Spotlight - Products - 2/07
Issue: Volume: 30 Issue: 2 (Feb 2007)

Spotlight - Products - 2/07

PRODUCTS - 3D Authoring
Anark Updates its Anark Studio to Version 4.0

Anark recently unveiled the latest version of its flagship interactive 3D authoring application, Anark Studio 4.0. The new release of the development platform focuses on increased speed and memory management, improved workflow, and optimized backplay. It also features visual enhancements and expanded animation support.
Among the product’s enhancements are eight new editing camera modes for rapidly aligning or visually inspecting 3D assets. An improved library palette allows assets to be optimally sorted by name or asset type for improved large-project and multi-developer management.

Furthermore, MIP mapping has been added to the rendering tools for improved asset texture aliasing effects, thereby making it easier to remove "sparkles" from the surface of 3D objects, especially while the camera is moving.

Anark Studio utilizes 3D assets to deliver realistic product configuration, interactive training, virtual catalogs, and sales and marketing presentations. With the ability to utilize existing 3D data (both CAD and DCC), Anark Studio 4.0 delivers target applications faster than can be done using with more traditional methods.

Anark Studio 4.0 is available now for $3499.

Cinital Delivers Previzion HD Studio 

Cinital, an emerging developer of next-generation visual effects tools, released its Previzion HD Studio, an end-to-end virtual studio solution that offers affordable, advanced camera motion-tracking, and scene integration technology for rapid previz and visual effects creation.

Previzion integrates the complete VFX pipeline into one application, including 3D camera tracking, live video I/O, keying, 3D background rendering, compositing, and real-time color correction, while enabling accurate matching of live-action foregrounds and CG backgrounds.

Previzion creates moving images without the time-consuming and expensive process of traditional VFX postproduction. Utilizing a real-time graphics engine, Previzion offers creative professionals working outside a large, established production or post facility access to advanced visual effects by using tools they already have. The system is less expensive than comparable products offering camera tracking and video processing capabilities, and negates the need for specialized technical knowledge in keying, matchmoving, or compositing.

As a result, artists are able to import 3D texture-mapped models and high-res 2D digital photographs, and mix them with live video. Users can also incorporate effects techniques such as camera projection mapping and matte painting. Using the industry-standard FBX file format, camera-motion data can be recorded and imported into leading 3D applications, including Autodesk’s Maya and 3ds Max, Softimage’s XSI, Luxology’s Modo, and Maxon’s Cinema 4D, among others.

Cinital’s Previzion HD Studio is available on the Windows operating system at a cost of $45,000. A Linux version is planned.

PRODUCTS - 3D Modeling/Animation
Maya 8.5 Offers More Creative Control

Autodesk recently announced Maya 8.5, the latest version of the 3D animation, modeling, and rendering software the company acquired little more than a year ago from Alias. This latest version gives artists enhanced creative control, enabling faster completion of complex animations and simulations.

The software features innovative capabilities for character animation, and its new Maya Nucleus unified simulation framework enables interactive simulations while keeping artists in full control of the animation.

Maya Nucleus contains technology developed by Autodesk’s principal research scientist Jos Stam (see Viewpoint, pg. 8). This unified simulation framework allows artists to create elements that interact, in a 3D animation, with other dynamic objects such as fluids, cloth, and rigid bodies.

Maya 8.5 also includes Maya nCloth, which is the first module of Maya Nucleus. With nCloth, artists can quickly direct and control a range of simulations, including cloth, plastic, metal, and other materials, allowing, for example, believable cloth-on-cloth simulations with complex cloth collisions, such as a cape over a jacket, to be created more easily. A unique air-pressure model enables artists to use any geometry to create an inflatable object with internal and external pressure.

Python scripting is also new in Maya 8.5. This popular open-source programming language helps accelerate facility-specific custom script development and plug-in prototyping, thus extending and automating Maya production pipelines. Python scripting offers an alternative to Maya software’s native scripting language, MEL, while featuring the same level of integration with the Maya command engine. Python scripting gives script writers the ability to efficiently manipulate, customize, and automate the software.

Maya 8.5 is available as a Universal application release for Intel- and PowerPC-based Macs, as well as on the Microsoft Windows and Linux platforms. Maya 8.5 Complete costs $1999 (stand-alone) and $2999 (networked), while Maya Unlimited is priced at $6999 (stand-alone) and $8399 (networked). Upgrade pricing is available from V. 8.

NEWS - Graphic Devices
Graphic Device Shipments Surge in Mobile Market

Jon Peddie Research (JPR) shows that approximately 83.5 million PC graphics devices shipped from major suppliers in Q4 2006, a small 0.9% increase from the prior quarter and a 5.1% increase over the same period last year. "Overall, we didn’t see the big bang in Q4 that everyone had hoped for," says Jon Peddie, president of JPR. "But, the mobile market is on fire, growing 13% this quarter and an astonishing 34% year-to-year."

The desktop graphics segment saw shipments decline by 4.0% from Q3 to Q4, and shipments shrink 4.2% year-over-year. Desktop integrated graphics processor (IGP) shipments dropped 2.9% sequentially (the second consecutive quarter of decline) and decreased 1.5% annually. Discrete desktop figures dropped by 6.0% on a quarterly basis and 8.9% year-over-year. "Vista, ATI’s new part (the R600), and several new add-in boards from Nvidia are expected to pump up the declining desktop discrete market," Peddie adds.

The mobile graphics segment saw quarterly shipments rise a dramatic 13.8% and grow 34.1% year-over-year. Mobile IGP shipments drove growth in the laptop market in the second quarter with 13.0% increase in shipments during the period, and discrete mobile shipments grew a stunning 16.2% during the quarter and jumped 24.2% compared to the same period the previous year. "The laptop market has moved to the large-screen, multimedia usage model," says Peddie. "Now the criterion for performance is being able to play a full-length movie on one battery charge."

JPR estimates that a record 25.8 million mobile graphics devices shipped in Q4, 19.7 million of which were integrated chipsets (IGPs) for notebooks. Mobile IGPs claimed a commanding share of 76.3% in the mobile graphics market, up 13.0% from the prior quarter and up a dramatic 37.6% from the same period a year ago. Intel led the mobile graphics market with a 49.8% share (down from 51.4%), AMD dropped to a 23.4% share, and Nvidia jumped with a 22.9% market-share gain for the quarter. SiS and VIA saw declines in market share. "Timing is everything in the mobile market," says Peddie, "and Nvidia had its mobile parts lined up and ready to ship with Intel’s recent laptop rollout."