Once again, a popular 3D-animation software is being made available at a reduced price. In April 2002, Alias|Wavefront discounted its Maya 3D animation software packages and now Softimage Co. has halved the price of its 3D character animation and effects software. SOFTIMAGE|3D v. 4.0 is now available for US$1,495. According to Softimage, this action is in response to the increasing demand for animation and effects content for use in areas such as graphic and architectural design, manufacturing, government/military, scientific/medical and the location-based entertainment markets.
Animation Toolworks has introduced its new MultiReel option to the LunchBox Sync, the electronic audio-video device for animators. The MultiReel option offers at least 18 separate storage areas, or reels, with each one giving the user as much storage as the standard LunchBox Sync. In addition, each reel is protected from editing any other reels, making MultiReel a good option for multiple shots or scenes, demo reels or separate animation projects. The LunchBox Sync with the MultiReel option can store over 120 minutes of video and over 1000 minutes of audio.
HP's Linux-based technology played a major role in the production of DreamWorks' latest animated film SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON. According to HP, placing Linux in the hands of traditional animators allowed for the seamless blend of 2D and 3D animation, a format that DreamWorks is calling "tradigital" animation. During the making of the film, HP engineers worked closely with DreamWorks to enhance the functionality of Linux to power ToonShooter, DreamWorks' proprietary 2D animation software.
Toon Boom has released an upgrade to their Toon Boom Studio 2D animation solution for the Web. Like Version 1, the Toon Boom Studio V2 camera tool allows the user to approach the project cinematically, choreographing a production within the computer in a virtual 3D environment. Other upgrades in V2 include enhanced lip-synching tools and compatibility with Macromedia Flash MX, with a swf importer and the Toon Boom Studio Importer for Macromedia Flash MX.
Kaydara Inc. has announced the upcoming release of Motionbuilder 4.0, a new generation of its real-time 3D character animation software previously named FiLMBOX animation. Featuring a new drag-and-drop workflow, Motionbuilder 4.0 builds on the FiLMBOX foundation by enhancing various tools as well as introducing new character animation features for increased productivity. New feature highlights in Motionbuilder include automatic character rigging, a powerful real-time lip-sync tool, real-time display and native support for Kaydara's FBX file interchange.
Spider-Man is getting the 3D treatment on the page as well as the big screen. A series of comic books from Marvel Comics entitled SPIDER-MAN: QUALITY OF LIFE, with artwork created in 3D CGI, have recently hit the shelves. For Spidey's transformation from 2D to 3D character, animators at Blue Dream Studios used 3D Studio Max on a 3DBOXX S3 dual 2.2GHz Intel Xeon workstation with an NVIDIA 900 XGL graphics card.
Side Effects Software has announced the upcoming version 5.5 release of their Houdini 3D software. Currently in beta testing, Houdini 5.5 includes a host of new features including VOPs, a powerful, interactive node-based shader and effects builder. Houdini 5.5 also features an expanded Shader Gallery, a new compositor, a drag-and-drop interface, simplified installation and keying, and enhanced character and animation tools.
San Francisco-based Pulse Entertainment has released Pulse Veepers, a virtual character creation software. Pulse Veepers was designed to allow e-learning systems designers and corporate training departments, among others, to build, deploy and update interactive characters without requiring programming, animation, 3D modeling or authoring expertise. Beginning with a single 2D image, Veepers users then select data points with their mouse to designate key areas of the Veepers subject's face.
TELETUBBIES producer Ragdoll has entered into a strategic partnership with Toys "R" Us, in which the two will work together to introduce a new line of TELETUBBIES merchandise. Under the terms of the agreement, Toys "R" Us will be the exclusive retailer for all new TELETUBBIES plush items sold in the U.S. and Canada for 2002-2003. The new line of TELETUBBIES plush product will make its exclusive debut at Toys "R" Us stores and on-line at Toysrus.com this fall. Ragdoll has a broadcast arrangement for TELETUBBIES with PBS through 2008.
Toon Boom Technologies has launched Toon Boom Studio version 1.2 optimized for Mac OS X version 10.1. For this release, Toon Boom Studio was re-tooled so that it can be localized for an international audience following the release of Toon Boom Studio v1.2j for the Japanese market in March 2002. This release also includes some improvements to the workflow. Toon Boom Studio's cinematic camera capabilities are part of a complete suite of drawing, coloring, sound editing and compositing tools, aimed at enabling animators to produce 2D animation for the Web and for broadcast.
DigiCel, Inc. has released the latest version of its 2D animation software, FlipBook version 3.1. This newest version adds curved path, multi-plane camera moves and xsheet printing to the features that are part of version 3.0, released in February 2002. Version 3 features include more speed, master color palettes, color models and copy and paste between scenes. Version 3.1 is available as a free upgrade to all customers currently using version 3. For more information visit the DigiCel Website at www.digicelinc.com.
Bionatics is now offering its 3D plant simulation and animation natFX1.1 plug-in for Maya at 30 percent off its retail market price. Bionatics with Alias|Wavefront is running this limited time offer until June 30, 2002 for new and existing customers. natFX tightly integrates into Maya enabling users to animate every aspect of the plant, while the plug-in's level of detail reduce polygon count while maintaining a richly textured plant.
dvGarage, Electric Image and TheForce.net are bringing free 3D to the masses by offering a new trial version of the 3D Toolkit including the Electric Image Universe: 3D Toolkit Version, which saves and renders, without watermarks, for 30 days. In order to train users quickly, the trial version also includes 11 of dvGarage's tutorials, designed to get users familiar with the important aspects of using 3D software.
Motion capture systems developer Vicon has shipped their latest, most powerful mo-cap camera MCam2. With 1.3 million pixels and frame rates of up to 1000 frames per second, MCam2 builds on the success of MCam, the motion-capture industry's first million-pixel camera. More than 1500 MCams have been installed by Vicon users such as ILM, Sony Computer Entertainment of America (SCEA) and House of Moves.
Graphics studio and publisher Marlin Studios released PEOPLE N MOTION, two new libraries in its series of texture libraries created for use by 2D and 3D graphics artists. The texture maps can be used in any 3D program that makes use of animated textures, and can be composited onto backgrounds in 2D programs. No special software is required beyond the user's particular 2D or 3D program. Each PEOPLE N MOTION library has a set of sequential animation files that allows the graphics user to create the illusion of moving or standing people.
Adobe Photoshop 7.0, the latest version of Adobe's image-editing software, is now available. Major enhancements to the new version include the File Browser, an image organization tool that allows users to browse image thumbnails, quickly rotate, sort, rank and batch rename images as well as view EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) information from digital cameras. The new Healing Brush feature simplifies the photo retouching process by allowing users to remove flaws while preserving the shading, lighting and texture of the original image.
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.