Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

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

--Sonic Unveils Toolset for Interactive HD Content Creation

--Toon Boom Launches Solo for Small Studios, Independent Filmmakers
--Global Haptics Updates GeOrb
--e frontier Announces Shade 8

--DMO Announces TutorialFinder.com and ReviewSeeker.com

--Alias Launches New Books in Learning Maya Series
--No Starch Press Releases "The TCP/IP Guide"

--Dragon Quest VIII to Ship November 22
--Cellufun Announces Beta Space Adventure for Cell Phones
--Activision Ships X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse

--Neuroscientist Warner to Keynote Serious Games Summit

--About Spectrum



Sonic Unveils Toolset for Interactive HD Content Creation

Sonic Solutions recently introduced its toolset to support the advanced interactive capabilities of the HD DVD 1.0 format. The software enables the creation of titles that include movie-synchronized bonus features, pop-up interactive menus, and Internet connectivity. Members of the High Definition Authoring Alliance (HDAA), a Sonic-founded association of disc-authoring facilities, will initially have exclusive access to the new tools.

The new tools, scheduled for shipment this month, offer the ability to both create and preview material for inclusion on an Advanced Content HD DVD title. The Sonic HD DVD Advanced Content Multiplexer is a timeline-based utility that creates an HD DVD-compliant Advanced Content stream from video, audio, and iHD Advanced Applications that enable interactive features. The Multiplexer can output a specification-compliant Enhanced VOB file, as well as additional playlist and information files used to generate an HD DVD disc image.

The Sonic HD DVD Advanced Content Player, meanwhile, provides PC playback of HD DVD Advanced Content titles, allowing content authors to check the appearance and performance of their material. Combined with Sonic's encoding and authoring tools for Standard Content HD DVD (also shown at IBC), the two new Advanced Content tools reportedly represent the first production platform capable of producing fully interactive HD DVD 1.0 titles.




Toon Boom Launches Solo for Small Studios and Independent Filmmakers

Shipping this week from Montreal-based Toon Boom Animation is Toon Boom Solo, its new stand-alone animation software solution designed for small studios and independent animation filmmakers. Solo is said to offer a new level of creativity, efficiency and simplified workflow to produce animation for film, video, television, Web sites, games and mobile devices.

Toon Boom Solo is designed for start-to-finish animation productions, from drawing directly on the screen to scanning, inking and painting, compositing, laying out animation in 3D space, applying special effects and rendering. Advanced features include morphing, inverse kinematics, glue and special effects, translate into faster completion of projects-all integrated in a single application and relying on a field-proven technology. It works on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

Check out the launch special available at http://www.toonboom.com


Global Haptics Updates GeOrb

Global Haptics recently released the latest version of its haptic orb 3D input device line. The GeOrb (version 4) is a handheld haptic orb about the size of a softball that allows an approach to 3D maneuvering and manipulation said to be different from other products. This year it has been redesigned to incorporate the best of all previous features at a lower price: $250 per orb.

The new GeOrb has been designed in a modular fashion to allow for advanced custom upgrades, including pressure sensitivity, feedback, an internal gyroscope, "allover" sensitivity, and various other enhancements or modifications, including a single-handed version.

Currently, the GeOrb comes with an SDK that enables input through the DirectInput API, as well as a 3D sculpting program that can import and export models in STL format. Software options also include beta versions of a Rhino 3D plug-in, a Maya plug-in, and a VRPN interface, as well as a plug-in for the Torque Game Engine (in development).



e frontier Announces Shade 8

e frontier, formerly Curious Labs and publisher of the graphic-design software Poser, recently released an electronic download of Shade 8, a new version of its 3D modeling and rendering software. Shade 8 features network rendering, stronger modeling tools including polygon-mesh editing, better integration with Poser, a new Toon renderer, faster radiosity calculation, and an improved Callisto renderer. Shade 8 boxed versions are planned to be available within a week.

Shade 8 is designed for the following three markets:

1. Architectural and Interior Design
Architects and Interior Designers can use the lighting, shading, and dimensioning features for quick prototype architectural designs and renderings. Using the library of architectural objects or imported files from popular CAD programs, architects and interior designers can build projects and render them.

2. Product Design and Visualization
Shade uses Boolean and Bezier modeling plus mesh editing to create shapes for projects and visualizations. The animation features help to preview functioning products “in motion” for presentations.

3. Character Modeling and Rendering
Shade links directly to Poser for importing and exporting figures and poses. Poser users can use Shade to modify models, create props or render images with unlimited size (professional version).

Shade 8 feature highlights include:

Two versions of Shade 8 are available to suit different users' needs:




DMO Announces TutorialFinder.com and ReviewSeeker.com

DMO (Digital Media Online) has launched TutorialFinder.com and ReviewSeeker.com, two new microPortals designed to help users find the techniques and the reviews for products they are interested in, as well as help Web site owners drive traffic to their sites.

Content sites can submit a title, description and link for product tutorials and product reviews found on their sites, and these microPortals will showcase the articles and link back to the hosting site so readers can go there and read the full article. These are free services available to readers as well as independent content sites.

“With the Web becoming ever more crowded and search engines being bogged down with billions of pages of information, users are finding it increasingly difficult to find the exact information they are looking for,” said Lou Wallace, CEO of Digital Media Online. “With these new microPortals it will be much easier to find the application technique or product review they need, regardless of what industry Web site it is found on. And with over a million unique readers visiting DMO's industry hubs and portals each month, we decided we would expand our community support by helping drive traffic to other sites who host appropriate content.”

TutorialFinder.com and ReviewSeeker.com are the latest members of the DMO (Digital Media Online) publication portfolio serving creative professionals and technology consumers. With the launch of these two new microPortals, DMO publishes more than 80 online trade publications and newsletters.




Alias Launches New Books in Learning Maya Series

Based on the Academy Award-winning animated short The ChubbChubbs! from Sony Pictures Imageworks, Learning Maya 7 | The Modeling & Animation Handbook, available now, and Learning Maya 7 | The Special Effects Handbook, available September 25, offer step-by-step tutorials for understanding the various stages of a production pipeline and how they fit together.

Learning Maya 7 | The Modeling & Animation Handbook provides resources to learn how to refine models with a variety of surface types and then make them move with a range of animation techniques. The book helps artists make sound decisions from the beginning, to avoid unnecessary challenges further down the pipeline. The book also introduces the reader to character animation using Alias MotionBuilder software.

Each book is accompanied by a DVD-ROM containing resources such as lesson support files, Alias Certified Instructor-led movie overviews guiding each project and excerpts from The ChubbChubbs! As well, Learning Maya 7 | The Modeling & Animation Handbook comes with free Turbo Squid 3D models valued at US $460 and Learning Maya 7 | The Special Effects Handbook comes with free Turbo Squid textures valued at US $475.

Learning Maya 7 | The Special Effects Handbook builds on the characters and scenes created in Learning Maya 7 | The Modeling & Animation Handbook to explore the rendering and dynamic effects stages of the production pipeline. With this book, artists will learn to light, texture and create shaders for models using the Maya and mental ray renderers. They will also learn to create water, smoke and fire effects to add realism to scenes. This book contains theoretical discussions aimed at providing an understanding of the principles behind actions.



No Starch Press Releases "The TCP/IP Guide"

The TCP/IP protocol suite is the basic framework that underlies all traffic on the modern Internet. Yet despite its importance, network professionals and students have had to rely on the same old reference books for years. "The TCP/IP Guide: A Comprehensive, Illustrated Internet Protocols Reference" (No Starch Press, September '05) fills that void. With over 1,600 pages, more than 300 illustrations, and over 500 tables, "The TCP/IP Guide details the core protocols that make TCP/IP internetworks function, as well as the most important classic TCP/IP applications. The book's writing style is said to make plain English of the dozens of protocols and technologies that run the Internet, with full coverage of PPP, ARP, IP, IPv6, IP NAT, IPSec, Mobile IP, ICMP, RIP, BGP, TCP, UDP, DNS, DHCP, SNMP, FTP, SMTP, NNTP, HTTP, Telnet, and much more.

Readers can also expect:

The TCP/IP Guide: A Comprehensive, Illustrated Internet Protocols Reference by Charles M. Kozierok. September 2005, 1648 pp., $79.95, ISBN 1-59327-047-X




Dragon Quest VIII to Ship November 22

Square Enix, Inc., the publisher of Square Enix interactive entertainment products in North America, says Dragon Quest VIII - Journey of the Cursed King (PlayStation2 only) will ship to retailers November 22.

The first PlayStation2 title in the Dragon Quest series, VIII is the latest in a franchise that has sold over 40 million units worldwide. Updates for the North American release include: voice-overs, a full-orchestral soundtrack, a renovated GUI menu system, new battle abilities, and improved animations. A bonus disc will also be included with a playable demo of the North American version of FINAL FANTASY XII.

The game showcases the narrative of series creator Yuji Horii, the character designs of manga artist Akira Toriyama, and the orchestral soundtrack of composer Koichi Sugiyama. Charged with the task of uniting their visions, developer Level-5, Inc. delivers a detailed environment and a cel-shaded graphics engine. Squenix describes the result as a living, breathing world straight from Japanese anime, where the shapes on the horizon aren't just scenery, but new places to explore.

(Hype follows): A mysterious jester. A forbidden scepter. A fiendish curse. A once idyllic kingdom lies entangled in a Web of enchanted vines, its king and princess hideously transformed, its castle and subjects frozen in time. Only one person has survived this horror unscathed: you!

Only you can save your king and country by lifting the shadow of the evil jester's curse ... But it won't be easy. An epic tale of friendship, bravery, and adventure awaits you on the grassy fields, snow-capped mountains, and restless seas of Dragon Quest VIII!



Cellufun Announces Beta Space Adventure for Cell Phones

Cellufun, a provider of real-time multi-player games that can be played on existing, older, and next-generation mobile phones, recently announced the availability of the beta version of The Battle for Orion's Belt at http://www.cellufun.com/about/betatest.asp.

The new mobile space adventure game allows up to eight players to battle simultaneously in real time in the dense asteroid fields of Orion's Belt. Players can destroy their enemies, dock at their starbase for repairs and provisions, and play in various death-match and team-play modes. They can also customize their ships and take on specialized roles.

"The Battle for Orion's Belt is not another mindless mobile 'shoot everything free-for-all' game," said Cary Torkelson, chief technology officer, Cellufun. "We have designed this game so players can create groups, or cliques. Players can choose [from] offensive weapons including guided missiles and other defensive capabilities such as shields or an electro-magnetic pulse emitter. To win consistently, cliques will need to learn to balance the makeup of their armadas, and defend their base while attempting to destroy the enemy."

Upon its public release, slated for mid-October 2005, The Battle for Orion's Belt can be downloaded and played for free, with no time restrictions in single-player mode. To access premium game content and features, create custom modifications, participate in game forums, gain advanced levels of play, and set up cliques and play in multi-player mode, gamers will need to sign up for Cellufun's premium-level monthly subscription service, which also includes parental control capabilities.

Along with the Battle for Orion's Belt, Cellufun will unveil several games during its public launch in mid-October including Sudoku, a popular puzzle game. The company is also developing MobilePet Online and Texas Hold'em Poker, as well as additional titles, including Crosswords, Chess and more.



Activision Ships X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse

The epic battle to save humankind rages on with the release of X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, the sequel to the hit title X-Men Legends, for the major consoles and PC (PSP version coming later this fall). The new action-role playing game (RPG) allows gamers to create superhero dream teams featuring X-Men and Brotherhood villains as they unite for the first time to overcome the ultimate evil -- Apocalypse -- and prevent a devastating attack against mankind. The saga unfolds through single-player missions and new online multiplayer modes.

Players create, customize and control teams of four mutants from 16 X-Men and Brotherhood villains from the Marvel Universe. Players switch between teammates wielding more super powers and skills than in X-Men Legends as they overcome obstacles, solve puzzles, and defeat more than 100 types of enemies, including Lady Deathstrike and the notorious Four Horsemen of Apocalypse. Players explore large, destructible environments set in locations such as Genosha and the Infinite Factory, and exotic locales including Egypt and the Savage Lands in both single-player and online multiplayer action including six multiplayer skirmish modes.




Neuroscientist Warner to Keynote Serious Games Summit

Researcher and neuroscientist David Warner will discuss the complex relationship between humans and computers in a keynote address, slated for Nov. 1, 2005, at this year's Serious Games Summit D.C. in Washington D.C. The summit serves as a primary forum for experts within various fields to network, learn and share information about the growing demand for games designed for practical applications.

Titled "Riding the Cutting Edge of Distributed Intelligence," the keynote will help explain how certain methods in serious games design can both increase and streamline the flow of information between people and computers. Warner will attempt to demonstrate that cognitive neuroscience and perceptual psycho-physics are essential elements for designing high-impact practical games.

Warner, director, Institute for Interventional Informatics, has helped pioneer the development and advancement of physiologically based human-computer interaction systems. His research has been devoted to evaluating human functions and multisensory responses in relation to human-computer interaction to design strategies that will fundamentally change the way people relate to computers. Currently, he is examining ways to transfer certain aerospace and defense technologies to the health care and educational fields. Warner obtained his MD and PhD from Loma Linda University. He has been published, and is now working on a new project for the US Armed Forces.




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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