Issue: Volume: 29 Issue: 5 (May 2006)

Products - 5/06


Postproduction
Autodesk Paints a Full Picture
Autodesk revealed its latest media and entertainment technology, designed to help broadcasters, post production facilities, and film and broadcast production companies realize their creative ideas. Autodesk’s NAB2006 show theme was“Creating the Whole Picture,”and under this banner the company demonstrated its vast product line for crafting movies, video games, television content, or architectural designs.
 
 
Among the product announcements was Autodesk Toxik 2007, collaborative digital compositing software for film production, including a Paint system that allows interactive painting of high-resolution, HDR imagery. The company also unveiled its Discreet Inferno VFX system for the Linux operating system. And, it showcased10-bit RGB versions of its Discreet Flint visual effects system and the Discreet Smoke editing system.
 
Additionally, Autodesk revealed that Motion Builder 7.5, character animation software acquired from Alias, features new key frame-centric work flows that streamline key frame animation.
 
It also demonstrated the Discreet Flame VFX system, Combustion desktop VFX soft ware, Incinerator functionality (which in -creases the real-time performance and interactivity of the Discreet Lustre digital color-grading system), and 3ds Maxanimation software. Autodesk also provided a look into its future technology through interoperability between Mayaand Toxik, and more.
 
Workstation
Thinking Outside the Boxx for High Performance
Boxx Technologies, developer and manufacturer of high performance workstations and render nodes, is now shipping its Boxx Apexx 8, a personal workstation specifically designed to maximize productivity of professional VFX content creators. With an unprecedented eight dual-core AMD Opteron processors, this new super-workstation is capable of working in full 2K film resolution and has enough memory (up to 128GB)to work in real time on extremely large files.
With performance across 16 processing cores, the Apexx8 offers a level of graphics computing previously only attainable on high-end Unix/RISC-based workstations. Featuring next-generation hyper-transport technology and integrated memory controllers in each dual-core AMD Opteron processor, Apexx 8 delivers scales across 16 cores;its 128GB of memory plus fast data interconnect between CPUs make it one of the fastest 64-bit graphics workstations currently available. The Apexx 8’s system architecture is delivered in a quiet and compact tower chassis that can accommodate a range of storage configurations, including 7TBand more of local storage for instant access to large CG files and fast I/O for high-bandwidth add-on cards. Apexx 8 is available now. Pricing varies depends on system configuration.
 
Management
Avid Intros Interplay, Media Composer Systems
Avid made two notable announcements at the NAB show. First, the company introduced Avid Interplay, a nonlinear work flow engine for managing assets, and second, it debuted a Media Composer product facility with work flow intelligence features.
 
The focus of Avid Interplay is to solve complex tasks. To this end, the solution fuses integrated asset management, work flow automation, and security control into a single system. While Interplay is focused on the Avid production environment, it can also manage 100 other media and non media file types. The management solution is embedded within the system, so editors don’t have to leave their creative environment. The core is a client/server engine that works with any Avid Unity Media Network family of shared-storage solutions to form the backbone of an interoperable media production environment. Interplay monitors the status of components and can be configured with Transcode, a service for creating various resolutions or proxies. Because all the Avid Interplay tools can work with any resolution, and projects maintain links to any file variation, the process of switching between resolutions becomes simplified.
 
 
A base system can be configured for a facility with a number of Avid NLEs and a Unity system already in place for about$18,000, and that includes the Interplay server, which consists of a PC running software on the network and five licenses. Meanwhile, the new family of Media Composers feature work flow intelligence. Media Composer 2.5 with Interplay offers a live window into the asset management system of Interplay. Users can see all Avid media and can track the media as it evolves throughout the facility.
 
The company is offering a software-only version of Media Composer for desktops and laptops with a full set of HD creative tools for both PC and Mac users. The release is optimized for multi-core systems and lacks only the I/O and acceleration found in dedicated Media Composer systems. Additional Avid announcements included a new member of the DNA family:Avid Mojo SDI, a big brother to the original Mojo. The system offers a portable serial digital interface I/O device, a compact form factor, and FireWire connectivity; it can be added to the software-only Media Composer or Avid’s XpressPro editing tool.
 
At the high end, Avid’s Media Composer Adrenaline with Avid DNxcel now lets both Mac and PC users encode video to10-bit or 8-bit Avid DNxHD.Pricing for the software-only Media Composer is $4995.
 
Acquisition
Eovia Dazzles Daz
Daz Productions, developer of professional3D models and software, last month acquired Eovia, developer and publisher of 3D animation, modeling, and rendering solutions. Daz has taken ownership of Eovia and all the technology rights to Carrara, Eovia’s 3D modeling, animation, and rendering software. Daz has also acquired all the technology rights to Hexagon, Eovia’s 3D modeling software from Eovia Europe SA, though Daz is not acquiring Eovia Europe SA.
 
“This move provides an important step forward in achieving our vision to expand the 3D market to the masses by providing high-quality 3D software that is economical and easy to use,” says Dan Farr, Daz president. “By bringing together Carrara and Hexagonwith the Bryce, Mimic, and DazStudio solutions, we will provide a compelling suite of 3D software tools with a unified vision.”
 
The combination of Daz and Eovia will provide customers with a powerful set of solutions for creating, managing, and rendering compelling3D media. This unification will allow the products to grow into new markets.
 
Eovia and Daz have been partners since 2004, when Eovia became the exclusive representative for all Daz products in Europe. This acquisition, though, binds the products by marriage.
 
Following the acquisition, the company announced that it is now shipping Hexagon 2, the first of the acquired products from Eovia. As a special introductory offer, Daz has priced the product at$1.99 (correct price) for Platinum Clubmembers. The list price is $269.
 
 
Aiming High
A number of offerings specific to the digital content creation industry received an NAB Award for Innovation in Media (AIM). The awards are presented to companies whose products garnered the most votes by show attendees for exhibiting technical innovations that best address the current and upcoming issues in the electronic media industry by boosting efficiency, increasing user flexibility and creativity, and lowering cost. The top five products within the Content Creation, Content Management, and Content Delivery categories received this recognition. In the Content Creation category, Adobe’s Production Suite, Apple’s Final Cut Studio, and Autodesk Media and Entertainment’s Maya were among the top vote-getters. Among those named in the Content Management category was the TriCaster Pro from NewTek.  
 
Video
NewTek Intros TriCaster Pro with Component Video
 
Video and 3D animation product manufacturer NewTek rolled out TriCasterPro, a new, enhanced version of its portable, live-presentation system based on the Intel dual-core Pentium D processor. TriCaster Pro allows users tomix multiple live component cameras with pre-recorded and pre-edited video, overlay titles, images, external computer displays, and even live Web pages, with simultaneous output to video, a projector, and the Internet.
 
 
TriCaster enables the switching and preview of three cameras, and connection of up to six cameras. The system also supportsi VGA network import of external computer displays(both PC and Mac), XGA projector output, virtual VCR and picture player (digital disk recorder), and live Web streaming and recording. Among its features are an audio mixer, a titler, and hundreds of 2D and 3D transitions. With the system, users can perform video editing; a TriCaster VM switching surface ships as an optional feature. TriCaster Pro adds several high-end features to the system, including component video in and out, auto camera calibration, BNC and XLR connections, waveform and vector scope, balanced audio in and out with phantom power, and high-resolution projector outputs.
 
TriCaster Pro is currently available for a base price of $6995. Meanwhile, TriCasterpricing starts at $4995.
 
In other news, NewTek also announced Macintosh support for TriCaster. Now available is a new version of iVGA for Mac, a small software client that allows a presenter’s screen display to be integrated into a live TriCaster presentation via Ethernet.  
 
 
3DModeling
NAB Show goers Sweet on Autodesk’s Maya
Autodesk Media and Entertainment presented a host of the industry's leading high-end post production and 3D modeling and animation tools under its unified branding.
 
Last year at the show, the company announced its new naming scheme for the Discreet VFX and post products, which were formally given the branding name of parent-company Autodesk. This year at the conference, the company pitched the former Alias line—including Maya, Motion Builder, and Studio Tools—under the newly adopted Autodesk moniker.
One of those products, Maya 7, struck the fancy of attendees,who were attracted to the 3D modeling and animationsoftware’s content-creation features. Though not a newrelease, Autodesk’s Maya 7 remains feature-rich, with state-of-the-art tools for digital content creation.
 
Production
Adobe Enhances its Production Studio
 
Adobe brings further power and effi -ciency to fi lm, video, DVD, and Webwork fl ows through its new AdobeProduction Studio Premium softwarefor creating stand-alone video or audio elements, or enhancing composites onthose elements.
 
Part of the Adobe Creative Suite family, this post production solution combines Adobe After Effects 7.0 Professional, Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0, AdobePhotoshop CS2, Adobe Audition 2.0, Adobe Encore DVD 2.0, and AdobeIllustrator CS2 software with the time saving work flow features of Adobe Dynamic Link and Adobe Bridge.
 
The product boasts more creative power through motion graphics, with After Effects 7.0 for fast and flexible 32-bit2D and 3D compositing, allowing users to animate in 2D or 3D using cameras and lights. Users will also experience enhanced text animation and titling. Enhanced animation and keyframing control lets artists animate file layers, while animation and behavior presets streamline the process. A graph editor, meanwhile, provides visual control over keyframe editing and synchronizes effects across the layers.
 
 
Adobe Production Studio also features a non-destructive vector-painting and cloning tool, extensive visual and audio effects, real-time editing with PremierePro 2.0, multi-cam editing, professional color-correction capabilities, greater control over images in Photoshop CS such as non-square pixel support without distortion, 32-bit HDR support for a higher level of image detail, and more.
 
Adobe Production Studio ships in two versions: Standard and Premium, the latter adding Encore DVD 2, Audition2, and Illustrator CS. The cost is $1199and $1699, respectively; upgrade pricing starts at $649.
 
Production
Apple Puts Shine on Final Cut Studio
 
Apple presented its Final Cut Studio, a full-HD video production suite that features Final Cut Pro 5, a major upgrade to the editing software for DV, SD, HD, and film. Final Cut Studio also includes state-of-the-art tools that complement Final Cut Pro 5,such as Soundtrack Pro, a new audio editing and sound design application; Motion2, a real-time motion graphics application with GPU-accelerated 32-bit fl oat rendering; and DVD Studio Pro 4, the first commercially available DVD authoring software that burns high-definition DVDs tothe latest HD DVD specification.
 
At the heart of Final Cut Studio is Final Cut Pro 5, with Native HDV (longGOP MPEG-2) support that enables users to edit camera-native HDV without generation loss. Powerful new multi-camtools let editors cut from up to 128 sources, with simultaneous real-time playbackof up to 16 angles at atime, making Final CutPro 5 ideal for episodic television, sporting events, and concerts.
 
 
A new IMX codecallows for native editingof broadcast content from Sony’s XDCAM. Direct support for Panasonic’sP2 solid-state media gives editors a high speed solution for tapeless transfer ofDVCPRO, DVCPRO50, and DVCPRO HDvideo. New Dynamic RT, an intelligent system that automatically adjusts image quality and frame rate during playback, allows editors to see more real-time effects at the highest possible quality. Additionally, the RT Extreme engine has been enhanced to allow uncompressed HD effects to be viewed in real time.
 
Motion 2, Apple’s real-time motiongraphics software, enables Final CutPro editors to add motion graphics to their projects, whether they are working in DV, SD, HD, or fi lm. Motion 2 hasGPU-accelerated 32-bit fl oat rendering for true film-quality output. Final CutStudio will be available this month for$1299, with an upgrade price of $699.
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