Issue: Volume: 27 Issue: 10 (October 2004)


Hewlett-Packard's Remote Graphics software is designed to aid 3D artists and graphic design professionals in collaborating remotely, interactively, and in real time. The program enables artists and designers to work more easily and efficiently with remote colleagues. HP Remote Graphics employs the company's proprietary compression and decompression technology to provide real-time, multi-site collaboration on graphics-intensive projects over a standard network connection. As well as offering support for large-size 2D and 3D graphics, the new software ensures security by hosting the intellectual property within a secured network boundary. For use with workstations, notebook computers, and commercial desktop PCs, HP Remote Graphics doesn't require both the sending and receiving system to have a high-bandwidth connection or high-end 3D graphics card. HP Remote Graphics starts at $399.


SIGGRAPH's Emerging Technologies section featured Sunnybrook Technologies' Zeetzen 5, a High Dynamic Range (HDR) display developed in collaboration with the Univer-sity of British Columbia. Through the application of active backlight technology, the HDR display is described as being roughly 30 times brighter and also 10 times darker— resulting in a 40,000:1 contrast ratio—compared to conventional CRT, plasma, and LCD monitors. It emulates the real-world luminosity range to produce vibrant, lifelike, accurate images for film and video editing applications. The Zeetzen 5 boasts an 18.1-inch viewable image size, 1280x1024 resolution, and compatibility with existing video cards.

Sunnybrook Technologies;

Ascension debuted its Animation Star workstation, a combination of Ascension magnetic motion-capture hardware and Kaydara Mocap 5.5 software. The animation workstation includes the tools necessary to capture, edit, blend, and apply motion data. Also among its components are a magnetic transmitter with mounting pedestal, an anti-distortion mat, a sensor mounting kit, and standard sensors with 35-foot cables, a cable sheath, and strain relief. The workstation itself is a 2.4ghz Pentium 4 tower having 512mb of RAM, an 80gb hard drive, CD-ROM and CD-RW drives, an Nvidia GeForce SX 5200 graphics card, electronic cards for real-time motion capture, Windows XP Pro, and a 17-inch CRT display. Animation Star pricing starts at roughly $25,000.


Los Angeles's Museum of Neon Art served as the backdrop of a Luxology event at which the present incarnation, and future potentiality, of Modo was demonstrated. A polygonal and subdivision surface modeling tool, Modo was developed to meet the needs of film, gaming, television, print, and other demanding markets. Modo offers a customizable, interactive, real-time environment in which to create models—from organics to hard surfaces and film models to meshes—and manipulate subdivision surfaces. Priced at $895 and running on Mac OS X Version 10.2.8 or Windows 2000 and XP platforms, Modo combines a flexible user interface, intuitive modeling tools, and a subdivision surface engine.


Garnering considerable attention at SIGGRAPH was the latest edition of Discreet's 3ds max 3D modeling, animation, and rendering software. Making its public debut at the show, 3ds max 7 now incorporates Normal Mapping, a trait that generated much talk and excitement among attendees. Accelerating game development, film, and visualization work flows, Normal Mapping involves adding detail to low-polygon models with high-resolution maps. Other significant upgrades to the software include the addition of Mental Images' Mental Ray 3.3.


Apple delivered on promises made in April during NAB, where a preview of its new motion graphic design and production application, Motion, was met with much excitement among dedicated Mac users. Apple opened SIGGRAPH with news that Motion was available, and being sold at the show. At $299, Motion is being billed as an affordable, but comprehensive system for creating motion graphics and effects for film, video, and DVDs. Designed to take advantage of Apple's Power Mac G5 and Panther operating system, Motion boasts an advanced particle generator, self-propelled procedural animation technology, customizable motion templates and presets, an intuitive user interface, and tight integration with Apple's Final Cut Pro HD, DVD Studio Pro 3, Shake 3.5, Soundtrack, and Logic Pro 6.


Softimage's new pricing strategy for its XSI Version 4 product line, which began shipping in early June, piqued interest among digital content creators. At $495, XSI Foundation is priced at roughly one-quarter of its previous $1995 price tag. Softimage XSI Essentials has been reduced to $1995, from $3995, whereas the full cloth and rendering version of XSI Advanced is priced at $6995. According to the company, the new price structure for Version 4 is intended to improve access to the product line, which should contribute to a larger talent pool of professionals with XSI skills. Among the new features in Version 4 are a character development kit, rigid-body dynamics, Mental Ray 3.3, vector and raster paint, and UV.unwrapping.


Imagineer Systems' Monet, based on technology developed in collaboration with Cinesite (Europe) Ltd. for use in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, attracted broadcast, film, and video postproduction professionals during the show. The end-to-end solution simplifies, streamlines, and speeds the tracking and replacement of an element—for example, a product such as a soda can—throughout a film or video project. Monet enables users to apply properties of the source material—including lens distortion, shadows, highlights, and grain/noise—to the new element. Offering per-pixel motion blur, focus blur, and color controls, Monet is well suited to such applications as complex package replacements, language adaptations, and screen inserts. Monet is available as a software-only system or as Monet Extreme, with a workstation from Boxx Technologies, an Aspex Accelera hardware card, and an optional DVS Centaurus video I/O card.

Imagineer Systems;

3Dlabs' Wildcat Realizm 800 was demonstrated publicly for the first time at SIGGRAPH. In fact, it could be seen throughout the show at the 3Dlabs booth and those of partners 3Dconnexion, Eastman Kodak, Intel, LightWork Design, NewTek, and Side Effects. At 3Dlabs' exhibit, attendees were privy to the Wildcat Realizm 800 powering Softimage XSI 4, as well as the Wildcat Realizm 100 and 200 driving Alias's Maya, Discreet's 3ds max, NewTek's LightWave, Planet 9, and Side Effect's Houdini. A 16-lane PCI Express-based graphics accelerator, the Wildcat Realizm 800 achieves impressive speeds (reportedly more than 64gb/sec), thanks to its total 512-bit bus to 512mb GDDR3 graphics memory and 128mb of onboard DirectBurst memory.


Kaydara introduced Version 6 of Motion-Builder, its 3D character animation software for games, film, the Web, and broadcast. Version 6 incorporates interchangeable character setups with support for props, constraints, and custom properties. Enhanced FK and IK keyframe capabilities, new tools for managing motion-curve dynamics, and a customizable user interface further contribute to the upgraded version. Kaydara's MotionBuilder 6 is offered in two versions, now available for Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Mac OS X 10.2 and higher. MotionBuilder Standard is priced at $995, whereas the Pro edition carries a $4195 price tag. In other company news, the SIGGRAPH show floor was buzzing with the unanticipated news that Alias intends to acquire Kaydara.


Given the high quality and vast quantity of product releases that took place during SIGGRAPH 2004, the editorial team was faced with a daunting task. Although we were limited to highlighting our Top Ten, we felt a few other innovations deserved an honorable mention. Other vote-getters included:
  • Vicon's MX system
  • Alias's Maya 6
  • Avid's DS Nitris 7
  • NewTek's LightWave 8
  • X3D's 3D display technology
  • 2d3's Boujou and Boujou Bullet
  • Verari Systems' NemeSys X64