Issue: Volume: 29 Issue: 9 (Sept 2006)

Products - 9/06


SOFTWARE

ANIMAT I O N

Houdini Upgrade
Win • Linux Side Effects Software announced the release of Houdini 8.1, which features an animator-friendly Auto Rig, Muscle System, Character Picker, and Pose Library. The Auto Rig furnishes animators with controls, such as FK/IK switching, for creating production-quality biped rigs to which proxy geometry can be added. The solution’s new metaball capture and metaball-based muscle tool aid users in setting up skin sliding and muscle deformations more quickly and easily. Also included in this latest release are enhancements to the Rigid Body and Wire dynamic solvers, and support for Collada, an open digital asset exchange schema for interactive 3D applications. Version 8.1 enables users to import Collada files while keeping the geometry, lights, cameras, transformations, and keyframe animation intact. Side Effects Software has improved Houdini’s Dynamics tools with a faster Wire solver and a new Rigid Body auto-freeze feature, as well as enhanced Houdini’s Dynamics environment, which aids users in integrating Rigid Body, Cloth, and Wire solvers in a single simulation. Side Effects Software; www.sidefx.com
 
Do the Robot
Win Softimage unveiled Face Robot Version 1.5, an update to its software for creating lifelike facial animation. The new release offers a game export solution, allowing artists to deliver high-quality, in-game acting with detailed facial nuances, with support for all major game platforms. Version 1.5 also contains a number of significant performance improvements and support for the new Mova Contour Reality Capture system. Now, artists can take a face mesh, apply motion capture or keyframes, edit and tune the acting, and then transfer it into a game-ready asset. And, with the new game export pipeline, users have a scalable solution for adding and removing detail from the their images on demand. Face Robot 1.5 is available this month. Pricing for Face Robot Designer, a complete environment, is $94,995, while Face Robot Animator, a hybrid keyframe and mocap environment for animating faces prepared using Designer, is priced at $14,995. Softimage; www.softimage.com
 
Massive Upgrade
Win Massive Software has unveiled Massive 2.6, an upgraded version of its artificial life-based 3D animation solution for creating realistic performances with autonomously responding characters. Version 2.6 has been upgraded with faster and more efficient rendering on the GPU, render passes that enable flexible pipeline integration, more detailed characters, and smarter agents. Massive also has expanded its Ready-to-Run Massive Agent Library with mayhem and ambient agents. Ready-to-Run Agents include the attributes needed for locomotion, combat, spectators, and other crowd scenarios. Massive Software; www.massivesoftware.com
 
 
New CAT Owner
Win Avid recently acquired Character Animation Technologies, Ltd., which offers CAT, a complete character animation system that provides artists in game development, film, and post industries with a unique tool set to produce animations more quickly and within a more flexible environment. Following this acquisition, Softimage released CAT Version 2.5, a plug-in for Autodesk’s 3ds Max software. The new version includes logical rig components for manipulating rigs faster and easier, and animation layers for quicker keyframing of CAT characters. The release also features a unique procedural walk-cycle system that allows artists to design a wider range of cycles. CAT 2.5 is priced at $995. Softimage; www.softimage.com
 
COMPOSITING
 
Nuke Niceties
Win • Mac • Linux • Irix D2 Software, a subsidiary of Digital Domain, revealed new features being integrated into the latest version of its Nuke compositing software, scheduled to be released later this year. The upcoming edition of Nuke will include creative and work flow enhancements. Among them is a faster and more accurate tracker able to detect and adjust to subtle changes in the values of a tracking source. Optical flow retiming, an updated floating-point Primatte Keyer, user interface improvements, an updated color picker, and support for popular file formats, such as QuickTime, HDR, and CRW, round out the future offering. D2 Software is bundling FrameCycler Professional 2006 with the new version, providing Nuke users with uncompressed playback and various review and analysis features. D2 Software; www.d2software.com
 
MODELING
 
Modeling to a T
Win • Mac • Linux • Irix T-Splines, maker of 3D modeling software, has released the beta version of its T-Splines Rhino plug-in. The software plug-in is designed to solve 3D design challenges by providing greater surface control and seamless merging. The plug-in, which integrates with NURBS and polygons, enables designers to add control points anywhere on a 3D surface, without changing the surface. The plug-in also works to merge surfaces seamlessly, resulting in more efficient modeling for industrial design and CAD professionals. T-Splines also benefits the 3D modeling industry by eliminating gaps between objects, which historically has been a challenge to the modeling process. T-Splines; www.tsplines.com
 
 
MOTION CAPTURE
 
More Mocap
Win Vicon has partnered with House of Moves to deliver a new software package targeted at real-time motion capture, full performance capture, and on-set visualization applications. The solution is designed to make processing and applying motioncapture data for the 3D animation pipeline simpler and more direct. Among the software’s features are scalable real-time motion capture, kinematic solving and re-targeting, post-processing for full-performance capture, on-set playback and visualization tools, and enhanced system setup capabilities. Vicon; www.vicon.com
 
HARDWARE
 
D I S P L AY S
 
On the BrightSide
BrightSide Technologies launched its latest high dynamic range (HDR) innovation during SIGGRAPH 2006. BrightSide, in collaboration with research partners at the Max Plank Institute, has developed a video file-compression technique that enables the distribution of HDR video content—files considered to be too large to be distributed using conventional media. BrightSide’s new compression method enables full HDR content to be distributed in files comparable to such existing formats as MPEG. BrightSide Technologies; www.brightsidetech.com
 
Barco News
Barco, a provider of display solutions for virtual and augmented reality, has presented its new VR Workroom environment and XDS-1000 modular external desktop system. These solutions enable users to project simultaneously information from various data sources in multiple windows and in high-resolution mono and 3D stereo formats on a large screen. Using the Windows XP interface, the VR Workroom is powered by two Barco iCon stereo-enabled projectors that deliver high-definition information (HDTV 1920x1080 pixels) without the need for blending. An onboard processor and a range of inputs at the rear of the projector enable it to accept external computer and video sources and tap into a company’s network to display multiple, high-resolution mono and 3D stereo information windows on a large 16:9 screen. Barco’s new XDS-1000 external desktop system is designed to work with an array of Barco mono or stereoscopic projectors. The XDS-1000 can display an unlimited number of mono windows and up to six stereo windows on a single, large projection canvas with high-quality resolution ranging from SGXA+ to UXGA. Barco; www.barco.com.
 
NEWS
 
Kerner Optical Goes Solo
Production company Kerner Optical (San Rafael, CA), the former Industrial Light & Magic model shop and physical production unit, has officially opened its own doors following its purchase from ILM, a Lucasfilm company. Kerner Optical will be managed by Mark Anderson and several of his colleagues, all veterans of ILM, with many decades of experience among them. The new company includes a model and creature shop; special effects and pyrotechnical effects; fully operational stages for interior and exterior filming; stereoscopic 3D and bluescreen/greenscreen capabilities; and fully customizable camera, motion control, lighting, and grip packages. Kerner Optical was founded by Anderson, Kevin Duncan, and Yuska Siuicki. The company is based on several former departments within ILM that were known as its physical production group, and much of the staff is made up of artists and technicians from those departments.
 
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