Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

17 November 2003
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
For editorial/subscription inquiries, send mailto:spectrum1@broadviewnet.net
Search the Spectrum archives at http://www.3dlinks.com/spectrum

Today's Headlines (details below)

--Superscape Announces 3D Extension for BREW Platform
--Savvis Unveils Media Services Platform
--CyberLink Updates PowerDirector Video Editing Software

--Vbrick Introduces Digital Video Distribution System
--Online Service Users to Own Digital Creations
--Berklee Music College Launches Free Online Music Education

--Kiwi Firm Ships Character Animation Toolkit
--New Software Adds 3D Import to MS Office
--3Dconnexion Supports DCC Apps

--Students Vie to Build Didactic Video Games

--SCEA Releases Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando for PS2
--Digital Leisure Releases Dragon's Lair 20th Anniversary Box Set
--GarageGames Signs Dark Horizons: Lore
--EyeTimer Lets Parents Limit Kids' Video Game Use
--Vivendi Ships The Hobbit Video Game
--Eidos Ships Legacy of Kain: Defiance
--Uru: Ages Beyond Myst Launches

--About Spectrum


Superscape Announces 3D Extension for BREW Platform

Superscape Group plc, developers of Swerve technology for the creation and delivery of interactive 3D applications on mobile devices, last week announced the development of the Swerve extension for Qualcomm's Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW) platform. The extension will reportedly let developers create interactive 3D applications to integrate with other BREW-based services.

One of the first examples of the Swerve extension being used for a BREW- based application is "S.W.A.T. The Movie: 3D Game," a new title to be published next year by Sony Pictures Mobile. Based Players choose from seven different missions that can be downloaded wirelessly to their mobile device. The game will include a wide range of interactive 3D targets that react when a player shoots and successfully hits the object. Users will also enjoy animated, full-motion video sequences that will provide background on the missions and gameplay before the action begins.


Savvis Unveils Media Services Platform

Savvis Communications, a global managed-service provider, last week detailed its strategy for the evolution of managed-media services that builds upon its recent acquisition of the commercial business of Wam!Net, Inc. The new services, which combine Wam!Net's media-content management and distribution services with Savvis' global managed IP network and video-transport and transcoding services, reportedly address the entire media production, content management, and content distribution workflow.

"Content management services associated with digital media, such as digital content management and delivery of managed workflow solutions, are experiencing significant growth in the U.S.," said Ellen Julian, vice president for emerging services markets at IDC. "Services such as digital asset management, media repurposing, archiving, transport, workflow automation, piracy and electronic distribution, all require a level of cohesion that can become problematic when managed in disparate environments. A compelling opportunity exists for new services that accelerate production workflows for media content."

IDC forecasts that U.S. content management service spending will increase to $4.5 billion by 2007, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.1%. Content-management operations remain the fastest growing segment of content-management services, projected to grow at 19.2% over the forecast period in the United States to reach $1.2 billion in 2007.

Savvis' media services platform, called Wam!Net Media Services, is delivered on a standards-based architecture that utilizes global network, storage and application hosting infrastructure as a foundation for content creation, digital asset management, and content distribution services. The suite of services is delivered as a managed utility that addresses the workflow process and is said to bridge the gaps between content owners, their suppliers and business partners.

The Savvis portfolio of Wam!Net Media Services comprises several managed services:
* Content-management, archive, collaboration and distribution services that let enterprises create, manage and distribute media files of types such as text, graphics, audio and video in both compressed and uncompressed formats
* Managed-transport services that secure and accelerate the distribution process
* media-repurposing services that convert source content into distribution formats for applications such as broadcast, media manufacturing (CD/DVD), print and the Internet


CyberLink Updates PowerDirector Video Editing Software

New from CyberLink is PowerDirector 3 digital video software. New features include:
* SVRT II: lets users render the video or audio needed individually, saving time while maintaining the quality of the original video/audio.
* DV QuickScan: lets users preview a full-length DV tape at up to six times the normal speed, letting them select and capture specific video segments without manually positioning the tape.
* fast preview (up to 16x speed):
* InstantMPEG: Lets users transfer DV files into MPEG format directly without the need to transfer to AVI first.
* Right-to-Disc recording: Lets users directly burn from a DV camcorder to DVD.
* Latest version of CyberLink's MPEG Engine: based on a constant variable bit rate encoder and optimized for interlaced video.
* Buffered Capture: Enables real-time conversion from raw video to MPEG files for fast CPUs. Slower CPUs can also achieve high quality results but not in real time. Video being captured is buffered on the hard disk to ensure no frame drops.
* Power: A new interface permits editing in dual modes, timeline and storyboard and is suitable for both advanced and entry-level users. More than 15 new editing/capturing features are available, such as the "Precise-Cut" feature letting users edit with exact precision via a zoom-in trim bar.

PowerDirector 3 has also incorporated the authoring and burning features from its sister product, PowerProducer.



Vbrick Introduces Digital Video Distribution System

VBrick Systems last week introduced the VBrick EtherneTV Media Distribution System for the delivery of live and stored television to desktops and TVs. The system is based on open MPEG standards and compromises integrated VBrick video components that are controlled with a common user interface.

The system comprises these products:
* EtherneTV Media Control Server - generates StreamOne, a user interface for use on a PC, Macintosh or TV that lets the user access and record multiple streams from different sources, such as a live stream from a VBrick VBXcast encoder or a recorded stream from a video on demand server. Users can switch video sources and perform different functions from the user interface.
* VBrick MPEG 1, 2, and 4 Networked Video Appliances - Portable, reliable networked appliances for MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 provided dedicated one-way and two-way streaming
* EtherneTV Video On Demand NXG - video on demand (VoD) server based on Kassena's video-distribution technology. EtherneTV NXG-VOD identifies live streams, records streams to disk and plays the files to both desktop players and set-top based decoders.
* EtherneTV Set Top Box - accesses live streams, requests stored content from the VOD NXG, and accesses the World Wide Web. The EtherneTV STB supports MPEG-1, 2, and 4 on a single platform and can be used as a stand-alone product as well as integrated into the VBrick EtherneTV Media Distribution System.



Online Service Users to Own Digital Creations

Linden Lab, creator of online world Second Life, today announced a change in digital property rights for its customers and for users of online worlds. Amendments to Second Life's Terms of Service now recognize the ownership of in-world content by the subscribers who make it. The revised TOS allows subscribers to retain intellectual-property protection for the digital content they create, including characters, clothing, scripts, textures, objects and designs.

In addition, Second Life says it will explore technologies to make it easy for creators to license their content under Creative Commons licenses.

Second Life residents began creating their world in October, 2002 as beta testers, and continued through commercial launch of the service in June 2003. In about a year, more than 10,000 users have created a world with more than 200,000 objects, characters, living situations from hobbit-style homes to urban apartments, to sprawling mansions, and special recreational areas including a 40-ride amusement park and an island retreat. Everything in the world, from the antique carousel to the hot race cars to the resident-abducting alien spaceship was designed and built by the residents.

The economy supporting this activity includes over 12,000 objects for sale. Each month, nearly 100,000 user-to-user transactions for goods and services take place, with more than Linden$19million in in-world currency changing hands.

Based in San Francisco, Linden Lab was founded in 1999 by Philip Rosedale to create a new form of shared 3D entertainment. The former CTO of RealNetworks, Rosedale pioneered the development of streaming media technologies such as RealVideo. In April 2003, software pioneer Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus Development Corporation, was named chairman.

A nonprofit corporation, Creative Commons promotes the creative reuse of intellectual works, whether owned or public domain. It is supported by The Center for the Public Domain, the Hewlett Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Creative Commons is based at Stanford Law School, where it shares staff and space with the school's Center for Internet and Society.

http://www.secondlife.com/ http://creativecommons.org/ http://www.lindenlab.com/

Berklee Music College Launches Free Online Music Education

Independent music school Berklee College of Music recently launched Berklee Shares, a new program that provides free music lessons and encourages musicians to share and distribute the lessons online. The Berklee Shares lessons are available at no charge and are made up of a growing catalog of MP3s, QuickTime movies and PDF files derived from curriculum developed at the college by its faculty.

The program launches with over 80 music lessons spanning instrument performance, music production and technology, songwriting and arranging, music business and careers, music education and music improvisation. The number of lessons offered will expand over time.

The project will use licenses provided by Creative Commons. The Berklee Shares content will thus be marked with technology that signals, in a human- and machine-understandable way, the freedoms that go with the content.

GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING Kiwi Firm Ships Character Animation Toolkit New Zealand-based Character Animation Technologies last week released Character Animation Toolkit (CAT), a plug-in for 3ds max. The software provides a customizable animation rig that supports an unlimited numbers of limbs, has a parametric motion-cycle system, rig manipulation that the user can assign all 3ds max animation controllers, a mocap importer that supports popular motion capture formats, and a non-linear animation system that supports usage of all of the above at once, on different parts of the rig, simultaneously. Features include: any number of spines, heads, bones, spine links, bone segments, fingers and toes; arbitrary limb configuration; a rig-preset manager; IK/FK blends; a hand-preset manager; a pose manager; animation parameters open to all 3ds max animation controllers; spline-editable, animatable parametric motion; a motion-preset manager; walk on the spot; automatic ground collision; individual footprint editing; bvh and htr mocap data import/retargeting; individually transformable mocap clips; motion ghosting; the ability to compress and stretch animation tracks; non-linear animation, and more. http://www.catoolkit.com/home.asp

New Software Adds 3D Import to MS Office

Right Hemisphere last week released Deep Publish for Microsoft Office users. The $149 software lets non-technical users create and distribute 3D presentations within Microsoft PowerPoint, Word and Excel applications.

Users can embed 3D files from an array of file formats such as .3ds, .rh, .lwo, .wrl, (VRML) .dxf, and .obj. Up to 80 additional types of data files can be imported into Microsoft Office applications using Deep Exploration or Deep Server. This includes access to native CAD formats such as Pro/Engineer, Catia, AutoCAD, Unigraphics, and a range of other medical, scientific and AEC (architecture/engineering/construction) application formats. Additionally, with Right Hemisphere's software development kit, customers can write support for any file format they need. Office documents saved with 3D embedded content can be distributed to others and viewed using Right Hemisphere's free Deep View software.

Right Hemisphere recently received financing from Sequoia Capital, a San Francisco-based Venture Capital firm.

Go to http://www.righthemisphere.com/deeppublish for a trial version of Deep Publish and to http://www.righthemisphere.com/dv for access to Deep View.

3Dconnexion Supports DCC Apps

3Dconnexion, a developer of 3D motion controllers, says its motion controllers now support leading digital content creation (DCC) applications. Support was announced for Adobe Photoshop, Discreet 3ds max, Alias Maya, Kaydara Motionbuilder and Maxon's Cinema 4D and BodyPaint 3D.

In a related announcement, 3Dconnexion explained how its motion controllers bring the benefits of "two-handed power" to modeling and animation tasks. One hand on the motion controller takes over scene- or camera-viewing movements while the other hand on the mouse creates, edits or selects models or objects.

3Dconnexion controllers include SpaceBall, SpaceMouse, CadMan and SpaceNavigator, and SpaceTraveler.



Students Vie to Build Didactic Video Games

The Liemandt Foundation, a nonprofit family foundation that promotes technology-enabled education, is hosting a college student video game development contest that challenges students to build entertaining games that secretly teach middle school subjects.

The contest focuses on the notion of "stealth education" in gaming, pushing students to create primarily entertaining games that also teach science and math topics such as physics, statistics, or the solar system. Students have complete freedom in their game designs. They may work in teams of up to eight people, can build the games on and for any platform, and may use existing engines if they choose. Games will be judged in May, with five finalist teams flying to Austin, Texas for their final shot at the $25,000 prize.

Advising the contest are experts such as Ultima creator and gaming legend Richard Garriott and educational game visionary Marc Prensky, and the project is affiliated with the Digital Media Collaboratory at the University of Texas. “There is no doubt in my mind that college students can create the next breakthrough educational video game,” says Garriott. Prensky agrees, “I look forward to watching these motivated and creative students break through the barriers of historically boring learning games.” Among the many benefits of challenging college students to build the game is the notion that once these students enter the professional game development community, they will understand the importance and potential of stealth education.

While all submitted games must fulfill teaching and technical requirements to be considered, final judging is based on 70% entertainment and 30% educational value. “The uneven split in judging criteria is crucial,” explains program director Lauren Davis. “In the past, educational games have failed because no matter how well they taught, kids just weren't motivated to absorb information. Children will only learn from the games they want to play.”



SCEA Releases Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando for PS2

Just out from Sony Computer Entertainment America is Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, a weapons-based, action-adventure game for PlayStation2. Created by Insomniac Games of Spyro the Dragon fame, the game features new elements of gameplay such as an experience-based character-growth system, upgradeable weapons and armor, and a more dynamic economic system. Twenty new weapons have upgrade capabilities that are unlocked as players gain skill and experience, and some of the weapons feature "weapon mods" that can be used to outfit a weapon and create post-attack damage. "Maxigames" available throughout the adventure can be replayed to earn experience and money, giving players the chance to test their skills in gladiatorial arenas, spherical worlds and space combat.

The game offers 20 new planets plus new character designs and environments approximately one and a half times larger than those in the first Ratchet & Clank.

Delving into role-playing game(RPG) territory, the new character-growth system lets players earn more nanotech (hit points) by defeating enemies. By gaining experience, Ratchet can increase his nanotech units from four to 80 by the end of the game. Enemies also grow in strength and by the end of the game can take up to 120 hit points of damage, forcing players to strategically manage their artillery.


Digital Leisure Releases Dragon's Lair 20th Anniversary Box Set

New from Digital Leisure is the Dragon's Lair 20th Anniversary Box Set CD-ROM. The box set includes Dragon's Lair, Space Ace and Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp. All the original arcade video footage is included and as a bonus the box set includes previously unreleased playable Dragon's Lair scenes. The games have been updated to run on all versions of Windows and include higher quality video, authentic scene order, scoring, and the arcade DIP switch selectable difficulty settings.

The set also chronicles the achievements of the game creators: the animation trio Don Bluth, Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy; and the technical wizard Rick Dyer. Extras include newspaper clippings, biographies, historical and current interviews, licensed merchandise, and a documentary of the 20 years of Dragon's Lair and a complete episode of the television show “Starcade” (1983) featuring gamers vying for a Dragon's Lair arcade machine.


GarageGames Signs Dark Horizons: Lore

GarageGames last week signed an exclusive online licensing agreement with Max Gaming LLC for Dark Horizons: Lore, making this their first core title built with the Torque Game Engine.

Dark Horizons: Lore is set in the Dark Horizons Universe in the mid-22nd century. The player controls six Mechanized Assault Vehicles or MAVs. Remotely piloted from control pods located halfway around the globe, the giant war machines use weaponry such as plasma rifles, cannons and missiles. The player can customize and pilot a single MAV or gain experience and take command of a MAV group or even an entire battalion and fight with friends as a unit. Join a conglomerate of free nations, the Federated States, or ally with the resurgent Soviet block as the Eastern Confederation.


EyeTimer Lets Parents Limit Kids' Video Game Use

According to a report reissued last week by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), excessive TV viewing may be responsible for the 'epidemic' of attention deficit disorder, behavioral problems, faltering academic abilities, language difficulties, and weak problem-solving skills reported by teachers throughout the United States.

EyeTimer aims to solve the problem with its new tool that lets parents set limits on the time their children spend using television, computers, and video game consoles. The tamper-proof EyeTimer system lets children decide when to watch TV, use the Internet, or play games -- parents decide for how long. A proprietary EyeTimer feature called Study Mode allows children to access word processing and other schoolwork-oriented programs.

How EyeTimer works:
1. Parents set a time budget for each child (for example, one to two hours of entertainment per day or 5 to 10 hours per week).
2. Children sign on to EyeTimer when they want to watch TV, play video games, or use the computer.
3. EyeTimer then turns on the selected device via a small wireless transmitter.
4. When time's up, EyeTimer turns off the device.


Vivendi Ships The Hobbit Video Game

The Hobbit video game, based on J.R.R. Tolkien's prequel to The Lord of The Rings, shipped last week from Vivendi Universal Games (VU Games). The game offers action/combat systems combined with stealth, role-playing and puzzle solving. Players lead Bilbo Baggins on a journey throughout the mythical world of Middle-earth to ultimately confront Smaug the dragon. The Hobbit is available on PlayStation2, Xbox, and GameCube (developed by Inevitable Entertainment); Game Boy Advance (developed by Saffire) and PC (developed by Amaze Entertainment).

Product features:
* Jump, ledge grab, shimmy, climb ropes and ladders, and journey through 3D environments in the world of Middle-earth
* Play in such locations as Mirkwood, the Shire and the Lonely Mountain
* Battle hordes of Orcs, Goblins, and Wargs in the quest to retake the Lonely Mountain
* Use the power of the Ring to become invisible and sneak past enemies Engage in perilous combat using weapons like Bilbo's sword, Sting
* Confront Smaug the dragon in the depths of the Lonely Mountain and take on legions of enemies in the epic battle of the five armies


Eidos Ships Legacy of Kain: Defiance

Eidos last week released Legacy of Kain: Defiance for PlayStation2 and Xbox. The newest chapter in the Legacy of Kain saga returns to the dark intrigue of Nosgoth, where the vampire Kain pursues his fallen creation Raziel. Divided by their common enemies, the two heroes must fight to unravel the mystery of their destinies, as the fate of the world hangs in the balance.


Uru: Ages Beyond Myst Launches

PC game Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, shipped last week from Ubisoft and Cyan Worlds. The 3D single-player game tells the story of the D'ni civilization, which began when the D'ni established their underground empire on Earth some 10,000 years ago. The D'ni practiced a technology called the "Art of Writing" to create links to alternate worlds called "Ages," to which they could travel through "Linking Books." During that time, a group of D'ni traveled to the surface of what is now southern New Mexico, connecting our world and theirs.

The D'ni people thrived for thousands of years but later met with a great catastrophe that ended their civilization. The underground cities of the D'ni were left uninhabited with their Linking Book technology seemingly lost forever -- until now.



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.

Send your interactive multimedia business, product, people, event, or technology news by email only to: spectrum1@broadviewnet.net.

If you contact companies or organizations mentioned here, please tell them you saw the news in Spectrum. Thanks.

Please send address changes (with old and new addresses), subscribe and unsubscribe requests etc. to the above address. If you use the Reply function, please do _not_ echo an entire issue of Spectrum with your message.

Publisher's note: We are now accepting limited advertising. If you'd like to offer your company's products or services to Spectrum's elite audience of Internet and multimedia professionals, send an email query to mailto: spectrum1@broadviewnet.net. - David Duberman

©Copyright 2003 Motion Blur Media. All rights reserved. No reproduction in any for-profit or revenue-generating venue in any form without written permission from the publisher.