VFX supervisors from three top houses explain why they depend on Houdini for modeling, rendering and animation.
Vicon reported record sales of new and upgraded motion capture systems at the close of the first half of fiscal year 2003. The impressive sales figures included new system installs at customer sites worldwide in biomechanics, medicine, film, VFX, game development, broadcast, education, engineering and government market sectors. The sales period, tallied through March 2003, represents the best six months in the U.K.-based company's history.
In August, Apple launches the world's fastest personal computer with the Power Mac G5, featuring the first 64-bit desktop processor and the industry's initial 1 GHz front-side bus. Powered by the revolutionary PowerPC G5 processor designed by IBM and Apple, the Power Mac G5 is the first personal computer to utilize 64-bit processing technology for unprecedented memory expansion (up to 8GB) and advanced 64-bit computation, while running existing 32-bit applications natively.
For Pixar's fifth feature, they digitally conquered the complex look and feel of the underwater world, with its undulating water and beautiful fish and plant life.
21st Century Media will supply the video encoding services for the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), held June 23-27, 2003 in San Francisco, relying on Discreet cleaner 6 software to encode the 180 conference sessions. The WWDC sessions will be streamed in QuickTime MPEG-4 format from the Apple Developer Connection Television site, and will also be made available in a DVD-ROM box set.
Anzovin Studio has introduced The Setup Machine for Maya 5.0, a character rigging plug-in fully compatible with the latest version of Alias|Wavefront's Maya animation environment. The Setup Machine for Maya 5.0 is downloadable for $149. Site licenses are available. The Setup Machine for Maya can be ordered from www.anzovin.com/setupmachine/setupmachinemaya.html.
Discreet has teamed up with Criterion Software to deliver new solutions specifically aimed at improving the game development pipeline between Discreet's 3ds max and Criterion's RenderWare software.
Both companies will collaborate on integrating the 3D content creation process with "on-target viewing" capabilities, allowing game developers to preview content on multiple game console platforms. Artists and developers should benefit from improved efficiencies in the development pipeline for console and mobile games.
RenderMan Pro Server, a new software package featuring an upgraded version of Pixar Animation Studios' RenderMan 3D rendering software (version 11.5), will be released in July, 2003 and repriced at $3,500. The new release showcases increased rendering performance indicative of the studio's recent work with FINDING NEMO. Complex scenes using subtle lighting effects should see significant gains, and a new rendering mode boosts throughput by automatically harnessing the full power of modern multi-processor systems.
Pixar's RenderMan Pro Server Components:
Final Cut Pro 4, the next generation of Apple's Emmy award-winning editing software, will go on sale June 14, 2003 at 4:00 pm at participating Apple stores (www.apple.com). The suggested price is $999. Registered Final Cut Pro users can upgrade to Final Cut Pro 4 for $399.
Utah-based Strata once again makes it easier for designers, illustrators and animators to create high quality content with Strata 3Dpro3.8, which runs on Windows 98, Me and XP as well as Apple's OSX.
New features include:_ Photon light refraction and reflection_ Stochastic sampling for enhanced realism in Raydiosity?_ Toon rendering for quick, high quality cartoon images_ Enhanced deform for modeling and animation effects_ Jiggle enhancements for more realistic motion_ Power user features for streamlined workflow
SplutterFish LLC, has developed a bitmap I/O plug-in for use in Discreet's 3ds max and Autodesk Viz, in support of OpenEXR, a new open-source, high-dynamic-range image file format developed by Industrial Light & Magic.
In a further coup for German software giant Mental Images, DreamWorks will utilize its Academy Award-winning mental ray rendering program on the upcoming underwater gangster comedy SHARKSLAYER, due in theaters in 2004.
A direct competitor to Pixar's heralded RenderMan, mental ray now becomes a significant part of DreamWorks' rendering pipeline for SHARKSLAYER, the first computer-animated feature produced entirely at DreamWorks Animation facility in Glendale, Calif. DreamWorks began utilizing mental ray as part of its production process following rigorous tests in 2002.
Rhythm & Hues and Cinesite Hollywood used Side Effects Software's Houdini to create effects in the summer blockbuster X2: X-MEN UNITED. For example, Rhythm & Hues used Houdini and Houdini Mantra to animate and render chunks of snow and tree debris flying around the X-Jet in a scene where the plane flies through the woods. In addition, Rhythm & Hues artists were able to control water sources and turbulent current effects as well as the falling shards of shattered glass. For the X-Jet, they added engine thrusts, heat distortion and dust.
A look at the recent E3 conference shows that Bionatics' natFX software is being used with 3ds max or Maya by five of the top gaming firms: Ubisoft, Lucas Arts, Eidos, Electronic Arts and Atari. The one-year-old plant modeler has been used on such games as RAVENSHIELD, RAINBOWSIX 3, DEUS EX II, MEDAL OF HONOR: RISING SUN AND RTX: REDROCK 2. Bionatics announced that 22 more games will utilize the software within the next year.
As a companion to its popular 2D animation software, Toonz, utilized on the Oscar-winning SPIRITED AWAY, Digital Video premieres its new paperless software, TAB, at MIFA 2003. More suited to animation than graphic design, TAB is intended to streamline computer-based cartoon production with speed and power.
Anark Corp. unveils Anark Studio 2, the newest version of the company's multimedia authoring software. Anark Studio 2 features several product enhancements, including an upgraded timeline includes scalability, filters and a redesigned inspector palette. With the addition of Anark Player 2 and Anark Client 2, users can create Macintosh OSX files, allowing them delivery to both the Mac and PC. The update also features a screensaver export option for the creation of standalone, interactive 3D screensavers. In addition, the projector export allows for the production of standalone CD-ROM/DVD-ROMs.
Wildform, creators of video and animation software, have released Wild fx 3.0, a major upgrade to its Flash text animation software, previously sold under the name SWfX. The new version has more than 100 new effects, including 45 that are infinitely customizable. These custom effects can also be used as templates to create new effects, which can be saved and added to the Wild fx library. All the effects can be moved, deleted and organized in a drag and drop folder tree.
Particle effects software producer wondertouch has announced the release of particleillusion 3.0, a major upgrade and expansion of the company's cornerstone 2D, sprite-based application. Animators who haven't used particleillusion yet have certainly seen the results it's facilitated, in many features such as BEHIND ENEMY LINES, DREAMCATCHER, HART'S WAR, GHOST SHIP, THE CORE AND SWORDFISH, as well as in TV shows including STAR TREK VOYAGER and THAT 70'S SHOW, and in numerous commercials.
Discreet has made available a new Particle Flow Extension software for 3ds max customers registered under the Discreet Subscription Program, a component of the Autodesk Subscription Program. Discreet subscribers can use the new tool integrated into 3ds max software to create realistic fountains, fog, snow, splashes, contrails, explosions and other environmental effects. Along with standard maintenance downloads, subscriber program members receive valuable software "extensions," online learning tools, and specialized educational material.
Discreet, a division of Autodesk, Inc. will be at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles May 1416, 2003 to showcase its 3D animation, modeling, character design, rendering and game modification software and integrated partner software demonstrations. Discreet will also share educational "how to" sessions in its private suite, regarding rapid game development for PC, PlayStation, Xbox, GameCube, and mobile games, the focus of the convention this year. The mobile games burgeoning market is predicted to reach more than $2 billion by 2004 and $7 billion by 2008 (Strategy Analytics, Inc. 2003 report). Discreet will also illustrate how its software is an effective bridge between Hollywood visual effects for motion pictures and the video game market, with market share in both industries.
HP has announced the availability of its Itanium 2-based workstations running with the new Microsoft Windows XP 64-bit Edition Version 2003. This is expected to lead to the development of a large number of 64-bit applications for areas such as 3D animation, CAD/CAM and imagery analysis.
Side Effects Software has released Houdini 6, the latest version of the procedural modeling and animation software that garnered a Scientific and Engineering Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences this year. Houdini Apprentice users can also download a free non-commercial version of Houdini 6, including all-new training materials at www.sidefx.com.
Sony Pictures Digital has purchased all of the desktop software products and related assets of Sonic Foundry, Inc. for $18 million cash and assumption of certain trade payables, accrued liabilities and capital leases associated with the desktop software business.
GenArts, Inc., a leading provider of digital visual effects plug-ins, is offering a $1,000 discount for Sapphire Plug-ins on Avid Xpress DV. Throughout the month of May 2003, the price tag for the entire package of Sapphire Plug-ins for Avid Xpress DV has been reduced to $1,800 when ordered by May 31, 2003. To find out more about this special offer, please visit the GenArts Website at web.genarts.com.