Product Spotlight - 10/05
Issue: Volume: 28 Issue: 10 (October 2005)

Product Spotlight - 10/05

The company’s SGI IRIX-based Discreet Fire 7.0 and Discreet Smoke 7.0 editing systems, and Discreet Inferno 6.5 and Discreet Flame 9.5 visual effects programs, boast a new 64-bit architecture, enabling access to increased memory and improved interactivity with higher-resolution, multi-layered imagery.

Smoke 7.0 and Fire 7.0 have been upgraded with a new Timewarp feature that employs the company’s proprietary motion analysis technology, a new color-correction user interface, Clip History, and DPX keycode support.

Inferno 6.5, Flame 9.5, and Flint 9.5 offer a high-resolution paint system with support for layer-based graphics and Motion Estimation Timewarp for slow-motion and speed-up effects. The Lustre 2.6 digital color-grading system features a new editorial metadata architecture and subsystem, improved linear-mode primary color correction, XML-based cut files, and such collaboration enhancements as new integrated notes and an expanded flags system. - Courtney E. Howard

A subsidiary of Avid Technology, Softimage has debuted Version 5.0 of its XSI 3D animation software, capable of running on 32-bit and 64-bit CPUs.

With the release of Version 5.0, Softimage re-architected XSI to take advantage of the increased power, speed, throughput, and physical memory offered by dual-core 64-bit systems. The upgraded software also boasts a number of new features, such as the integration of the AGEIA physX physics-simulation engine and support for the importation and exportation of the dot-XSI Version 5.0 file format.

The new Ultimapper map-generation tool lends to cinema-quality maps, and the Gator property-transfer system helps merge textured and animated 3D models. XSI Advanced gains a new XSI Hair grooming tool and Syflex 3 advanced cloth simulation. Now shipping, Softimage XSI 5.0 Foundation, Essentials, and Advanced are priced at $495, $1995, and $6995, respectively. - CEH

Maxon Computer has upgraded its Cinema 4D and BodyPaint 3D programs.

Now shipping, Cinema 4D Release 9.5 incorporates more than 50 new features and enhancements that focus on lighting, rendering, and work flow. Lighting setup is easier and more flexible, with lights that can take on virtually any shape. Area shadows and area lights now render up to four times faster than in previous releases. For creating textures, normal maps, and UVs, Cinema 4D’s Baker has been reworked to provide results faster and with less effort. A new Content Browser presents an overview of projects and available presets, while full-screen mode maximizes the work space. Users have the option of outputting 32-bit HDRI or OpenEXR files, as well as saving multipass renderings as compositing files for use in Apple’s Shake. At the same time, Cinema 4D’s Advanced Render module gains two new tools. Sky is designed to aid users in the creation of high-quality atmospherics in little time, whereas Ambient Occlusion helps artists create and render realistic shadows.

A 3D paint tool for creating textures for 3D models, BodyPaint 3D Version 2.5 borrows the Heads-Up Display and easily customizable menu from Cinema 4D. New support for n-gons ensures smooth importation of models, whereas enhanced Adobe Photoshop support enables the application of layers and masks from .psd files as textures. BodyPaint 3D’s RayBrush technology displays painting results in a rendered image in real time. With the addition of its new Optimal Cubic Mapping system, BodyPaint now provides three automatic UV unwrapping algorithms. - CEH

Alias has announced the availability of its SketchBook Pro Version 2.

SketchBook Pro 2 paint and drawing software now offers creative professionals the ability to save a layered .psd file for use in Adobe Photoshop. Users also are provided the option to undo up to 75 brush strokes or actions, to resize any default brush, to create and store up to 28 custom brushes, and to work with an unlimited number of image layers.

Alias SketchBook Pro 2 is now shipping for Windows and Macintosh systems at a cost of $199. - CEH

Side Effects Software has posted a public beta of its Houdini 8 modeling and animation software to its Web site at

Side Effects Software focused on the application’s dynamics, lighting, and character animation feature sets when upgrading Houdini to Version 8. Among the enhancements made to the latest software edition are a new parameter spreadsheet and render output dependency graph. Improved deep shadow maps speed the rendering of motion blur, transparent objects, colored transparency, and fine details. An enhanced light-linking editor helps users manage light, shadow, and reflection masks.

Visual effects artists will enjoy Houdini 8’s new rigid-body, cloth, and curve dynamics solvers. The software’s dynamics architecture even enables solvers to talk to each other; rigid-body objects can fall onto and impact cloth objects, for instance. Character animators can benefit from access to digital asset rigging tools for setting up body parts that have bones, kinematics, and constraints. - CEH