Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

27 June 2005
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)

--Touchdown Entertainment Unleashes Fear Technology
--Gekido Announces Beyond Virtual Platform

--Holomatix Unveils Interactive 3D for Flash
--Alien Skin Software Announces Eye Candy 5: Impact
--Serious Magic Updates Keying Software

THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER --IGDA to Award GDC Europe Scholarships
--particleIllusion Training DVD Released
--SitePoint Releases "Firefox Secrets"

--Companies Announce VR Headset for Games

--World of Warcraft Subs Hit 2 Million

--GDCE Announces Keynotes --Atari Founder Bushnell to Keynote at Gaming Summit

HAPPENINGS --Siggraph 2005 Announces Special Sessions

F.Y.I. --About Spectrum



Touchdown Entertainment Unleashes Fear Technology

New from Touchdown Entertainment is Fear Technology, the development kit used to create F.E.A.R., the upcoming action game from Vivendi Universal Games and Monolith Productions. FEAR Technology features a new DirectX 9 rendering pipeline that utilizes dynamic, per-pixel lighting and shaders for environments and objects. The kit also includes an integrated version of Havok's Havok Physics product, networking and a complete suite of content creation tools.



Gekido Announces Beyond Virtual Platform

Gekido Design Group will partner with Veggie Games Inc. to acquire and bring to market the Beyond Virtual Game Development Platform, the core technology behind the video game, Steer Madness. Features include real-time editing, a zero-pipeline art import and develop once, deliver everywhere paradigm for cross-platform development.

Veggie Games Inc. will provide ongoing development and enhancement while GDGi will supply the sales, marketing and support services for the developer community.

Several projects are already underway with the power of Beyond Virtual under the hood. Game design colleges are also integrating Beyond Virtual training into course curriculums starting September 2005.

For more information about Beyond Virtual, or to receive a copy of the Beyond Virtual white paper, email licensing@beyondvirtual.com or visit: www.beyondvirtual.com



Holomatix Unveils Interactive 3D for Flash

London-based Holomatix recently unveiled Blaze 3D Studio, which contains tools to combine interactive 3D graphics with Flash. 3D objects from Blaze 3D Studio can be integrated into Flash presentations. Using the Flash MX authoring tool, designers and developers are able to import real-time 3D objects and control them programmatically with ActionScript.

The Blaze platform has been used in production by more companies such as Sony, Eastman Kodak Company, adidas and Ford of Europe for interactive 3D sales and marketing applications.

Examples can be seen at www.holomatix.com/examples


Alien Skin Software Announces Eye Candy 5: Impact

Coming next month from Alien Skin Software is Eye Candy 5: Impact (Impact). A set of 10 plug-in filters for Adobe Photoshop and other compatible host programs, Impact creates chrome, bevels, glass buttons, perspective shadows, and more. The third of three upgrades to Eye Candy 4000, Impact features three new filters and seven rewritten Eye Candy classics. The intended market includes graphic designers, digital photographers, and Web content creators.

Impact refines existing Eye Candy effects. Embossing effects now include additional preset bevel shapes and new surface-texture controls. Gel, glass, chrome and liquid metal effects now showcase a variety of reflections. Impact creates an array of drop and perspective shadows, as well as reflections.

The three new filters are:
* Backlight projects light beam and spotlight effects.
* Brushed Metal simulates textured metal surfaces such as brushed aluminum and polished brass.
* Extrude gives 2D objects a classic 3D look, adding thickness and perspective.

Impact will be the third Eye Candy 5 plug-in collection. The first, Eye Candy 5: Textures, was released in 2004 and produces a variety of seamless textures such as snake and lizard skin, fur, brick, stone and wood. Eye Candy 5: Nature followed in 2004 and creates fire, smoke, rust, ice, snow and more.

Impact is a plug-in and will require one of the following: Adobe Photoshop 7 or later (including CS 2), Adobe Photoshop Elements 2 or later, Macromedia Fireworks MX 2004 or later, Corel Paint Shop Pro 8 or later, or CADlink SignLab 7.5.



Serious Magic Updates Keying Software

Serious Magic, Inc. is now shipping Ultra 2, the new version of its professional keying software. Features include support for higher-resolution cameras while delivering GPU-based rendering, and input and output options to further its compatibility with other software.

Ultra 2 supports HD and HDV cameras including 1080i, 1080p, and 720p with support for a variety of standard frame rates including 24 fps. With ULTRA 2's Plus 90 mode, standard-definition cameras can reportedly be used for high-resolution output. The company claims complex compositing can be conducted in real time at HD-resolution and faster than real-time at standard definition by shifting rendering demands to the GPU. Realistic shadows, reflections, and masking options permit keying results from difficult-to-key shots. Also, Ultra 2 expands its input and output options to make it more versatile when working with 2D compositing and 3D animation applications.

ULTRA 2 is available at www.SeriousMagic.com and through video resellers nationwide at a new price of $495.



IGDA to Award GDC Europe Scholarships

The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) will award qualified university students the chance to attend this year's Game Developers Conference Europe (GDCE). The scholarship will provide students with full access to all sessions, roundtables and keynotes at GDCE, offering the opportunity to meet with professionals and learn industry skills. The conference is slated for Aug. 30 - Sept. 1, 2005, in London, England.

Students can now apply online for a scholarship at www.igda.org/scholarships.

The deadline to enter is Wednesday, July 20, 2005. Recipients will be announced by August 3. Applicants are required to be full-time university students (or in an equivalent educational program) and IGDA student members for consideration.

Complete information on the scholarship program and requirements can be found at www.igda.org/scholarships. Information on the 2005 GDC Europe can be found at www.gdceurope.com.


particleIllusion Training DVD Released

New from wondertouch, a developer of visual effects software tools, is particleIllusion Fusion Volume 1: The Fusion of Adobe After Effects and wondertouch particleIllusion, a new video training DVD from CreativeCow.net. The first title in the new Creative Cow Master Series of expert training products, `particleIllusion Fusion' is designed to teach users of particleIllusion - wondertouch's sprite-based particle effects software application - how to work with After Effects, Adobe's motion graphics and visual effects software.

The tutorial is hosted and written by Aharon Rabinowitz, an educator, animator and particleIllusion Creative Cow Forum Leader.

According to wondertouch President Alan Lorence, a large percentage of particleIllusion users use it as a companion product with After Effects, creating particles in particleIllusion, rendering out video elements, and then compositing footage in After Effects. Situations do arise, however, in which particleIllusion artists are forced to use workarounds to effectively integrate the rendered particles into After Effects. Using workarounds requires greater knowledge of the software.



SitePoint Releases "Firefox Secrets"

SitePoint Pty. Ltd. (SitePoint.com) recently released "Firefox Secrets," a guide to the inner workings of the Web's most talked-about new browser (Spectrum is a recent convert).

"Until now, Web users have had to adapt their expectations and behavior to the limitations of the Web," noted SitePoint CEO and Co-founder Mark Harbottle. "'Firefox Secrets' puts the control back into the hands of individual users, allowing them to customize the online experience using the Firefox browser. Thanks to "Firefox Secrets," Web professionals can have the Web perform exactly as they want it to," he added.

"Firefox Secrets" lifts the lid on many of the browser's handy, but lesser-known options and technical configurations. Among the many customizations explored in this 292-page title, readers will tap the secrets of smart keywords, cookie and password management, Firefox extensions and about:config.

The book includes a CD-ROM with copies of Firefox, Thunderbird, and hand-picked extensions and themes for the Firefox browser.

Firefox Secrets Cheah Chu Yeow, 292 Pages + CDROM ISBN: 0975240242 , $29.95 USD / $41.95 CAD http://www.sitepoint.com/books/



Companies Announce VR Headset for Games

Kopin Corp., a U.S. manufacturer of microdisplays for mobile consumer electronics, says that virtual reality gaming developer 3001 AD has incorporated the BDM-230K into its Trimersion virtual reality system, which will bring virtual reality gaming to the Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation and PCs. 3001 AD unveiled Trimersion last month at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the world's largest gaming exposition.

3001 AD claims Trimersion is the only system to bring immersion and 360-degree head tracking to home gaming. The Kopin BDM-230K, a binocular video subsystem, delivers 320 x 240-resolution video with a virtual image equivalent to a 35-inch display viewed from a seven-foot distance.

Head-tracking capability lets gamers control key elements of their virtual environments, such as point of view and player position, with a turn of the head instead of a thumb or finger command. A non-tracking version of the Trimersion is available for players who prefer a mouse or hand control. Trimersion also lets gamers wield a pistol-style input device, rather than push buttons, to shoot within the game.

This is Kopin's second major foray into virtual reality. Kopin's CyberDisplay microdisplays were instrumental in an entertainment experience at the 2005 World Exposition (Expo) called "Nature Contact," an interactive mixed-reality ride that is taking 8,000 visitors per day through the virtual habitats of endangered species in the Hitachi Group's ultra-modern Expo Pavilion.

The BDM-230K is a video subsystem that integrates all the necessary electronics and optics for video eyewear in a lightweight (26 grams), compact package (97.5 mm x 23.75 mm x 22.0 mm). The BDM-230K contains two CyberDisplay 230K full-color displays, backlights, drive electronics, and a pair of 24-degree field-of-view optics with 20-mm eye relief and 10-mm pupil size. It also includes audio pass-through connectors to simplify final assembly. Requiring 3.3 V power and video input, either in NTSC or PAL format, the BDM-230K's low power consumption (<450 mW) allows long viewing time without recharging the battery.


3001 AD is a manufacturer and developer of virtual reality games for the theme park, arcade and home markets. Established in 1997, the company is based in Raleigh, N.C., and Delray Beach, Fla, and is the parent company of the Beta Zone, a network of location-based entertainment centers.




World of Warcraft Subs Hit 2 Million

Blizzard Entertainment says World of Warcraft, the company's subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), has surpassed two million paying subscribers worldwide, based on internal company records and reports from key partners and retailers worldwide. Also, Blizzard recently introduced the player-vs.-player (PvP) Honor System and the game's first two Battlegrounds, Alterac Valley and Warsong Gulch. These new PvP battlefields offer a variety of combat and some of the most valuable rewards yet seen in the game.

Blizzard expects to see even greater growth with the recent commercial launch in China on June 7, 2005. Anticipation for World of Warcraft was high in China, with peak concurrency during the open beta test topping 500,000 players, nearly equal to World of Warcraft's peak concurrency in all three current markets combined.

Later in the year, World of Warcraft will also launch in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.




GDCE Announces Keynotes

The 5th Annual Game Developers Conference Europe (GDC Europe) has announced both the keynote and conference line up for the 30 August to 1 September, 2005 event in London, UK. Industry veteran and Sony executive Phil Harrison will deliver a keynote address on Wednesday, 31 August, and Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi will deliver a keynote address on Thursday, 1 September. Conference information and registration are available at www.gdceurope.com.

During his 31 August keynote Q & A session, Harrison will discuss next-generation development and the state of the European interactive entertainment community, in an interview with GDC Europe Conference Director Jamil Moledina. Harrison is currently the executive vice president, development for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. Previously, he was responsible for the day-to-day management of Sony Computer Entertainment America extensive third party program, including licensee relations, product planning and strategic relationships. Harrison also cultivates new technology and business opportunities for the PlayStation brand.

Game developer Keita Takahashi will deliver the Thursday, 1 September keynote address. Takahashi made his directorial debut with the quirky sleeper hit Katamari Damacy. The game presents players with a unique, genre-defying game design, in which the player rolls game objects into an ever-increasing ball, while working against the clock. In this session, Takahashi gives a detailed inside look into the development process for the game, and previews new gameplay innovations he will be presenting through his latest project: We Love Katamari.

Attendees will also gain access to sessions with the developers of Killzone, Singstar, Project Gotham Racing 3 and more, choosing sessions from five conference tracks: Production and Management, Tools and Tricks, Case Studies, Vision, and Best of GDC.

GDC Europe Mobile - a one-day intensive seminar on 30 August - presents an opportunity for European mobile game developers by focusing exclusively on mobile game creation. From technical discussions in areas such as 3G games and developing in a fractured platform environment, the seminar will deliver programming, design, and production sessions, featuring speakers from development studios, publishers, handset manufacturers, and carriers.

Early rate pricing for GDC Europe expires Wednesday, 3 August. visit www.gdceurope.com to register for attendance and review conference information.


Atari Founder Bushnell to Keynote at Gaming Summit

Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and creator of the first digital videogame, will be the keynote speaker at the 9th Annual Ziff Davis Media Electronic Gaming Summit. The Electronic Gaming Summit will be held August 8-10 in Sonoma, California.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the home release of Pong, a major milestone for the home video gaming industry. Bushnell will bring his perspective on business and the gaming industry to the summit. He will talk about where the gaming market is headed, from the growing ubiquity of cell phones and handhelds to the rise of episodic games and non-entertainment gaming applications.

Scott McDaniel, sales veep at Ziff Davis Media Game Group, will present the company's 2005 Digital Gaming in America study. The annual study details gamers' purchasing intent and habits for video and PC games, hardware, peripherals, and related electronics and entertainment.

Other speakers include top executives from Sony and Nintendo, as well as Neil Young, veep/GM of Electronic Arts Los Angeles, where the Lord of the Rings games were produced, and Peter Moore, corporate veep of worldwide marketing and publishing at Microsoft (lots of veeps!).

The Ziff Davis Media Electronic Gaming Summit, an exclusive conference and retreat, brings together gaming industry executives, market experts, and leading researchers each year and is open by invitation only (so don't even ask!).




Siggraph 2005 Announces Special Sessions

Siggraph 2005 Special Sessions are presentations by experts on topics that cross disciplinary divides. This year's content offers a glimpse into the past, present, and future of digital technologies. Experts collaborate to provide insights into the art, science, trends, and concepts of the current and future state of computer graphics and interactive techniques. Sessions include:

Extreme Fashion: Designers, Artists, and Technologists Present a Glimpse Into the Place Where High Fashion Collides With High Technology: Incorporating computer graphics, science, and technology into the fashion industry has transformed computer-enhanced garments, textiles, and wearables from fantasy to reality. This session brings together fashion designers, textile producers, a garment manufacturer, artists, and scientists for some fascinating information and a show and tell.

Margaret Orth, International Fashion Machines

Elise Co, mintymonkey
Katherine Moriwaki, Trinity College Dublin
Thad E. Starner, Georgia Institute of Technology
Jenny Tillotson, Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design

From the Earth to Infinity: Scientists From Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Reveal Secrets of the Universe Through Remarkable Images of Mars, Saturn, Earth, and the Deepest Reaches of Space: Scientists at NASA/JPL give us a rare look at our universe: the latest images from Mars, explorations of Saturn and Titan, a trip back in time to shortly after the birth of the universe, and new perspectives of our own planet.

Moderator and Organizer
Daniel McCleese, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Ronald Blom, Eric De Jong, Torrence Johnson and Michael Werner, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Jump! Shout! Dance! Sing! An Interactive Conversation About Games, Game Art, and Play That Goes Way Beyond the Joystick: Whether you dance in front of it, sing into it, or jump on it, there's a new dimension in the gaming world that goes way beyond 3D. With new controllers and a whole new generation of game boxes enabling ever more beautiful images, this session brings together art directors, game designers, and controller builders for an enlightening, entertaining, and possibly hilarious look into an alternate future of gaming.

Alex Pham, Los Angeles Times

Henry LaBounta, Electronic Arts Canada
Greg LoPiccolo, Harmonix Music Systems
Richard Marks, Sony Computer Entertainment America
Michael McHale, Konami Digital Entertainment
Fred Swan, Logitech, Inc.

The Legacy of Disney Animation: A Journey to the Past, Present and Future Through the Eyes of Disney Animators, Directors, Designers, and Storytellers: Join Walt Disney Feature Animation's filmmakers for a look at the studio's 70-year legacy of storytelling, and animation. Featuring clips from the Disney vaults, along with footage from current and upcoming projects, the filmmakers demonstrate how color, animation, art direction, and storytelling influence contemporary animation techniques as the Disney legacy is passed on to a new generation of artists.

Moderator and Organizer
Steve R. Goldberg, Walt Disney Feature Animation

Eamonn Butler, Dan Cooper, Mark Dindal, Randy Fullmer, Ian Gooding, and Glen Keane, Walt Disney Feature Animation

"The Polar Express": Artists and Technicians Reveal How They Transformed a 3D Train Ride Into a 3D Stereoscopic Adventure: "The Polar Express" has been shown on movie screens in 3D and in stereoscopic 3D. In this special session at the IMAX Theater at the California Science Center, visual effects supervisors, artists, and technologists show how they transformed Robert Zemeckis's painterly film into an IMAX escapade. This session features footage from "The Polar Express" and some early glimpses at a Sony Pictures Imageworks project still in production, both in true 70mm stereoscopic IMAX.

Rob Engle, Sony Pictures Imageworks

Rob Bredow, Sony Pictures Imageworks
Hugh Murray, IMAX Corporation

A Star Wars Retrospective From Industrial Light & Magic: Environments, Space Battles, and the Characters Who Fought Them From 1977 to 2005: Dennis Muren, John Knoll, Roger Guyett, and Rob Coleman walk the audience through all six installments in the series, comparing the techniques that ILM employed over the years to bring environments, characters, and space battles to the screen.

Don Shay, Cinefex

Rob Coleman, Roger Guyett, John Knoll and Dennis Muren, Industrial Light & Magic

Siggraph 2005 Special Sessions begin 1 August at 6 pm and close 4 August at 1:15 pm.




About Spectrum

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/online-development tools and end product for review.

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