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Public Beta of Houdini 7 Announced

Side Effects Software, developer of the award-winning Houdini family of 3D software, announced the availability of Houdini 7 in public beta. Houdini 7 (THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, SPIDER-MAN 2) contains many significant features that improve workflow for the complete CG pipeline while giving animators, lighting artists and effects artists more freedom to focus on the creative process.

"Faced with an explosion of new shots, each more complex than the last, studios find that their existing CG pipelines aren't scaling to meet the demand," said Dr. Paul Salvini, chief technical officer, Side Effects Software. "Houdini 7 is designed to address these new levels of complexity in all areas of production. Houdini 7 lets studios build pipelines that accomplish more with fewer resources while continuing to deliver high-quality shots."

One of the most crucial parts of the pipeline is the creative process where artists and animators bring a shot to life. In Houdini 7, the new "Take Manager" empowers these artists with the ability to capture and evaluate creative decisions in a single scene file. The resulting "Takes" can then be layered, compared, rendered, merged or deleted. Once a shot has been approved then the chosen takes can be sent directly to the renderer or collapsed back into the scene.

Houdini 7's advanced character rigging tools allow Houdini characters to be easily set up as digital assets that can be seamlessly updated when any part of the character is changed. Technical directors can respond to rigging changes using tools such as Capture Layers, Capture Blending and Attribute Transfer.

"Houdini's character tools are in production at C.O.R.E. right now and we couldn't be happier," says Bob Munroe, President C.O.R.E. Feature Animation. "Our close relationship with Side Effects Software is invaluable and has let us collaborate on a character pipeline that meets the needs of both our rigging and animation teams."

Houdini 7 lets character animators enjoy significant time savings by making important timing decisions in the Flipbook. Animators first create a flipbook out of key poses then use the blocked out poses to re-time the image sequence using the flipbook timeline. Only when the new timing is approved will it be committed to the 3D scene. Houdini's animation workflow also includes a new channel list for access to animatable parameters, dopesheet capabilities in the timeline and many enhancements to the channel editor.

Houdini 7 also includes enhanced RenderMan Support with an interactive shader-building-environment and IPR (Interactive Photorealistic Rendering). This lets artists create RenderMan shaders without relying on programming support. Networks created in the Mantra (VEX) shader builder can be copied and pasted into the RenderMan shader builder to help artists develop their looks more quickly. IPR-based test renderings can then be generated right in your 3D view using RenderMan.

Additional enhancements in Houdini 7 include: a new documentation infrastructure with searching and the ability to load demo files directly from the embedded browser; network boxes that let users structure their procedural networks then collapse them for fast access later; sticky objects that provide a handle for constraining to a surface that has clearly defined UV coordinates; snap to orientation that automatically aligns objects to surfaces; the ability to move translate handles along a perpendicular plane; attribute transfer for particles that offers a new and flexible way of creating directable visual effects; and bundles to create groups out of objects that live at different network levels for use in tasks such as light linking.

To access the Houdini 7 public beta, visit www.sidefx.com and click on the Apprentice Download button. To meet with other Houdini users and find out more about Side Effects Software, you can also register for the Houdini Annual Meeting, which is being held at SIGGRAPH 2004 in Los Angeles on Aug. 8, 2004. During SIGGRAPH, you can also visit Side Effects Software at booth 1328 to see more of Houdini 7.

Established in 1987, Side Effects Software is a world leader in the development of advanced 3D graphics and special effects software for use in film. Side Effects Software leads the field of non-linear animation with its unique, award-winning, Houdini technology. Numerous digital content creation leaders use Houdini, including Digital Domain, Disney Feature Animation, DreamWorks SKG, Electronic Arts, Framestore-CFC, Rhythm & Hues and Sony Pictures Imageworks.

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