Alias has unveiled an updated version of its paint and drawing software, SketchBook Pro 2. For use with digitized pen tablets and Tablet PCs, SketchBook Pro 2 boasts such new features as an improved user interface and enhanced brush controls, including the option to create and store up to 28 custom brushes. Its support for layers has been expanded with a layers window and the ability to move, rotate, scale, mirror, and flip layers. The latest version also features a floating interactive brush tool that enables users to alter brush size without opening a dialog box. Users can save images as layered PSD (Adobe Photoshop Document) files, select shapes with a lasso tool, change canvas size and image resolution settings, import images into a layer stack, and undo up to 75 actions. Alias SketchBook Pro 2, compatible with Windows and Mac platforms, is priced at $179 as a download and $199 on a CD-ROM.
Massive Software has revealed that Massive 2.0, an upgraded version of its 3D animation system for AI-driven characters and digital stunts, is now shipping. New to Version 2.0, facial blend shape animation adds to the quality of characters close to the camera, while the agents’ ability to remember things (and base actions on what they’ve seen and experienced) lends to more realistic behavior. The upgrade has also been improved by more efficient rendering, full-scene anti-aliasing, enhanced hierarchical placement, and an agent-painting tool for creating footprints, ant trails, and more. Massive Smart Stunts functionality enables users to produce digital stunts based on motion capture, whereas active motion tree technology aids users in controlling agent actions with the use of interactive motion trees. Improved tutorials and support for animated background images rounds out Version 2.0, now available. Permanent interactive licenses cost $18,000, plus a $4000 annual fee for updates and support.
During SIGGRAPH 2005 in Los Angeles, RealViz is introducing the first applications in its new “Powered by Smart” product family. Smart, based on a new generation of algorithms, is an automatic 3D tracking engine designed to bring an advanced performance level to its solutions, including MatchMover Pro 4 and MatchMover Pro 4 MoCap. Also benefiting from the new engine are the company’s automatic 3D tracking plug-ins, MMTrack for Autodesk’s 3ds Max and MMTrack for Alias’s Maya, which add RealViz’s automatic 3D tracking technology to the popular 3D modeling and animation packages. RealViz also is demonstrating Version 2 of its 3D previz and storyboarding software, StoryViz, at the show.
Digital Anarchy’s Data Animator 1.0, its latest special effects software release, is making its debut at SIGGRAPH. Data Animator 1.0 is a collection of seven plug-ins for Adobe’s After Effects. The plug-ins are designed to enable After Effects users to develop animated charts and graphs both quickly and easily. The plug-in package provides a wide variety of visualization options, including 3D effects. One such tool, EasyChart, offers chart presets for animating data, thereby streamlining the creation process.
Bionatics has released an upgraded version of its natFX plant simulation and modeling solution for use with Autodesk’s 3ds Max. The NatFX 3 plant modeler is designed for 3D animation professionals and game developers, and well suited to CG art, architectural visualization, 3D animation, and game projects. NatFX 3 for 3ds Max is enhanced by a new, more efficient user interface, support of normal maps, and optimization for 3ds Max Version 7. Other new features include advanced wind animation, a built-in renderer, additional customization and deformation tools, and the ability to prune trees easily. NatFX also employs hybrid modeling technology, contributing to realistic billboard trees. NatFX 3 for 3ds Max is available now and priced at $1350.
NewTek and E-on Software have announced the availability of a software bundle. The new offering combines NewTek’s LightWave 3D content creation and rendering package and E-on’s Vue 5 Infinite natural environment creation software and is priced at $995, a $1200 savings over purchasing the products separately. LightWave upgrades with Vue 5 Infinite cost $495, for a savings of $599. LightWave 3D features rendering, modeling, and animation tools, as well as particle effects, expressions, and hard- and soft-body, cloth, and bone dynamics. Vue 5 Infinite offers EcoSystem technology, G-Buffer and Multi-Pass rendering, plant editing, global illumination and radiosity, and High Dynamic Range Image (HDRI) and image-based lighting. Both programs run on Mac OS X and Windows 2000 and XP platforms.
Art VPS has introduced a 64-bit version of its RenderDrive system, the RenderDrive RD6400. The new release performs off-line final-frame rendering for a virtually unlimited number of users. In fact, it is capable of processing model sizes of 30 million polygons or more at high resolutions. Its new gigabit networking system provides fast I/O speeds. Available now, the RenderDrive RD6400 is offered in configurations of 16, 36, and 48 AR350 raytracing processors. The AR350 processor possesses two cores, each of which can process up to 66 million ray-triangle intersections per second. The RenderDrive RD6400 ships with RenderPipe plug-in interfaces to Alias’s Maya, Autodesk’s 3ds Max and Viz, and Dassault Systemes’ Catia on Windows and Macintosh platforms. RenderPipe features lighting tools, radiosity, motion blur, depth of field, and HDRI support. A new edition of RenderPipe, with support for global illumination, is due out this fall.
Microway has announced the availability of its WhisperStation, an ultra-quiet workstation designed to run demanding 64-bit graphics applications. The base tower configuration sports a pair of single or dual-core 64-bit AMD Opteron 275 processors, 16gb of DDR 400 memory, a 400gb SATA drive, Nvidia FX1300 PCI Express graphics, and a 20-inch ViewSonic LCD. It comes equipped with Linux or Microsoft Windows XP 64-bit Edition to drive today’s 64-bit DCC programs. Customers can customize their WhisperStation with Intel EM64T processors, RAID storage, I/O cards, additional memory, and high-end graphics cards, including the Nvidia Quadro FX4400.
Appro has announced the availability of its new AR3015 network-attached storage (NAS) system, designed for storage-hungry and data-sharing applications. The Appro AR3015 NAS incorporates a Linux embedded operating system, a Web-based storage management interface, data mirroring, and fail-over, snapshot data recovery. The 3U high-density profile storage system features 15 SATA hot-swap hard-disk bays for a maximum of 6tb of storage capacity. The 2.4tb base model AR3015 starts at $6321; pricing varies according to storage capacity.
Sybex has released Maya at a Glance, an introduction to Alias’s Maya 3D animation and effects software. In the book and accompanying CD, animation/effects professional, CGW contributing editor, and author George Maestri blends a wealth of images with his textual explanations of Maya features, techniques, and instructions. Containing step-by-step tutorials, the new Maya Press title explains how to: create special effects using particles, build and animate scenes, and compare lights, shaders, and renderers. Priced at $25, Maya at a Glance includes a 171-page paperback book and companion CD-ROM with Alias’s Maya Personal Learning Edition.
Springer-Verlag has unveiled Principles of Computer Graphics, Theory and Practice Using OpenGL and Maya. The new text is authored by Shalini Govil-Pai, who worked at Pixar Animation as a technical director on such films as Toy Story and A Bug’s Life. The book provides professionals and students with the basics of computer graphics, the principles of animation used by Walt Disney, tools and techniques, and hands-on examples-all designed to assist readers in developing their own 3D games and animated movies. Principles of Computer Graphics is available now at a cost of $65.
Nvidia has introduced its second volume of GPU Gems, written by GPU programming experts and edited by Matt Pharr, Nvidia software engineer, and Randima Fernando, manager of developer education at Nvidia. With graphics processing units (GPUs) incorporated in mobile phones and handheld gaming consoles, GPU knowledge and programming expertise are highly valued. GPU Gems 2 provides graphics programmers with the latest algorithms for advanced visual effects, strategies for managing complex scenes, and techniques for processing images. Information about GPU programming, ranging from the basic to the advanced, spans 20 of the 48 chapters. GPU Gems 2 explains how to harness the processing power of today’s GPUs with sections on: Geometric Complexity; Shading, Lighting, and Shadows; High-Quality Rendering; and Image-Oriented Computing.
Curious Labs has launched Content Paradise, a Web portal developed specifically for 3D artists, animators, illustrators, and designers. Via Content Paradise, creative professionals can purchase and download digital content-including figures, clothing, hair, poses, software, and books-offered by graphic content providers Zygote, RuntimeDNA, Jolly, Renderosity, Cubed, Vanishing Point, The Forge, and others. The Web portal’s Freebies area, which is updated regularly, provides visitors with free content. Content Paradise is accessible online (www.contentparadise.com and www.curiouslabs.com) or directly from within Curious Labs’ Poser Version 6.