Products - 3/05 - Part 1
Issue: Volume: 28 Issue: 3 (March 2005)

Products - 3/05 - Part 1

Discreet, a division of Autodesk, has upgraded its 3ds max modeling and animation software application to Version 7.5 for its subscription customers.

Of benefit to creative professionals working on feature films and game cinematics, Discreet 3ds max 7.5 offers an integrated hair and fur system that enables users to create, groom, and render 3D hair on characters and models. Based on Joe Alter’s Shave and a Haircut software tool, the new hair and fur system boasts styling tools, hair dynamics utilities, integration with Mental Ray, and the use of instanced geometry to create landscapes, such as forests or fields of flowers. Moreover, the rendering options available in 3ds max have been expanded with the addition of Mental Ray 3.4 and eight Mental Ray satellite rendering nodes. Version 7.5 is available only to Discreet customers who have a subscription; all others, who are not on the subscription service, are unable to take advantage of the software subscription delivery of the Version 7.5 update.

Discreet’s recently released Clothfx certified plug-in extension for 3ds max 7, described in January’s Spotlight on Products section, can be purchased separately by 3ds max 7 customers who do not have a subscription for $595 via the Discreet e-Store ( or from authorized Discreet 3ds max resellers. -Courtney E. Howard


Sharp Systems of America has announ-ced the availability of its Actius AL3D, a new mobile workstation targeted at the professional market.

The latest addition to the Sharp Actius Notebook line of computer systems, the Actius AL3D takes advantage of the company’s second-generation TFT 3D LCD screen technology. The 3D notebook achieves high-end performance through the combination of Intel’s new Pentium M P750 1.86ghz processor, 1024mb of DDR2 SDRAM, and the newly-released Nvidia GeForce Go 6600 graphics processing unit, driven by PCI Express and boasting 128mb of dedicated graphics memory. The Actius AL3D provides not only support for 3D software applications, but also an advanced optical drive for viewing 3D DVD content. Additional features include Microsoft Windows XP Professional, an 80gb hard drive, a DVD Dual-Layer Super Multi-Drive, 5.1-channel virtual surround sound, and a trial version of Mercury Computer Systems’ Amira software for realistic 3D visualization.

The Actius AL3D sports a 15-inch XGA (1024x768 resolution) 3D LCD display panel coated with the company’s Clear LCD finish for saturated, rich, pure colors. Moreover, users can switch the display between 2D and 3D modes with the touch of a single button. To date, more than 1000 games can be viewed in 3D on Sharp’s 3D displays, thanks in part to Nvidia GeForce series graphics processors offering support for stereoscopic displays. The mobile workstation also ships with TriDef DVD Player software, which converts DVD movies to 3D on the fly, from Digital Dynamic Depth Group.

Sharp’s Actius AL3D notebook computer, now shipping, is priced at $3499. -CEH

Sharp Systems of America;

Alias has released Maya 6.5, the latest generation of its software developed for professionals in the game, film, broadcast, and digital publishing markets.

Maya 6.5 has been redesigned for enhanced performance with large datasets, such as complex models, scenes, and animation. New scene seg-mentation tools-including new and enhanced file referencing features and options-provide enhanced collaboration, improved data handling, and control over scene load times. Maya 6.5 also includes Mental Ray for Maya Satellite and a new Mental Ray 3.4 core. Version 6.5 boasts such modeling gains as an improved polygon bevel tool and faster polygon and UV texturing. Character animators benefit from optimizations made to various tool sets and to the soft modification feature, the ability to bind to non-joint objects and maintain max skin influence, and faster wrap deformer setup, cluster deformation, and sculpt tool deformation.

Alias is offering a new network rendering option designed for improved rendering speeds. It enables artists to take advantage of Interactive Photo-realistic Rendering (IPR), faster interactive and batch rendering, and fast pre-lighting of both textures and vertices.

Maya Version 6.5 is now shipping and available for download by customers in the Maya Platinum Membership Program. Available on Windows, Irix, Linux, and Mac OS X platforms, Version 6.5 of Maya Complete and Maya Unlimited are priced at $1999 and $6999, respectively. Users of previous versions can up-grade to Maya Complete for $899 and Maya Unlimited for $1249. Mental Ray 3.4, available as a stand-alone renderer, also is shipping now. -CEH


Hewlett-Packard has introduced its latest high-end workstation, the HP xw9300. Hewlett-Packard’s first workstation to be powered by AMD Opteron processors, the HP xw9300 looks like the company’s xw8200, but the similarities end with the tool-less chassis and Whisper Quiet fan technology. For example, the xw9300 boasts a 750-watt power supply, a 150-watt increase over that of the xw8200. Moreover, the new dual PCI Express-enabled xw9300 incorporates Nvidia’s newest advancements, including the nForce Professional 2200/2050 media and communication processors (MCPs), Scalable Link Interface (SLI) multi-GPU technology, and a choice of Nvidia graphics cards. The HP xw9300’s support of SATA-2 combats low latency, whereas its dual PCI Express x16 slots improves GPU rendering, and AMD Opteron Direct Connect Architecture increases application performance. -CEH


“Lemony Aid” (January, pg. 22), an article about the film Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, describes the innovative work performed on the character Sunny. The article reported that ILM used the Panoscan MKIII, when it actually employed the Spherocam HDR from Spheron VR.