Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

15 September 2003

Reported, written and edited by David Duberman

For editorial/subscription inquiries, send mailto: spectrum1@broadviewnet.net

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Today's Headlines (details below)

DEVELOPER’S TOOLBOX

Metrowerks Updates PS2 Development Tool

iView Upgrades Multimedia Asset Management Software

GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING

Adobe Announces PDF/Atmosphere Reader

Electric Rain Releases Flash 3D Extension

Discreet Announces combustion 3

MUFFINS Consortium Demonstrates MPEG-21 at IBC

THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER

O'Reilly Publishes XForms Essentials

PNCA, Oregon3D to Offer Advanced Animation Certificate

DEALS

Interactive Multimedia, CyberExtruder Partner for Multimedia Tools

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

WarCraft III: Frozen Throne Mini-Review

GarageGames Launches Mutant Storm on OS X, Linux

Sony Expands PS2 Greatest Hits Lineup

F.Y.I.

About Spectrum

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DEVELOPER’S TOOLBOX

Metrowerks Updates PS2 Development Tool

Coming next month from Metrowerks is CodeWarrior Analysis Tools (CATS) with Zero Intrusion Profiling (ZIP) technology for the Sony Computer Entertainment Performance Analyzer (PA). ZIP technology is compatible with the CodeWarrior Game Development and Analysis Tools (CATS) for PlayStation2, and is designed to allow the user to pinpoint code bottlenecks without impacting the cache or taxing machine memory. ZIP technology is said to provide detailed profiling information without adding runtime overhead to the application, which can save development time and lower costs.

ZIP technology is designed to analyze the trace data collected by the logic analyzer hardware, gather profile information, and measure performance on Sony's Emotion Engine (EE) processor, eliminating the need for PC sampling or instrumentation.

CodeWarrior Analysis Tools with ZIP technology for the Sony PA lets developers view application performance down to a single line of code. It also helps developers detect synchronization issues by displaying complete timing for the EE processor, including time spent in interrupt handlers and in the PlayStation2 kernel. The collected information is processed offline, eliminating the need to connect directly to the PA target.

Metrowerks' ZIP technology is integrated with the CATS Hierarchical Profiler and displays the performance data on a graphical user interface, complete with a source view, a hierarchical view and a call graph view.

The upgrade cost for current CATS users is $1,500 (USD), which includes support. New users can purchase CodeWarrior Analysis Tools with ZIP for a cost of $5,700 (USD), which includes one year of support and upgrades. For more information, or to place an order, contact Metrowerks by telephone at 800-377-5416 or +1-512-996-5300, or by email at games@metrowerks.com .

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iView Upgrades Multimedia Asset Management Software

Newly available for Apple users from iView Multimedia (iView) is iView MediaPro 2.0, whose new features include image editing, enhanced drag-and-drop annotations workflow, and file system control. Version 2.0 increases capacity to 128,000 media items per catalog while reducing catalog size. A Windows version of iView MediaPro 2.0 is planned for later this year.

iView also introduced the iView Catalog Reader, a royalty-free, cross-platform software utility that permits unrestricted sharing of iView catalogs. iView Catalog Reader displays media and slide shows in an iView catalog, regardless of which iView program was used to create it. It lets iView users create and share catalogs with others who do not own MediaPro.

iView's cataloging toolset offers, in a single-window interface, digital media management and repurposing features such as automatic Web generation, slide show, IPTC and EXIF annotations, file conversion, contact sheets, voice annotation, rendering of digital camera raw file formats, and full Apple Script integration.

New in MediaPro 2.0:

  • Information Management: Drag-and-drop Organizer speeds up the process of searching, annotating and classifying across large volumes of media files. Supports industry standard IPTC, digital camera EXIF and GPS annotations, voice recordings, user fields, keywords, categories and hierarchical catalog sets. Catalog Finder permits location and preview of iView catalogs located on any storage volume.
  • File & Folder Management: Offers direct control over file system, including individual and batch renaming, moving and deleting of files and folders. Advanced Folder Panel allows automatic synchronization and watching between folders on disk and the contents of catalogs.
  • Performance Enhancements: Increased capacity to 128,000 items per catalog and reduced catalog size; long filename support; improved layout management; enhanced slide show audio playback.
  • PDF Maker/Layout: Supports producing customized high-resolution PDF files of any size and layout using the media in a catalog.
  • HTML Export using Custom Themes: Improved Web generation including "theme" based professional and customizable HTML templates.
  • Advanced Slide Show and Movie Creation: Complete customization, including global and individual timings, grids and transitions. Ability to save Slide Show as a cross-platform QuickTime movie, with sounds, embedded movies and any media type supported by QuickTime.
  • Color Profile Management: Automatic use of Color profiles in all work flows and improved batch embedding of color profiles with live previews.
  • Enhanced Image Editing: Tools such as preset and auto enhancement (based on Minolta Image Enhancing Technologies), red eye reduction, resize, and color calibration. Each tool can be linked to iView's version management and batch processing.

For those seeking an entry-level cross-platform solution, iView Media offers cataloging and control of digital media assets. It is available for $30 for download. All products are available on a trial basis.

http://www.iview-multimedia.com

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GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING

Adobe Announces PDF/Atmosphere Reader

Coming in November from Adobe Systems is Adobe Atmosphere Player for Adobe Reader, a free download for viewing and interacting with Atmosphere environments embedded in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) documents. The player lets users navigate and interact with objects in real time, within a 3D space, replicating the sensation of being in a specific environment, such as an art gallery, a concert venue or a storybook world.

Adobe Atmosphere Player for Adobe Reader is part of a system for creating and customizing interactive 3D environments. The Windows-based family of products also encompasses authoring tool Adobe Atmosphere, Web browser plug-in Atmosphere Player, and the Atmosphere Collaboration Server, which enables real-time interaction among users within Atmosphere 3D environments.

Adobe Atmosphere, a powerful professional authoring tool for creating interactive, multimedia environments, also referred to as stages, exposes visitors to a variety of interactive content. While in Atmosphere environments, users can also collaborate and interact with each other in real-time. Document designers can use Adobe Atmosphere to create dynamic 3D stages, with realistic lighting, motion and sound, as well as animated 3D objects. These stages can be incorporated into instructional manuals, product specification documents, educational documents and promotional materials. The new Adobe Atmosphere Player for Adobe Reader embeds these multimedia environments into Adobe PDF documents. The Havok physics engine within the Adobe Atmosphere Player for Adobe Reader also provides full physical simulation, including gravity and friction.

http://www.adobe.com/products/atmosphere

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Electric Rain Releases Flash 3D Extension

Just out from Electric Rain, Inc. is Swift 3D Xpress, a new 3D extension accessible directly from within the Macromedia Flash MX 2004 interface. Swift 3D Xpress allows Flash MX 2004 users to select any vector object on the stage in Flash, open it into the Xpress editing interface, customize the 3D scene by extruding, rotating, lighting and animating the vector object, and then render it out to a self-contained movie clip in either vector or raster form.

Swift 3D Xpress includes the following features:

  • one-step conversion of 2D artwork to extruded 3D objects
  • material gallery with ability to customize
  • beveling of any extruded object
  • pre-built lighting schemes
  • drag-and-drop animations
  • import of vector-based AI and EPS files
  • vector rendering using the RAViX™ III rendering engine
  • ray-traced raster rendering
  • automatic creation of Flash movie clips
  • round tripping ability for further editing of 3D movie clips

http://www.macromedia.com/software/flash/extensions/swift3d/

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Discreet Announces combustion 3

 

Coming this fall (for Windows; OS X early '04) from Discreet is combustion 3, the latest version of its visual effects and 3D compositing desktop software. Enhancements include customizable brushes, savable presets, timeline markers, and DV capture and output. Discreet is working with plug-in developers for support of plug-ins, including integration with various Adobe After Effects and Photoshop plug-ins.

 

New features include:

  • Editing Operator - Users will be able to assemble video with transitions directly in combustion, without having to use an NLE.
  • Expressions - The JavaScript expressions will allow combustion artists to create complex animations, eliminating repetitive work.
  • Flash output - Artists will be able to utilize the vector paint and animation interface tools in combustion 3 to create and output Flash animations.

 

http://www.discreet.com/combustion3

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MUFFINS Consortium Demonstrates MPEG-21 at IBC

Optibase, Ltd. is demonstrating the latest accomplishments of the MUltimedia Framework for INteroperability in Secure Environments (MUFFINS) Consortium at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC), currently taking place in Amsterdam.

Sponsored by the European Commission for the development of solutions for content access, delivery of scalable content and the protection of intellectual property, the MUFFINS consortium, led by Optibase (IL), consists of Philips (NL), Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine (UK), Interuniversity MicroElectronics Center (BE), Fraunhofer IIS (DE), Industrial Technology Research Institute (TW), University of Ljubljana (SI) and Sun Microsystems (USA). The members believe that the ability to identify, find and deliver rich media in a secure, discreet and reliable way is essential to the advancement of digital content usage and are investigating how multimedia content can be catalogued, delivered, protected and downloaded for use by the public, while at the same time protecting the rights of owners.

The project's framework is all based on newly emerging standards, such as MPEG-7 and MPEG-21. The project integrates technologies such as search for audio content using sound fingerprints, scalable 3D graphics, "watermarks" in audio content, 128-bit encryption, and end-to-end media protection. The integrated platform, in form of the "MUFFINS Online Store," has a single interface for downloadable items, on-demand streamed items and broadcasted and locally stored items. The interface displays media items along with their description, attributes, usage rights and license status.

http://www.optibase.com/muffins/project.html

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THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER

O'Reilly Publishes XForms Essentials

As a general rule, the more interactive a Web site, the more heavily the site's designers rely on Web forms (various kinds of technologies that collect information from users). In "XForms Essentials" (O'Reilly, US $29.95), author Micah Dubinko introduces developers to the next generation of Web form standards: XForms--a combination of XML and forms--which delivers a powerful and more workable and versatile alternative to clunky, less user-friendly HTML-based forms.

"Ordinary news sites," reports Dubinko, "tend to have as many as seven distinct forms on the home page. Many of these are for search and navigation purposes and appear on every page." XForms, based on a specification approved by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), allows developers to create flexible, Web-based, user-input forms for a wide variety of platforms, including desktop computers, handhelds, information appliances, and more.

XForms offers a more straightforward and effective way to handle user input than the combination of forms written in HTML, JavaScript, or other controls used on today's typical Web pages. XForms also gives developers greater presentation options and new ways to manage user interaction, which promises easier-to-build, more dynamic XML documents. Furthermore, XForms is sure to reduce--if not eliminate entirely--the browser dependencies that have plagued earlier HTML-based Web forms.

The time to learn about XForms is now: XForms will eventually replace the HTML forms currently used, and they are already infiltrating both XML development and high-end HTML development (through toolkits which allow designers to create XForms and automatically generate HTML forms with scripts). XForms also impacts new XML vocabularies, which is welcome news for application developers trying to come to terms with XML Schema, the predominant--and predominantly difficult--language for defining the content and structure of XML documents.

"XForms Essentials" equips developers to:

  • create (or convert existing forms into) XForms files
  • collect XML data from users in a user-friendly way
  • reduce the amount of JavaScript needed within browser interfaces
  • take advantage of XForms without having to write their own code
  • integrate XForms with both HTML and XML vocabularies
  • increase the security and reliability of the current forms system while simplifying the connection between client-based user input and server-based processing

Chapter 2, "XForms Building Blocks," is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/xforms/chapter/index.html

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PNCA, Oregon3D to Offer Advanced Animation Certificate

Starting this fall, students at the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) will be able to earn an Advanced Certificate of 2D and 3D Animation, thanks to the college's new partnership with Oregon3D Inc., The Center for Visualization Technologies.

 

Offered through PNCA's continuing education curriculum, the advanced animation program is designed for artists and working professionals pursuing careers in the creative services industry. Masters seminars and advanced theory courses taught by industry veterans are among the classes at Oregon3D that are included in the curriculum.

 

Students are encouraged to take prerequisite classes at Oregon3D and then complete their course work at PNCA. Most of the classes in the advanced animation program are held in the evening hours at both Oregon3D and PNCA, thus accommodating the schedules of students who work during the day.

 

Based in Portland, Ore., Oregon3D offers a variety of courses in 3D animation, special visual effects, compositing, editing and advanced theory.

 

http://www.pnca.edu

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DEALS

Interactive Multimedia, CyberExtruder Partner for Multimedia Tools

Interactive Multimedia Solutions, Inc. (http://www.IMS3D.com), a provider of voice-to-animation solutions, and CyberExtruder, Inc. (http://www.CyberExtruder.com) recently announced a Strategic Alliance partnership between the two companies. Their relationship has been in place for some time now, but the companies delayed announcing the partnership until they completed their initial joint project, the development of the newly released IMS CharacterCreator content-creation application. This is the first of a number of joint projects the two companies intend to work on to address opportunities in multimedia, graphics design, eLearning, gaming, CRM, and wireless markets.

IMS and CyberExtruder signed the alliance partnership agreement a year ago, and soon after began working together to adapt the CyberExtruder photo-realistic content creation engine to create the new application. Characters created using the IMS CharacterCreator application are automatically built with an underlying bones structure that allows them to be animated using the IMS voice-to-animation engine. This new content creation application is targeted at the multimedia developer and graphic designers that have no experience or expertise creating 3D characters for the Macromedia Director development environment.

The newly released IMS CharacterCreator allows users to create photo-realistic 3D characters from one or two digital photos with just a few mouse clicks. The photos can be of a real human face, or a face created by an artist. Characters created using IMS CharacterCreator are exported to IMS CharacterGenerator Studio; and using this application, character animations can be created in Macromedia Director using an audio file. The animations are rendered in Macromedia’s Shockwave player.

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GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

WarCraft III: Frozen Throne Mini-Review

The name Blizzard equates with quality in the mind of many a gamer, for good reason. The software developer's Warcraft series of real-time strategy games, in particular, has stolen countless hours of human productivity, but more importantly, has provided endless fun for PC gamers. Blizzard recently released Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne (TFT), the first expansion for the latest title in the series, and it's a good one.

Like its predecessor, TFT gives you several different ways to enjoy. You can generate a semi-random human-vs.-computer game based on a variety of settings, or play against other humans using Blizzard's free online Battle.net service, or you can do what I do. Having limited free time, I tend to skim the cream off the top of packages like this by just playing the included story-based campaign. I prefer the campaigns because they combine aspects of adventure gaming along with the strategy. For example, with limited support, you rescue a stranded friend, and then combine forces to overtake a nearby, well-fortified enemy.

TFT actually includes two campaigns. There's a big one, which consists of several series of scenarios; you play each sub-campaign as a different race. These are superbly designed, offering a nicely ramped level of challenge and lots of variety of gameplay. The second campaign is a smaller one with an RPG flavor, in which you play as an Orc hero.

The new campaigns would be reason enough to buy TFT, but the Blizzard folks being what they are, there's much more. Each race has a new hero, new units, and new buildings. For instance, the new Undead hero, the Crypt Lord, can impale enemy units, protect himself within a spiked carapace, and produce fierce carrion beetles as support units from nearby corpses. New Human units can control magic and ride flying dragonhawks. And each race has a new building that serves its own store, rather than having to count on neutral stores strewn about the map. And in addition to this, you can upgrade certain non-hero units to carry items, which give them extra offensive and defensive capabilities. But wait, there's more! Namely, five new neutral heroes, among which are the Naga Sea Witch, good at ranged combat, and the melee-adept Pandaren Brewmaster.

If you're a fan of Blizzard games but haven't picked this one up yet, now would be a good time; it's currently available at gogamer.com for $11 off retail. TFT is a fine example of PC gaming at its best.

http://www.blizzard.com

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GarageGames Launches Mutant Storm on OS X, Linux

GarageGames last week launched Mutant Storm for Mac OS X and Linux. The game, previously released for Windows, is an homage to Robotron, takes the player through 89 levels of psychedelic 3D arenas that get ever more crowded with nasty beasties. After completing all 89 levels players are awarded "belts" as the gameplay difficulty continues to increase from "white belt" to "black belt."

Mutant Storm is available on GarageGames for $19.95 and a free demo can be downloaded for Windows, OS X and Linux at http://www.garagegames.com/pg/demo.php?id=18.

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Sony Expands PS2 Greatest Hits Lineup

Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. last week added three titles to its PlayStation2 "Greatest Hits" lineup, including: SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs, Ratchet & Clank, and Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus.

In addition, earlier this year Hot Shots Golf3 for PlayStation 2 and Stuart Little 2 for the PlayStation console also earned "Greatest Hits" status.

To qualify as a PS2 "Greatest Hit" (SRP $20), a title must have been on the market for one year with 400,000 copies produced; PlayStation "Greatest Hits" (SRP $15) game sales must be in excess of 250,000 units during the life of the product. Today's announcement marks a total of 52 "Greatest Hits" titles for PS2 and 169 for PlayStation. As context, there are over 550 PS2 games and over 1,300 PlayStation games available today.

About recently added "greatest hits" titles:

  • SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALS: players assume the role of an elite SEAL commander whose team must fight terrorists with more than 30 weapons in 16 missions.. Players must their team through voice recognition technology (with USB headset) or via on-screen text.
  • Ratchet & Clank: Blends action-platform, exploration, adventure, puzzle-solving, strategy and racing genres into an inter-galactic sci-fi fantasy.
  • Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus: action-adventure platform game with toon-shaded animations
  • Hot Shots Golf 3: arcade-style fantasy golf game
  • Stuart Little 2: action-adventure game for kids

http://www.us.playstation.com

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F.Y.I.

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.

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- David Duberman

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