Technology is moving at breakneck speeds and the computer you just bought is now a mere shadow of its former self. What do you do? Buy an entire new system every five-minutes? We don't think so. Dariush Derakhshani shares how you can help turn back the tide of time.
Hewlett-Packard Co. is rolling out an entry-level workstation based on Intel Corp.'s new 3GHz Pentium 4 microprocessor and accompanying 875P chip set for an industry standard low retail price of $799. The HP Workstation xw4100 enhanced system offers performance acceleration, due to reduced memory access latencies, and hyperthreading technology to efficiently run multiple applications simultaneously and to speed processor-intensive tasks.
Montreal-based Sofitimage, a subsidiary of Avid Technology, is beta testing its next version of its animation tool, SOFTIMAGE|BEHAVIOR v.1.1, and demoing it at NAB 2003 in Las Vegas. The tool is used primarily to create intelligent characters and realistic 3D animated crowds that behave in a natural and believable way. The new version, scheduled for release in June 2003, features support for Linux and many enhancements to the API, making integration with a wide variety of 3D production pipelines easier.
2d3 has made its Professional 3D camera matchmoving software boujou available now for Mac artists and is demonstrating it at the NAB 2003 convention in Las Vegas. boujou for Mac OSX will ship soon with the powerful feature set of boujou 2.1, also available for Windows and Linux operating systems.
Animated 3D graphics continues to be an important part of how news organizations are explaining events of the war in Iraq. Recently AWN offered a look at how CNN uses animation (Animation Goes To War, March 27, 2003) and the tools its graphics team uses. Fox News Channel also extensively uses 3D animation with a different toolset. Animator Michael Galbavy said they create terrain starting with Curious Software. This data is outputted in two ways:1) as a polygonal mesh with a high resolution texture map.
Boris FX, a leading developer of integrated effects technology for video and film production, will be showing the next version of its award-winning application, Boris RED at the NAB 2003 convention in Las Vegas. Boris RED 3GL, an integrated 3D compositing, titling and effects application now implements OpenGL, delivering unprecedented performance at an affordable price to more than 20 nonlinear editing applications, according to Boris Yamnitsky, founder/president of Boris FX. The new compositing software also features more than 30 dynamic new filters, tools and technologies.
IBM will manufacture next-generation graphics chips for NVIDIA, winning business away from NVIDIA's long-time partner, Taiwan's TSMC. IBM Corp. and NVIDIA have formed a multi-year strategic alliance, giving NVIDIA access to IBM's comprehensive suite of foundry services and manufacturing technologies, all the tools to help advance its graphics processor units. IBM will begin producing the next generation GeForce graphics processor this summer at IB in at its plant in East Fishkill, New York. The $2.5 billion chip-making facility combines IBM breakthroughs such as copper interconnects, silicon-on-insulator (SOI) transistors and low-k dielectric insulation 300mm wafers. Some industry observers suggest that IBM may be using in-house know-how to edge out subcontractors that do not design products of their own. For more on IBM go to www.ibm.com/chips and for info. On NVIDIA's visit www.nvidia.com.
Noticed those amazing 3D graphics and animation CNN has been using in its coverage of the war in Iraq? AWN was able to get some questions answered about how they're done from Mike Kraft, director of graphics at CNN USA and his beleaguered department pounding out the images round the clock, seven days a week.
AWN: How do you create the terrain do you do it in-house, with what tools?
Toon Boom released its latest version of USAnimation with improved features and a new name to distinguish one of the most widely used 2D animation softwares in the world. USAnimation OPUS features a new user interface for users to configure layouts to suit their own workflow preferences. Camera, Xsheet, Paint and Scene Planning functions have been merged into one Universal Stage Module. "Our next generation of vector technology allows more functionality and increases quality of the work," said Joan Vogelesang, Toom Boon Technologies' COO.
Eovia Corporation (www.eovia.com) has released Amapi Designer 7, a completely new version of its popular 3D modeling tool. Whats newsworthy is the availability in native versions for both for Mac (OS 9 and OS X) and Windows (2000 and XP), a new real-time 3D display engine, unlimited dynamic geometry, and a cool new clone modeling tool useful for creating crowds of critters.
Maxon has released Cinema 4D R8.1, an update of its modeling, rendering and animation software, which is free to download for all owners of Cinema 4D R8. New features include HDRI and new particle effects. Full support for HDRI (High Dynamic Range Imagery) is an eagerly awaited improvement to the Advanced Render module, according to Paul Babb, Maxon CEO. This new feature enables users to take full advantage of special 96-bit HDRI photographs, which represent the complete brightness range of the environment they were taken in.
The Lord of the Rings' Gollum is one of the most talked about performances of the year. Greg Singer goes behind the scenes with the Weta crew to see how they brought this pathetic creature to life over the course of three years.
2d3's boujou software makes tracking shots where natural and CG elements need to be combined, much easier than hand tracking. Here's what three studios have to say about the product and how it fits into their pipeline.
Building on their earlier achievements, the creature and visual effects teams of Weta, Ltd. are bringing to life The Lord of the Rings trilogy with work that is blowing the industry away and garnering awards at every turn. Greg Singer reports.
Kaydara Inc. is offering a free FBX-XSI plug-in to give users a seamless pathway to exchange 3D data between SOFTIMAGE|XSI, Kaydara MOTIONBUILDER and other Kaydara FBX partners. Kaydara's FBX is the most widely used 3D file interchange format (especially when working with motion-capture) for content creators wishing to acquire, author and re-purpose 3D and mixed media data.
Vicon, a leading developer in motion-capture, announced a new optical motion-capture solution for smaller production facilities and independent game developers via the new Vcam Optical Motion Capture Solution. It combines Vicon's newest camera, the VCam, with the Vicon 6 system and Vicon iQ software to users who need to deliver large quantities of character animation without a dedicated motion capture team or large studio space. Prices for Vicon V6 VCam systems start at $60,000.
3Dlabs is adding PCI Express to its Wildcat graphics accelerators to help users take advantage of the improved CPU processing power and interconnect bandwidth of the new industry interconnect standard. "PCI Express is enabling us to design VPUs [visual processor units] that complement the enhanced system capabilities to raise the bar for workstation productivity," said Neil Trevett, SVP of market development for 3Dlabs. He said his company will be working closely with Intel on its PCI Express enabled adapters.
A free version of Softimage's 3D nonlinear production software SOFTIMAGE|XSI v.3.0 designed for training purposes, is available to download for use with the Microsoft Windows XP and Windows 2000 platforms. The upgrade to SOFTIMAGE|XSI v.2.0 Experience CD, offers a wider range of capabilities for both professionals and 3D novices.
Motion tracking manufacturer Ascension Technology has hired the entire staff of Internav, Inc., an Essex Junction, Vermont company, which dissolved at the end of 2002. Established in 1997, Internav develops highly innovative magnetic tracking devices for medical clientele. Ascension acquired the Internav team to increase its skill sets for developing new tracking devices. Ascension trackers are widely used to capture ultrasonic image planes for making 3D images of organs, to guide instruments to targets within the human body, and to provide viewpoint control in medical training devices.
NXN Software's alienbrain VFX digital asset and production management system is now being implemented by Sony Pictures Imageworks for the production of visual effects, digital character animation and full-length CG motion pictures including the upcoming films THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and THE POLAR EXPRESS. Sony Pictures Imageworks has deployed NXN alienbrain VFX studio-wide to track motion-capture data, 3D models, rendered film clips and digitized live-action plates in upcoming productions.
Following Discreet's recent announcement of the releases of flint and flame v.8 and inferno v.5, The Foundry has ported its Tinder plug-in suite to accommodate the system changes in the new versions. Tinder for Discreet is a set of visual effect plug-ins including effects such as Lightning, BadTV and OldFilm. Tinder 4.2 also has the added bonus of major speed enhancements, with some plug-ins working up to 250% faster than in the previous version.
Interactive media technologies developer Pulse has incorporated ProductionSync and InstantSync, from California-based Automatic Sync Technologies, into Pulse Veepers 3.0, the latest version of Pulse's virtual character creation software. With ProductionSync and InstantSync technology, interactive 3D characters created in Pulse Veepers instantly include full lip-synchronization functionality.
Toon Boom Studio V2 is an affordable 2D animation software that takes animators on a smooth ride to create projects for the Web, video, wireless and more.
NewTek's Video Toaster will now come bundled with BOXX Technologies' award-winning 3DBOXX workstation. Video Toaster  is a Windows 2000-based product that processes uncompressed video in real-time and includes live keying, Internet streaming, real-time nonlinear editing, character generation, video painting and compositing, 3D animation, audio and video processing.
Recognizing the need for a file format that could serve as the industry standard, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) has launched its previously proprietary extended dynamic range image file format OpenEXR to the open source community. It is available at www.openexr.net. "Historically, the visual effects community and the motion picture industry have benefited from the creation of standards," said Jim Morris, president of Lucas Digital. "OpenEXR is yet another step in this direction.