Spotlight - 4/06
Issue: Volume: 29 Issue: 4 (April 2006)

Spotlight - 4/06

ATI Expands Its FireGL and CrossFire Products

Extending the company’s workstation graphics line, the 1gb FireGL V7350 and 512 mb FireGL V7300 are designed to be ultra-high-end boards for digital content creation, imaging, and CAD professionals. Both take advantage of an ultra-threaded parallel processing GPU and ATI’s Avivo video and display technology. The new graphics cards deliver a large color palette and increased detail, given their graphics pipeline of 10 bits per RGB component and two dual-link connectors in support of high-end displays. Priced at $1999 and $1599, respectively, the FireGL V7350 and V7300 are based on 90-nanometer process technology, 512-bit ring bus memory architecture, and 128-bit precision.

ATI has released its CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset, developed from the ground up with multi-GPU gaming in mind. Engineered with two true x16 PCI Express interfaces, the CrossFire Xpress 3200 is designed to deliver ease of use, acceleration, advanced overclocking capabilities, and stability.

The company also revealed that Hewlett-Packard has selected the ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 to power the new HP Compaq nx9420 Notebook PC. The business notebook also benefits from a 17-inch widescreen display and Intel’s Centrino Core Duo. The Mobility Radeon X1600, offering multimedia functionality and power management, delivers ATI’s Avivo technology for refined video capture and playback, and PowerPlay 6.0 technology for long battery life.

Softimage Delivers Face Robot

Softimage, a subsidiary of Avid Technology, has unveiled Face Robot, its software solution for creating realistic facial animation for high-end film, postproduction, and game applications.

Designed to enable more lifelike animation of digital faces in less time than previously possible, Face Robot aids artists in producing emotive expressions with natural skin and soft-tissue movements in as few as six steps. The software, compatible with popular 3D programs and work flows, provides precise control over anatomical features such as the mouth, eyebrows, and jaw.

The integrated facial soft-tissue “solver,” meanwhile, offers a corrective sculpting system and helps simulate the ways in which facial tissue deforms as expressions are formed. Additional features include a visual animation interface, animation retargeting, iterative performance refinement utilities, and support for the importation and exportation of Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya file formats.

Softimage Face Robot currently is shipping in two configurations: Designer and Animator. Face Robot Designer, priced at $94,995, provides the tools necessary to prepare, solve, and animate faces, including those for defining wrinkles, placing tendons, and fine-tuning the mouth. Priced at $14,995, Face Robot Animator presents a hybrid environment for keyframe animation and motion capture, as well as features a retargeting algorithm and advanced tuning controls.

NaturalMotion Upgrades Endorphin, Debuts Euphoria

NaturalMotion, Ltd. has unveiled the latest version of its 3D animation software solution, Endorphin 2.6, and a new run-time technology for next-generation game development.

Newly updated, the Endorphin 2.6 suite of tools is designed for the creation of realistic, interactive 3D character animation in games, films, and broadcast. Its new network licensing enables multiple licenses to be shared across a network from a single dongle, whereas new reference and training material provide up-to-date information, more-detailed tutorials, and a number of tips and tricks. At the same time, NaturalMotion has enhanced such Endorphin features as its adaptive behaviors, character edit mode, and integration with popular 3D and animation work flows. Endorphin 2.6 is available now for $9,495.

The company also introduced its Euphoria run-time animation technology for gameplay and development on next-generation platforms. Euphoria utilizes the company’s Dynamic Motion Synthesis technology to develop interactive animations on the fly. The solution is based on fast simulations of game characters’ motor control, muscles, and biomechanics, rather than on canned data recall.

Shown behind closed doors at the recent Game Developers Conference, Euphoria is being implemented in next-generation game titles and is available through NaturalMotion’s co-development program.

Dell Inks Agreement to Acquire Alienware

Dell has entered into an agreement to acquire Alienware, known for its unique, high-end workstations. Alienware’s PC product line for gaming and multimedia DCC and management will complement Dell’s high-performance workstation offerings. Alienware will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary to Dell, and will be headed by Alienware’s current management and founders.

Meanwhile, Dell recently unveiled its XPS 600 Renegade, a limited-edition, custom-painted desktop computer. Designed to deliver immersive gaming experiences, the Renegade benefits from the industry’s first dedicated physics accelerator, the Ageia PhysX processor. The PhysX processor lends to lifelike gaming environments given its ability to power real-time dynamic motion and interaction on a large scale. The Renegade system also employs Nvidia Quad-SLI graphics and the Intel Pentium 965 Extreme Edition processor at up to 4.26 ghz.

The XPS 600 Renegade is offered in limited quantities, priced at $9930 with Dell’s 30-inch 3007WFP flat-panel monitor.

Boxx Launches a New Version of Its GoBoxx 1400

Boxx Technologies has unveiled a new edition of its GoBoxx 1400 mobile workstation sporting AMD’s Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processors. The GoBoxx 1400, suited to mobile 2D/3D graphics and animation professionals, has a 17-inch WSXGA+ (1680x1050 resolution) GlassView-type Active Matrix display and Nvidia Quadro graphics with a PCI Express FX Go 1400 GPU, OpenGL, and 256mb of video memory. Rounding out the offering are two DIMM slots with up to 2 gb of memory, dual HDD support with RAID 0 and 1, dual-channel DDR2 memory, and a built-in 1.3-megapixel digital video camera.

The company additionally debuted the Boxx Apexx 8 workstation targeted at visual effects professionals. The system is designed to handle 2k and 4 k film, as well as to deliver real-time functionality when working with very large files, through the use of 16 processing cores.

Pricing for the workstations vary with configuration.

Computer Graphics World April, 2006