Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 16 September 2002
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)
--Sonic to Update DVD Producer
--Pathlore Expands Multimedia Content Authoring Options --Anark Offering Media Player 9 Plug-In
IN THE INFOGROOVE
--Greenfield Launches Online Media Testing
--Alias|Wavefront Updates Maya
--Wildform Announces New Flix Product Line --Canopus Unveils DVStorm2
--Leitch Ships NLE
--Discreet Unveils Linux-Based Background Rendering Software --Kaydara 3D Production Tool Used in Game Show
--M4IF Demonstrates Commercial MPEG-4 Tech --New Intel Xeon Processors Ship for Dual-Processing Systems
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
--Web Design: Spectator Sport?
--New Books from New Riders
--TrendWatch: FX Studios Can't Find Qualified Employees
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
--Microsoft Readying Impossible Creatures
--Strategy Analytics Issues Europe Interactive TV Report
Sonic to Update DVD Producer
Coming in October from Sonic Solutions is DVD Producer Version 3.5, a new version of its DVD-authoring system. The product will offer new authoring and design features.
DVD Producer features real-time MPEG compression of video and Dolby Digital audio, OpenDVD-compliant authoring, and JumpAnywhere automatic DVD-navigation programming. The product is available in both a software-only version and a version tightly integrated with Sonic's acclaimed SD-series hardware video encoding solutions.
New capabilities include menu-design technology to create DVD menus that would typically require the use of separate graphics and video editing applications. The new design engine enables the automatic creation of animated buttons via drag-and-drop methods, and incorporates a text tool for creating button labels and menu headings with drop-shadow effects.
Version 3.5 also includes custom Jacket Picture creation, enhanced file-transcoding functions, speed enhancements, a manual-button routing function for tailoring complex menus, and extended support for a range of DVD-recordable devices.
OpenDVD is new technology that allows finished DVD-Video discs to be edited, to add or delete video and audio content. Menus and navigation can be changed or expanded, and the finished project written to DVD-Recordable media.
Pathlore Expands Multimedia Content Authoring Options
Pathlore, a learning management system (LMS) software and services provider, last week announced the continued expansion of its Pathlore Partner Network with the certification of Presedia Inc., a provider of e-Learning solutions.
Pathlore has completed certification of the interoperability of Presedia Express authoring with Pathlore LMS. Subject matter experts, developers and instructional designers can use Presedia Express to turn PowerPoint presentations into on-demand Web Flash presentations with synchronized audio, animations and AICC and SCORM-based quizzes and surveys. Courses can then be delivered, tracked and managed across an enterprise learning environment via Pathlore LMS.
Pathlore's certification process ensures that surveys, quizzes and other content created with Presedia Express will integrate with Pathlore LMS.
This enables companies to leverage a single Presedia-based course across an enterprise via Pathlore LMS, effectively reaching global employees, resellers and customers.
Although e-Learning industry standards provide a framework for integration, there is still ambiguity in the adoption of the standards. The Pathlore Partner Program addresses these issues by certifying partners' content and authoring tools to ensure that joint customers have flexibility to select and use the high-quality courses they need, and the confidence that compatibility issues between the vendors have been addressed.
Anark Offering Media Player 9 Plug-In
Anark Corporation, developers of Anark Studio multimedia development software, today is supporting Microsoft Windows Media 9 Series with a new plug-in that will let users of Windows Media Player 9 Series view and interact with Anark-authored content.
IN THE INFOGROOVE
Greenfield Launches Online Media Testing
Greenfield Online, a provider of online data-collection services, has launched a new media-testing capability that enables clients to test video segments with target audiences.
Most media-testing technologies require survey respondents to download special plug-ins or media players, which adds to respondent frustration and ultimately survey abandonment. Greenfield says its online application is compatible with 95 percent of viewers' browsers, and the segment downloads passively during the course of survey participation. The technology automatically detects viewers' connection speed and streams the appropriate bits per second. As a result, all respondents view the same media segment.
* No player is required.
* 95 percent of all browsers will be able to execute the media.
* Media segments are not streamed. Instead, clips are downloaded and played, which is more secure -- stops interception.
* Viewers must have a special ID to view media, which will be disabled after completion of survey -- prevents piracy and distribution.
* Segments are compressed to ensure efficient downloads no matter what size/resolution.
* Media can be accepted in any format.
The minimum cost to conduct a media-testing survey is $2,000 for up to two spots, totaling no more than two minutes. Each additional minute of media in excess of two minutes costs $500.
Alias|Wavefront Updates Maya
Alias|Wavefront has begun shipping its Maya 4.5 3D software for Windows, IRIX and Linux operating systems. Maya Complete 4.5 for Mac OS X will ship on September 23rd. Technological developments include Maya Fluid Effects and modeling improvements, API enhancements, and version parity with Maya Complete 4.5 for OS X.
Fluid Effects is said to let users create: atmospheric effects (billowing clouds and cigarette smoke); thick, viscous liquids (mud, lava); pyrotechnics (fire, explosions, nuclear blasts); and space effects (comets, nebulae and meteors). The new Ocean shader lets users create realistic oceans through a displacement and shading technique with buoyant objects that react to the simulated water movement. A library of examples and presets is included in the software.
The full range of advanced NURBS and subdivision-surface tools is now available in Maya Complete, including the ability to convert from subdivision surfaces or polygons to NURBS. Smooth Proxy tools have also been added, allowing building high-resolution geometry with a low-resolution polygon proxy cage.
Programmers can take advantage of enhancements to the polygon and rendering APIs and the introduction of extensions to file referencing, allowing additional API access.
Wildform Announces New Flix Product Line
Wildform, a developer Flash video software, last week released its updated Flix product line. Flix is now available in several configurations, including its flagship Flix Pro, as well as Standard and Lite editions.
Wildform has also released a Flix SDK.
Flix Pro ($149) is a full-featured solution that encodes most types of video, audio and image file, outputs all types of Flash video, and has multiple functions that enable users to implement advanced Flash features without needing to know any Flash, such as automatically outputting customized players. Flix Pro also offers both 1-pass and high-resolution 2-pass VBR (variable bitrate) encoding, editing, cropping, batch encoding, projectors, preloaders, and other features.
Flix Pro can also automatically turn a video into a vector based animation using its tracing capabilities.
Flix is also available in two consumer versions Lite and Standard editions.
Flix Lite ($29) is easy to use and offers all the basic features required to encode and deploy Flash video. Flix Standard ($89) combines the ease of Flix Lite with the superior image quality of 2-pass VBR compression and several additional time saving features.
The Flix SDK, or software developer's kit, lets programmers create client and server applications with Flix Pro functionality.
All Flix software is available for Windows and Mac. Flix encoded video works without a streaming server, plays on all platforms and browsers, and streams through firewalls.
Canopus Unveils DVStorm2
Canopus Corporation last week announced DVStorm 2, a new version of its real-time, nonlinear editing product. New features include additional real-time 3D transitions and effects, expanded color-correction capabilities, improved capture features, and MPEG encoding and editing tools.
Among the 28 2D/3D transitions and effects are the new 3D Picture-in-Picture transition, and 15 Xplode 3D transitions. New video filters include white balance and black balance, for color correction, and the product also allows for simultaneous capture from multiple DV inputs (additional OHCI card required).
DVStorm2 includes StormEncoder, Canopus's real-time MPEG hardware-encoding module, as well as the company's family of MPEG tools. StormEncoder lets DVStorm2 users encode MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 files directly from DV and analog sources using Canopus's MediaCruise control software. Canopus is including MpegCutter, an MPEG editing tool for basic editing tasks, MpegExplorer for advanced desktop search and preview of MPEG files, and MpegRe-encoder for high-speed conversions of high-bit rate MPEG files to lower-bit rate files when needed. Also included is Ulead DVD Workshop SE for authoring.
DVStorm2 will be available in October at $1,088 (MSRP). Canopus also offers a DVStorm2 Plus version priced at $1,299 (MSRP) that also includes Adobe Premiere 6.5 and a StormBay breakout box.
Leitch Ships NLE
Now shipping from Leitch Technology Corporation is its dpsVelocityQ multi-stream non-linear editing system. The product combines the dpsQuattrus multi-layer, real-time non-linear editing hardware with an enhanced version of the dpsVelocity software to create an integrated, multi-layer NLE solution. Features include mixable uncompressed and compressed video, real-time simultaneous playback of four video streams and six graphics layers, and the Q3DX4 quad-channel real-time 3D DVE.
New features include four camera multi-cam editing and four channels of simultaneous real-time 3D DVE. Network editing support is standard, with video media accessible from system or network storage as well as from the dedicated on-board Ultra160 storage controller. The package also includes eyeon's Digital Fusion DFX+ compositing software, which is integrated with the dpsVelocityQ timeline.
Discreet Unveils Linux-Based Background Rendering Software
Discreet last week announced burn, its new Linux-based background rendering software for visual effects systems (i.e., high-end digital video) customers. Shown for the first time in public at the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam, burn is Discreet's first Linux-based software solution, which lets customers use PC-based render stations for processing effects.
Using burn, rendering is completed offline in a Linux-based render farm, thus freeing up online effects workstations so artists can focus on the creative process, and have more time to design the complex high-resolution effects that can be sent to burn and rendered. In addition, burn will allow inferno 5, flame 8 and flint 8 systems to leverage multiple CPUs simultaneously to calculate results.
Customers using burn will be able to initiate background-rendering tasks from within the Batch module of inferno 5, flame 8 or flint 8. The initiated request is submitted to backburner -- Discreet's render-management software, currently used in both Discreet's 3ds max 5 software and combustion 2 desktop compositing software. backburner -- which is installed on PC workstations running Windows 2000 -- is responsible for receiving rendering requests, prioritizing them, splitting them between available resources for faster execution, and then dispatching them to all available burn systems. backburner also maintains and relays the status of each request to the user.
Discreet's burn software is designed to run on PC workstations configured with Red Hat Linux 7.2 software, providing an alternative to IRIX-based workstations. burn requires no user interface; its core function is to execute full or partial render requests as determined by backburner.
burn is expected to be available by NAB 2003, and will be sold and distributed as a software-only solution--offered as either a single unit or in 5-, 10-, 15- and 20-license packs.
Kaydara 3D Production Tool Used in Game Show
Radio Canada (Television) is using Kaydara Online 3.5 to integrate 3D character animation and live video in real time for its new TV game show called WIZZ. Online allows the show's two 3D characters, Bo and Pixel, to interact with the host and contestants in real time and to serve as virtual game pieces - walking, running, and flying their way through WIZZville's animated game board.
"Our goal was to create very human characters that could provide a connection between the real and virtual worlds for the audience and contestants," said Johanne Bouchard, producer and coordinator, Culture and Entertainment at Radio Canada.
Using Kaydara's Online 3.5 and a custom control panel Kaydara built for WIZZ, the game show's operator uses six keystrokes to trigger combinations of moves by which Bo and Pixel advance through WIZZville. Puppeteers using a combination of joysticks and Kaydara Voice Reality, a real-time phoneme-extraction tool for lip-synchronization, control the characters' voices, facial expressions, and upper-body movements. Bo and Pixel appear on 52-inch plasma displays, rendered in real time by Online's PC-based graphics production servers.
Online 3.5 is a turnkey 3D-production system, allowing broadcasters to add 3D characters to their live-to-air and live-to-tape productions. Features include support for broadcast-quality SDI video, audio I/O, and lip synchronization for real-time phoneme recognition and live controls over characters' facial expressions and movements.
M4IF Demonstrates Commercial MPEG-4 Tech
The MPEG-4 Industry Forum (M4IF) last week announced advances in MPEG-4 technology and market adoption on a global basis.
MPEG-4 is an open, international media standard for all digital multimedia platforms, including audio, video as well as interactive content and services from low bandwidths to high-definition quality. MPEG-4 is the newest representation standard in well over a decade of successive standards developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) of the International Standards organization (ISO) - the group that designed MPEG-2 (the digital television standard) and MPEG-1, which includes MP3 (MPEG-1, Layer III Audio).
"MPEG-4 is now at the point where MPEG-2 was halfway into the 90's, poised for global adoption throughout the digital media ecosystem," claimed M4IF prexy Rob Koenen. "With licensing issues resolved since July and dozens of companies -- large and small -- offering interoperable MPEG-4 systems, the technology is mature, and will shortly outpace all other digital media content formats."
MPEG-4 is designed to support the economical and industrial requirements of high-volume, consumer electronic device value chains that enable the mass distribution of video systems. MPEG-2 has already been adopted as the basis of DVD and digital broadcast networks worldwide. According to In-Stat/MDR, the popularity of MPEG compression gave rise to an MPEG video chip market with more than $1 billion in revenue in 2001, with annual unit shipments were over 100 million.
MPEG-4 reportedly provides superior audio and video compression as well as a standardized framework for other forms of media--including text, pictures, animation, 2D and 3D objects--which can be presented in interactive and personalized media experiences. "By analogy, MPEG-4 is to digital media as HTML is to text and pictures--an organizing framework that is limited only by the imagination of content creators and the innovation of technology providers," according to Elliot Broadwin, CEO of iVAST, an MPEG-4 platform provider.
New Intel Xeon Processors Ship for Dual-Processing Systems
Intel last week unveiled the Intel Xeon processor for two-way workstation and server platforms at 2.80 gigahertz (GHz) and 2.60 GHz. The new products feature 512 kilobyte (KB) of level two cache and built on Intel's 0.13-micron process technology.
In workstation configurations, dual-processing systems are popular for applications such as digital content creation, mechanical and electrical design, financial analysis, and 3D graphics. Manufacturers are shipping workstations based on the new processor speeds.
Front-end or general-purpose Internet servers, featuring one or two processors, are used for Web hosting, data caching, search engines, security and streaming media applications.
The Intel 860 chipset for dual-processing Xeon processor-based workstations is available for these systems. The chipset utilizes RDRAM and provides graphics support with a dedicated AGP 4X port. The Intel E7500 chipset is also available for dual-processing servers.
The Intel Xeon processor with 512 KB level two Advanced Transfer Cache is priced at $562 in 1,000-unit quantities for 2.80 GHz and $433 in 1,000-unit quantities for 2.60 GHz.
In his keynote at the Intel Developer Forum last week, VP Mike Fister gave a preview of what's coming later this year, including chipsets codenamed Granite Bay and Placer for uni-processor and dual-processor workstations, respectively, and a server chipset (Plumas 533).
These chipsets will feature a 533 MHz system bus with dual-channel DDR 266 memory (Granite Bay and Placer also have AGP 8X support) and are due in the fourth quarter 2002 along with new Xeon processors.
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
Web Design: Spectator Sport?
WebEdge Wars 2002 is accepting team-entry submissions for its first competition for a prize purse of $10,000. WebEdge Wars is a spectator event and real-time Web design and implementation competition produced by a group of computer-industry veterans and high-tech event producers who intend to introduce the general public to the horrors and excitement of Web development.
"War is hell, and often so is Web design," said Carl de Cordova, commander of the WebEdge Wars campaign. "Young kids and old-timers with the battle scars of numerous projects, constantly face the stress caused by impossible timelines, the minefields of vague requirements and the shock of bad food at irregular hours just so you and I can enjoy surfing the Web. WebEdge Wars will pit the best against the best and is sure to be excruciating good fun to watch for techies and non-techies alike."
WebEdge Wars will assemble a selection of Web-development teams to design and implement an assignment using tools and equipment they choose. To keep teams from preparing work before the competition, the assignment will be kept secret until the beginning of the event. After learning their objectives, teams will have 25 hours to plan, design and execute a solution.
Video crews will be on hand to capture the teams' efforts as they face and overcome the roadblocks of Web development. A live audience will provide the distractions and interruptions that complete the realistic development environment.
For the audience of spectators, WebEdge Wars is more than a party and tech expo, but an opportunity to learn Web design techniques and secrets from the experts.
The first place prize, valued at $10,000, will be awarded to the team selected as "best" by a panel of judges and audience voting. Judges will include Internet experts and celebrity Web surfers. The event will be held December 6 and 7, 2002, in Austin, Texas.
Five teams will be selected from entries received before October 11, 2002.
To participate in WebEdge Wars 2002, teams must complete the entry form at http://www.Webedgewars.com.
New Books from New Riders
"Object-Oriented Programming with ActionScript" by Branden Hall, Samuel Wan - Written by Flash programmers, shows Flash developers how best to use Flash MX's new functionality: object-oriented programming. For advanced users, teaches application development from the ground up.
"Dreamweaver MX Extensions" by Laura Gutman - Tutorial on getting more from Dreamweaver MX by writing extensions. Explores the configuration of Dreamweaver MX and its API (Application Programming Interface.
"Integrated Web Design: Building the New Breed of Designer & Developer" by Molly E. Holzschlag - Discusses artistic and technical concepts in web design separately, and then merges them together both conceptually and through examples.
"Submit Now: Designing Persuasive Web Sites" by Andrew Chak - Shows what it takes to design a site so browsers become buyers by examining how customers search, evaluate, and make decisions realistically.
"Designing CSS Web Pages" by Christopher Schmitt - The ability to use CSS is fast becoming a vital tool in the web professional's toolkit -- but using it requires a new way of thinking when it comes to building web pages. This book encourages web designers to look at the perceived limitations of the web as a new challenge to their design skills--without relying on HTML for presentation of pages.
"Mac OS X v.10.2 Jaguar Killer Tips" by Scott Kelby - This book is all about speed; showing the Mac professional how to get more work done faster, while actually increasing quality. Not another newbie book -- it speaks directly to the daily Mac user who needs to get the most out of their Mac NOW.
TrendWatch: FX Studios Can't Find Qualified Employees
According to the TrendWatch Visual Effects/Dynamic Media Report - Issue #1, March 2002, three out of four (73%) of FX studios are having trouble finding qualified employees. If you're a client, this challenge could affect how long it takes your project to be completed. If you're an animator or FX artist, and you have the right skills in your toolkit, you're in luck. 45% of visual effects studios are having trouble hiring animators, and one-third by hiring FX artists.
Sign up for free TrendWatch Fast Facts featuring facts from Visual Effects/Dynamic Media reports at http://www.trendwatch.com/fastfacts.html.
These market facts based on original TrendWatch market research with executives and business owners in the visual effects/dynamic media industries and are provided by TrendWatch strictly for educational purposes.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
Microsoft Readying Impossible Creatures
Microsoft Game Studios is preparing us for our recombinant future with its new PC game, Impossible Creatures, set to ship January '03. The 3D real-time strategy game from Relic Entertainment, creator of Homeworld, lets players combine capabilities of animals and create thousands of units.
* Creature Combiner lets players merge capabilities of more than 50 animals to create scores of distinctive genetically-altered beasts * Players command their own army of bizarre beasts in a real-time strategy game that focuses on all-out combat
* Single-player storyline starring daring heroes, mad scientists and colorful combined creatures
* Multiplayer games use the IC Online match-making service, with all the stats recorded on the IC Stats website
* 3D world with environments ranging from savannah settings to volcanic wastelands
Strategy Analytics Issues Europe Interactive TV Report
The Broadband Entertainment Strategies service of Strategy Analytics has released the results of its latest research on the European interactive television market. The report, "Interactive Digital TV Market Forecast - Europe," predicts that consumers will spend $92 million on interactive TV applications and services this year, an increase of 121 percent. By 2008, annual revenues will reach $1.8 billion. Enhanced television applications, such as viewer voting and show participation, will account for 48% of the market, while interactive games account for a further 31 percent. Email and messaging will also generate significant revenues.
This report assesses the outlook for digital and interactive television services across 16 European markets. On a country-by-country basis, it describes current levels of usage of digital and interactive television, revenue streams and market segmentation, forecasting demand to 2008.
"Interactivity is slowly but surely becoming an accepted part of the television landscape," notes Nick Griffiths, Director, Broadband Entertainment Strategies, Strategy Analytics. "But the key to success is to use it to create better television, and to forget about surfing the Web on TV. Internet TV is now recognized as a failed concept."
The research found that 16 million Europeans are now using enhanced TV applications, such as background information, online voting, quiz show participation and camera-angle selection. Overall, interactive television will be available to 31 million European households by the end of 2002, creating a potential audience of 72 million viewers.
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 and online development tools and CD-ROMs for review.
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