Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

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

--DEMO Conference Debuts Blog Community
--FreeWebs Adds Rich Media Blogs to Free Web Publishing Tools

--Autodesk Ships 3ds Max 8
--Dan Ritchie Announces PD Pro Digital Painter 3.5
--DDD Awarded Korean Patent Covering 2D to 3D Conversion

--Nero Launches Nero 7

--Vancouver Film School Increases Maya/MotionBuilder Instruction
--Charles River Ships Visual Computing Volume
--MIT Press Book Compares Games, Baroque Esthetics
--Charles River Ships Animation Physics Book
--SitePoint Releases Dreamweaver Book

--EA, Spielberg Team up for Game Development

--Sony Ships Jax X for PS2
--EA Announces The Sims 2 Holiday Edition for PC

--GarageGames Announces IGC 2005 Player's Choice Winners

--About Spectrum



DEMO Conference Debuts Blog Community

The producers of the semi-annual DEMO conferences have launched a new blogging community on the heels of last month's DEMOfall event. The community is powered by iUpload, a corporate blogging solutions provider that launched its technology at the DEMO@15 conference this past February. The site, located at http://blogs.demo.com/, features commentary from a range of media and technology experts and is said to be the first of its kind to integrate a new video publishing technology from VideoEgg, Inc. which officially launched at DEMOfall.

Throughout DEMOfall, which was held in Huntington Beach, California from September 19-21st, participants and onlookers were able to learn about event happenings and submit comments, including video blogs, or "vlogs," using VideoEgg's video authoring solution and iUpload's blogging platform. The site will continue to serve as a forum to encourage dialogue amongst past, current and future DEMO participants and attendees and as a social media outlet to discuss innovative and up-and-coming business and consumer technologies.

iUpload's corporate blogging platform is used by enterprises and organizations looking to create interactive communities and foster dialogue between various internal and external constituencies. Customers include newspaper publishers such as Knight-Ridder, financial institutions such as Stillwater National Bank, educational institutions such as Trump University, and retailers such as Cannondale.

The VideoEgg Publisher is a new Web-based video publishing technology said to let everyday Internet users to capture, encode, upload, and watch online video. The software can be integrated into a Website with just a few lines of HTML. The video upload, storage, and delivery is handled by an infrastructure powered by VideoEgg's content delivery network partner Akamai Technologies.


FreeWebs Adds Rich Media Blogs to Free Web Publishing Tools

FreeWebs, a free, do-it-yourself online Web publishing system, announces its newest feature: rich media blogs with threaded commenting.

The new blog service works with the FreeWebs Web editor and enables users to incorporate audio, video, and pictures into their blogs. In addition, users can choose between standard and threaded commenting features.

The FreeWebs Web publishing system enables people to create rich Websites free of charge, without any need for technical skills, training, or special software. Since its launch in 2001, FreeWebs has received more than 15 million member sign-ups and according to Web traffic authority MediaMetrix, ranks among the top 200 most trafficked Websites in the United States.

The most popular FreeWebs applications include music and fan sites, community sites like churches, sports teams, scout troops, and homeowner associations; collector sites; family-oriented sites for sharing wedding and new baby photos; and sites about schools, classes, and teachers.




Autodesk Ships 3ds Max 8

Now shipping from Autodesk is 3ds Max 8 software, the latest version of its 3D modeling, animation and rendering solution. Autodesk originally pioneered the concept of unlimited network rendering with 3ds Max and Autodesk Backburner functionality. Now, Autodesk introduces the industry's first scalable, unlimited mental ray network rendering option specifically for 3ds Max. 3D artists can now distribute 3ds Max rendering tasks (via Backburner) across a network using the integrated mental ray renderer without incurring additional costs, allowing them to scale their mental ray rendering resources to the limits of their network or render farm capabilities.

Also new: Character Development features include advanced rigging tools, motion mixing and motion retargeting (non-linear animation). Modeling & Texturing advancements include new UV pelt mapping, DirectX and .fx support. Comprehensive Development Framework enhancements include improved software developer kit (SDK) tools and documentation, XML support that exchanges scene and animation data and an interactive MAXScript debugger along with support for the Autodesk DWF Viewer, for simple collaborative review and approval of 3D data. Complex Data and Asset Management advancements bring connectivity to third-party asset management systems and integration of the Autodesk Vault data-management and asset-tracking solution.



Dan Ritchie Announces PD Pro Digital Painter 3.5

Dan Ritchie, author of PD Pro Digital Painter and Project Dogwaffle Paint and Animation software, announced today the availability of his newest release - PD Pro version 3.5

Among the enhancements and new features, many of which were developed over the last 3-4 months, are:

"We've also made logical choices to improve our tools", added Ritchie. "For example, giving a preview window to the Raw file loader makes it so much simpler to get the correct results without a hassle. We've also listened to our users, such as game art developers. There's a new style to let particles render into the Alpha channel, which is perfect for creating lush foliage textures."

Particles (Optipustics) have been part of Dogwaffle for years. Now, in addition to Gravity, mouse speed and other parameters, they can be subject to force fields which are generated from an image's contours and value or color gradients. This essentially adds natural flow to particles in motion.

There are also new color options such as tinting the particle's color gradient against the primary brush color, or affecting it with a fog color. There are also new styles that include a mode whereby a particle starts with a user-defined size and gradually shrinks to disappear into oblivion at the end of the particle's lifespan.

Italian software developer Marco Pontello has created DogLua, a plug-in that adds a scriptable interface to Dogwaffle. New special FX filters have already emerged, scripted in Lua.

PD Pro 3.5 now has built-in support for Lua with a tab in the Plug-ins window to execute scripts, and a browser to aid in developement. These features are also made available to users of the freeware version of Dogwaffle.



DDD Awarded Korean Patent Covering 2D to 3D Conversion

DDD Group plc, a 3D software and content company, last week received notification of allowance from the Korean patent office of its key "Dynamic Depth Cueing" ("DDC") technology. DDC is a core DDD technology that enables existing photo, film or video images to be converted for display in stereo 3D.

The new Korean patent extends DDD's coverage of technologies that allow the conversion of existing 2D content libraries to 3D and their delivery in a format that remains compatible with today's 2D screens. The DDC patents enable a range of mass-market 3D applications for viewing on 3D 'without glasses' display screens.

DDC regenerates 3D information that is not recorded when a conventional film or video camera is used. Once the 3D information is recreated, it is then used to manipulate the underlying 2D image, allowing 2D images to be transformed to 3D for a wide variety of 3D display formats ranging from large format IMAX films to the latest generation of mobile telephone 3D displays.

Dr. Julien Flack, Chief Technology Officer of DDD commented, "The approval of DDD's key 2D to 3D conversion and transmission patent in Korea is an important step since so many of the emerging 3D display technologies are being developed in Asia. The fact that DDD's content solutions are protected by a large international patent library is a becoming an increasingly relevant factor when our consumer electronics and display partners are considering the legal implications of launching their 3D products in various markets."




Nero Launches Nero 7

Germany's Nero last week unveiled Nero 7, which it describes as an integrated digital-media and home-entertainment software solution. The software includes 18 applications in one suite, including the addition of Nero Home, a new TV and PC multimedia management and distribution system that gives users access to all digital media files from their living rooms using a remote control.

In addition, Nero 7 includes a number of enhancements and interface redesigns to existing Nero applications. Users now have the option of customized installation, meaning they can decide to install or not to install each application.

Nero Home is a new and innovative media manager that provides fast access to the user's entire digital media library via remote control in the designated home entertainment room. Content can be viewed on a TV. Nero Home integrates TV time-shifting, DVD playback, music playback and video playback, and has a simplified interface and a TV wizard.

A new, optimized media database provides access to the user's library of media files of all types from any Nero application and Windows Explorer.

The enhanced Nero BackItUp 2 allows users to run scheduled full or incremental backups, back up files directly from Windows Explorer, back up upon login or without logging in, create shadow copies, back up to disc images and perform FTP backup.

Nero 7 has a project launcher with a new user interface that can access all 18 applications, and has been enhanced to guide users through simple or advanced digital media projects. Users will have the ability to view, edit and improve their favorite digital photos.

Nero 7 offers playback software offers vibrant picture quality for all DVD formats and is compatible with Nero Digital (MPEG-4), an MPEG-4 encoder, which lets users recode non-copy protected movies (DVD-9 to DVD-5) to a CDR/RW, DVD+/-R or a single DVD+R DL disc in DVD-Video format (DVD-9 to DVD-9). In addition, a standard drag-and-drop packet-writing application, that supports BD-RE/R (Blu-ray) is included and full 5.1 capturing, editing, mixing, recording and menu creation options and DVD+VR and DVD-VR advanced recording abilities.

New features and applications now support 5.1 and 7.1 audio recording, editing and mixing, along with 32-bit audio and a program with the ability to mix and edit for the production of audio CDs and CD compilations. Audio enthusiasts can incorporate beats, sound sequences and melodies into audio projects, with surround sound mixing.




Vancouver Film School Increases Maya/MotionBuilder Instruction

Alias and the Vancouver Film School (VFS) recently strengthened their relationship as VFS prepares to make a shift by early next year to focus its 3D animation and visual effects program on teaching the fundamentals of animation using Maya and MotionBuilder software.

Over the next three months, the program, which combines theatrical and technological training, will increase its use of Maya threefold to 180 seats, double its use of Alias MotionBuilder to 60 seats and employ a minimum of six Maya-certified fulltime instructors.

Rhythm & Hues, a Los Angeles-based special effects company, has recognized a number of VFS students over the years with The Computer Graphics Scholarship, which was created by the company to encourage and reward excellence among emerging 3D artists. One of those scholarship winners was Adam Yaniv, who remains at Rhythm & Hues working on Disney's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and whose inspiration to pursue animation was Maya.

www.alias.com www.vfs.com/fulltime.php?id=7


Charles River Ships Visual Computing Volume

New from Charles River Media is Visual Computing: Geometry, Graphics, and Vision, a text and reference on the cross-disciplinary field of visual computing. The central goal of the book is to provide a global and unified view of traditional computer graphics, computer vision, and computational geometry. The book is written for undergraduate students and game development and graphics professionals. Lecturers in computer graphics and vision will also find it complementary.

The book aims at broadening and fostering the readers' knowledge of essential 3D techniques by providing a sizeable overall picture and describing essential concepts. Throughout the book, appropriate real world applications are covered to illustrate uses and generate interest in adjacent fields. The book also provides C++ code for common tasks that will be of interest to a broad audience of practitioners.



MIT Press Book Compares Games, Baroque Esthetics

The artists of the seventeenth-century baroque period used spectacle to delight and astonish; contemporary entertainment media, according to Angela Ndalianis, are imbued with a neo-baroque aesthetic that is similarly spectacular. In her new book, Neo-Baroque Aesthetics and Contemporary Entertainment, Ndalianis situates today's film, computer games, comic books, and theme-park attractions within an aesthetic-historical context and uses the baroque as a framework to enrich our understanding of contemporary entertainment media.

The neo-baroque aesthetics that Ndalianis analyzes are not, she argues, a case of art history repeating or imitating itself; these forms have emerged as a result of recent technological and economic transformations. The neo-baroque forms combine sight, sound, and text in ways that parallel such seventeenth-century baroque forms as magic lanterns, automata, painting, sculpture, and theater but use new technology to express the concerns of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. Moving from century to century, comparing ceiling paintings to the computer game Doom. a Spiderman theme park adventure to the baroque version of multimedia known as the Bel Composto, and a Medici wedding to Terminator 2: 3D, the book demonstrates the logic of media histories. Ndalianis focuses on the complex interrelationships among entertainment media and presents a rigorous cross-genre, cross-historical analysis of media aesthetics.



Charles River Ships Animation Physics Book

New from Charles River Media is Physics-Based Animation. The booming computer games and animated movie industries continue to drive the graphics community's seemingly insatiable search for increased realism, believability, and speed. To achieve the quality expected by audiences of today's games and movies, programmers need to understand and implement physics-based animation. To provide this understanding, Physics-Based Animation is written to teach students and practitioners the theory behind the mathematical models and techniques required for physics-based animation. It does not teach the basic principles of animation, but rather how to transform theoretical techniques into practical skills. It details how the mathematical models are derived from physical and mathematical principles, and explains how these mathematical models are solved in an efficient, robust, and stable manner with a computer.

The book covers the issues involved in physically-based animation, including collision detection, geometry, mechanics, differential equations, matrices, quaternions and other issues. There is coverage of collision-detection algorithms and a detailed overview of a physics system. In addition, numerous examples are provided along with detailed pseudo code for most of the algorithms.

The book is suitable for students of animation, researchers in the field, and professionals working in the games and movie industries.



SitePoint Releases Dreamweaver Book

SitePoint Pty. Ltd. (sitepoint.com), provider of content for Web pros, last week released "Build Your Own Standards Compliant Website Using Dreamweaver 8," by Rachel Andrew. The book is said to show designers how to develop standards-compliant Websites to best practices using the newly-released Macromedia Dreamweaver 8.

The book moves from discussions of Web standards to implementations of XHTML Strict, CSS, and more, in a functional, database-driven Website that meets the standards set by the Web Content Accessibility Group.

The book focuses on the new Dreamweaver 8 tools including the unified CSS Panel and new CSS visualization features. All code from the book is provided in a downloadable archive.




EA, Spielberg Team up for Game Development

Electronic Arts announced last week that Steven Spielberg will collaborate with the game makers at EA's Los Angeles studio (EALA) to create three new, original franchise properties. Beginning this year, with offices located on site at EALA, Spielberg will work directly with EA's development teams to offer his storytelling skills to the concept, design, story and artistic visualization of the new games. EA will own the intellectual properties and the game franchises will be developed, published and distributed worldwide by EA. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

There isn't much substance here; actually, the only reason we ran the item was to point you to this amusing take on the announcement: http://www.joystiq.com/entry/1234000303063582/



Sony Ships Jax X for PS2

Jak X: Combat Racing is just out from Sony Computer Entertainment America and Naughty Dog, Inc. New features in the fourth installment of the Jak and Daxter franchise include:

* Single-player game plus multiplayer and online modes; the latter allows six players to compete in head-to-head action or two individuals can play against each other in split-screen mode.
* Missions span various play modes including Time Trial and Deathmatch.
* Players can create their own strategies for races and missions with an assortment of vehicle power-ups, including projectile weapons, ranged weapons, smart bombs, mines, catastrophic attacks, turbos, shields and repair.
* Vehicles are fully customizable and feature unique handling characteristics through the utilization of Advanced Rigid Body Physics technology.
* Compatible with Daxter for the PSP, releasing this spring and developed by Ready at Dawn. By connecting a USB cable from the PSP system to the PlayStation 2, players will be able to unlock new characters introduced in Daxter as drivers in Jak X: Combat Racing as well as a special vehicle in Daxter.


EA Announces The Sims 2 Holiday Edition for PC

Coming next month from Electronic Arts is The Sims 2 Holiday Edition, a special-edition holiday-themed version of the best-selling PC game. Holiday Edition contains the original game, The Sims 2, in its entirety, plus 40 new holiday-themed items. With this bonus content, Sims can decorate their house, serve a festive holiday dinner, engineer a visit from Santa himself, even host a rollicking New Year’s party.

And those who already own The Sims 2 for PC can get The Sims 2 Holiday Party Pack with the bonus content only.




GarageGames Announces IGC 2005 Player's Choice Winners

GarageGames announced last week that TubeTwist, a 3D adventure puzzle game by 21-6 Productions, took home the top honors with the 2005 IndieGamesCon Player's Choice Best-of-Show award, sponsored by Microsoft Casual Games.

TubeTwist also easily won the Best Single Player award by a landslide which was evident by the number of computers that had TubeTwist on their monitors the entire weekend. The other two categories, Best Multiplayer and Most Innovative, were won by Realm Wars 2 and Façade respectively.

Complete results:

IGC Players Choice: Best Multiplayer
First Place - Realm Wars 2 – (http://www.realmwarsgame.com/news.shtml)
Runner Up - Monster Island

IGC Players Choice: Best Single Player
First Place – TubeTwist – (http://www.tubetwist.com)
Runner Up - Robots Smackdown

IGC Players Choice: Most Innovative
First Place – Façade – (http://www.interactivestory.net)
Runner Up - Wildlife Tycoon: Venture Africa

IGC Players Choice: BEST-OF-SHOW
First Place – TubeTwist – (http://www.tubetwist.com)
Runner Up - Wildlife Tycoon: Venture Africa



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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