Issue: Volume 33 Issue 9: (October 2010)

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Postproduction


Skin Retouching

Digital Anarchy has announced its new Beauty Box Photo skin retouching software. The plug-in provides an automatic method of smoothing skin and removing blemishes in photographs. Beauty Box Photo takes advantage of new technology from Toonamation, GPU power, and Nvidia’s CUDA. The Auto-Mask button automatically creates an underlying mask, whereas Smart Skin Smoothing adjusts skin-smoothing effects with three controls. Batch processing, mask controls, detail sharpening, and the ability to add t exture further round out the new skin retouching tool. Beauty Box Photo 1.0, priced at $99, is compatible with Adobe Photoshop CS5 and earlier versions of Photoshop and Elements.
Digital Anarchy;www.digitalanarchy.com

Rotoscoping

Mocha Planar Tracking
Imagineer Systems introduced the newest version of its mocha planar tracking and roto solution. Mocha Version 2.0.2 sports enhanced export capabilities to Nuke, improved performance, and support for multilayer film-resolution projects. Additional features include 64-bit support, a streamlined user interface, improved licensing activation, and support for Nuke 6.0, Nuke X, and Apple Motion. Upgrades to Mocha V2 for existing owners of any Imagineer product are priced at $499 for node-locked licenses. New node-locked licenses are priced at $1095. Cross-platform floating licenses are also available at additional cost.
Imagineer Systems; www.imagineersystems.com

Modeling/Animation

Autodesk Anniversary This past summer, Autodesk kicked off 20th anniversary celebrations for 3ds Max, as well as launched its new Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites Premium, a set of 3D modeling, digital sculpting, texture painting, animation, effects, rendering, and compositing tools. Twenty years ago, 3D Studio DOS, the first-ever, affordable 3D modeling, rendering, and animation system for the PC (which would later become known as 3ds Max) made its debut. The company has launched a 3ds Max anniversary microsite on the AREA, complete with an interactive historical timeline, an image gallery showcasing 3ds Max art by users from around the world, a trivia game, a forum where users can post a wish for 3ds Max, and downloadable 3ds Max screensavers.



The new Premium suite includes a choice of Autodesk Maya or Autodesk 3ds Max software; Autodesk Softimage software, featuring the Interactive Creative Environment (ICE) and Autodesk Face Robot technology; Autodesk Mudbox 3D digital sculpting and texture-painting software; Autodesk MotionBuilder software with a real-time, interactive 3D engine; Turtle, a global illumination rendering and baking plug-in for Maya; and the Lagoa Multiphysics simulation framework for Softimage ICE, developed by Thiago Costa, for effects such as plastics, liquids, gases, soft bodies, cloth, and foam.
Each priced $6495, Autodesk Maya Entertainment Creation Suite Premium is shipping now, while Autodesk 3ds Max Entertainment Creation Suite Premium will be released at a later date. Autodesk Subscription for the Entertainment Creation Suites Premium is priced at $1095; Autodesk Subscription with Gold Support for the Entertainment Creation Suites Premium costs $1620. Maya and 3ds Max Entertainment Creation Suites are now available, without Softimage, for $4995.
Autodesk; www.autodesk.com


Motion Capture

Vicon Blade 1.7
Vicon has released Blade 1.7, the newest version of its motion-capture processing software. The Blade unified tool set is designed to meet the growing demands of full performance capture and on-set visualization, as well as to simplify the capture and processing of motion-capture data for the 3D animation pipeline. Blade 1.7 delivers several new features, including support for Windows 7 and a robust method for creating 3D reconstructions. Users can choose to reconstruct motion-capture data with 2D tracks, for maximum speed, or with 3D predictions, for greater accuracy. Furthermore, Blade now supports Vicon’s Bonita optical camera, and provides the ability to stream off-line data for reduced turnaround times. New scripts simplify workflows by grouping a series of actions for one-step processing of tasks, including actor calibration, production skeleton setup and solve, and other workflows. Blade Version 1.7 is available free of charge for all Blade users on their current license.
Vicon; www.vicon.com

Xsens Algorithm
Xsens Technologies unveiled the new KinematicCoupling (KiC) algorithm in its MVN Studio 3.0 advanced signal-processing software suite for professional-grade, human motion capture. The KiC algorithm processes inertial sensor data (accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers) to accurately capture motion in 3D. The patent-pending algorithm is immune to magnetic distortions when estimating full-3D joint orientations, enabling the accurate 3D tracking of human motion under virtually all circumstances. The Xsens MVN full-body tracking system is in use at such developers as Electronic Arts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Sony Pictures Imageworks. Xsens Technologies; www.xsens.com

Video

High-end Playback



Tweak Software, makers of the RV image and sequence viewer for VFX and animation artists, unveiled a beta version of the playback tool. VFX and CG animation studios employ RV to play back and review digital media. RV’s tool set is built on an open, extensible architecture, enabling users to adapt the software to their own pipelines and work styles. RV’s new features include an intuitive drag-and-drop interface for mixing, matching, comparing, and laying out media for review and playback, as well as expanded remote synchronization features for remote review. The RV 3.10 beta offers the ability to create new layouts, stacks, and sequences in the same RV session; stack or layout sequences for comparison or slap comps; add and delete sources; re-order timelines, stacks, and layouts with drag-and-drop functionality; mix sources with different frame rates; re-time sources individually; and create custom layouts.
Tweak Software; www.tweaksoftware.com

Workflow

Shotgun Beta
Shotgun Software released its Shotgun Web-based production tracking system designed specifically for the visual effects, animation, and video game industries. The tool enables all parties involved in a project to gain instant access to critical data, messaging, and real-time project progress. Shotgun also launched a new Open Source Project for tools, extensions, and add-ons for the Shotgun application framework, enabling Shotgun and its customers to collaborate on future pipeline integration tools and share them with the Shotgun community. The company also previewed Version 2.1, the next major Shotgun release, which adds custom work schedules, linking to local files, multiple-file uploading, notifications for submitted versions, and customizable statuses to the system’s set of production tracking and collaboration tools.
Shotgun Software; www.shotgunsoftware.com

Asset Management

Southpaw at SIGGRAPH
Southpaw Technology has announced its Tactic 3.0 asset management/collaboration software, designed to speed the creation of digital assets across complex digital productions in feature film, visual effects, animation, and cinematics studios. Tactic combines Web-based asset management with customizable production and workflow management, helping keep large-scale productions on track and large data sets in order. The tool manages assets, tracking them through their entire life cycle and connecting them to higher-level project and workflow information that can be shared across organizations using integrated communication tools. Additional features include an open API and a configurable, Web-based interface.
Southpaw Technology; www.southpawtech.com

Rendering

Chaos Group Developments
Win Chaos Group previewed its V-Ray RT running on GPU during SIGGRAPH. The new software solution is now open for public beta testing for all current V-Ray RT for 3ds Max users. V-Ray RT GPU is integrated within Autodesk 3ds Max to enable faster rendering and real-time interaction with the virtual environment. Chaos Group’s scalable rendering solution offers new features, such as real-time shading and lights set-up, distributed and cross-platform rendering, and progressive path tracing. After the beta testing period, V-Ray RT GPU will be incorporated in V-Ray 2.0. V-Ray 2.0 for 3ds Max will combine a V-Ray for 3ds Max production renderer, V-Ray RT on CPU, and V-Ray RT on GPU. Chaos Group anticipates releasing V-Ray RT GPU in December.
Chaos Group; www.chaosgroup.com

Compositing

Tactic with Nuke
Win – Linux The Foundry integrated its Nuke compositing application with Southpaw Technology’s Tactic asset management solution, to improve the creative workflow for compositors working with Nuke by alleviating the mundane tasks associated with file management. With the Tactic-Nuke integration, compositing artists working in Tactic can instantly see what their tasks are for a specific shot, access their shot list, launch Nuke, load the most recent version (or older versions) of a shot, and check in a file. This combination is designed to free compositors to focus on creating shots, rather than spending time on finding and securing files, or moving files through the production pipeline.
The Foundry;www.thefoundry.co.uk

Animation

Craft Director Studio
Craft Animations demonstrated its Craft Director Studio software, designed to add realistic vehicle and camera animation to film, commercial, game, and Web site projects. Based on research in autonomous control systems, Craft Director Studio is intended to eliminate multi-step animation and design processes, such as scripting and rigging. The software tool’s drag-and-drop modeling features provide a more rapid pipeline capable of decreasing overall production times by as much as 80 percent.
Craft Animations; www.craftanimations.com

VFX

GenArts Sapphire 5
GenArts - Linux
GenArts, provider of specialized visual effects software for the film, television, and video industries, released a new version of GenArts Sapphire for Nuke. Industry-standard visual effects plug-ins for a variety of platforms, Sapphire 5 extends benefits to Nuke users as well as those on other OFX hosts, such as Fusion, Scratch, Toxik, Baselight, Film Master, and Mistika. Sapphire 5 for Nuke/OFX features more than 200 industry-standard visual effects plug-ins, including Glow, blur, edge ray, defocus, and texture tools; floating-point support; GPU acceleration; and support for the OFX standard. GenArts Sapphire 5 for Nuke/OFX is now available. Floating licenses for Nuke, Fusion, and Toxik are priced at $2,499; node-locked licenses are available for $1,699. Rental licenses are now available for the first time for $169 per month. Current users may upgrade to Sapphire 5 for $599.
GenArts; www.genarts.com

Hardware

Video SpheroCamHDR
Spheron-VR AG presented the latest version of its HDR Camera, the SpheroCamHDR, at SIGGRAPH. The SpheroCam HDR can capture 360-degree, spherical images in a single scan. With 26 f-stops of exposure and clarity of up to 50 megapixels, the SpheroCam HDR is designed to capture the optimal image quality for 3D image-based rendering. The camera’s 3D immersive measurement technology records spatial data and enables the placement of CG objects in virtually any location. The company’s new HDR camera is being used by such VFX companies as The Mill – London for 3D advertising productions and Sony Pictures Imageworks for the production of major Hollywood feature films.
Spheron-VR AG; www.spheron.com

Professional Services

Craft Custom Development Craft Animations announced its Custom Development Service for designers, animators, educators, and engineers who require specialized capabilities, real-time integration, or custom tool sets for specific task completion. The new service, employing knowledge of specialized tool development and autonomous control systems, delivers personalized stand-alone solutions, add-ons, or plug-ins based on specific customer request. The Craft Animations Custom Development Service offers the following tool expansion opportunities, for example: creation of specific animation patterns, transformation of raw data to visual representations and animations, integration of animation capabilities in visualization systems and game engines, and complex rigging services. Pricing is dependant on the scope and depth of each request and the need for proprietary ownership.
Craft Animations; www.craftanimations.com

Education

Long-distance Learning Escape Studios launched a new series of online mentored learning courses to meet the needs of international graduates looking to gain employment and of industry seeking fresh computer graphics talent. Delivered via Escape Studios’ e-learning platform, the new 12-month, mentored curriculum covers the techniques and tools required to start a career in visual effects, as well as provides the recruitment advice needed to break into CG industry. All students gain access to a virtual classroom, where they can interact with and seek feedback from tutors and fellow classmates. Escape Studios’ mentored learning program is integrated with social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The secure e-learning site also encourages students to submit assignments for grading, communicate directly with tutors, and work together with friends on projects. Escape Studios has opened its first overseas branch in the USA.
Escape Studios; www.escapestudios.co.uk

3D Printing Service

Shapeways Add-in
Shapeways, the online marketplace that provides access to the latest 3D printing technologies, launched a Shapeways add-in for SolidWorks 3D mechanical CAD (MCAD) software. Using the Shapeways tool, SolidWorks users can upload a design directly to www.Shapeways.com and opt to 3D print it in a number of materials currently offered by Shapeways, including stainless steel, glass, full-color sandstone, and a variety of durable plastics. SolidWorks users can download the Shapeways add-in for free from the Design Solutions Web site at www.designsolutions.nl/shapeways.
Shapeways; www.shapeways.com

HW


Workstations

Multi-core Boxx News
Boxx Technologies introduced its fastest dual-socket workstation, the 3DBoxx 8550 Extreme Edition, to help maximize creativity and productivity. The new workstation features Intel Xeon 5600 series processors optimized to run at 4.2GHz and providing 12 cores of high-powered, multi-tasking performance for 3D design, animation, visualization, compositing, video editing, digital intermediate work, and rendering. The 3DBoxx 8550 Extreme Edition liquid-cooled workstation is built for multi-GPU configurations; in fact, its seven PCI-E x16, 2.0 slots support up to four, dual-slot GPUs. The company also introduced the 3DBoxx 4880 XXtreme liquid-cooled workstation with a six-core Intel Core i7 processor and four Nvidia Quadro 5000 GPUs.
Boxx Technologies; www.boxxtech.com

3D Printing

Milky White Glass
Shapeways, an online marketplace and provider of 3D printing, expanded its suite of materials to include Milky White Matte Glass. Shapeways’ commercial service enables 3D designers to manufacture glass objects for both their personal use and to be sold in the Shapeways online shops. Applications for Milky White Matte Glass include jewelry, figurines, and decorative objects. Produced from recycled bottle and plate glass, Milky White Matte Glass has a greenish tint and is 100 percent recyclable. Tiny spherical glass particles are bound together with an organic binder, and cured in an oven. Milky White Matte Glass has a production lead time of 21 working days. Shapeways community members can also produce objects in Full Color Sandstone; Stainless Steel; White, Strong & Flexible nylon-based plastic; Grey Robust strong ABS plastic; and White Detail, Transparent Detail, and Black Detail acrylic-based plastics.
Shapeways; www.shapeways.com

Input Devices

3D Mouse Support



3Dconnexion announced that its full line of 3D mice is supported by Adobe’s Photoshop CS5 and Autodesk’s Maya 2011 and Softimage 2011. 3Dconnexion’s 3D mice enable greater interaction with character animations, scenes, and environments to deliver a more immersive and rewarding design experience. For example, 3Dconnexion’s newest driver update for Autodesk 3ds Max brings advanced 3D navigation and control to the design process, delivering greater control to game developers, visual effects artists, and graphic designers. In addition to intelligent 3D navigation, the new driver update streamlines the 3Dconnexion 3D mouse user interface within 3ds Max. Using the Menu or Panel button on the 3D mouse activates a pop-up menu to centralize all 3D mouse-related options in one location. These new features are now available in a free 3DxWare software update and support Autodesk 3ds Max 2009 to 2011 on Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 across the entire product line. The 3Dconnexion product line includes the Professional Series with the SpacePilot PRO priced at $399 and SpaceExplorer priced at $299, and the Standard Series with the SpaceNavigator at $99 and SpaceNavigator for Notebooks at $129.
3Dconnexion; www.3dconnexion.com

Faster with Fusion

Fusion-io showcased its ioMemory module, which extends the memory in servers to accelerate functions such as 3D rendering and other data-intensive activities. The device enables users to infuse workstations with 80GB of RAM-like memory via the PCI Express interface. Well suited to data-intensive workloads, the module can delivers up to 285,000 sustained IOPS with less than 25 microseconds of commit latency. Fusion’s technology has been used to help realize such recent 3D movies as Clash of the Titans, Alice in Wonderland, and Avatar, reveals a company representative.
Fusio-io; www.fusionio.com
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