15 May 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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SoftPress Systems has started shipment of Freeway 3, the new version of its $299 Web-design program for the Mac.
New features include:
Virginia Systems announces the immediate availability of Sonar Bookends Activate version 2.0, a $195 plug-in for Adobe Acrobat. Available for both Macintosh and Windows, the product automatically creates hypertext links for items in a PDF file.
Features in version 2.0 include the automatic creation of hyperlinks for:
The manual for Sonar Bookends Activate is in a PDF file that, ironically enough, does not contain any hyperlinks.
Coming in June for Macintosh and Windows platforms is Macromedia Dreamweaver UltraDev, a visual solution for Web application development. The software is designed to let developers, programmers, and designers visually create and edit data-driven Web applications on multiple server platforms.
Users can preview Web applications populated with live, editable data within the authoring environment. Application builders can inspect databases, build queries, create application logic, and then view dynamic content using Live Data Preview.
Target platforms include Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) for ASP applications, Allaire ColdFusion for CFML applications, and IBM WebSphere and iPlanet Web Server, Enterprise Edition 4.1 for JSP applications. Dreamweaver UltraDev can also link to any ODBC, ADO, or JDBC database source or to legacy data systems through COM objects, and JavaBeans.
Nokia last week at E3 introduced Nokia Mobile Entertainment Service, which allows game application developers and online content publishers to create interactive entertainment for Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) enabled mobile devices. Ultimately the service will be offered by mobile network operators to their customer base.
Nokia claims the development tools allow game application developers and online content publishers a simpler way to create interactive entertainment or "entertainment on the move" for mobile phones. The Nokia Entertainment Developer Program delivers information, software tools, and support for developers who want to commercialize new products for the mobile entertainment market.
The program supplies a Game Construction Toolkit, Applications Programming Interfaces (APIs), documentation and sample source code for applications. The tools include functionality for creating multi-player games, authentication, and session management.
Turbine Entertainment Software last week announced licensing availability of the latest version of its WorldBuilder development and support tool suite for 3D massively multiplayer games.
This enhanced version of the Turbine 3D game engine--originally created for Asheron's Call--encompasses the graphics and rendering engine, animation and sound systems, physics and artificial intelligence systems, client-server technology, and performance-monitoring and enhancement tools.
Enhanced areas include:
Indrema Corporation's new Open Source project, called OpenStream, is a collaboration of several development groups, including Indrema, LiViD, and other Linux vendors working to create a new royalty-free gold standard for professional video on Linux.
The project will be hosted on VA Linux's SourceForge (http://sourceforge.net) where Open Source developers are encouraged to contribute to the API and code development. The project will produce the OpenStream 1.0 API specification and Sample Implementation with support for MPEG2 encoding, decoding hardware acceleration-an access architecture for various CODECs, and drivers for a variety of MPEG2 hardware.
In other news, Indrema announced today its selection of NVIDIA's (Nasdaq: NVDA) future-generation graphics processing unit (GPU) as the standard GPU in the Indrema L600 Entertainment System, which will take advantage of advanced gaming performance and OpenStream video technology.
The OpenStream 1.0 specification will be released to a standards body to govern its future development as an Open Standard, and the code development will continue to evolve according to the Open Source model. Professional non-linear editing software, multimedia presentation software tools and Internet video authoring tools are all examples of products that will benefit from a common open standard for video on Linux.
Indrema and other supporters of the Standard hope to see many video products released with OpenStream support soon after the 1.0 specification is completed. A completion date for the final 1.0 specification will be expected later this year, but startup funding for the project has been provided by Indrema. Other major Linux vendors have also agreed to help fund the project and their participation will be announced shortly.
More information about the OpenStream project and related technologies will be available at http://indrema.com/openstream.
Vancouver, BC-based Open Source developer ActiveState last week release beta versions of Python and Perl for the Intel Itanium processor.
Improv Technologies is offering a free beta version of Orchestrate3D, its non-linear production system for creating and managing 3D animation. The product, in conjunction with existing 3D modeling software, is said to let animators create libraries of reusable content that can be combined to form a variety of original animation. The first release will work with Maya; future versions will support users of 3D Studio Max, Softimage|XSI and Lightwave.
Roland DGA Corporation has introduced the PIX-4 3D scanner, said to be nearly twice as fast as the PIX-3, and sharing the same Roland Active Piezo Scanner (RAPS) touch-probe technology. The unit offers a scanning area of 6” x 4” x 2.375” with a definable resolution from 0.2” to 0.002”. It includes Dr. PICZA software for Windows. List price for the PIX-4 is $1995.
And if you've got an extra 18 Gs burning a hole in your pocket, get the companion PNC-3200, Roland's new desktop CNC milling machine. Designed for CAD/CAM designers, 3D artists and the rapid prototyping industry, the unit enables 3D prototyping and small-part production in a range of materials including acrylic, wax, acrylic resin, aluminum, brass and magnesium.
Specs include a 9-13/16” X-axis, 5-7/8” Y-axis, and deep 5-7/8” Z-axis, plus 0.00125 mm/step resolution and 180watt spindle motor.
Bundled 3D software lets users import files from a variety of 3D and CAD/CAM programs including DXF and STL as well as Roland 3D scanners, plus G-code and CAMM-GL written into the 3D software program.
Last week at E3, British toolmaker Criterion unveiled RenderVision, a production tool for 3D artists. RenderVision allows direct export from 3DS MAX of worlds, animated characters, lights, cameras and paths directly onto the target platform. The result is a real-time, interactive scene running on the target platform, enabling artists to:
RenderVision, priced at $995 per seat, is shipping on May 26 for 3DS MAX, with PlayStation 2 as the target platform. Support for other modelers and platforms will be available in the future.
Download the RenderVision brochure from http://www.csl.com/rendervision/brochure.pdf
The company also previewed RenderEngine, its first-person shooter engine for PlayStation 2.
Lastly, it launched RenderWare PowerPipe (code name was pipeline2) on PlayStation 2. The company describes it as "allowing developers to construct intricate, per-material, graphics pipelines, optimized specifically for the content type, desired special effects and platform configurations."
Special effects the product reportedly enables include multi-pass texturing, non-photorealistic rendering, particle systems and procedural geometry, on all architectures and without the usual performance/flexibility tradeoffs associated with traditional 3D pipelines. Power developers can code custom pipelines down-to-the-metal if required, while the "less adventurous" can build custom pipes from off-the-shelf components provided by Criterion and third parties.
An alpha release of RenderWare PowerPipe is now shipping to developers.
Download a white paper on RenderWare PowerPipe from http://www.csl.com/techdocs/ppwhite.pdf
Perry Kivolowitz, founder of Elastic Reality, has a new 3D baby called Hypercosm. The company has just released its 3D Player, which supports file compression as well as simulation and user interaction.
Hypercosm’s core technology is its OMAR (Object oriented Modeling, Animation and Rendering) computer language, said to provide a unified approach to describing both 3D images and animation.
Besides the player, the company has a 3D Studio Max plug-in that converts a 3D scene directly into a Hypercosm 3D applet, which can be viewed without leaving 3D Studio Max.
The plug-in, Hypercosm MaxLink, can also translate 3D Studio Max scenes into source code in the OMAR language. This lets advanced users add animation and
simulation to models, reportedly going beyond the limited "cause-and-effect" type interactions provided by other Internet 3D technologies.
Spokesman Abe Megahed trumpets the product's superior compression capability: "A 3D Studio Max scene of the MIR Space Station was translated by MetaStream Max 250 into a 220 Kbyte Internet 3D applet. This same scene was translated using the Cult3D; this version weighed in at 139 Kbytes. However, the same scene, when translated with Hypercosm MaxLink, utilized just 27 Kbytes."
Examples of what can accomplished with Hypercosm's technology can be seen at http://www.coolgames.com and http://www.coollearning.com and at the company's own Website, http://www.hypercosm.com, where the free software and players can be downloaded.
Newly available from Ulead Systems is version 6.0 of its Photo Explorer software, designed for acquiring, organizing, enhancing and sharing image files. The new version integrates with Web-based services offered from iMira.com, Ulead's new media sharing Web site.
Also new is a Digital Camera Wizard for downloading photos from a camera or memory card reader. By following the JEIDA-DCF standard, Photo Explorer 6.0 preserves and displays Exif data recorded by the camera. Version 6.0 also lets users gather files from multiple Web sites with its Web-scanning feature.
Ulead Systems bills its new iMira.com as a media-sharing Web site for consumer digital media users. The site is designed to provide a location to store, share and showcase personal media files. Users can upload existing files and store 20 MB in a gallery for future projects. Digital photography users can create online photo albums accessible by friends and family and send electronic greeting cards.
NeMo, the French developer of the 3D game-authoring system of the same name, invites surfers to vote for finalists in its Arena Game Design Competition at http://www.theswapmeet.com/index_ipion.html, and possibly win a graphics card or t-shirt.
Mia, the skateboarding mouse who first burst on the edutainment scene last year in a learning adventure that won 18 awards, returns in August in a new episode called Mia 2: Romaine’s New Hat. This time around, Kutoka Interactive turns its star into a miniature Indiana Jones bent on rescuing her mother’s brand new hat from an accidental journey down the sewer.
Designed for children 5 to 11, Mia 2 mixes a story with a variety of science activities addressing topics ranging from the solar system, the human body and the weather to the classification, habitats and eating habits of animals. For example, children play an association game that involves matching animals with their habitat as well as other animals in their class, whether it be primate, reptile or amphibian. At Freddy the Frog’s pond, children adjust a clock to see how the shadow changes on the sundial and how the shadow can tell time. Inside the hedge that serves as Simon the Scientist’s laboratory, they play a game that teaches them to identify the parts of plants.
The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (AIAS) last week announced the recipients of its third annual Interactive Achievement awards. The Sims (PC), created by Will Wright, developed by Maxis, and published by Electronic Arts-Maxis, garnered three awards, including Game of the Year. Also earning three awards each were Final Fantasy VIII (Square Co. Ltd.) and Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings (PC-Ensemble Studios).
Computer Game of the Year honors went to Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings (PC).
Winner of Console Game of the Year was Soul Calibur (Dreamcast).
Online Game of the Year honors went to EverQuest (Verant Interactive).
The Academy presented Interactive Achievement Awards in 29 craft, console, computer and online categories. The Academy also honored Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of Final Fantasy, inducting him into the Academy Hall of Fame.
The World Animation Celebration has announced the names of industry speakers at its weeklong series of conferences, taking place May 30 through June 4 in Hollywood. Event coordinators also announced a nationwide invitation and talent search for Shockwave and Flash animators.
Scheduled guest speakers include Matt Groening from the Simpsons, Brad Bird, director of The Iron Giant, Mike Monello, co-producer of The Blair Witch Project, Jean MacCurdy, president, Warner Bros. Animation, Macromedia's Rob Burgess, Will Vinton, and Christine Schwartman of IPNetwork.
The event centers around The Big Animation Internet Pow Wow, a three-day conference taking place Friday, June 2nd - Sunday, June 4th, that focuses on how to create business opportunities with animation on the Internet.
The World Summit for Animated Feature Films will take place Tuesday, May 30, a concentrated one-day event with four panels, breakfast, lunch and a cocktail reception.
The World Animation Marathon will occur on Monday, May 29, when 800 students will work together to produce a feature-length animated film in a day. The finished film will be premiered on Saturday morning, June 3.
The World Animation Career Workshops are scheduled over four weekday afternoons, Tuesday, May 30, through Friday, June 2, and are designed to give an overview to starting a career in animation.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is poised to make its mark on the Web in 2000, according to the author of the just-released "Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide" (O'Reilly, $34.95).
"Cascading Style Sheets is a standard way to separate a document's structure from its presentation," says Eric Meyer. "This sounds very abstract, but the benefits are quite surprising and profound. In theory, CSS makes one's life easier by creating a centralized description of Web document appearance. Any Web designer will likely come up against a situation where he or she really should use them, and many will no doubt need CSS to do things they never could do before." But in spite of CCS's strengths, (like any other Web language or standard) CSS requires browser support to be effective. Evolving Web standards have created browser versioning, which until recently kept CSS from reaching its full potential.
"Browser implementations of CSS1 are rapidly becoming both complete and bug-free. This will allow authors to use CSS with more confidence because one of the biggest barriers to the adoption of CSS has been the fact that browsers handle it inconsistently. Once that problem fades away, so will the reluctance to use it," explains Meyer.
Meyer's book offers a detailed review of CSS1 properties and other aspects of CSS1. Each property is explored with discussion of how it interacts with other properties. The book also shows how to avoid common mistakes in interpretation.
Eric Meyer's Top Ten CSS Tips is available online at: http://Web.oreilly.com/news/csstop10_0500.html
Chapter 1, HTML and CSS, from the book is available online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/css/chapter/ch01.html
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bio, and samples, see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/css/
Brit game developer Rage Software has entered into an agreement with Epic Games to license the Unreal Engine. In addition, as part of the agreement, Rage has also been granted the exclusive right to sublicense the Unreal Engine to third-party game developers and publishers throughout Europe.
The Unreal Engine is a 3D game development engine that helps produce a range of online, multi-player titles for existing and future console and PC formats. It was first used in the 1998 game Unreal, which according to its publisher, has sold in excess of one million units worldwide.
Today's version of the engine features all the enhancements made for the newer title, Unreal Tournament, plus the ability to handle large outdoor terrains, a skeletal animation system, a new editor and support for the latest PC graphics hardware and next-generation video game console systems.
LucasArts last week announced a lineup of eight new titles to be released in 2000-2001. The games will be offered across multiple platforms including PC, Macintosh, current and next generation consoles.
Microsoft invaded week's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles with new versions of its PC games and new titles, including:
New titles from Sierra Studios shown at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) last week in Los Angeles include:
bleem, inc. last week unveiled bleem! for Dreamcast, which lets Sega Dreamcast owners play titles originally written for the Sony PlayStation with Dreamcast-enhanced graphics resolution and effects. Support for over 400 PlayStation titles is planned for initial release.
bleem! for Dreamcast renders game graphics at 640x480 pixels, twice the resolution of most PlayStation games with full-screen anti-aliasing and bi-linear filtering.
The software products will be offered in 100-game "paks," offering compatibility with a range of PlayStation titles including Sony-published titles. Each $20 pak will feature a mix of games from multiple genres, including adventure, sports, RPGs, strategy and other categories. Specific game lists for the individual packs will be announced in early June, with the first bleem! for Dreamcast paks expected to hit retail shelves early this summer.
With the provision that "This title has not yet been officially approved by Sony Computer Entertainment America," Interplay Entertainment Corp. last week announced the development of its first title for the PlayStation2 computer entertainment system -- a science-fiction, survival-horror game entitled Run Like Hell.
The third-person 3D title, described as an Aliens versus The Thing action-adventure, is set for release in spring 2001. It is expected to be the first internally developed game to launch under Interplay's newly created console division, Digital Mayhem.
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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