At Pixar, Renderman NT is shipping, making the popular rendering software used in most visual effects films available to a much larger user base. However, Larry Gritz, developer of BMRT (available for download at www.bmrt.org/), the shareware rendering software most recently utilized in HOLLOW MAN and THE CELL, and co-author of ADVANCED RENDERMAN: CREATING CGI FOR MOTION PICTURES, is no longer with Pixar, though the hope is BMRT development will continue.
At the Ottawa International Animation Festival, Animation Toolworks introduced a completely new electronic audio-video device for animators, the LunchBox Sync. The LunchBox Sync is a successor to their Video LunchBox, which enables animators to test their work in progress instantly and eliminate time-consuming errors by monitoring pacing, lighting, audio synchronization and registration. The LunchBox Sync captures still images from a video camera and plays back this sequence of images at the same rate as film or television.
SGI, once the forefront graphic workstation provider, is trying to regain past success, by recently acquiring Intergraph, releasing Open Source Inventor and embracing Linux. The company is hopeful this approach to open source will lead to more interest in SGI's software portfolio. The Intergraph acquisition will allow SGI a more competitive stance in the PC workstation arena. The hope is these moves will lead to a viable turnaround path for further success and profitability. To learn more about SGIs products visit their Website.
Fluid dynamics has been an emerging technique in CG, with several productions utilizing dynamics in features such as PERFECT STORM and U-571 and several software companies, like Alias and Realflow, are developing fluid software. Is applying dynamics to forestry and foliage, for natural wind and lifelike shadowing effects, the next application to use natural physical dynamics? We'll see. . .
High Dynamic Range Imaging is quickly becoming a prevalent digital technique. The ability to light quickly to live-action footage with such accuracy and quality is unmatched by any other technique. Lightwave has already incorporated HDRI into its latest release. Which other packages will follow suit? Rendering with HDRI is time consuming, but will the strong points overcome the deficits? The high quality results of THE MATRIX work by Manex, and the James Brown project, FUNK BLAST by Digital Domain suggest much more work in HDRI will be created as CPU's gain speed and the software evolves.
Messiah, the plug-in softbody and character module for Lightwave, has developed a stand alone package, messiah:studio, that should prove to be strong competition to 3D software packages. With Renderman capabilities, a low price tag (US$1600), softbodies for creating cloth and realistic characters, inverse kinematics for simplified animation, and radiosity for realistic rendering, it will be interesting to see how other packages react to messiah's strengths.
This year's SIGGRAPH keynote address was given by scientist, inventor and visionary Ray Kurzweil, who discussed "The Human-Machine Merger: Why We Will Spend Most of Our Time in Virtual Reality in the 21st Century." Sound farfetched? Then take a look at Eyetronics' ShapeSnatcher demonstration.
So you want to get into this Internet game? Two of AtomStudios' animators, Kwesi Ako Kennedy and James Dalby, not only tell you how, but offer tips for success.
Flash is the leading tool for Internet animation, but there are a few other options for production and augmentation. Here industry leaders reveal their secrets from high tech 3D software to good, old-fashioned talent.
Think those feature film software packages don't apply to comic book production? Think again. Joseph Szadkowski reveals the amazing meshing of production tools that is happening across many media.
Using proprietary motion-capture software and creative partnerships, Protozoas DotComix is quickly becoming a force on the Internet. Lee Dannacher offers an inside peak.
Autonomous Effects recently released a new version of their SceneGenie plug-in suite for match-moving and combining live-action footage with CGI. The new version is available now, and boasts features like 3D tracking, an easy to use interface, faster tracking tools, optimizations and much more. Priced at US$995, SceneGenie 1.2 is available as a plug-in for 3D Studio MAX 2.5, 3.0 and 3.1.
At the Apple World Wide Developers Conference Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, announced that Alias|Wavefront would be bringing out a version of Maya 3 for the Apple MAC OS X platform. Until now, Maya has only been available for high-end workstations including Windows NT and IRIX. This announcement is a significant one for both Apple and Alias|Wavefront, as well as for MAC users. Apple is poising Maya as the "premier 3D application for the MAC." With Newtek's Lightwave  as its only real competitor, Alias|Wavefront's flagship product will probably turn out to be just that.
Heather Kenyon reveals that whether used by established filmmakers or up-and-coming youngsters, the Internet is proving to be a very versatile tool helping everyone gain a little more freedom and independence.
Alias|Wavefront announced this week that the fifth major release of their Maya next-generation animation software will feature a universal rendering policy that enables Maya Complete and Maya Unlimited to "float" the Maya Batch Renderer across any number of machines. This new announcement furthers Alias|Wavefront's aim at synergy between all of Maya's tools throughout the production and post-production process and Alias|Wavefront's earlier announcement that Maya 3 will feature a new Trax compositing system further backs up this position.
At NAB this week MAXON released the new version of their flagship 3D animation software, Cinema 4D XL. Version 6 features masses of new features and improvements, ranging from a new non-linear construction history, to particle effects and motion sequencing. The new version also takes advantage of Intel's Pentium III and Motorola's G4 processors which makes workflow much faster than in previous versions. The new software is shipping now and upgrades cost $495 US for registered users.
Discreet, the producers of high-end 3D and 2D computer graphics tools this week launched their new unified paint, animation and 3D visual effects system: combustion*. The Macintosh and Windows NT-based system offers a single, unified paint, animation and 3D-compositing environment for visual effects creation. combustion* features Academy Award-winning technology from inferno* and an extremely fast caching architecture for igniting the desktops and creative imaginations of digital visual effects artists world wide.
Boris FX, the producer of high-end compositing and effects technology recently launched a new titling plug-in called Boris Graffiti. Based on the powerful text animation engine found in Boris RED, Boris Graffiti allows editors to create complex 2D and 3D animated titles within their already familiar non-linear editing system.
REALVIZ has announced a new application, ReTimer 2.0, that can be used to change the speed or length of any motion sequence in post-production. ReTimer utilizes a revolutionary method for creating highly accurate new frames between frames that were actually shot, and can also be used to subtract frames to shorten a sequence realistically. ReTimer automatically creates any number of new frames through an accurate warping technique developed by INRIA, the renowned French Research Lab that is a technology partner to REALVIZ.
Lee Dannacher goes behind the scenes at shockwave.com, Macromedias spin-off entertainment destination, which is now defining the front edge of seriously fun web animation and interactive fare.
India-based company Colorfront has announced the release of their high-end colour correction tool color*star. color*star is the industry's first plug-in for digital film grading, advanced selective colour correction and creative look-creation running on Discreet's high-end visual effects and editing systems. The plug-in currently runs on inferno*, flame*, flint*, effect* on O2, fire* and smoke* systems from Discreet. Colorfront has recognized the convergence of film, HDTV and video to the 1080p/24 Universal Mastering solution and have standardized color*star's workflow in this format.
SOFTIMAGE, the producers of popular 3D tool SOFTIMAGE|3D, announced that their eagerly anticipated next-generation 3D system code-named Sumatra has been given a name. Sumatra is to be released simply as SOFTIMAGE|XSI - a very humble and straight-forward name, but an effective one all the same. Why SOFTIMAGE|XSI? Unfortunately there's no funny story as to why SOFTIMAGE chose this name, it is simply the file extension of SOFTIMAGE's interactive media format.
High-end 3D software developer Alias|Wavefront began shipping Maya Fusion 2 last week. Maya Fusion is Maya's NT-based compositing and effects software, which is integrated within the Maya UI to give artists the power to combine their live action footage with their Maya CG elements realistically.
During the week of March 6, 2000, NewTek began shipping the eagerly anticipated Windows NT versions of LightWave . This is NewTek's most significant upgrade to LightWave in 10 years, and the new upgrade features advanced modeling tools, groundbreaking rendering capabilities, advanced character animation features and a refined working environment. The new version boasts more features than we could possibly list.
SOFTIMAGE has announced that the latest upgrade to their flagship SOFTIMAGE|3D animation system was available for download from their Web site. This upgrade represents a milestone for SOFTIMAGE, as it is the first upgrade the company has chosen to distribute on-line (rather than wait 6-8 weeks for reproduction, duplication and distribution).