Product Spotlight - 9/05
Issue: Volume: 28 Issue: 9 (September 2005)

Product Spotlight - 9/05

Advanced rigging tools, motion mixing, and motion retargeting for nonlinear animation add to the Character Development tool set within 3ds Max. At the same time, its Modeling and Texturing area gains support for DirectX and .fx files and new UV pelt mapping, designed to reduce the time and labor it takes to texture a 3D model. 3ds Max 8’s Comprehensive Development Framework offers improved software developer kit (SDK) tools and resources, XML support, an interactive MAXScript debugger, and support for the free Autodesk DWF Viewer for reviewing, collaborating on, and approving 3D data and designs. Complex Data and Asset Management within Version 8 is enhanced by the incorporation of the Autodesk Vault data-management and asset-tracking solution.

3ds Max 8 is scheduled to ship this fall at a price of $3495 for the full version and $795 as an upgrade from Version 7. The 3ds Max Subscription, priced at $400 per year, provides customers access to the latest software updates, product extensions, and E-learning materials. -Courtney E. Howard

Softimage, a subsidiary of Avid Technology, previewed Softimage Face Robot, its new facial animation technology, during SIGGRAPH 2005.

Face Robot is designed to assist 3D artists in the production of realistic facial animation for high-end film, postproduction, and game-development projects. The technology behind Face Robot has at its core a new computer model of facial soft tissue. With Face Robot, artists no longer must manually create a wealth of 3D shapes to depict different facial expressions. The soft-tissue model emulates a full range of emotions portrayed by the human face. Through the use of control points, animators can fully customize facial details, such as flaring nostrils, bulging neck muscles, and wrinkles. Further, keyframe animators benefit from direct access to facial expressions within Face Robot, whereas motion-capture animators are able to work with fewer markers, speeding setup and cleanup processes. - CEH

Alias announced Version 7 of its Maya and MotionBuilder applications.

Maya 7 has been upgraded with Alias MotionBuilder’s full-body IK solver, as well as Blend Shapes and Wire deformers, simplifying the rigging and posing of characters. For Version 7, Alias re-architectured Maya’s render layers functionality. Users can now manage multiple versions of materials, cameras, lights, Maya Fur, and Maya Paint Effects in a single scene file. Moreover, users can render layers with virtually any renderer integrated into Maya, including the latest version of Mental Ray.

Collaborative and parallel work flows are supported in Maya Version 7, granting modelers, animators, and colleagues the ability to work on the same character simultaneously. Additional features include UV unfolding, tri-planar and multimesh mapping, Edge Loop and Edge Ring utilities, and CgFX and ASHLI plug-ins. Maya Complete 7, priced at $1999, and Maya Unlimited 7, costing $6999, are now shipping for use with Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X platforms.

MotionBuilder 7, Alias’s 3D character animation software, delivers new character extensions that enable artists to more quickly and easily add such objects as tails, wings, or props to a character’s control rig. Version 7 also provides visual feedback on the control rig and character manipulation enhancements. Productivity is improved by save reminder and versioning features, as well as the ability to transfer, repurpose, and reuse animation clips with any character. The Alias FBX file format and new constraints in Version 7 improve the interoperability between MotionBuilder and other 3D applications, including Maya. Now shipping, Alias MotionBuilder Pro 7 costs $4195 for a node-locked version and $4795 for a floating edition. - CEH

Macromedia Inc. has introduced Macromedia Studio 8, a software suite geared toward video professionals, graphic artists, Web designers, and developers. Studio 8 combines the latest versions of Macromedia’s Dreamweaver, Flash Professional, Fireworks, Contribute, and FlashPaper. For the creation of Web sites, interactive media, and content for mobile devices, Studio 8 features new video encoding tools that assist with producing and publishing interactive video for Web use. Contribute 3 assists with modifying and updating content, whereas FlashPaper 2 converts various file types into Web-ready PDF or SWF files. Flash Player 8 includes a higher-quality video codec, an advanced text-rendering engine, and improved security. Shipping this month, Studio 8 is priced at $999, or $399 as an upgrade. - CEH

E frontier, formerly Curious Labs, previewed an upcoming version of its Shade 3D modeling and rendering software during SIGGRAPH 2005.

Scheduled to ship in the fall, Shade 8 provides users with more than 5000 3D objects on various topics for character modeling, visualization, and architectural design projects. Shade sports a more powerful modeling engine with polygon mesh editing, improved integration with the company’s Poser, and faster Radiosity calculation. In the area of rendering, Version 8 boasts network rendering, a new toon renderer, and an improved Callisto renderer.

E frontier will offer a choice of two versions of Shade 8. The Shade 8 Standard 3D graphics suite is targeted at designers, illustrators, and graphic artists. Shade 8 Professional is designed to put advanced modeling, lighting, and rendering tools in the hands of design professionals. - CEH