Issue: Volume: 32 Issue: 10 (Oct. 2009)

Spotlight


Autodesk Rolls Out 2010 Lines
At SIGGRAPH, Autodesk revealed a host of its 2010 products, including Mudbox, MotionBuilder, and Softimage.

Mudbox 2010, the latest version of Autodesk’s digital sculpting and painting application, makes it easier for artists to use Mudbox alongside Adobe Photoshop by importing PSD files to be used as paint layers, and with Autodesk’s Maya, 3ds Max, and Softimage software through FBX support. The product also features a host of new creative tools and workflows (such as new brushes, support for ambient occlusion map baking, and new viewport filters), as well as a C++ SDK that enables production teams to customize and integrate Mudbox into pipelines. Mudbox 2010 began shipping in August for $745, with an upgrade price of $375.

 

MotionBuilder 2010, Autodesk’s real-time 3D character animation software, now offers faster performance with memory optimization of the core engine. The new version boasts productivity-enhancing animation workflows, such as better pose control for the rapid reuse of animations, and user-defined keying group support for custom rigs, props, cameras, and lights. It also contains expanded physics and character-simulation capabilities. MotionBuilder 2010 began shipping in August for $3995, with upgrade pricing established at $995.

Meanwhile, the company also launched its Softimage 2010 3D modeling, animation, rendering, and compositing software. This latest version features an optimized core architecture through GigaCore III, integration of the Softimage Face Robot facial rigging and animation tool set, and an expanded and customizable Interactive Creative Environment (ICE) system. The new version also contains improved modeling tools, additional animation and camera functionality, and an updated Autodesk Crosswalk tool set for content transfer.

Softimage 2010, available now, is priced at $2995 for the Windows version, $3295 for Linux, and $4695 for Soft­image Advanced 2010 (Linux and Windows). Upgrade pricing is available, as well.
products: Modeling Animation

Vicon Introduces Boujou 5
Vicon, developer of motion-capture and image-understanding systems, recently released Boujou 5, camera matchmoving software that enables 3D professionals to automatically derive complex camera motion and calibration data from image sequences. The new version gives users greater control over the matchmoving process, particularly through manual tracking tools.

Boujou 5 uses a new method of solving 3D camera positioning and motion paths from image sequences. This approach accelerates the solve and allows users more manual interaction within complex shots. The software also features an automatic sequential solver that looks at a single frame at a time, enabling the user to intervene at any time, rather than waiting until the end of the process. A fully functional Graph Editor lets users manually tweak the camera data and, if necessary, reprocess a shot. They can also lock valid sections of solved data or sections known to be correct, which they can then use to improve other segments of an image sequence.

Boujou 5 is currently available and sells for $10,000.
product: Matchmoving

Khronos Releases OpenGL 3.2

The Khronos Group announced Version 3.2 of the OpenGL 2D and 3D graphics API for PCs and workstations. The third major update in 12 months, the release adds features for enhanced performance, increased visual quality, accelerated geometry processing, and easier portability of Direct3D applications.

Khronos is also coordinating the evolution of OpenCL for parallel compute, OpenGL ES for mobile 3D graphics, and the new WebGL standard for 3D on the Web.

 The Khronos OpenGL Architecture Review Board (ARB) working group has defined GLSL 1.5, an updated version of the OpenGL Shading language, and two profiles within the OpenGL 3.2 specification; as a result, developers can use the streamlined Core profile for new application development or the Compatibility profile, which provides full backward compatibility with previous versions of the OpenGL standard for existing and workstation applications.

OpenGL 3.2, designed for recent GPU silicon, delivers to application developers such benefits as increased performance for vertex arrays and fence sync objects to avoid idling while waiting for resources shared between the CPU and GPU, or multiple CPU threads; improved pipeline programmability, including geometry shaders in the OpenGL core; and boosted cube map visual quality and multisampling rendering flexibility by enabling shaders to directly process texture samples.

Khronos has defined a set of five ARB extensions that enable the latest graphics functionality in the newest GPUs to be accessed through OpenGL. These will be absorbed into the core of a future version of OpenGL, when the functionality is proven and widely adopted.

“The strategy is to bring revolutionary changes to OpenGL through a rapid sequence of evolutionary updates, and the ARB continues to execute to that plan,” says Neil Trevett, president of the Khronos Group and VP at Nvidia. “Now we have OpenGL 3.2 that fully exposes state-of-the-art GPU capabilities in a form that meets the needs of new and experienced OpenGL developers.”
The full specification can be downloaded at http://www.opengl.org/registry.
product: Matchmoving

Smith Micro Positions Poser 8
Smith Micro Software Productivity and Graphics Group released Poser 8, the next generation of the 3D figure design and animation solution. Poser 8 enables hobbyists, artists, and graphic professionals to create and digitally shape humans, animals, and entire scenes in 3D.

In Poser 8, artists can work with avatars and all types of 3D characters that proliferate in advertising, video games, television, and full-length feature films. The software acts as a virtual stage, offering eight new, ready-to-pose, fully-textured humans of different ethnicities and body types, thus giving artists a starting point in designing their characters. The new Poser content library provides more than 2.5gb of human and animal figures accompanied by a range of accessories, including hair, clothing, sets, and real-world props and elements, such as lights and cameras, to produce complete scenes.

 

With Poser 8, both new users and hobbyists can create entire, professional-quality scenes in minutes that utilize automatically generated walking, running, or dancing sequences, and lifelike speaking capabilities. Once created, users can post their animations to YouTube or any of their favorite social networking sites.

The new, streamlined interface maximizes screen real estate and provides an intuitive workflow, plus a new search-enabled library helps artists easily browse and organize their content. Professional-quality tools and features are included, as well, such as a dependent parameter editor that lets users “teach” objects in a scene to interact with each other, simplifying complex body movement. Other features include cross-body morph brushes to smoothly sculpt a figure across every body part, new photorealistic rendering to more accurately reproduce light and shadows, and improved character rigging for better character bending.

Pricing for Poser 8 is just under $250; upgrade pricing is just under $130.
Product: Character Modeling•Animation

Sony Imageworks Launches Open Source Development Program
Sony Pictures Imageworks, the visual effects and digital character animation unit of Sony Pictures Digital Productions, announced during SIGGRAPH 2009 the launch of an open source development program.

Imageworks, having used open source solutions in its production environment for years, aims to contribute back to the open source community by making these technologies available. The company is initially releasing five technologies: OSL, a programmable shading language for rendering; Field3d, a voxel data storage library; Maya Reticule, a Maya plug-in for camera masking; Scala Migration, a database migration tool; and Pystring, Python-like string handling in C++.

Field3d, an open source library for storing voxel data, provides C++ classes that handle storage in memory, as well as a file format based on HDF5 that allows the C++ objects to be written to and read from disk easily. Scala Migration, a library to manage upgrades and rollbacks to database schemas, is designed to enable multiple developers working on a project with a database back end to design schema modifications independently, apply the migrations to their local database for debugging, and when complete, check them into a source control system.

A small, rich language for programmable shading in ad­vanced renderers and other applications, Open Shading Language (OSL) as offered by Imageworks includes a complete language specification, a compiler from OSL to an intermediate assembly-like byte code, an interpreter that executes OSL shaders on collections of points in a SIMD manner, and an extensive standard shader function library. Pystring is a collection of C++ functions, whereas spReticleLoc is a Maya C++ plug-in plus MEL code that creates a reticule for a camera and enables various camera reference masks to be displayed when looking through the camera, such as filmback, projection gate, and pan and scan attributes.

Imageworks also launched a Web site, http://opensource.imageworks.com, to keep the developer community updated on its open source projects.
Product: Development

Maxon Unveils Cinema 4D Release 11.5

Maxon Computer has made available Cinema 4D Release 11.5,  a comprehensive upgrade to its 3D modeling, painting, animation, and rendering software. Loaded with new features, the new version provides improved workflow and productivity, enabling professionals to create high-quality stills and animations quicker and easier.

R11.5 features a substantially re-tooled and accelerated render engine, an all-new Picture Viewer, enhanced interoperability with leading compositing applications, and a major upgrade to its MoGraph module, which features an integrated Dynamics Engine and a host of new additions. Also, the software provides full support for the latest operating systems from Apple and Microsoft, including Mac OS X Snow Leopard and Windows 7, respectively.
 
Maxon revamped the render engine in R11.5 to take advantage of multi-core processors, enabling artists to render imagery more rapidly and efficiently, and utilize new features, such as render instancing and bucket rendering. Render-intensive tasks, such as sub-polygon displacement, also have been significantly accelerated. The new Picture Viewer offers a vast set of creative tools for reviewing and editing images and animations, saving artists valuable time. Added features include a render history with the ability to compare renderings, image filtering and adjustments, post filter effects, and improved layer management. The RAM player also enables users to play back animations with sound, providing the ability to troubleshoot animations while the job is rendering.

An upgraded version of the MoGraph motion graphics module sporting more functionality is also available. New features in MoGraph 2 include: MoDynamics, an optimized physics simulation package with which hundreds of objects can easily be made to collide or be affected by such forces as gravity or friction; PolyFX for providing quick and easy explosion effects; and MoSpline for cloning existing splines and animating them with forces and effectors.

The price tag for Cinema 4D Core begins at $995, with upgrade pricing available.
Product: Modeling Animation

Interactive Data Visualization Offers SpeedTree Cinema
Interactive Data Visualization (IDV) recently introduced SpeedTree Cinema, the company’s newest product in its line of digital foliage-creation software.

SpeedTree Cinema includes a modeling tool that delivers a unique combination of procedural and handcrafted options. Controls for a number of tree parameters are offered in an intuitive interface, and individual branches and roots may be drawn and edited in the application. Additionally, thousands of leaf and bark textures, and a large and growing list of species are available in the SpeedTree Cinema model library, including palms, broadleaves, cacti, pines, shrubs, and flowers.

Once created, users can then export the SpeedTree Cinema models as a mesh in a variety of popular formats.

An annual site license for IDV’s SpeedTree Cinema—which includes unlimited use in any number of productions for an entire year—is priced at $39,995. A production license—for use of the product in a single production for an unlimited time period—costs $14,995.
Product: Modeling

AMD Soars in Q2 2009
Jon Peddie Research (JPR) announced estimated graphics shipments and supplier market share for the second calendar quarter of this year, resulting in the best quarter-to-quarter change in nine years. This spelled good news for Nvidia and Intel, but the results were especially great for AMD.

Graphics chips (GPUs and IGPs) are the leading indicator of the PC market. The GPUs go into a system before it becomes a PC and gets into the hands of the customer. After the channel stopped ordering GPUs and depleted inventory in anticipation of a long, drawn-out worldwide recession in Q3 and Q4 2008, expectations were hopeful, if not high, that Q1 2009 would change for the better. In fact, Q1 showed improvement, but it was less than expected or hoped for. Instead, Q2 was a very good quarter for vendors—counter to normal seasonality—but then these are hardly normal times. It’s clear that the channel is gearing up for what it thinks is going to be a robust back-to-school season, claims JPR.

Traditionally, Q1 to Q2 sales decline due to summer vacations and preparation for the fall. This year, preparation seems to have gotten off to an early start.

Total Market
Year to year, things were great. Shipments jumped up to 98.3 million units, up 31.3 percent from last quarter, and most everyone fared well.

Things probably aren’t going to get back to the normal seasonality until Q3 or Q4 of this year, and we won’t hit the levels of 2008 until 2010. However, people still need to buy things. Old computers will fail, new employees will be hired and need machines, and, of course, software upgrades, such as Windows 7, will be coming along.

We are still predicting an upturn in the PC market in the third and fourth quarters, and, in particular, for the graphics market (which serves not just PCs, but aerospace and automotive, industrial systems, medical systems, kiosks, and point of sales). We are optimistic because these are seasonally the best quarters, points out JPR. Some contributing factors include:

•    In Q4, there will be two new operating systems: Apple’s Snow Leopard and Windows 7, which will help stimulate new purchases in the holiday season.

Total Graphics Chip Market for Q2 2009

 Vendor This
Quarter
Market
Share
Last
Quarter
Market
Share
 AMD  18.13  18.4%  12.81  17.1%
 Intel  50.30  51.2%  37.20  49.7%
 Nvidia  28.74  29.2%  23.26 31.12%
 Matrox  0.06  0.1%  0.07  0.1%
 Sis  0.40  0.4%  0.70  0.9%
 VIA/S3  0.67  0.7%  0.84  1.0%
 Total  98.30  100%  74.88  100%

•    ATI and Nvidia will be introducing new 40nm designs with higher performance, GPU-compute, and surprisingly aggressive prices.

•    The worst is over for inventories that have been run down, and the channel is now restocking for back to school and the holiday madness.

•    And yes, there is pent-up demand.

•    Lastly, we still believe there will be an impact from the stimulus programs worldwide.

The latest edition of Jon Peddie's “Market Watch” is available now in both electronic and hard copy editions from www.jonpeddie.com.
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