Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

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

--Toon Boom Ships Solo
--Pixel Farm Demonstrates 4K-Over-IP Interactive Review
--Genex Develops 3D SketchArtist
--endorphin 2.5 Used in Zombie Game

--Serious Games Summit GDC 2006 Call for Speakers

--Autodesk to Acquire Alias

--Sony Launches Sly 3 for PS2
--Lionhead's The Movies to Ship November 8
--Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil Xbox Ships
--Eidos Announces Tomb Raider for Xbox, 360
--Black & White 2 Ships for PC

--About Spectrum



Toon Boom Ships Solo

Just out from Toon Boom Animation is Toon Boom Solo. The software is designed for small studios and independent animation filmmakers who produce animation for film, video, television, Web sites, games and mobile devices.

The stand-alone animation app lets users draw directly into the system, ink and paint, do compositing, add special effects, lip sync and render in an integrated workflow. Advanced features include morphing, inverse kinematics, and glue.

Toon Boom Solo comes with a DVD case and CD, a security key (dongle), Keyboard Shortcuts and Installation and Getting Started Guide, tutorials as well as a two-volume user guide.

Launch special info available at http://www.toonboom.com


Pixel Farm Demonstrates 4K-Over-IP Interactive Review

Following a demonstration of 4K dailies at this year's Siggraph, The Pixel Farm showed transcontinental real time interactive 4K dailies session. PFPlay, the company's resolution-independent DI review and approval system, was used last week during the iGrid 2005 conference in the first international demonstration of real-time collaborative 4K digital dailies workflow. Held in San Diego, iGrid 2005 is an international symposium that attracts experts in grid computing and high-bandwidth networking.

The trans-Pacific demonstration, which took place simultaneously at the Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, University of California, San Diego and the digital cinema laboratory at Keio University, Tokyo, simulated a multi-site "digital dailies" scenario, in which members of a production team - typically the cinematographer, director and producer - can collaborate on a production, despite being in different locations.

The iGrid experiment reportedly marked the world's first international real-time collaboration on motion picture content at 4K resolution. 4K (which is roughly equivalent to 4000 horizontal pixels) is the high-resolution digital image format being used in post-production for some Hollywood films and will also be employed for future digital cinema theatrical distribution under new specifications proposed by Digital Cinema Initiatives, LLC - a consortium of the seven major Hollywood studios.

At Keio University in Japan, uncompressed 4K digital footage was camera was fed into a Silicon Graphics Prism visualization system from SGI, running PFPlay, where the operator in Japan created a playlist from several 4K uncompressed clips on the SGI system using The Pixel Farm software. The 4K data was then encoded, using an NTT JPEG 2000 encoder, to approximately 200Mbps and sent from Japan over fiber optic IP networks to San Diego where it was decoded and played back on a prototype Sony SXRD 4K (3840 x 2160) projector installed at Calit2's new 200 seat theatre.

The 4K digital content provided by DALSA was then edited in the iGrid conference auditorium and the modifications were sent back immediately in real-time to Tokyo for final conforming of the 4K data. The newly generated modified playlist was once again compressed and re-sent, decoded and

played back in 4K to the audience in San Diego.

PFPlay 2.0 is available for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux for £2499, $4999 and for SGI Prism £4999, $9999.



Genex Develops 3D SketchArtist

Crooks beware: 3D geeks can now track down your lawbreaking heinies. Markland Technologies, Inc. and Technest Holdings, Inc. announced last week that Genex Technologies Inc. (www.genextech.com) is providing 3D software for law enforcement agencies to utilize for the generation of facial composite sketches. The new product is called 3D SketchArtist.

For years, law enforcement professionals have used sketch artists to "sketch" a composite of a suspect's face from witness descriptions. However, many police departments are unable to staff the high-level of skill necessary to make this important police function effective. Industry has answered with a variety of software tools to create composites of suspects. However, the two-dimensional tools provided by these photo programs are very limited in their ability to realistically render a 3D object.

Drawbacks to hand-sketching and 2D photo approaches include:

Using Genex's patented 3D morphing technology, law enforcement professionals can reportedly sketch accurate composites with lifelike 3D features. 3D SketchArtist transforms typical sketches into rapidly evolving 3D mockups that can change poses, expressions, and lighting in seconds. The software can also make the character move and talk.

Major features:

When integrated with Genex's SureMatch 3D Suite of tools for facial recognition, users can share face data between applications. The capabilities let officers and investigators start with a witness's description, and end up with a computerized match against a database of criminals.



endorphin 2.5 Used in Zombie Game

UK independent game developer Volatile Games, a division of Blitz Games, last week announced the use of endorphin 2.5 in its next-generation zombie action-thriller Possession.

endorphin 2.5, developed by Oxford-based NaturalMotion, is the newest version of the company’s 3D character animation software. The software is said to use artificial intelligence to create 3D character animation in real time. In addition, version 2.5 allows new transitioning, blending and behavior features, combined with enhancements to asset repurposing tools and improved FBX support, allow animators to create interactive 3D character animation, reportedly faster and easier than traditional keyframe or motion-capture techniques.

Said Chris Swan, the game's project manager, “Our next-gen title relies heavily on our zombies and civilians attacking each other in very detailed and original ways. There’s only so far that you can go with real-life actors of course, which is where endorphin steps in. In minutes we can … load in some motion capture footage, set up a few behaviors on the characters, and let endorphin work out the rest! The resultant animation is incredibly convincing (we haven’t had to touch up a single animation so far), while the save in hand-animation time is huge.”

Possession is being developed for the forthcoming next-generation consoles, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. The player takes the role of The Enslaver, a former good guy transformed into an evil, twisted killing machine, who leads a horde of hundreds of zombies on a mission to lay waste to an enormous, thriving city.

In addition to controlling vast hordes of humans and zombies in single-player games, Possession will also feature an online, multiplayer mode where one player faces up to seven others in a bloody contest of wits, tactics and survival against The Enslaver and his massive zombie army.




Serious Games Summit GDC 2006 Call for Speakers

The 2006 Serious Games Summit (SGS) at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) is now accepting speaker submissions until Monday, November 7, 2005.

The SGS GDC, produced by the CMP Game Group, will take place during the annual GDC. Specifically, the SGS GDC will run on Monday and Tuesday of the weeklong conference - March 20 and 21 - at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California.

The SGS GDC is the primary meeting place for game developers and industry professionals to discuss interactive applications within non-entertainment sectors. The various keynotes and sessions will cover design, production, technology and assessment issues related to the use of games in areas such as education, policy, national defense, homeland security and training.

Speaking at the SGS GDC will allow those participants to share ideas and concerns regarding the industry with their peers.

SGS GDC 2006 tracks include:

Interested parties are encouraged to apply to join a distinguished list of SGS GDC speakers.

To submit a speaker proposal before the closing deadline of November 7, visit: http://www.seriousgamessummit.com.



Autodesk to Acquire Alias

In a surprise move last week, Autodesk, Inc. said it had signed a definitive agreement to acquire Alias, a privately held developer of 3D graphics technology, for $182 million in cash. The acquisition is intended to grow Autodesk's offerings for the design of consumer products and automotive, as well as in the media and entertainment markets. Autodesk anticipates that the transaction will close within the next four to six months.

"This acquisition brings to Autodesk a highly talented group of individuals, a wealth of technologies and a great set of products," said Carl Bass, COO of Autodesk. "Alias' technology spans several of our most important markets and augments the synergy between our design and media businesses. Our design customers are demanding more powerful visualization, animation and publishing capabilities. Our media and entertainment customers are increasingly using the data created by our design applications for broadcast, film and games projects. By combining the technology and talents of our two companies, we will be better able to continue delivering solutions that address our customers' complex needs."

Founded as Alias Research in 1983, Alias is headquartered in Toronto, Canada. Alias customers are some of the world's premier entertainment and manufacturing companies, including Industrial Light & Magic, DreamWorks SKG, Nintendo, General Motors and BMW. Alias revenues were $83 million in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2005.

Alias' product lines comprise sketching, animation, visual effects, design, modeling, rendering and reviewing solutions. Alias MotionBuilder is a 3D character-animation product, Alias FBX is widely used in the exchange and use of 3D content, and Maya is the company's Academy Award-winning 3D application. These products will augment Autodesk's offering in the film and video and interactive games segments. Alias StudioTools -- software for design tasks from 2D sketches to production models -- will add industrial design and high-end visualization capabilities to Autodesk's manufacturing solutions. Autodesk plans to continue to develop the Alias product lines in conjunction with Autodesk's complementary products and technologies.

"This acquisition is designed to leverage the strengths of both companies," stated Doug Walker, president and CEO of Alias. "Alias' customers will benefit from nearly $300 million in R&D spending while having access to new and complementary products and technologies. Together, Autodesk and Alias will deliver products and services that give form to great ideas from the fantasy world of film to the factory floor."

The acquisition is subject to a number of closing conditions, including regulatory approval. Targeted non-GAAP EPS for this transaction, which excludes in-process R&D expenses, acquisition-related restructuring costs, equity-based compensation expenses, and the reduction of deferred revenues assumed by Autodesk as required by US GAAP, is expected to be slightly accretive to earnings in fiscal 2007.




Sony Launches Sly 3 for PS2

New from Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. is Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, a comedic crime caper, action-adventure game for PlayStation2. Created by Seattle-based developer Sucker Punch Productions, the new animated adventure lets players join Sly and his crew as they struggle against new villains and old adversaries in an effort to recover the Cooper family fortune. Showcasing Sucker Punch's signature toon-shaded artistic style and outstanding storytelling, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves returns for Sly's most elaborate heist with a variety of new gameplay features, including eight playable characters, 3D gameplay, co-op and head-to-head multiplayer games, new vehicles, mini-games, disguises, and enhanced combat move sets.

The game begins with Sly and his crew in disarray and struggling with setbacks. Bentley was crippled in the final battle with Clockwerk at the end of Sly 2: Band of Thieves and confined to a wheelchair, and Murray, feeling responsible for Bentley's tragic accident, has quit the team and chosen a path of nonviolence and solace. Meanwhile, Sly learns of a secret family vault that houses the amassed Cooper family fortune. Upon arriving at this hidden location, Sly discovers another enemy group attempting to steal the Cooper fortune. Sly and Bentley quickly realize they will need considerable help to defeat this new rival. Their recruiting starts with Murray, and once back on board, Sly, Murray and Bentley set out to enlist some new and familiar faces in an effort to pull off a World Class heist.

The game is set in exotic and remote locations including China, the Australian Outback and Venice, Italy. In addition to taking on the evolving-roles of Sly and his two partners in crime, Murray and Bentley, gamers will experience a fresh cast of some new and familiar playable characters each with their own distinct move set, including Inspector Carmelita Fox and the Lounge Lizard Dimitri. Sly 3 also takes the "heist" gameplay mechanic introduced in Sly 2 to the next level as team missions are built around the playable characters on-screen simultaneously collaborating rather than switching off between characters.

Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves also includes 3D glasses, where, in certain areas of the game, players can opt to play in 3D. Players can watch objects fly off the screen and characters and environments come to life.

More in-depth gameplay experiences include the opportunity to complete Master Thief Challenges and replay missions, thus providing an opportunity to sneak around an environment again using alternative moves and disguises in order to achieve higher Master Thief ratings. The added replay value also will allow players to replay the majority of missions in 3D and locate special objectives and rewards. In the new multiplayer mode, players will play head-to-head and cooperative missions that have their own special power-ups.



Lionhead's The Movies to Ship November 8

Activision says The Movies has gone gold and will premiere at retail outlets nationwide on Tuesday, November 8. Created by god-game pioneer Peter Molyneux and Lionhead Studios, The Movies allows gamers to become Hollywood players by creating movies and releasing them from the studios they build, starring the actors they discover and develop.

The Movies PC game will be available for a suggested retail price of $49.99. In addition, a Premiere Edition featuring exclusive star costumes, a 20-song game soundtrack, an advanced movie-making hints guide, exclusive trailers and original concept art, will be available at SRP $59.99. Both versions are rated “T” (Teen with blood and gore, crude humor, mild language, sexual themes, use of alcohol and tobacco, and violence) by the ESRB.



Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil Xbox Ships

id Software and Activision, Inc. have unleashed a new wave of hellish demon hordes upon console gamers with the release of Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil for Xbox. Co-developed by id Software and Nerve Software, this stand-alone extension of Doom 3 features a new storyline with new locations, tougher demons, weapons like the classic double-barrel Shotgun and the Grabber, and the power to control time. The multiplayer game includes a number of new maps and bonus content with id classics, Doom II and MASTER LEVELS for Doom II.

Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil picks up two years following the events of the original Doom 3 in a once forgotten and remote UAC research facility on Mars – the site of the first battle with Dr. Bertrugar and his acolytes from Hell. Investigating the ruins, players uncover an ancient artifact that holds unspeakable power. However, this artifact belongs to Hell, and Bertrugar and his demons will stop at nothing to take it back home.

For multiplayer fans, Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil also features more online action with new multiplayer maps for up to four players in the following game types: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Last Man Standing and Tournament mode via System Link or Xbox Live.

The new title also includes complete versions of Doom II and Master Levels for Doom II optimized for the Xbox. These classics include their original single-player campaigns as well as 2-4 player Co-Op or Deathmatch via split-screen on one Xbox or on multiple systems via System Link.



Eidos Announces Tomb Raider for Xbox, 360

Eidos Interactive says Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend is in development for both the Xbox 360 and (old) Xbox. Created by Crystal Dynamics with senior designer Toby Gard, Lara’s original creator, the game is slated for simultaneous release on both Xbox platforms in spring 2006.

Crystal Dynamics exploits the power of the Xbox 360 with its new graphics system with support for real-time per pixel lighting, shadows, and normal-mapping. Gameplay includes adventure and exploration as well as organic environment and physics-based puzzles within a detailed world.



Black & White 2 Ships for PC

Will you be an evil or benevolent deity? Better to ask: Will you buy this game, after its disappointing predecessor? Electronic Arts and Lionhead Studios last week announced that Black & White 2 has begun to ship to retail outlets for the PC. From the creative minds of god game developer Peter Molyneux and RTS creator Ron Millar, Black & White 2 is the sequel to the critically acclaimed title Black & White.

In Black & White 2, players reprise the role of a powerful deity in search of a following and return to the once idyllic world of Eden, where the discovery of weaponry and warfare has tainted the beautiful landscape. With the help of a player’s gigantic Creature that is raised from infancy, players must earn the respect and worship of the natives. How a player chooses to do that, whether through nurturing them or terrorizing them, is up to each individual.

Black & White 2 includes new elements such as improved graphics and miracle effects including rivers of fire and earthquakes that yield massive destruction. Creatures in the game now learn strategies, master new abilities and skills, lead armies into battle, and act as the ultimate unit. Every choice made has an impact. Each action and inaction prompts obvious changes to buildings, flora and fauna, all morphing to reflect a player’s personality.




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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