Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

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

--Avid Updates Alienbrain Studio
--Game Trust Releases Game Frame 4.7

--Marlin Studios Offers Downloadable Texture and 3D Model Libraries
--Toon Boom Releases Opus II SP1 and Harmony SP1
--Autodesk Updates Cleaner Encoding Software
--Xara Releases Xara Xtreme

--Softimage, Pixologic, CG Soup present the 'TD Love' Training Tour
--O'Reilly Releases "Creating Web Sites: The Missing Manual"
--Book Exposes Software Piracy

--Activision Ships Xbox 360 Lineup

--About Spectrum



Avid Updates Alienbrain Studio

Just out from Avid Technology is Alienbrain Studio 7.5, an asset management system for digital content production. Designed to meet the needs of art teams working on next-generation game development and industrial design projects, the software comes in two new configurations with new pricing: Alienbrain Essentials (starting at $495 USMSRP) and Alienbrain Advanced ($1495 USMSRP). Avid also claims the new version boosts team productivity with new features to improve system reliability and increase software interoperability. These include: the Server Health Monitor, a live database monitoring and diagnostic tool; full compliance with Micros oft .NET framework with native Alienbrain functionality, and updates to the plug-ins for the leading 3D modeling and animation packages. In addition, a free Alienbrain Reader is now available that allows casual users to access specific asset revisions and perform non-modifying operations.

Alienbrain Essentials offers two editions for mid-size productions. Essentials for Artists ($695 USMSRP) features a visual user interface with fast previews and thumbnails and third-party integration support into the latest releases of leading 2D and 3D design packages. At $495 USMSRP, Essentials for Programmers includes software configuration management with branching features and change sets, integration into Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 and Araxis Merge Professional (a $269 value).

Alienbrain Advanced, targeted at mixed or complex productions and priced at $1,495 USMSRP, offers project control with reporting and communication tools designed for team leads and project managers. In addition to the feature set of Essentials, the Advanced package includes reporting and workflow capabilities, cross-platform support for Mac OS X and Linux users, and additional plug-ins for design and animation applications like Alias StudioTools.

Other feature highlights of Alienbrain Studio 7.5 include:



Game Trust Releases Game Frame 4.7

Game Trust, the developer of an infrastructure for casual games, last week released Game Frame 4.7, a platform intended to fuel growth in the casual game sector. Industry experts predict that casual games will top $2 billion by 2008 in the U.S. through new revenue streams.

Game Frame Version 4.7 supports community and commerce in casual games, allowing game developers and portals to deploy subscription, tournament, and virtual merchandise models. In development since 1999, Game Frame aims to be the infrastructure standard for casual game play.

Version 4.7 is designed to let online publishers a customized arcade with chat, buddy management, instant messaging, profiles, high-score tracking, and matchmaking lobbies. Last month, Game Trust kicked off its LaunchNow Affiliate Program which will send one publishe r to the edge of space on a Russian MIG-25. See www.gametrust.com/LaunchNow.php for details.

Among the features in Game Frame 4.7 are:




Marlin Studios Offers Downloadable Texture and 3D Model Libraries

Graphics studio and digital content publisher Marlin Studios has announced a new online delivery system for its product line of textures and 3D models on CD-ROM. Customers can now download products after they place orders, rather than waiting for receipt of content with conventional air and ground shipping methods.

The online delivery system offers Web technology with built-in accelerators to increase the speed of downloading large files. Customers are offered, via email, the option of downloading entire CD-ROM libraries after purchase. Login IDs and passwords are then emailed and products are immediate ly available for download. Physical copies of the CD-ROMs are still shipped to the customer via conventional methods to ensure a permanent backup of files.

Marlin Studios reports download times per CD-ROM ranging from eight minutes in the US and 20 minutes overseas on high speed broadband. Download times vary at lower speeds, depending on the customer's connection and current Web traffic.



Toon Boom Releases Opus II SP1 and Harmony SP1

Montreal-based Toon Boom Animation last week released Opus II Service Pack 1 and Harmony Service Pack 1. As Harmony incorporates all of Opus’s capabilities, all added features and enhancements apply to both products. Highlights of these service pack releases include:



Autodesk Updates Cleaner Encoding Software

New from Autodesk are Cleaner 6.5 for Macintosh and Autodesk Cleaner XL 1.5 for Windows, updates to the desktop media mastering and encoding software. Cleaner is used for encoding and optimizing video content for delivery formats ranging from the Internet and DVD to handheld mobile devices. New to Autodesk Cleaner software is encoding support for DivX version 5.2 player for Cleaner XL 1.5 and DivX 6.0 player for Cleaner 6.5 for Macintosh. Also added is the Flix exporter from On2 Technologies that allows compressionists to publish video in .FLV and .SWF formats, the Internet video formats supported by Macromedia Flash.

Cleaner XL-only new features include:

Other enhancements for Cleaner XL 1.5 include the addition of 4:2:2 and two-pass encoding for MPEG-2.

Cleaner 6.5 for Macintosh adds many of the new codecs supported in Cleaner XL 1.5 in addition to Apple QuickTime 7.

For specific product information and shipping dates, call 1-800-869-3504.


Xara Releases Xara Xtreme

Graphics software developer/publisher Xara Group last week released Xara Xtreme, a $79 vector-graphics program whose features include photo enhancing, Web graphics, general drawing, graphical text, and illustration.

Features include real-time anti-aliasing, transparency and graduated transparency effects, real-time vector feathering, linked colors, zero-memory footprint bitmap editing, so lid drag, resize, and rotation of images. Additional illustration and drawing features in Xara Xtreme include:

A demonstration movie showing Xara Xtreme in operation (WMV format) is available from: http://downloads.xara.com/products/xtreme/movies/intro.wmv



Softimage, Pixologic, CG Soup present the 'TD Love' Training Tour

Softimage last week announced the ‘TD Love’ Training Tour, the first in a new series of technical seminars - free for a limited time - designed by and for CG professionals on how to use Softimage technology for improving character creation and visual effects production processes. During the events, experts from CG Soup, Pixologic and the Softimage Special Projects teams will be on hand to demonstrate how using Softimage|X SI v.5.0, ZBrush 2 and Softimage|Face Robot software let studios produce 3D art. Targeted at technical directors and experienced 3D artists, the seminars will highlight how these technologies are deployed and implemented for digital content creation in film, games and broadcast & post productions.

Structured in two separate modules, each event begins with a four-hour advanced TD seminar designed and presented by CG Soup on the use of Softimage|XSI software, covering topics including XSI best practices, advanced character rigging and simulation set-up. After a short break, an evening session will begin for all levels of 3D professionals, focusing on modeling in a ZBrush and XSI environment and facial animation design based on XSI and Softimage|Face Robot. Artists from post houses (Janimation, Passion Pictures) will als o be demonstrating how they use ZBrush and XSI together in their pipelines.

More information and registration details will be posted on www.softimage.com/TDLove

Scheduled cities include:


O'Reilly Releases "Creating Web Sites: The Missing Manual"

"With the real-world tips and tricks thr oughout this book, any reader can build a Web site that looks like a 21st-century Web site," promises Matthew MacDonald, author of the new "Creating Web Sites: The Missing Manual" (O'Reilly, US $29.95). The book explains Web site fundamentals and techniques and tools for creating and maintaining a personal or small-business site that is visitor-friendly, modern, and offers new features.

Whether creating a first page from scratch or resurrecting an existing site that's decidedly uncool, readers will learn how to build a Web site, from concept phase through to Web hosting, and make it stand out with modern formatting practices. The book uses style sheets (CSS) from the beginning, devotes a whole chapter to blogging, and takes into account the hottest new browser (FireFox).

Features include:

Chapter 6, "Style Sheets," and additional info is available online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/creatingwstmm/


Book Exposes Software Piracy

Syngress Publishing last week released Software Piracy Exposed (ISBN: 1932266984), by Paul Craig, a book that dives into the unique world of software piracy. It explores the personalities and motivations of those behind much of the illegal software distribution on the Internet.

According to Mark Burnett, the book's technical editor, "Paul Craig's aggressive investigation and reporting of this world allowed him to explore the inner depths of the software pir acy scene and gained him exclusive interviews with some of its most notorious individuals. Throughout the course of his year-long investigation, Paul sought out the individuals behind this highly organized collection of individuals who somehow flew under most of the public's radar. Everyone seems to know about P2P networks, but few are familiar with top sites, couriers, and other aspects of the software piracy scene."

The book covers:
* Go Inside the Piracy Underground: Uncover the secret world of suppliers, crackers, couriers, and counterfeiters.
* Discover the Origin of Software Piracy: Learn how early computer social clubs and Bulletin Board Systems innocently laid the foun dation for piracy.
* A Different Kind of Supply Chain Management: Feel the rush as competing suppliers race against each other to win a release.
* Addicted to Cracking: Follow crackers as they spend countless hours maniacally trying to circumvent copyright protection schemes.
* Walk the Red Carpet at a Release Party: Watch the intricately orchestrated ritual of the official release.
* Follow the Distribution Channels: Analyze the trail as pirated software flows from a cracker all the way to an end user.
* Learn Why Pirated E-books Are a Hot Commodity: Understand why this very book will most likely get posted to a warez site.
* Piracy and the Law: Understand just how aggressively law enforcement agencies will pursue pirates.

Paul Craig is currently working in New Zealand for a major television broadcaster, and is also the lead security consultant at security company Pimp Industries. Paul specializes in reverse engineering technologies and cutting edge application auditing practices. Paul has contributed to many books including the first and second editions of Stealing the Network (Syngress, ISBN: 1-931836-87-6 and 1-931836-05-1).

Mark Burnett (technical editor) is an independent researcher, consultant, and writer specializing in Windows security. Mark is author of "Hacking the Code: ASP.NET Web Application Security" (Syngress Publishing, ISBN: 1-932266-65-8), co-author of "Microsoft Log Parser Toolkit" (Syngress Publishing, ISBN: 1-932266-52-6), co-author of "Maximum Windows 2000 Security," and co-author of "Stealing The Network: How to Own the Box" (Syngress Publishing, ISBN: 1-931836-87-6). Mark speaks at various security conferences and has published articles in Windows IT Pro Magazine (formerly Windows & .NET Magazine), WindowsSecrets.com newsletter, Redmond Magazine, Security Administrator, SecurityFocus.com, and various other print and online publications.




Activision Ships Xbox 360 Lineup

In conjunction with the November 22 launch of the Xbox 360, Activision has released the Xbox 360 versions of Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty 2 and Neversoft Entertainment’s Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland and Gun to retail outlets nationwide on November 15, at a mere $60 MSRP a pop.

Call of Duty 2 debuts on Xbox 360 in high-definition and 5.1 surround sound with bigger battles, more weapons, more troops and special effects. Powered by a proprietary new engine designed to exploit the 360’s multi-core technology, players enlist in squad combat with a context-sensitive battle chatter system featuring more than 20,000 lines of dialogue. Visual effects range from heat shimmers and sandy dust swaying across the desert to smoke effects that fog the battlefield and characters blowing on their hands to stay warm in the winter-blizzard conditions of Russia. Call of Duty 2 also features multiplayer game modes on Xbox Live and System Link, and also features 2-4 player split-screen action.

Gun uses enhanced graphics, a fast frame rate, and 720p high-definition visuals, putting the player in the role of Colton White, a vengeful gunslinger who straddles the line between good and evil as he makes his way through the untamed West of the late 1800s where greed, lust and brutality is a way of life. Players fight corrupt lawmen, a murderous preacher, renegade army psychopaths, and others while waging war on horseback, collecting bounties, and commandeering trains. As they travel through an action-packed landscape of high mountain wilderness, deserts and bustling territorial towns, players uncover an epic story of betrayal and revenge.

Running in high definition at 60 frames per second, Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland lets gamers make an expansive streaming L.A. skate world their personal playground. In a plot-twisting story that pays homage to the roots of skateboarding, players can skate or bike from the Santa Monica boardwalk to the star-studded sidewalks of Hollywood as they customize and upgrade their characters, unlock new tricks and choose missions without load screens or levels. The new version includes expanded controls that allow players to pull off more tricks than before and new multiplayer modes including exclusive Xbox Live support for Xbox 360, including Achievements and Leaderboards, and a two-player co-op classic mode.




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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- David Duberman


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