Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

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

--Ageia Updates NovodeX Physics SDK
--Propellerheads Updates Reason Synth Software
--Anark Gameface for Game UI Development Launches at GDC 2005

--Bauhaus Updates Mirage Animation/FX Software
--ClayTools Ships 3ds max Plug-in
--Pixel Farm Updates PFTrack CamTracker
--Turbo Squid Announces New 3D Plug-in Collections

--Ulead Updates DVD MovieFactory 4 Disc Creator

--Research and Markets: Exploration of the Global Animation Industry

--Disney Interactive Reveals New Details on Narnia Games

--Gish, Wik Top Independent Games Festival Awards

F.Y.I. --About Spectrum



Ageia Updates NovodeX Physics SDK

Ageia Technologies, Inc. recently announced the latest version of its NovodeX Physics SDK, a middleware physics engine for creating dynamic physical environments on game platforms.

The NovodeX Physics SDK is said to be the first and only asynchronous (multithreaded) physics API for multiprocessor gaming systems. It also is the only SDK to offer comprehensive API support for the first-ever physics processing unit, AGEIA's PhysX chip.

Game industry publishers such as Atari, SEGA, and Ubisoft are offering support. NovodeX also provides plug-in interfaces for major 3D tools vendors. Game developers are also on board with NovodeX, such as Big Huge Games, Artificial Studios and Epic Games, which recently incorporated NovodeX into its Unreal Engine 3.

The NovodeX SDK includes a rigid body solver, collision detection, and hitherto unavailable features such as real-time fluids and smart particle systems.

The NovodeX Physics SDK is available now by registering as part of the AGEIA Developer Program.



Propellerheads Updates Reason Synth Software

Swedish developer Propellerheads has updated its Reason PC-based synth software to version 3.0. The main additions since Reason 2.5 are:

  • The Combinator - a device that lets you load, play and create complex instrument patches by combining, layering and routing Reason devices in a rack within the Reason rack. This means you can now play any number of instruments at a time, complete with effects and complex modulation routings.
  • Remote - a new technology that integrates your hardware MIDI controller with your Reason system without configuration. The integration of the supported MIDI hardware gives you instant, tactile control when tweaking knobs or buttons in Reason.
  • Sound bank 3.0 - The new sound bank in Reason 3.0 uses all the new features to provide an expanded library with synth patches, multisampled instruments, and Combinator patches.
  • The 3.0 sound browser - Do text searches across your entire sound library, preview play patches directly in the browser, regardless of what device they are for, and arrange your patches in favorite folders, which is helpful in performance situations.
  • The MClass mastering suite - Four new effects units: A new 4-band EQ, a stereo imager, a new compressor with side-chain and soft-knee, and a maximizer to make tracks louder.



    Anark Gameface for Game UI Development Launches at GDC 2005

    Anark launched its Anark Gameface bundle, a UI-authoring solution for game developers, at the recent 2005 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

    Customer feedback from Anark's Developer Release program was integrated into the new release, resulting in expanded features including the ability to author data-driven menus and in-game user interfaces, in addition to the traditional game front end. Anark Gameface is said to handle the requirements of sports, strategy, and role playing game user interfaces

    The Gameface bundle comprises two products: Anark Studio and Anark Format SDK. The Anark Format SDK allows programmers to build the UI pipeline once and then hand over UI creation to artists. Artists then use Anark Studio authoring tool to prototype and polish the final UI.




    Bauhaus Updates Mirage Animation/FX Software

    Just out from Bauhaus Software is Mirage 1.5, a new version of its 2D animation, paint, and special effects system. Mirage lets users create classical- and digital-style 2D animation, from cel animation and anime, to rotoscoping, stop motion, etc., in a digital pipeline.

    New features include:

    Bauhaus Mirage 1.5 is a free upgrade for existing Bauhaus customers. Mirage 1.5 can be purchased directly from Bauhaus Software, at http://www.bauhaussoftware.com, or through the company's reseller channel. Mirage is currently available on Windows XP/2000 and OS/X. Educational pricing for both institutions and students is available.


    ClayTools Ships 3ds max Plug-in

    At GDC we got a nice demo of the new ClayTools system, which includes:

  • ClayTools virtual clay modeling application
  • HapticExtender/MX plug-in adds the sense of touch with 3D navigation to tools within 3ds max
  • Phantom Omni force feedback device System highlights include:

    Essentially, it's a $2,800 hardware/software system including an armature that lets you model in voxels using the included ClayTools app. Thanks to the plug-in, you can also use it in max, but not for sculpting per se as in ClayTools. Essentially, it replicates the mouse with force feedback. One interesting application I experienced was the ability to "push" the cursor through the surface of a box, whereupon I could then "pull" it along an inside edge, tracing the edge.

    Special time-limited offers--good through May 31, 2005--earn US $1,000 back after purchasing a ClayTools system for 3ds max by submitting a model with workflow.

    ClayTools systems for Rhinoceros and Maya are scheduled to ship in Q2 '05 and Q3 '05 respectively.



    Pixel Farm Updates PFTrack CamTracker

    UK-based The Pixel Farm, a developer of tools for digital post-production, recently released PFTrack V3.0. The new version of the camera tracking solution adds over 30 new features including advanced object tracking, geometry tracking, editable f curves, imbedded image-based modeling tools, and automatic z-depth extraction.

    Version 3.0 can now track many separate moving objects within a sequence, as well as solving camera motion issues - users export data from tracking groups, whether it's camera data, object movement or motion-capture sessions. With the addition of the geometry tracking, V3.0 now allows 3D geometry to be imported into PFTrack and then matched to sequences, suitable for head and facial replacement. Complex geometry can be imported and used to solve cameras in addition to the use of automatic or user-placed features. This is useful for problematic shots or for fast head or face replacement. The new camera solver in version 3.0 is now faster, enabling the software to deal with the most complex of shots.

    New editable function curves within PFTrack simplify cleaning up tracking data. The user can view and edit each individual property of the camera within a graph editor and the timeline curves can be represented by both linear and Bezier splines and smoothed or edited using the tools provided. Once edited, the new camera solver produces a new camera without the need to totally re-solve every parameter in the sequence.

    The new, integrated image-based modeling capabilities let users build up 3D environments by using the background image as a guide. Useful for pre-visualization and animation guidance, textured models can be exported to all major 3D applications.

    Integrated Z depth extraction tools assign depth data, on a per-pixel basis, to sequences for exporting as a grey map. This data can be viewed within PFTrack, in 3D, using the new orthographic view options which can then be broken down into any number of layers.



    Turbo Squid Announces New 3D Plug-in Collections

    Turbo Squid last week announced the availability of four new market-specific software collections. The 3D plug-in collections are designed to give 3ds max artists a set of tools specific to their needs at a cost savings. Each collection is bound in a single DVD case and requires one authorization for all tools. The collections can be purchased as a physical product or as an electronic download.

    Turbo Squid's Character Collection includes two Discreet Certified 3ds max Plug-ins (DCPs). hairfx, a hair and fur creation system, sports a new anti-aliasing engine. Absolute Character Tools 1.6 Pro (ACT) is a musculature system.

    The Particle Collection includes two DCPs for creating particle effects. AfterBurn 3 is used in films and games, and gives artists the ability to render photorealistic effects including clouds, pyroclastic smoke, dust, explosions, liquid metals, water and procedurally defined solid objects (HyperSolids). Particle Flow Tools: Box 1 is a set of Particle Flow operators designed to extend Particle Flow's inherent capabilities written by Oleg Bayborodin, the same developer who created Particle Flow.

    The Film and Video Collection includes four DCPs for the 3ds max artist designing visual effects for film, television and commercial work. The collection contains AfterBurn 3, for creating volumetric particle effects; hairfx for hair and fur creation; DreamScape 2.1 for creating landscapes, seascapes, skies, and outdoor lighting; and Texture Layers 2, so artists can create and animate all of their mapping channels with a single modifier.

    The Design Visualization Collection includes three DCPs: rtre v1.1 is a real-time rendering engine; finalToon is a technical illustrator and a cartoon renderer; and Texture Layers 2 is also included.

    All Discreet Certified 3ds max Plug-ins are available from Turbo Squid (www.turbosquid.com), from Discreet's e Store (http://estore.discreet.com), and from authorized Turbo Squid resellers around the world. To locate a reseller, contact sales@turbosquid.com.



    Ulead Updates DVD MovieFactory 4 Disc Creator

    New from Ulead Systems is DVD MovieFactory 4 Disc Creator, the latest version of its consumer-level DVD-creation software for the PC. The software lets users burn audio DVDs, fit dual-layer DVDs to a single-layer disc, and sync music to an MP3 player. It also lets consumers turn videos and photos into DVD movies and slideshows to watch on TV with a DVD menu.

    DVD MovieFactory 4 Disc Creator offers new quick-drop desktop icons to let consumers burn and sync digital media by dragging and dropping media to task icons located on the desktop without having to fully launch the software. The interface, which incorporates Flash animation, lets users navigate and locate DVD burning and creation tools. Enhanced DVD menu design technology lets consumers customize DVD menus by resizing chapter points, objects and text, and dragging and dropping them onto the menu.

    Ulead also offers a standard version of DVD MovieFactory 4, which provides the core DVD authoring and creation tools that are included in the Disc Creator version. DVD MovieFactory 4 is for consumers who are focused mainly on preserving their video and photo memories on DVD and CD.

    Other new features include:




    Research and Markets: Exploration of the Global Animation Industry

    Dublin, Ireland-based Research and Markets recently published its report Global Animation Industry: Strategies, Trends and Opportunities.

    The rapid advancement of technology has made computer animation available to the masses and the animation industry is one of the fastest-growing industries. The demand for animated entertainment has expanded with the increase in broadcasting hours by cable and satellite TV along with the growing popularity of the Internet. In the past, animation series were aimed at children aged nine and below. In recent years however, TV stations have been producing animation series for teenagers, adults and the whole family. Animation series like The Simpson's and King of the Hill have been successfully aired on primetime TV. The major markets include the United States, Canada, Japan, France, Britain and Germany.

    Licensing operations for T-shirts, caps and other items have also been a major source of revenue for animation companies. In Japan, several successful computer games have crossed over and have become animated series like Pokemon, Monster Farm, Power Stone and Detective Conan. More broadly speaking, animation is increasingly used in video games, and movies are also increasingly reliant on animation and computer graphic special effects.

    Another key trend we are witnessing is the outsourcing of animation content to Asia. This market is increasingly being tapped by North American film and television program producers. The major factor behind this shift of computer animation production to the Asia/Pacific region continues to be the availability of low cost, powerful computer animation platforms and much lower labor rates in the Asian and Pacific Rim countries compared to North America and Europe. The bulk of the outsourcing happens for 2D animation content with some amount of 3D content.

    Topics covered include:




    Disney Interactive Reveals New Details on Narnia Games

    Disney Interactive, a publishing label of Buena Vista Games, Inc., recently announced new details about its upcoming action/adventure title, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, for PlayStation2, PSP, Xbox, GameCube, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and PC. Based on the upcoming motion picture from Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media, the games will launch this holiday season, in conjunction with film's release.

    UK software developer Traveller's Tales is currently creating the console and PSP titles, while Griptonite Games, the handheld entertainment division of Seattle-based Amaze Entertainment, is developing the titles for Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS.

    In the game, players enter the world of Narnia, a land frozen in a 100-year winter by the evil powers of the malevolent White Witch. In order to end this frigid captivity and free his people, the mighty lion Aslan invokes an ancient prophecy. It will become the destiny of four siblings from our world: Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie to work together and use their combat skills, weaponry and abilities to defeat the Witch and her armies to save Narnia. These four heroes must battle the evil forces of the White Witch by waging war against a vast variety of creatures, including, minotaurs, minoboars, cyclops, werewolves, wraiths, ankleslicers, wolves, boggles and more.

    These ferocious creatures are modeled in the game after the characters being created for the motion picture by the digital and visual effects dudes at New Zealand-based Weta Workshop, whose credits include "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King," "Van Helsing," and "I, Robot." Additional game features include puzzle solving, two-player action featuring all four characters, and gameplay integration with film footage.

    The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a live-action/CGI motion picture adaptation of C.S. Lewis' literary classic. The film marks the first live-action directorial effort for Andrew Adamson (Academy Award-winner for "Shrek," "Shrek 2"), who also co-wrote the film's screenplay adaptation with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. The film is produced by Mark Johnson ("Rain Man"). The film will be released December 9, 2005.



    Gish, Wik Top Independent Games Festival Awards

    Gish and Wik and the Fable Souls have been selected as the top titles of the Independent Games Festival, the Sundance Festival of the video game world. Gish and Wik were awarded in the open and Web downloadable categories, respectively, at a ceremony at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

    Chronic Logic for Gish and Reflexive Entertainment for Wik and the Fable Souls were on hand to receive the $15,000 Seumas McNally Grand Prize. Game development teams competed for more than $40,000 in cash prizes.

    Independent game developers, similar to independent filmmakers, usually work with shoestring budgets. With the growing community of independent game developers emerging over the past decade, the IGF has taken center stage at recognizing these creators.

    The IGF recognized the following awards in each category:

    Cartoon Network also announced the winner of Project Goldmaster. Digital Builders has been selected to design a game based on a Cartoon Network character.

    For the second year running, GameSpot and Download.com partnered with the Independent Games Festival (IGF) to promote the games and their creators. Finalist games for the 7th annual IGF competition are available for free download at www.gamespot.com/igf and http://games.download.com/. As an added feature this year, visitors to the GameSpot site, www.gamespot.com, had the opportunity to vote for the 2005 IGF Audience Award for the Open and Web/Downloadable categories.



    About Spectrum

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