and by change in the actors' faces. LifeStudio: Head Tools makes it possible for artists to easily create an endless array of 'virtual actors' with a full range of emotions, rich facial animations, and accurate real-time lip-sync."
The interface of LifeStudio: Head Tools reportedly lets artists create a wide variety of characters, complete with photo-realistic textures, real-time animation and lip-syncing. Using standard head prototypes, standard data libraries, and flexible interface controls, the user can create characters by selecting the gender, race, and age, and then fine-tune the head form and face features. Lip-synch is achieved with automated WAV analysis.
Programmers can then use the LifeStudio: Head API to evoke any function available in the Tool environment to control facial expressions such as emotions and speech, or character transformation. Characters can be programmed to "evolve" in real time, such as aging or growing a beard. The open ideology allows users to modify and rearrange all standard and newly added data in a handy branching file structure. Animations are stored separately from the characters and can be directly applied to any character at will.
The package provides a range of face texture elements and facilities for combining, mixing and multi-layering features, though external 2D bitmap graphics programs such as Adobe PhotoShop may also be used to edit and customize textures. The current edition of LifeStudio: Head SDK features standard data libraries that include head prototypes, model components, hair styles, head transforming macro-muscles, face animating macro-muscles, and face texture elements. All libraries can be edited, extended and reordered to meet the users' needs.
Other third-party 3D graphics packages, like Maya or 3D Studio Max, or existing skills with such programs are not a prerequisite when working with LifeStudio:Head. However, the LifeStudio: Head Data Import plug-in allows for the importing and integration of head models and facial animations from the LifeStudio: Head Tool into Maya or 3DS Max.
LifeStudio: Head is the first software package in a series of game developer tools produced by LifeMode Interactive. LifeStudio: Body, a realistic skeletal animation engine, and LifeStudio: Brains, an autonomous agent's AI engine, are scheduled as subsequent releases.
FAQs, a LifeStudio: Head white paper, and evaluation software are available upon request.
Virtools Releases VR Pack
Virtools T, a provider of 3D interactive-media authoring tools, last week presented the Virtools T Dev 2.1 interactive 3D prototyping and development tool. The VR Pack integrates technology developed by Z-A for the SAS Cube, a cubic immersive space, running on a cluster of PC.
The pack is a module of Virtools Dev 2.1, which allows the creation of immersive content with multi-posting synchronized screens, stereoscopic vision and the connection of most VR peripherals.
Alias|Wavefront Launches Texture CD
Alias|Wavefront has released a Resource Tool for Maya: Maya Resources| 2D and 3D Procedural Texture Plug-ins. The $50 CD gives intermediate and advanced users of the Maya renderer nine new texture plug-ins that will allow them to create effects without having to develop complex shading networks. The CD also includes 57 sample textures. The plug-ins are compatible with Maya 4 on Windows, Linux and IRIX and Maya 3.5.1 for Mac OS X.
The new texture plug-ins include:
* 2D - corrosion, veining, wood grain
* 3D - denim, freckles, rings, tree bark, scallops, streaks
Faceworx.com Launches 3D Design Models
The site http://www.faceworx.com has a large collection of 3D models of interior items and architectural elements. The site contains models of furniture of both modern producers and classical samples.
More than 1,000 models are represented on the site at present, and the collection is updated daily. Many models are offered free of charge, while the rest are available for reasonable prices.
Electric Rain Announces Swift 3D/Flash MX Bundle
People purchasing Electric Rain's 3D vector graphics tool, Swift 3D, will have the option to receive a discount on Macromedia Flash MX.
Electric Rain Swift 3D is a 3D application for creating vector animations for use with Macromedia Flash. Three-dimensional scenes created within Swift 3D are exported using Electric Rain's proprietary RAViX II vector rendering engine, creating SWF files that then import seamlessly into Macromedia Flash. Flash developers can then integrate those vector-based 3D animations into their Flash projects as needed while maintaining the advantages of scalability and small file size.
Tyzx Announces 3D Vision Tech
Palo Alto-based Tyzx, Inc., a 3D-vision company, last week announced the availability of a new technology allowing inexpensive devices for everyday life that can see the world in three dimensions, interpret what is going on and respond instantly. The technology is said to make possible many new products in homes, offices and factories, including car navigation, game-console input, intelligent rooms for elder and home care, and real-time tracking of potential terrorists through public spaces such as airports, train stations and sports stadiums.
Tyzx was founded by Harvard and Stanford scientists who developed the stereo-vision technology while working at Interval Research Corporation, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's former think tank in Palo Alto. Current customers include ChevronTexaco, iRobot, MD Robotics, MIT, and private and government agencies working on confidential security and surveillance applications.
Tyzx technology is based on a concept called "stereo vision." It works much like the human eye and brain. A pair of inexpensive CMOS imagers captures left and right views of what it sees. The left and right images are compared by a Tyzx ASIC chip to measure the distance to each pixel with millimeter resolution. The image information is processed by Tyzx devices at rates of up to 132 frames per second to track moving objects over a wide range of distances. The computations are performed at over 50 billion calculations per second (compared to today's fastest microprocessors that perform approximately 2.5 billion calculations per second) while using very little power. Taking the 3D image data, Tyzx software then interprets what it sees and responds in real-time.
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
Convergence: Call for Papers on Digital Cinema
For Volume 9 Number 4 (Winter 2003) Convergence is planning a special issue on Digital Cinema: What's the Difference?
* Is digital cinema in fact cinema or is it a kind of HDTV adapted for exhibition in movie-theatres?
* Or is it just cinema as before but using digital support in place of celluloid and with added special effects?
* Or is it a complete revolution in cinema, cutting the last links between cinema and the photograph as imprints of reality?
* Or is it a means by which reality can be brought closer to the film spectator thanks to flexible and easily used technology?
Contributions are invited on any aspect of digital cinema technology, economics, cultural or aesthetic implications or on any phase of the process from production though post-production to distribution and exhibition.
Submission deadline for this issue is: 30 April 2003
Proposals for articles or completed papers should be sent to Professor Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, Department of Media Arts, University of Luton, 75 Castle Street, Luton, LU1 3AJ, United Kingdom, E-mail: Geoffrey Nowell-Smith @luton.ac.uk
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
Sony Releases Two Lilo/Stitch Titles
Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. and Disney Interactive last week released two titles based on Disney's new feature film, Lilo and Stitch, also released last week. Lilo and Stitch is a PlayStation platform game, and the PS2-based Stitch: Experiment 626, designed as a prequel to the film, lets gamers take part in the adventures of Stitch before his fateful journey to Earth.
In the latter title, an action shooter, the player controls Stitch, a.k.a "626", a genetic experiment gone out of control on an alien planet. The tiny terror known as 626 is the brainchild of Jumba, an evil genius who wants to create the ultimate fighting machine. Jumba's creation is a six-armed bulletproof and fireproof alien with a brain of a super computer, and the unnatural ability of being able to lift 1,000 times his own weight.
With a constant yearning to cause mass destruction and wreak complete and total chaos, gamers can help Stitch become the universe's "Public Nuisance #1" by using his powers to shoot, climb, dash, fly and swing using the grapple gun.
The 23-level PlayStation title lets younger gamers assume the role of Lilo, the sassy surfer girl and Stitch, a wild, pint-sized fighting machine. Set in Hawaii, a lonely little girl, Lilo, adopts what she thinks is a dog, and claims him as her new friend. Players can run, catapult and bum-bounce their way through volcanoes as Lilo's voodoo magic attacks ward off opponents. Stitch can use spins, alien breath and angry roll attacks to keep the alien bounty hunters at bay.
Doom III Wins E3 Best of Show
id Software's Doom III was honored with five Game Critics Awards: Best of E3 2002 honors including Best of Show, Best PC Game, Best Action Game, Special Commendation for Sound and Special Commendation for Graphics.
Hosted at http://www.e3expo.com, the "Best of E3" awards recognize excellence at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, as judged by the Game Critics Awards committee, which is comprised of 35 leading industry journalists.
First released in 1993, DOOM became a phenomenon in PC gaming history and is widely recognized as the catalyst for the first-person action genre.
Since its inception, the franchise has been one of the industry's best-selling PC series, with Doom III currently in development by id Software and set to be distributed by Activision.
GameDev Mag Reveals Salary Survey Results
Game Developer magazine has published the results of its annual game developer salary survey in the July 2002 issue. The survey indicates that the game development industry has remained healthy despite the downturn in the overall U.S. economy.
"Games are becoming an ever greater force in mainstream entertainment and culture, and with this trend comes increased interest in career opportunities in game development," said Jennifer Olsen, editor-in-chief, Game Developer magazine. "And because game development combines both entertainment and high-tech, the industry is well positioned to thrive in a variety of economic conditions."
Survey highlights include:
* The average game programmer salary is $66,000.
* A technical director with 6 or more years experience earns an average of $104,000.
* Game artists earn an average of $61,000.
* A game designer with one year of experience earns an average of $52,000, with the highest salary reported at $300,000.
* Game producers earn an average of $76,000.
* Developer salaries are highest in California and Texas, where game development studios tend to cluster.
* Women in the game industry fare better than women in other industries, earning 89 cents on the dollar, exceeding the national average of 76 cents.
The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) will host the full article online starting July 18, at http://www.igda.org/salary.htm along with other resources for careers in game development.
Cerny to Headline Euro-GDC
Mark Cerny will present the keynote address at the Game Developers Conference Europe, which is being held August 27 - 29 at Earls Court in London.
GDC Europe provides a forum for the European game-development community to share knowledge, practical information and artistic inspiration.
Founder of Cerny Games Inc., Cerny has worked in game design and technology for 20 years, starting with designing and programming 1982's Atari coin-op Marble Madness. Following Atari and several years with Sega in Japan, Mark founded and managed the Sega Technical Institute in the US, where he also worked on Sonic 2 and Kid Chameleon. He then went to Crystal Dynamics and to Universal Interactive Studios, where, as president, he oversaw the creation of the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon series.
In 1999, Mark established Cerny Games as a game design consultancy. The company has had a major role in four released games and is presently involved in a number of upcoming character-action projects.
The full speaker list is available at http://www.gdceurope.com.
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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