Continuing with his reviews of the market's leading graphics cards, John Edgar Park takes on the ATI Fire GL4. This BMW of the graphics card world definitely has its high points.
Rhythm & Hues has made its first investment in motion capture technology -- a dedicated facial capture system from Vicon. Rhythm & Hues plans to use a multiple camera Vicon configuration to develop a facial capture pipeline that will support the creation and animation of CG characters for forthcoming projects. "We have already installed and used our new Vicon system for full-body capture tests with very good results," said Rhythm & Hues visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer.
Digital Production Management (DPM) systems provider NXN Software has begun shipping an upgrade to the NXN alienbrain plug-in for the Softimage|XSI v.2.0 nonlinear animation system (NLA). Using the advanced NetView technology of the XSI system, users can access many of the asset and workflow management features found in NXN alienbrain 5.0 directly from a pop-up window in the Softimage|XSI interface. This will enable users to access, edit, rollback and version control their scenes, textures and animations using NXN alienbrain's secure client/server environment.
Adobe Systems has announced a new Plug-In Power Pack for Adobe After Effects 5.5 incorporating 16 new effects and Advanced Windows Media support. The After Effects 5.5 Plug-In Power Pack works with Adobe After Effects 5.5 software to produce motion graphics and visual effects for film, video, multimedia and the Web. The new Windows Media output module offers a comprehensive set of controls to create Windows Media streaming video content. Users can customize settings, embed metadata, create multi-stream movies and independently optimize audio and video.
At the 2002 NAB show in Las Vegas, Nevada, Discreet announced details of inferno 5, flame 8 and flint 8, the most powerful versions of the company's visual effects software to date. Offering enhanced feature sets, such as mixed resolution support, extended editing capabilities and support for background rendering on Linux, the new releases will also support the FBX file format from Kaydara, creating improved integration of 2D and 3D workflow and extending the 3D model support across different vendors writing with this industry standard.
Is Adobe's After Effects 5.5 upgrade a significant improvement for animators? George Maestri thinks so. Version 5.5 expands on Version 5's introduction of 3D and now contains over 90 different effects.
At the 2002 NAB show in Las Vegas, Nevada, Discreet announced plasma -- its professional 3D animation software for creating 3D content for Web interface, graphics and interactive 3D. Discreet's plasma software will provide a 3D-animation toolset to create imagery for both Macromedia Flash Player and Shockwave Player. plasma has integration with all versions of Macromedia Flash including the recently released Macromedia Flash MX and Macromedia Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio.
Pixar Animation Studios has announced it will release RenderMan Release 11 with support for ray tracing, global illumination and deep shadows. These new features, combined with significant performance gains, represent a major enhancement to the 3D rendering system.
Effective April 4, 2002 worldwide, Alias|Wavefront will drastically reduce the standard list prices of its Maya Complete and Maya Unlimited 3D animation software packages. Maya Complete, formerly priced at US$7,500, will sell for US$1,999 and Maya Unlimited, which formerly sold for US$16,000, will be priced at US$6,999 (list prices for node-locked licenses). Maya is well known for its use in the film, commercial and games industries by companies including Blue Sky Studios, ILM, Sega, Sony Pictures Imageworks and Weta Ltd.
German entertainment company RTV International will introduce the new animated series ROBOROACH at MIPTV 2002. Starring a cockroach superhero named Rube who can morph into almost anything and Reg, Rube's street-smart big brother, the series was inspired by a Japanese newspaper story in which scientists claimed to be able to control cockroaches through implanted computer chips. ROBOROACH is a co-production between RTV Family Entertainment AG, VIDEAL and Portfolio Entertainment. RTV International holds all distribution rights except for North America.
Electric Rain, Inc. has announced an improved solution for incorporating Swift 3D vector animations into projects created in the newly released Macromedia Flash MX. The Swift 3D Importer, which will be accessed through the Macromedia Flash MX menu system, will recognize a new proprietary Swift 3D file format. Currently, the entire Swift 3D product line exports to the Macromedia Flash (SWF) file format. As a compiled format, SWF files inherently limit the type of 3D information able to be imported into Macromedia Flash.
Digimation Inc., publisher and distributor of 3D animation software, has agreed to distribute Exluna's Entropy 3.1 rendering system, which includes an integrated interface for Discreet's 3ds max software. Entropy 3.1 features a hybrid scanline/raytracing architecture and extensive feature list including analytic anti-aliasing, global illumination, sub-pixel displacement, depth of field, caustics, motion blur, comprehensive geometry support and programmable shading with full support for the RenderMan shading language.
Cambridge Animation Systems has released Animo 4.1, a new version of its animation software featuring improved support for 3D data within the company's Scene III module for Director. According to the manufacturer, the new Scene III in Animo 4.1 enables animators to apply a consistent cartoon look to an entire scene that contains both 2D elements created in Animo and 3D models created in Maya or 3D Studio Max software.
Macromedia Flash MX, the latest version of the Macromedia Flash development environment, and Macromedia Flash Player 6 are now available. This upgrade to Flash 5 has over 45 new and enhanced features including new graphic design, pre-built components and templates, a customizable ActionScript editor, timeline enhancements and video support. The integration of video support in Flash MX and Macromedia Flash Player 6 uses the Sorenson Spark codec, enabling users to deliver compressed video as part of Macromedia Flash content and applications.
Alias|Wavefront's "Completely Unlimited" promotion is in effect throughout the month of March 2002 and entitles anyone acquiring a license of Maya Complete to automatically receive an upgrade to Maya Unlimited. Features found only in Maya Unlimited include Maya Fur, Maya Live, Maya Cloth, subdivision surfaces and other advanced modeling functionality. In addition, annual full maintenance packages for Maya Unlimited licenses acquired through the promotion may also be purchased at the cost of Maya Complete full maintenance.
Side Effects Software has released Houdini 5, the newest version of the companys 3D animation and visual effects software and Houdini Select, a lesser-priced selection of the same tools. In conjunction with the launch, Side Effects Software has also made available a free non-commercial, 4-month license of Houdini Select to be offered to individuals attending the launch events. Side Effects Software will be hosting Houdini launch events in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and London featuring guest presenters from effects studios Digital Domain and Rhythm & Hues.
Electric Rain, Inc. has released a special edition of their Swift 3D plug-in line, which includes Swift 3D MAX and Swift 3D LW. This special edition offers an additional rendering format allowing users of Discreet 3ds max and NewTek LightWave 3D to export their scenes to a format that imports natively into USAnimation.
First Alias|Wavefront offers their Maya graphics software for free and now, not to be outdone, Softimage has announced the availability of the SOFTIMAGE|XSI Experience. This free two-CD pack includes the full feature set of the SOFTIMAGE|XSI v.2.0 Advanced system, the complete searchable SOFTIMAGE|XSI v.2.0 Online Documentation Library and a comprehensive video-based training module. The SOFTIMAGE|XSI Experience CD gives unlimited, free access to the company's nonlinear animation system and tools and is available to order from www.softimage.com/experience.
Toon Boom Technologies Inc. has released the Toon Boom Studio Importer (TBSi) for Macromedia Flash MX. TBSi provides integration between Toon Boom Studio and Macromedia Flash MX, resulting in a streamlined workflow for adding interactivity to professional quality 2D animations. And what is this Flash MX you ask? Read on.
Eric Oldrin reviews a new way to create animation for the Web. Toon Boom Studio brings USAnimation's expertise to vector-based animation.
Want to get started creating animation on your own computer? John Edgar Park tells you how to start from scratch. Let's find out how to select and assemble the correct components and then get them working!
Macromedia has unveiled Flash MX, the latest version of its Macromedia Flash development environment. Available March 15, 2002, this upgrade to Flash 5 has over 45 new and enhanced features including new graphic design, pre-built components and templates, a customizable ActionScript editor, timeline enhancements and video support. The integration of video support in Flash MX and Macromedia Flash Player 6 uses the Sorenson Spark codec, which enables designers and developers to deliver compressed video as part of Macromedia Flash content and applications.
Adobe Systems LiveMotion 2.0 software, the company's professional Web graphics and Flash (SWF) animation tool is now available. It debuted at the MacWorld Conference earlier this year. The new version provides expanded content creation features, improved integration with Adobe's Web and dynamic media tools, and new scripting capabilities.
Di-O-Matic's new facial modeling and animation tool Facial Studio for 3ds max 4.x is now shipping. With a regular price tag of US$699, Facial Studio is now available at the introductory price of US$499 until March 25, 2002. Facial Studio is a suite of plug-ins featuring more than 500 controls over the head creation process, allowing the user to deform anything from the facial features to the overall head shape including teeth and tongue, as well as controlling the shading, textures, wrinkles, deformations and muscle animation.
NewTeks Video Toaster 2, a Windows 2000-based live video production environment, is now available. The Video Toaster 2 includes a real-time nonlinear editor, live Web streaming, character generation, 2D painting and compositing, 3D animation and effects, real-time keying, video and audio processing, and a full range of production tools in an integrated package. It retails for US$2995 with a switcher expansion module available for US$1995. The upgrade from Video Toaster 1 is US$495. For more information about the Video Toaster 2s capabilities, visit www.newtek.com.