Issue: Volume 35 Issue 4 June/July 2012

Spotlight


Faceware’s New Face

Faceware Technologies recently launched its Faceware Professional Product Line, a low-cost, start-to-finish facial animation tool suite built to capture, analyze, and create realistic facial performances three to 10 times faster than hand-keying that same performance.

The Faceware Professional Product Line includes completely updated versions of the Faceware Head-Mounted Camera System (HMCS) and Faceware Retargeter, and a brand-new product called Faceware Analyzer. This marks the first time Faceware has offered all its internal technologies for use in studios. Moreover, the Faceware Professional Product Line consists of technologies to handle every step in the facial animation process: video capture, performance analysis, and facial animation.

Faceware Analyzer and Retargeter are free to evaluate and can be downloaded directly from www.facewaretech.com. Both come with a free IMPD Performance Library and Rig Library, to help users get up to speed faster. The Faceware HMCS is available for rent or purchase.

Dell’s New Workstation Line

Dell has redesigned its portfolio of Precision tower workstations for better performance and easier access to vital components. The workstations sport an externally removable power supply and front-accessible hard drives; the Precision T7600 converts to a rack solution for remote access. New patented technology eliminates nearly all memory errors, increasing the reliability of the workstation and maximizing uptime for users.

The portfolio includes: the Dell Precision T7600 (starting at $2,149), featuring one of the highest-performing CPU stacks, power supplies, and graphics power for a dual-socket system; the T5600 (starting at $1,879), for space-constrained environments that need substantial compute capability; the T3600 (starting at $1,099), for mid-range workstation work loads; and the T1650 (starting at $789), for applications that push beyond a standard desktop machine.

HP Delivers More Zs, Mobiles

HP rolled out the new, affordable Z220 workstations, featuring next-generation Intel Core and Intel Xeon processors, the latest integrated and discrete professional graphics from Intel, Nvidia, and AMD, and four integrated USB 3.0 high-speed ports. The Z220 entry-level workstation is available in a Convertible Mini-Tower (CMT) or a compact Small Form Factor (SFF).

The company also delivered new EliteBook mobile workstations. EliteBook w-series combines high-performance features and graphics with next-generation Intel Core i7 quad-core or i7 or i5 dual-core processors and up to 32gb of system memory. The HP EliteBook 8770w offers the highest-performing professional graphics and extreme processing power, and is configurable with a 17.3-inch diagonal display. The EliteBook 8570w comes with a 15.6-inch diagonal display, while the EliteBook 8470w sports a 14-inch diagonal HD display. The 8570w and 8770w are available with HP DreamColor Technology as an option.

Quad-core configurations of the Z220 start at $699 and the EliteBook 8770w, 8570w, and 8470w mobile workstations start at $1,699, $1,449, and $1,329, respectively.

New, Out of Boxx

Boxx Technologies is offering the 3DBOXX 4925 ($3259), the first single-Intel Xeon processor workstation with support for up to four GPUs. The latest addition to the Boxx 4900 series workstation line, the 4925 enables users to simultaneously design and render without bogging down the processes. Available in standard and GPU versions, the air-cooled 4925 features an eight core, 16-thread Intel Xeon E5-2600 processor with ECC memory to safeguard against internal data corruption. The GPU edition is available with up to four Nvidia graphics cards. Eight DIMM sockets for quad-channel DDR3 SDRAM provide faster memory performance.

Growth Expected for the CG Market Through 2015

The first SIGGRAPH conference was held in 1974, with 600 attendees. At that time, the fledgling and poorly defined industry was estimated to be worth $540 million dollars (the equivalent in today’s dollars would be $2.3 billion).

Over the years, the market has seen its share of ups and downs—with far more ups than downs. More recently, growth through the recession was slow, but there was still growth. Looking forward, the industry is expected to enjoy even greater growth than some of the component industries have experienced.
Computer graphics as realized in special effects in the movies and TV, computer games, advertising, and product design are achieved through a combination of advanced hardware and software. Advanced development software has successfully exploited recent advances in multi-core processors, in the form of traditional x86 CPUs and massively parallel processor GPUs.

From the development of 3D CAD models, to special effects like smoke and hair, and physically accurate images generated by raytracing, computer graphics has come to permeate all aspect of our lives and entertainment.

However, at the same time, it is difficult to explain computer graphics in simple terms—CG isn’t a thing like a nut or bolt; rather, it’s a tool kit, and it’s also the end result of the use of the tools.

Computer graphics is an industry, and at the same time, it is a major component to dozens of other industries.
In addition to the basic elements of CG (such as the associated hardware and software), there are adjacent industries, such as schools that teach CG, and visualization and design laboratories where everything from airplanes and automobiles to toothbrushes and mobile phones are developed.

New Wacom Cintiqs Paint a Picture-Perfect Family

Wacom has delivered two new offerings in the Cintiq family of interactive pen displays: the Cintiq 24HD touch and Cintiq 22HD. The new Cintiq 24HD touch combines Wacom’s multi-touch with its pen technology. The Cintiq 24HD touch closely replicates the experience of working with two hands when using traditional materials such as paints, markers, and clay. The Cintiq 22HD offers a pen-on-screen experience that delivers the same natural feel derived from working with traditional brushes, pencils, and pens. The Cintiq 22HD ($1999) is available now, and the Cintiq 24HD touch ($3699) is expected to ship this month.
 

3D: Can It Ever Succeed?

In its latest market study on stereo 3D, Jon Peddie Research (JPR) has found that there are five incompatible growing markets on 13 different platforms. 

While the big screen generates the big numbers (3D movies in the US grossed over $10 billion in 2011, in a somewhat depressed year for cinema) with just 11,000 screens worldwide, the little screen showed 3D on over 23 million displays in 2011. By “little screen” we mean TV, of course, but also handhelds and mobile game devices. Applications range from entertainment to simulation, visualization, and medical interfaces. 
There are seven types of display decoder technologies that deliver stereo 3D on at least 13 platforms, making the combination a potential 91 examples. But not every platform can use every decoder, and, therefore, we have determined that there are 29 practical combinations. The various platforms have CAGRs from 16% (new 3D screens) to 190% for mobile devices.

While stereovision primarily has been associated with 3D movies and games, its use is more far-reaching. Increasingly, stereovision, or S3D, is used for live concerts and sports events in theaters and streamed to tablets and televisions, uploaded to YouTube and other video-sharing sites, and for stereo photos shown on PCs, digital picture frames, and mobile phones.

S3D is also used in scientific and engineering applications, such as display of automobiles during the design phase, in medical study and surgical practice for molecular study, and astronomical visualization, to mention just a few uses outside the realm of entertainment.

JPR sees new opportunities coming with the advent of S3D sensors and displays on mobile devices. The addition of depth information provided by S3D enhances the quality and the quantity of information coming into the device, and augmented-reality applications will become even more compelling and powerful.
As JPR President Jon Peddie notes, S3D is a component, not an industry. Like color, sound, and motion sensing, it is a feature that augments content and makes it richer, but if the content isn’t good in the first place, then S3D is not going to help. The industry is well past the stage of novelty, and it’s time to start exploring the potential of S3D, he adds.

AMD Gets Fired Up with New Card

AMD has released the AMD FirePro W600 professional graphics card, the company’s first professional graphics card to leverage AMD’s Graphics Core Next architecture and 28nm production technology, for use in high-resolution, content-rich, multi-screen display wall environments. With this launch, AMD is addressing a growing need for large, dynamic screens that are easily updated with new content.

The AMD FirePro W600 professional graphics card includes: support for up to six high-resolution displays or projectors from a single-slot card and six mini-DisplayPort connectors; 2gb of GDDR5 graphics memory; support for two HD video streams via AMD’s Unified Video Decoder; projection overlap capability to create one seamless image, with planned support for projection edge blending and image warping in Q4; and more.

Smith Micro Bolsters Poser

Smith Micro Software has enhanced its popular Poser 9 and Poser Pro 2012 3D graphics products with Service Release 2 (SR2). Since 1994, Poser has enabled artists, illustrators, animators, and graphic designers to easily create full-3D scenes with digital humans, animals, and props. SR2 provides improvements in rendering, animation, rigging tools, and the Content Library, as well as the Cloth and Face Room, and supports new PoserPython Methods. Poser Pro 2012 is priced at just under $500 and Poser 9 at under $250.

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