Issue: Volume: 32 Issue: 9 (Sep. 2009)

Spotlight


Adobe Releases F lash Platform as Open Source

Adobe Systems announced two new Flash Platform open-source initiatives for developers, media companies, and publishers. The Adobe Flash Platform is a complete system of integrated tools, frameworks, clients, and servers for the development of Web applications, content, and video that run consistently across operating systems and devices.

Open Source Media Framework (OSMF), part of the project previously code named Strobe, enables developers to quickly and easily build more robust, feature-rich media players optimized for the Adobe Flash Platform. The Text Layout Framework (TLF), meanwhile, will help developers bring sophisticated typography capabilities to Web applications. Both OSMF and TLF are freely available as open-source software, helping content owners extend their online media efforts as they look to create new business opportunities and monetization strategies for publishing on the Web.

The OSMF architecture enables developers to easily create unique playback experiences that can leverage plug-ins for advertising, reporting metrics, and content delivery, along with standard video-player features such as playback controls, video navigation, buffering, and dynamic streaming.

As part of this initiative, Akamai has joined Adobe to advance the industry toward a widely adopted, cohesive standard for media players that support Adobe Flash Platform technologies. Akamai and Adobe are collaborating on the Open Video Player initiative, previously founded by Akamai, and the release of OSMF technologies. The goal is to ensure a consistent framework for media player development that enables developers, publishers, content owners, corporations, and others to more quickly and easily build new video players that create and sustain profitable new business models. By providing all the components for media player development, the combined efforts will help strengthen the industry shift toward open standards.

Meanwhile, TLF goes beyond what is possible for Web text layout using HTML and CSS technologies today, with support for complex languages, bidirectional text, multi-columns, and other advanced typographical features and controls. TLF is an extensible ActionScript library built on top of the text engine in Adobe Flash Player 10 and Adobe AIR 1.5. Source code and a component library for TLF are available as open source at no charge under the Mozilla Public License at http://opensource.adobe.com/wiki/display/tlf/.

Apple Updates Final Cut Studio

Apple has upgraded its Final Cut Studio with more than 100 new features, and unveiled new versions of Final Cut Pro, Motion, Soundtrack Pro, Color, and Compressor.

Final Cut Studio features Final Cut Pro 7, which boasts new versions of Apple’s ProRes codecs, expanded support of virtually any workflow, Easy Export for one-step output to various formats, and iChat Theater support for real-time collaboration. Motion 4 sports such enhanced tools as 3D shadows, reflections, and depth of field for motion graphics and visual effects, whereas Soundtrack Pro 3 streamlines audio postproduction with new multitrack audio tools. Color 1.5 offers improved integration with Final Cut Pro and support for full-color resolution. Compressor 3.5 adds new features for easily setting up and customizing export options. 



The new Final Cut Studio is priced at $999 and is available as an upgrade for $299.
Apple also introduced Final Cut Server 1.5, an asset management and automation tool for Final Cut Studio that features offline editing with ProRes Proxy, production hierarchies to organize media, and support for still sequences to view and manage image sequences for graphics and effects workflows.

Final Cut Server now includes unlimited client licenses and is available for $999 or as a $299 upgrade for existing users.

Autodesk Debuts
New Product SuitesAt SIGGRAPH, Autodesk rolled out its Suites for Digital Entertainment Creation, which give artists, production facilities, and educators access to more creative tools at a cost savings of more than 35 percent when compared to purchasing each product license separately.

 

 “Autodesk is introducing affordable Suites of its popular 3D tools to better help artists create innovative entertainment in today’s tough economic conditions,” says Stig Gruman, vice president, Autodesk Digital Entertainment Group.

Autodesk is introducing the Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites and the Autodesk Real-Time Animation Suites for commercial use. The company has also launched the Autodesk Education Suite for Entertainment Creation for postsecondary educators, and Autodesk Animation Academy 2010 for secondary schools.

The flagship Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites offer customers a choice of either Maya 2010 or 3ds Max 2010 software, along with both Mudbox 2010 and MotionBuilder 2010 software. Mudbox helps artists to sculpt highly detailed models more quickly and intuitively. MotionBuilder provides a real-time animation engine for more interactive creative feedback and efficient handling of large amounts of animation data. With FBX 2010 data exchange technology, the Suites provide a cohesive, efficient pipeline.

The Autodesk Real-Time Animation Suites are designed for animation-intensive productions. These Suites also offer a choice of either Maya 2010 or 3ds Max 2010 software, in addition to MotionBuilder 2010 software. MotionBuilder provides animators with a real-time 3D engine and specialized animation tool set to more quickly create, manipulate, and process large amounts of animation data.

The Autodesk Education Suite for Entertainment Creation helps educators prepare students for professional careers in the increasingly competitive 3D job market. The Suite includes access to flexible learning resources and the same software used by top creative professionals: 2010 versions of Maya, 3ds Max, MotionBuilder, Mudbox, Softimage, and SketchBook Pro software. The Suite is available for both institution and student purchase.

Autodesk Animation Academy 2010 helps inspire secondary school students to explore careers in the arts, entertainment, and visualization fields. The Suite offers software and curriculum resources that enable students to learn 3D technology while exploring new ways to visualize ideas. It includes the 2010 versions of Maya, 3ds Max, MotionBuilder, Mudbox, and SketchBook Pro software, as well as a Curriculum Resources DVD and access to online community resources. Animation Academy is available exclusively for secondary or high schools providing instruction for teenagers 11 to 17 years old.

All four Digital Entertainment Creation Suites are expected to ship for the Windows operating system during the fall. The price for the Entertainment Creation Suite is $4995, while the Real-Time Animation Suite costs $4795. Autodesk Subscription can be purchased for the Suites.

Dell Rolls Out the Precision
M6400Dell and AMD joined forces to further power the mobile market, announcing the newest solution for content creators and CAD designers: the ATI FirePro M7740 graphics accelerator, set to power Dell Precision M6400 Mobile Workstations.

The Dell Precision M6400 brings swift real-time graphical rendering and color representation to the forefront of large model design work, while giving professionals the performance capabilities for multitasking and multi-threaded applications. The M6400 offers RAID storage options and memory scalability. The mobile workstation is also designed to meet the demanding needs of customers working with large models in Microsoft Direct X- or OpenGL-based applications.
The starting price for the M6400 is $1759, which includes a $350 instant savings.

AMD Delivers
Its Most Powerful 3D Card YetTo meet the extreme productivity needs of today’s CAD, DCC, and oil and gas professionals, AMD unveiled the ATI FirePro V8750 3D workstation graphics accelerator in the company’s line of ultra high-end professional graphics hardware.

ATI FirePro V8750 3D workstation graphics accelerator brings the highest number of shader engines (800) with the highest memory bandwidth (115.2gb/sec) in the 3D professional graphics offerings today, enabling professionals to render highly complex models and photorealistic images in real time.

The ultra-parallel processing architecture of the V8750 maximizes throughput by automatically directing graphics horsepower where needed. Intelligent management of computational resources enables enhanced utilization of the GPU to support real-time rendering of complex models and scenes with high frame rates when animating.

This acceleration is accessed through ATI Stream technology, a set of advanced hardware and software technologies that allow a system to dynamically balance workloads by tapping both the CPU and GPU in a workstation for accelerated application performance. Now, applications that take advantage of the shader units and memory bandwidth perform significantly better than with competing solutions.

The ATI FirePro V8750 3D workstation graphics accelerator offers 30 percent more bandwidth than the comparable competing solution, and is equipped with 2gb of GDDR5 frame-buffer memory. The card also features two DisplayPort outputs: one dual-link-enabled DVI and one stereo sync output.

Concurrent with this product launch, AMD announced the availability of ATI CrossFire Pro technology, which enables users to combine the power of two discrete graphics cards to scale their application performance for maximum productivity. This capability, which involves coupling the two graphics cards using an interconnect cable, is designed to provide a significant performance boost to CAD and DCC applications.

In addition to the ATI FirePro V8750, ATI CrossFire Pro is planned for availability on the company’s mid-range and above graphics cards, including ATI FirePro V5700, V7750, and V87003D.

Initial support is provided for Windows XP (32-bit and 64-bit), with support for other operating systems scheduled to follow in the second half of the year.

The new ATI FirePro V8750 3D workstation graphics accelerator is available now for $1799.

One Maya, More Value
In an unexpected move, Autodesk announ-ced its Maya 2010 software, which unifies the Maya Complete 2009 and Maya Unlimited 2009 feature sets with matchmoving, compositing, and rendering capabilities into a single offering. Now, Maya 2010 is available on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS operating systems.

“Maya 2010 makes it easier and more affordable for artists to build a cohesive computer graphics pipeline—integrating 2D and 3D, simulation and animation, rendering, and compositing,” says Marc Petit, senior vice president, Autodesk Media & Entertainment.

 

Maya 2010 has all the features of Maya Unlimited 2009 and Maya Complete 2009, including advanced simulation tools, such as the Maya Nucleus Unified Simulation Framework, Maya nCloth, Maya nParticles, Maya Fluid Effects, Maya Hair, and Maya Fur; in addition to its modeling, texturing, and animation tools, brush-based 3D technology, an integrated stereoscopic workflow, Toon Shading, rendering, an extensive Maya application programming interface/software development kit, and Python and MEL scripting capabilities.

New features in Maya 2010 are Maya Composite, a high-dynamic composting system based on Autodesk Toxik software, which is no longer available as a stand-alone solution; Autodesk MatchMover advanced 3D tracking and matchmoving system; five Mental Ray Batch render nodes; and the Autodesk Backburner network render queue manager.

Maya 2010 is also shipping as part of Autodesk’s new Digital Entertainment Creation Suites. A license of Maya 2010 costs $3495, with upgrade pricing available; all Maya Complete and Unlimited customers with a current Subscription are entitled to the Maya 2010 release.

Intel Unveils Media
SDKIntel introduced the Intel Media Software Development Kit (SDK), a new tool for simplifying the development of hardware-accelerated video applications.

Intel Media SDK Version 1.0 enables developers to plug into many different components—Intel CPU, Intel Graphics, Discrete graphics, and other hardware—through a single API. The SDK delivers a single interface to optimize performance and accelerate video applications for processors and graphics chipsets. It can be downloaded online from http://software.intel.com/en-us/articles/media/.



Intel also announced Version 2.2 of Intel Threading Building Blocks (Intel TBB), a high-level programming method for parallelism. Intel TBB 2.2 improves performance with full support for the lambda capabilities of the new C++ draft standard (unofficially named C++0x) and added flexibility for ISVs to redistribute with applications using Intel TBB, such as Autodesk Maya and Epic Games Unreal Engine.

Also, Intel announced a new low-voltage version of the Intel Xeon 5500 series processor, the Intel Xeon L5530, as well as the Intel Xeon W5590 dual-socket workstation chip and the W3550 and W3580 single-socket workstation chips.

Nvidia Ups Quadro Plex
PowerNvidia unveiled new Quadro Plex solutions targeted at scalable visualization professionals who interact with 3D models and analyze large volumes of data, allowing them to seamlessly run any software application across multiple ultra-high resolution displays or projectors.

These cost-effective visual computing platforms are designed to power a wide range of ultra high resolution and multi-channel collaboration environments, ranging from interpretation desktops, to visualization walls, to network operations centers.

The solutions are built on the Quadro Plex visual computing system, featuring two Quadro FX 5800 GPUs and 8gb of memory. By connecting two Quadro Plex systems to a single workstation, users can view images at a resolution of 36 megapixels, span visuals across two 4k projectors or eight auto-synchronized displays, and drive stereoscopic 3D content for a truly immersive experience.

Available from Nvidia partners, such as Cyviz and IGI, Quadro Plex scalable visualization solutions power environments where high-res images and real-time data feeds are seamlessly blended for training, simulation, and operations monitoring.

Quadro Plex scalable visualization solutions are available now from Nvidia partners starting at $10,750 for a single Quadro Plex system.

Graphics Take a Hit But Ready for Comeback
Jon Peddie Research (JPR), the industry’s research and consulting firm for graphics and multimedia, announced that estimated global graphics chip shipments for 2009 will see the worst-ever year-over-year drop in shipments. The decrease in shipments for 2009 will be even worse than the 2000-2001 recession. However, 2010 promises an amazing comeback.

Graphics chip shipments are a leading market indicator—the graphics chips go to the ODMs and OEMs, which then build and ship PCs.

Considering its data, interviews with suppliers, and world economic forecast models, JPR believes the worst is over and the third quarter will show recovery leading all the way through 2010, albeit subject to seasonal adjustments.

Portable devices, such as notebooks, laptops, and netbooks, will be strong, but they will not overwhelm desktops, which are still the preferred choice of platform for power users and professionals.

Architectural changes, such as Intel’s Nehalem, and new product introductions from AMD, Intel, and Nvidia, are going to be disruptive to the status quo and traditional market share of the suppliers. The continued expansion and development of heterogeneous computing and GPU compute will stimulate growth in 2010, enabled by Apple’s and Microsoft’s new operating systems.

New programming capabilities using OpenCL, DirectX 11, and Nvidia CUDA architecture will remove barriers to the exploitation of the GPU as a serious, economical, and powerful co-processor in all level of PCs.

The net result is a new PC environment starting in the third quarter, and this new environment will have a beneficial impact on computing in 2010 and onward.

JPR provides consulting, research, and other specialized services to technology companies in fields including graphics development, multimedia for professional applications and consumer electronics, and high-end computing. Jon Peddie’s “Market Watch” is a quarterly report focused on the market activity of PC graphics controllers for notebook and desktop computing.

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