Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

24 May 2004
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)

--Darkling Interactive Noise (DIN) Adds Noise to After Effects, combustion
--Dogwaffle Gets 2.1 Update
--Wildform Releases Flix Pro 4 for Windows
--Caligari Announces Light Edition of gameSpace
--wondertouch Offers Price Break to combustion Users

--Entertainment Arts Announces Holographic-Tech Licensing Deal

--True Crime PC Ships to Retail
--Enlight Ships Warlords Battlecry III
--Agetec Announces Kuon "Ancient Tale of Horror" for PS2
--New Wild Arms Title Coming to PS2

--Webby Awards Winners Announced

--Siggraph 2004 to Offer 28 Emerging Tech Installations

--About Spectrum



Darkling Interactive Noise (DIN) Adds Noise to After Effects, combustion

Software developer Darkling Simulations last week released its new plug-in software for Adobe After Effects 5.5 and later, as well as Discreet combustion 3, both for Macintosh and Windows. DIN, or Darkling Interactive Noise, is an all-in-one noise plug-in capable of generating a variety of effects from fire and clouds to force fields, transitions, and particle-like animations.

DIN provides a dropdown list of 13 noise basis patterns (e.g. Rings, Boxes, Caustic, Fluff) as well as the ability to assign a layer as the basis, which is then applied to the source layer according to a variety of other parameters that control the appearance, placement, and motion of the noise basis. A fractalizing result is achieved by setting the levels of complexity.

DIN can create particle-like animations without the overhead of an actual particle system. Simple X, Y, and Z motion controls such as Spin, Align, Squeeze, and Jiggle combine to produce complex behavior, especially when another layer is assigned as the Control Layer. The Control Layer allows the user to specify where and how the DIN noise is applied.

DIN exploits OpenGL hardware acceleration and pixel buffers, and supports motion blur and 16 bpc color.

DIN is available now for a special introductory price of $108 USD direct from Darkling Simulations, offer good until June 15, 2004. List Price: $159 USD. DIN will be available from resellers at a later date.

Visit http://www.darksim.com for a free demo, sample movies and projects.


Dogwaffle Gets 2.1 Update

Dan Ritchie, author of the paint and animation software "Project Dogwaffle," last week posted a new update version 2.1, available for free download to users of Project Dogwaffle 2.0.

"The recently introduced exposure sheet needed a few improvements for professional use and we feel that this has been nicely accomplished," said Ritchie. "Likewise, we wanted to add spline interpolation between keyframes on the Timeline editor, as well as undo and the ability to stop the rendering in progress to increase productivity. But perhaps the most significant new feature in this update is the Penny plugin - a new rendering engine with spline interpolation for keeping smooth curves no matter how fast your hand is and how slow the sampling rate of your tablet."

Penny opens a copy of the current buffer and lets the user draw with a mouse or tablet using anti-aliased, spline-based lines in several built-in styles such as ink, watercolor, and gel. The user can also apply a paper texture and import new papers.

The keyframer, a new plug-in, is best used in conjunction with custom or animated brushes containing images. For example, the user could move a few frames of a butterfly flapping its wings along a path. It could also change orientation, and size to mimic perspective proximity, and fade in/out through opacity changes. There's also a choice of shutter speeds and motion blur effects.

Other new features of the 2.1 update include:
new Optipustics settings (fractal particles) for a variety of preset grass, brush and shrubbery effects which can be further customized the Canvas Buffer size plug-in for more options when changing the size of the drawing area
an updated Exposure sheet (Mouth plug-in for lipsynching against a Wave audio track), including a velocity track, zooming in and out, stop playback, frame/audio lock toggle, and more
an updated Timeline editor, with new spline-based keyframe interpolation, zooming in and out on the timeline, creating new animations straight from the timeline, Undo, stop render in progress, anti-aliasing for the transform filter, and more.



Wildform Releases Flix Pro 4 for Windows

Just out from Wildform is Flix Pro 4 for Windows. The upgrade features new FLV output, an FLV to SWF converter, a new interface, plus new outputs including screensavers and Linux projectors, new Flash functions such as file security, and new HTML publishing options. Flix Pro 4 is $149 and is available for Windows. The Mac version will reportedly be available in three months.

The new FLV video output can be played directly in the Flash Player, streamed through the Flashcom server, or imported into Macromedia Flash. Flix's FLV output now also works with the program's automatic player output feature, so the user can add a custom player and a preloader to new or previously encoded FLV and SWF files.

Other new features include an FLV to SWF converter, an updated interface, new outputs including screensavers and Linux projectors, new Flash functions such as file security and adjustable preloader text, and new HTML publishing options.

According to Wildform, FLV's advantages over SWF include the elimination of the 16,000-frame limit and RAM-consumption issues, plus superior performance when played from a CD-ROM. Flix Pro still outputs SWF video, which offers features such as embedded Flash functions and greater player compatibility.

Flix Pro is rich-video authoring software that lets the user edit, crop, filter, encode, and post video in a customized player. It offers multiple outputs, automated Flash functions, and support for older Flash players going back to version 3, as well as it's the ability to convert standard video into a vectorized animation.



Caligari Announces Light Edition of gameSpace

New from Caligari is gameSpace Light (gSL), a free version of the company's game graphics authoring software. gameSpace. gSL lets the user model, texture, render and animate game characters and objects. It imports and exports objects in gameSpace and .X formats. Users will have access to free tutorials, online support, forums as well as an online community.

Caligari also announced its gameSpace Summer Shootout, a game-developer talent competition featuring more than $10,000 in prizes.



wondertouch Offers Price Break to combustion Users

Going until June 30 from wondertouch, a software developer specializing in particle-effects tools for the visual effects industry, is an upgrade promotion that allows registered owners of the Discreet combustion 3 software program to receive more than half off the USMSRP of particleIllusion 3.0, the latest version of the company's sprite-based particle effects software application. combustion 3 owners can purchase the standalone version of particleIllusion 3.0 for Windows, at a reduced price of $179, a savings of $220.

In 2001 the wondertouch development team integrated the particleIllusion 2.0 engine into combustion 2. combustion 3, the latest version of Discreet's visual effects and 3D compositing desktop software, still contains the particleIllusion 2.0 engine.

The standalone application of particleIllusion 3.0 offers combustion 3 users several advantages, including:
* acceleration: the particles in particleIllusion 3.0 run faster than those in combustion, even with multiple emitters running on modest OpenGL hardware.
* forces: Influence particles after they are created, to create wind effects, for example.
* super emitters: allows for the automatic creation of emitters to create other emitters
* new color options: includes the ability to get the particle color from the background footage
* library manager : allows movement of emitters between libraries and access to any libraries on one's computer
* new emitter libraries: wondertouch releases a new emitter library for particleIllusion 3.0 every month. Over 350 emitters have been released for particleIllusion 3.0 in the past year, providing new users of particleIllusion 3.0 with a large set of new effects to use immediately.

More info at http://www.wondertouch.com, including an interesting rundown of the benefits vs. drawbacks of using the standalone particle system with combustion compared to the built-in one.



Entertainment Arts Announces Holographic-Tech Licensing Deal

Entertainment Arts, Inc. has entered into a new, five-year licensing agreement with ATL Corporation, a private company based in Findlay, Ohio. The agreement calls for ATL to grant ETAI the exclusive worldwide commercial application rights to market, sell, distribute and lease ATL's patented holographic imaging products and underlying technology.

ATL's holographic technology involves free-space imaging systems that project live, real-time, full color, 3D images out from the display unit into a region of space between the observer and the unit. The image moves in an empty space to the unit and can be viewed by any number of people. A high-resolution image can be projected in reduced scale onto a table/desktop or life-sized onto a stage. The image source can be computer-generated animations, 3D scans of real objects or live and/or produced video feed of actual people and events.



True Crime PC Ships to Retail

Last week Activision's True Crime: Streets of L.A. for the PC shipped to retail stores. The PC version augments the driving, fighting and shooting action of the console game with PC graphics, new weapons, unlockable characters, and an online multiplayer feature. To the original soundtrack featuring hip-hop music from Snoop Dogg and Westside Connection the PC game adds 32 tracks from rock artists such as Alice In Chains, Queensryche, Spineshank, and Stone Sour.

The single-player game thrusts players into the role of rogue cop Nick Kang, whose brutal reputation and lethal skills have landed him the nasty task of taking down the Chinese Triad and Russian Mafia that have turned Los Angeles into a war zone. The 3D game lets the player engage in a crime drama throughout 240 square miles of Los Angeles streets or challenge opponents in online multiplayer action modes. Gamers take part in gun battles, martial-arts brawls, and high-speed shootouts.

The game's branching missions include locating hostile witnesses, infiltrating criminal-infested locations, taking out informants and busting the bad guys. Players can visit popular L.A. landmarks as well as earn rewards in over 30 different training locations. Unlockables includes upgraded weapons, upgraded cars, more fighting moves, and special driving abilities.

The PC version adds new weapons and eight unlockable characters. Up to four players can join up online or on a Local Area Network (LAN) and play any of five different multiplayer games. Using characters from the single-player game, multiplayer gameplay varies from the "Street Racing" mode to patrolling the city and bagging the most criminals in "The Beat." Other games include hand-to-hand combat in "Dojo Master," slaughtering opponents with new weapons such as a rocket launcher or crossbow in "Battle Master," and in "Police Chase" gamers can play either the police or criminal in a race across Los Angeles.



Enlight Ships Warlords Battlecry III

Now available at retail from developer and publisher Enlight is the new RTS/RPG title Warlords Battlecry III. The third installment in the series lets players to go head to head in RTS combat with one of 16 fantasy races and over 100 hero combinations.

New features include five unique races, an enhanced hero-development system, more than 130 spells over 13 different spheres of magic, a new lair system, and dozens of shops to explore.

Additional features include:
* map editor
* retinues to accompany heroes in battle
* multiplayer matching via Enlight's multiplayer matching service
* ability to produce unique dragons, each with different abilities and characteristics
* orchestral music
* multiplayer component via LAN or online



Agetec Announces Kuon "Ancient Tale of Horror" for PS2

Game publisher Agetec will bring Kuon, a period-based survival horror game for PlayStation2, to North America this winter. Developed and published by FromSoftware in Japan, Kuon is a weapon and magic-based horror game offering new gameplay mechanics, puzzles, mini-games, and a storyline. Set in the Heian era (794-1192 A.D.) of ancient Japan, Kuon features 3D graphics with CG cut-scenes to create a horror-adventure.

Kuon is based on an ancient type of Japanese horror story (Kwaidan). It beckons gamers to a dark and gruesome castle in the Japanese town of Kyoto where mutated creatures and horrors await the multiple playable characters. When the story starts, players can choose to play: "Chapter of Shadow" as Utuski, a teenage girl in search of her father, Doman -- the local exorcist (Onmyoji) -- who was sent to the castle with a few of his followers to investigate strange occurrences; or "Chapter of Light" as Sakuya, one of Doman's followers. After finishing both chapters, the "Chapter of Kuon" begins and the real horrific truth can be discovered as players assume the role of a master Onmyoji.

Kuon's storyline and moral connotations are achieved through gory visuals and vivid imagery, yet the publisher claims it also possesses the artistic and cultural beauty of classical ornaments and the kimono form of dress. The tune of Japanese taiko drums and the dark hymns of children are heard throughout the night. Residents wander like ghosts, and hungry demons creep in the darkness. The player fights with Heian-period weaponry and the exorcism art of Onmyojitsu, and learns new spells from scrolls found in the castle.



New Wild Arms Title Coming to PS2

Agetec says it will bring Wild Arms Alter code: F, a new title based on the original Wild Arms, to North America for PlayStation2 this winter. Developed by Media Vision and published by Sony Computer Entertainment in Japan, the role-playing game (RPG) will offer new characters, enhanced graphics, puzzles, and a new battle system. Set within a background of music from the composers of the Wild Arms and Wild Arms 2 soundtracks, Wild Arms Alter code: F promises an epic role-playing adventure coupled with CG sequences to enhance the heroic storyline.

On Filgaia, a planet where severe conditions and savage beasts threaten the very existence of all life, guided by the Ancient Guardians, three brave warriors rise to save their benign world from the returning metal demons -- the prophesied destroyers of Filgaia. In the new game, players assume the roles of the original cast members: Rudy, a mysterious child who wields the evil power christened as "ARM"; Jack, a swordsman who travels in search of a lost treasure; and Cecilia, a princess with the gift of a medium to communicate with the Guardians.

These join with three new playable characters: Emma, Jane, and McDullen. Players of the original Wild Arms will recall that Emma is a scientist who researches and repairs ARMs, and her expertise with firearms proved to be helpful to the group. They should also recognize Jane Maxwell as the feisty, assertive, and greedy teenager nicknamed Calamity Jane, and McDullen as her faithful and patient butler. Each character possesses unique individual attributes, including favorite weapons and combat skills that aid in the journey.

The enhanced battle system includes crossfire sequences like those in Wild Arms 3, and sepia-toned shading technology enhances visuals in a western setting, filled with dungeons, mystic creations, monster-plagued frontiers, and scavenged woods. Dungeons will include new traps and characters have helpful abilities ranging from the traditional (running, picking up objects, and leaping) to the stealthy (sneaking and observing).




Webby Awards Winners Announced

The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences last week unveiled the winners of The 8th Annual Webby Awards in 30 categories, including Activism, Community, Film, Music, News, Personal Web Sites, Politics, and Spirituality. A complete list of winners is available at http://www.Webbyawards.com .

Reflecting the egalitarian spirit of the Internet, winners ranged from Wikipedia.org (Best Community), a free, community-built encyclopedia, to the official site for the Oscar-winning documentary The Fog of War (Best Film), to Web powerhouses like Google (Best Practices and Best Services).

Google was also one of several sites to win both a Webby Award and a People's Voice Award, which is determined by the public. Other dual winners included The Onion (Best Humor), Epicurious.com (Best Living), Apple iTunes (Best Music), and beliefnet (Best Spirituality).

Other notable winners included:
• Two public broadcasting networks won multiple awards. PBS.org won for Best Television and its P.O.V. Borders www.pbs.org/pov/borders/index_flash.html won for Best Broadband. BBC-affiliated Web sites received three awards: BBC Human Body www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody (Best Education), BBC News www.bbc.co.uk/news (Best News), and BBC Sport news.bbc.co.uk/sport (Best Sports).
• In addition to the BBC wins, other international winners include: Colette www.colette.fr (Best Fashion; France); RAKU-GAKI.com www.raku-gaki.com (Best Personal Web Site; Japan); Map 24 www.map24.com (Best Technical Achievement; Germany) and Car Stuck Girls www.carstuckgirls.com (Best Weird Site; Germany).
• Meetup.com and Blog for America www.blogforamerica.com, two sites that transformed the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, won the Webby Award and People's Voice Award, respectively, in the Best Politics category.




Siggraph 2004 to Offer 28 Emerging Tech Installations

ACM Siggraph announced last week the content of the Emerging Technologies exhibition for Siggraph 2004, the 31st International Conference on Computer Graphics and Techniques, being held 8 -12 August, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The Emerging Technologies exhibition will feature 28 interactive installations from research labs, universities, independent artists, and industry that explore the theme of enhancing life.

Highlights from Siggraph 2004 Emerging Technologies:

* CirculaFloor, Hiroaki Yano and Hiroyuki Fukushima, University of Tsukuba and Haruo Noma, ATR - CirculaFloor is a locomotion interface created by a group of movable floors that employ a holonomic mechanism to achieve omni-directional motion. Circulation of the floors enables the user to maintain their position while walking in a virtual environment, allowing them to walk in any direction in the virtual world.

* Healing, Brian Knep - Healing is an interactive artwork containing a floor projection with a pattern that changes in response to users. When people interact, they create wounds in the design. When left alone, the pattern grows to cover these wounds, but is never the same as before it was wounded. As in nature, contact causes change, and therefore has a destructive quality, but change also forces growth, making it simultaneously regenerative.

* Nonphotorealistic Camera, Ramesh Raskar, MERL - Nonphotorealistic Camera is a multi-flash camera that automatically generates stylized images and videos. It enhances the imagery to make it easy to understand the relative depth, or 3D structure, of the objects in the scene. The approach is inspired by techniques used by digital artists to make images more comprehensible by accentuating important features and reducing visual clutter. The system works well in low-contrast conditions such as imaging mechanical parts, plants, or human surgery, and can also be used to stylize imaging in art and entertainment.

* Last, Jussi Angesleva, Media Lab Europe - Last is an analog clock that uses a live video feed to paint its face over time. Instead of displaying only the current moment, Last shows a time buffer of one minute, one hour and 12 hours in the trails of its hands, therefore providing an overview of the dynamics of a space. This rhythm, in turn, offers a means of reflection upon events, or can open a channel between two remote places through cross-streaming. This artwork enables people to feel each other's presence without having to use direct videoconferencing.

* Lumisight Table: Interactive View-Dependent Display-Table Surrounded by Mutiple Users, Yasuaki Kakehi, The University of Tokyo - Lumisight Table can simultaneously display different information to four viewers at one table on a shared screen, and capture their gestures, enabling face-to-face communication. In collaboration, nonverbal communication, such as eye contact, facial expressions, and the handling of physical objects, are essential, but often lost in computer presentations. Lumisight Table maintains this nonverbal communication and collaboration, potentially enhancing the efficiency of cooperative work in daily life.

* The Invisible Train, Thomas Pintaric, Daniel Wagner, and Dieter Schmalstieg, Vienna University of Technology - The Invisible Train is a collaborative, multiplayer game that extends Augmented Reality to mobile devices. The game environment consists of a miniature wooden railroad track outfitted with fiducial markers for visual post-tracking. Unlike common toy trains, however, the actual wagons have been replaced with virtual ones that are visible to users only through their PDA display. Players control the game by changing speed and operating track switches, altering the paths of their virtual trains. In a multiplayer game, each player is assigned her own train and tries to prevent them from colliding. The game state is shared between clients and synchronized by wireless networking. The game ends after a certain time has elapsed or when players collide.

* Tickle Salon, Maria Erwin and Verstappen Driessens - Tickle Salon is a haptic system that provides a sensual, soothing experience where users lay back and relax, while a robot gently tickles and strokes their skin. Tickle Salon merges meta creativity, biology, artificial intelligence, and pleasure to create a machine that generates delicate bodily sensations that are normally considered out of the question in the context of robotics.

Siggraph 2004 Emerging Technologies opens Sunday 8 August at 1:00 pm and closes Thursday 12 August at 5:00 pm. For more information on the work being shown, visit http://www.siggraph.org/s2004/conference/etech/index2.php?=conference



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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