SIGGRAPH 2005 Editors' Picks
Issue: Volume: 28 Issue: 10 (October 2005)

SIGGRAPH 2005 Editors' Picks

Endorphin 3D character animation software incorporates NaturalMotion’s Dynamic Motion Synthesis (DMS), technology that simulates the human nervous system using artificial intelligence controllers. Endorphin taps a system’s CPU to imitate the brain and body of 3D characters, and thereby bring about more natural, lifelike, and interactive movements. “NaturalMotion’s Endorphin is innovative in its approach to motion,” notes Karen Moltenbrey, executive editor. “And Version 2.5 gains a wealth of enhancements, such as improvements in the areas of transitions, dynamic blends, character rigs, and file support.”

The public’s increasing demand for realism in films and games has cast a spotlight on the need for more detailed, varied, and accurate facial and hand animation. It’s no wonder, then, that Softimage’s new facial animation technology drew so much attention from SIGGRAPH attendees. Duly impressed by the technology preview was contributing editor George Maestri. “Softimage Face Robot could revolutionize the way faces are rigged,” he recognizes. Built on a computer model of facial soft tissue, it mimics a vast range of human emotions.

During SIGGRAPH, BrightSide Technologies launched DR 37P, considered to be the world’s first extreme dynamic range display. The BrightSide DR 37P, a 37-inch extreme dynamic range monitor, is well suited to film, postproduction, game development, and other environments in which it is critical to view images in minute detail. The new release delivers 10 times the brightness and 100 times the contrast of traditional displays through the employ of an LCD panel and LED backlights.

Following preproduction testing by such companies as DreamWorks and Adobe, NEC Display Solutions unveiled the SpectraView LCD2180WG professional-grade display targeted at high-end digital animation, film, video, and photo-editing and production environments. The 21-inch flat-panel LCD monitor sports an LED backlight to achieve a high level of image detail, color accuracy, and brightness uniformity.

ATI Technologies’ Advanced Shading Language Interface (ASHLI) has been incorporated into Alias’s Maya 7. Saving time and increasing productivity, ATI’s real-time interactive shading technology harnesses the power of the ATI GPU and Maya Shading Network to produce and display photorealistic, shader-rich imagery and environments. Users can view a final render in shaded mode, make adjustments before the final render, manipulate shaders, and preview changes in real time. The ASHLI plug-in is provided in Windows and Linux versions of Maya 7. Autodesk Media and Entertainment’s 3ds Max 7 and later versions support ASHLI.

In the past few years, SIGGRAPH has carried with it news of a new version of 3ds Max, and this year’s event was no different. Autodesk Media and Entertainment released Version 8, complete with enhanced character development, texturing, data and asset management, and software development kit (SDK) tools. “The new motion mixer, cloth, hair, UV pelt mapping, and rendering features help to make 3ds Max 8 one of the most complete and easy-to-use 3D modeling, animation, and rendering packages on the market,” announces Maestri.

Seven proved a lucky number for Alias, with the launch of Maya 7 and MotionBuilder 7 at the show. Maya 7 gains MotionBuilder’s full-body IK technology, increasing the speed, ease, and accuracy with which artists animate models. The upgrade sports new polygonal modeling, illustration, visual effects, and render layering tools and technologies. “The integration of MotionBuilder technology within the Maya environment enables character animators to move between the applications easily, and streamline work flow,” says Kelly Dove, editor in chief.

During SIGGRAPH, NewTek released the 64-bit port of LightWave 3D for Windows XP Pro x64 OS, leveraging the memory and processing power of 64-bit systems. In addition to productivity gains, artists benefit from the ability to create more complex, realistic, and high-resolution images and scenes. A new LightWave 8.5 update provides faster OpenGL performance, support for OpenGL hardware shaders, enhanced dynamics and particle systems, and a SuperMultishift tool in the Modeler. LightWave 64 and the update to Version 8.5 are free to LightWave 8 users.

Pixar makes its PhotoRealistic RenderMan rendering technology readily available to a larger audience with the release of its RenderMan for Maya plug-in, an affordable, seamlessly integrated alternative to the company’s high-end RenderMan Pro Server and RenderMan Artist Tools. “Not simply a ‘lite’ version, RenderMan for Maya was built from the ground up to be feature-rich and easy to use, and to infuse the Maya work space with Pixar’s powerful rendering technology,” acknowledges Courtney E. Howard. For Macintosh OS X and Windows XP, RenderMan for Maya is priced at $995.

“Could moving rendering tasks to the video card be the future of rendering? With the release of Gelato 2.0 and Sorbetto, it’s evident Nvidia thinks so,” says Maestri. Nvidia has upgraded its Gelato rendering software with enhanced performance and new features and functionality, including volumetric shadows for hair and smoke and the ability to simulanteously render stereo imagery. At the same time, Nvidia introduced its Sorbetto lighting tool that works in conjunction with Gelato. Sorbetto enables artists to add, remove, move, and modify lights before final rendering and view the effects of such changes interactively, in real time and in the final pixels. The lighting technology also is designed to accelerate lighting processes and aid users in achieving realistic lighting and in making a scene look exactly as they desire.,

With a large number and wide breadth of products introduced and presented at SIGGRAPH 2005, it proved difficult to limit the Editors’ Picks selections to 10. The following products, having just barely missed the Top Ten list, are nonetheless very worthy of industry attention.

Vicon MX with g-speak;
Pre-Viz Version 2;
Massive Jet;
Houdini 8;
Digital Fusion 5;
4U MC workstation;