Issue: Volume: 33 Issue: 4 (April 2010)

Spotlight


Product: Peripherals

Wacom Offers New Cintiq 21UX

Wacom recently introduced its Cintiq21UX, its newly redesigned interactive pen display designed to meet the needs of professional photographers, designers, artists, and animators.

The Cintiq 21UX captures the slightest nuance of pen pressure against the LCD surface and offers 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity. Rear-mounted Touch Strips are ideally placed for fingertip access while working. Each Touch Strip has an accompanying thumb-controlled Touch Strip Toggle button that controls as many as four user-assigned functions per application, such as zoom, scroll, brush size adjustment, and canvas rotation.




A patented stand allows users to recline the pen display at any angle between 10 and 65 degrees to match the user’s ideal working posture. In addition to reclining, the Cintiq 21UX can be rotated up to 180 degrees in either direction to take advantage of natural drawing movements or offer a different viewing angle. The Cintiq can be removed from the stand for use on a tabletop or to attach it to an articulating arm (not included).

The Cintiq 21UX ships with a number of software packages, including Corel Painter, Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0, and Wacom Brushes 3.0. It is priced at $1999.

Products: Workstation

Boxx Debuts Batam

Boxx Technologies unveiled Bantam, a compact, high-performance for budget-conscious design professionals. Bantam can reach speeds up to 3.46GHz and has been thoroughly tested by BoxxLabs, the company’s R&D division, for compatibility with SolidWorks, Autodesk Revit, 3ds Max, and other 2D/3D animation, modeling, visualization, and motion media software applications.

Users can choose a Bantam processor (Intel Core i7, Core i5, or Core i3) that accommodates their workflow and budget. Other features include the option of Intel Core i5 or Core i3 integrated graphics, Nvidia Quadro FX 3800 or ATI FirePro professional graphics cards, USB 3.0, and the SuperSpeed bus (which is faster than an external hard drive).

Batam is available now for $1895.

News: Workstations

Workstation Market Takes Sizeable Step Forward

Jon Peddie Research (JPR) reported robust results for the workstation and professional graphics markets in Q4 2009, as the industry successfully plowed ahead, anxious to put the misery of late 2008 and early 2009 further behind. The multimedia and graphics research firm has completed its analysis of the workstation and professional graphics markets, and reports that the quarter saw another solid round of gains, building off the upward trend started in Q3. All told, the industry shipped 716,900 workstations in the fourth quarter, resulting in an 11.2 percent sequential increase.

Even better, workstation ASPs finally managed a modest, but perceptible 3.6% percent uptick in Q4, a gain the firm traces in part to improved confidence and looser purse strings, and in part simply as the not-quite-equal reaction to the more dramatic deflation in prices seen in the immediate aftermath of the economic downturn. Healthier ASPs meant the industry got to enjoy the relatively rare event of seeing units outpaced by revenue, which rose an estimated 15.2 percet sequentially to $1.43 billion.

In Q3 2009, HP overtook Dell in workstation unit volume, staking its claim as the new workstation market leader. Clearly, Dell hadn’t taken its demotion lightly, instead digging in its heels to raise its fourth-quarter unit share back up 1.5 points, in the process moving back into a virtual dead heat with HP.
Simply put, the professional graphics market in the fourth quarter posted results significantly hotter than expected, with units (mobiles included) up 53.3 percent year-over-year and revenue (add-in cards only) close behind at 41.1 percent.

The market for professional graphics parallels the workstation market, with the former's performance often providing an effective leading indicator for the latter's. And that bodes well for workstations in 2010. Because if the numbers for workstations in Q1 2010 look anything like those posted by professional graphics in Q4 2009, they should exceed all but the most optimistic of OEMs’ expectations.
Now in its sixth year, JPR's Workstation Report — Professional Computing Markets and Technologies can be purchased at www.jonpeddie.com.

Product: Modeling Animation

Autodesk Readies Its 2011 Releases

Autodesk has revealed 2011 product versions of its digital entertainment creation software, including Maya, 3ds Max, Softimage, Mudbox, and MotionBuilder--all of which offer features for increased production efficiency. The products offer new features and enhancements that help accelerate workflows and improve data interoperability through formats such as Autodesk FBX, helping artists to maximize their creativity and optimize their productivity. In addition, Autodesk has launched new versions of its Kynapse and HumanIK game development middleware, focusing on improved ease of use.



On the heels of the Maya 2010 makeover last summer, Maya 2011 features a customizable user interface, enhanced tools for character animation, including non-destructive live retargeting, high-performance display of large scenes in the viewport, new 3D editorial capabilities for pre-visualization and virtual production workflows, integrated color management, asset structures for pipeline connectivity, and improved rotoscoping. Also, Maya 2011 is now available for Snow Leopard, the 64-bit Mac OS X operating system.

Maya 2001 is priced at $3495 for a stand-alone license; an upgrade from Maya 2010 costs $1745.

3ds Max 2011 sports a powerful new node-based material editor-- the feature most requested by 3ds Max users--and a high-quality hardware renderer that provides near-production-quality results 10 times faster than traditional rendering techniques on common graphics cards. It also offers a tightly integrated, full-featured high dynamic range compositing system (based on Autodesk Toxik technology), as well as enhanced tools and workflows for creating and texturing models, animating characters, and viewing high-quality images interactively, which help to significantly increase productivity.

An Autodesk 3ds Max 2011 stand-alone license costs $3495; an upgrade from the 2010 version from 3ds Max or 3ds Max Design is priced at $1745.

Softimage 2011 introduces new rendering and animation tools that help artists create more complex, high-quality characters and effects in less time. The software offers a novel advanced shading architecture and editing environment, an innovative rigging paradigm with support for kinematics in ICE (Interactive Creative Environment), and automated lip synching in the Face Robot facial animation tool set.

A Softimage 2011 stand-alone license runs $2995; an upgrade from Softimage 2010 is set at $1495.
Mudbox 2011, priced at $745 for a stand-alone license, delivers new tools for helping to deform and pose models. It also offers new image adjustment brushes and blend modes for paint layers, Vector Displacement map extraction, the ability to create higher-quality turntables, and enhanced file transfer with Maya and Adobe Photoshop.



Offering significantly improved interoperability with Maya 2011 and 3ds Max 2011, MotionBuilder 2011 now integrates more smoothly and reliably into production pipelines. Skinning and blendshape deformations are calculated on the GPU for improved performance. The in-viewport experience is significantly more interactive, and playback is many times faster, further enhancing the software's capabilities as a real-time virtual production system. The new version is priced at $3995.

Additionally, Autodesk’s FBX 2011 asset exchange technology helps facilitate higher-fidelity data exchange between Autodesk software and certain third-party applications. The open format provides new support for additional third-party and proprietary applications. In addition, game developers using Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3 will be able to import FBX files directly into the Unreal Editor. Developers can use the Python programming language to integrate FBX technology into pipelines not based on C++. FBX 2011 is offered free of charged and can be downloaded at http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/pc/index?siteID=123112&id=6839916.

These new products also will be available as part of the Autodesk 2011 Entertainment Creation Suites, giving artists and production facilities access to a broad range of creative tool sets at significant cost savings. The suites, priced at $4995, offer a choice of either Maya 2011 or 3ds Max 2011, and include MotionBuilder 2011 real-time character animation software, as well as Mudbox 2011 digital sculpting and 3D painting software.

In further news, Autodesk is offering HumanIK 4.5, animation middleware for full-body inverse kinematics and retargeting that enhances existing animation systems, allowing characters to interact dynamically and realistically with their environments. HumanIK 4.5 improves ease of use with an artist-friendly integration into the Unreal Engine and a Characterization plug-in for creating and validating characters in Maya. Pricing is unavailable at this time.

Autodesk, meanwhile upgraded its Kynapse middleware to Version 7.  An artificial intelligence solution that supports complex dynamic 3D pathfinding, spatial reasoning, team co-ordination, and automatic data generation, Kynapse is now easier to use, with new pathdata generation, improved tuning and profiling, simplified integration and configuration, as well as off-the-shelf behaviors. Pricing will be announced at a later date. 

Product: Mobile Workstation

 Dell Unveils the Precision M4500

Dell continues to push the boundaries of workstation performance and mobility with the most powerful 15.6-inch mobile workstation: the Dell Precision M4500. 




The M4500 is first 15.6-inch mobile workstation to offer an optional SSD MiniCard for additional high-performance data storage and user-selectable thermal tables that keep systems cool and extend battery life when full power isn’t needed.  The machine provides near-instant access to e-mail, calendar, contacts, the Internet, and virtual remote desktops, with a new technology called Dell Precision ON.

With a starting weight of only 6 pounds, the M4500 supports 32- and 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP, along with Red Hat Linux 5.3 (64 bit).

The product is available with a number of optional features, including: Intel Core i7-920XM Quad Core processor Extreme Edition; Nvidia Quadro FX 1800M or Quadro FX 880M graphics with 1GB of dedicated memory for large models and models with high texture; HD+ sRGB LED 15.6-inch screen with 120 percent user-selectable color gamut support; and 3MP camera and Gobi 2.0 mobile broadband support with a multi-touch touchpad for greater user flexibility.

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