Gear for Gearheads

Gear for Gearheads

As always, the SIGGRAPH Exhibition hall is the place to go to see the latest in computer graphics hardware and software tools. Here’s a sampling of what this year’s Exhibition has in store for you.

BOXX Showcases Video Editing Lineup

BOXX Technologies plans to use this year’s exhibition to showcase the latest in its lineup of hardware for professional nonlinear video editing applications.

For HD editors, the HD [pro] offers uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2 HD, supports 1080i, 1080 PsF, and 1080p video input and output plus eight channels of AES/EBU digital audio, and is delivered with up to 2.4TB of RAID 5 storage. The SD [pro] features uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2 SD, supports NTSC and PAL video input and output and six channels of AES/EBU digital audio, and is delivered with up to 800GB of RAID 5 storage. And the DV [pro] DV is offered with the Matrox RT.X100 Xtreme Pro series hardware and the Canopus DVStorm2 Pro. All three systems come with Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe Encore, and Adobe Audition software.

If your application is realtime nonlinear HD editing, check out the HD [pro] RT, which combines BOXX technology with the nonlinear editing capabilities of CineForm Prospect HD and Premiere Pro running under Windows XP. The HD [pro] RT offers 8-bit and 10-bit online workflows supporting several HD-SDI and HDV input and output formats, as well as six channels of AES/EBU digital or embedded audio. Plus, it ships with up to 2.4TB of RAID 5 storage.

VICON Debuts New Mocap Family

VICON is debuting its VICON MX family of optical motion-capture systems, which boasts unmatched image resolution and accuracy, with high-frame-rate optical motion capture at up to 4 million pixels. Additional features include streamlined delivery of ready-to-use motion information, with distributed processing and reconciliation of data directly on board the cameras, as well as support for up to 64 cameras on a single system, larger capture volumes, and smaller markers.

Alias Demos New and Improved Maya

Alias will show off the latest features in Maya 6, which it debuted in April. In Maya 6, Alias incorporated new features and enhancements designed to meet production demands of busy 3D artists. For instance, advances in character creation and animation capabilities include rearchitected Trax nonlinear animation, new motion retargeting and motion redirection capabilities, and a new Maya Hair toolset, which features an integrated dynamic curve simulation engine. Maya Cloth and Maya Fur enhancements contain visual feedback of cloth stress and new stitching options, while Maya Fur now can be rendered in mental ray. Improved performance also is a theme in Maya 6: the Smooth Proxy tool is up to 18 times faster, and the subdivision surface proxy manipulations are up to eight times faster in this version.

Softimage Highlights XSI 4.0, Intros New Products and Plug-In Partners

Softimage is announcing new product releases hot on the heels of its April introduction of SOFTIMAGE|XSI v.4.0, the latest version of the company’s 3D content creation software.

Softimage also is expected to announce additional development and plug-in partners at SIGGRAPH. The company recently announced technology partnerships with Syflex and Digimation.

One highlight of XSI v.4.0 is enhancements in character animation, including new biped, quadruped, and hybrid rig systems and a rich Character SDK for customizing character rig creation, animation, and editing. The software also boasts new and enhanced simulation effects, including rigid body dynamics, hair, and cloth. For open architecture/customizability, it introduces the Custom Display Host foreign application integration system, which exposes the core of the XSI software to external applications, tools, or custom runtime engines. SOFTIMAGE|XSI v.4.0 is available in three configurations: Foundation ($1995), Essentials ($3995), and Advanced ($8995).

Photorealistic 3d Plants Made Easy

Bionatics is showing its natFX dynamic 3D plant modeling and simulation software at SIGGRAPH. The software comes in two versions: natFX for Maya, targeted at HD animation applications; and natFX for 3ds max, targeted at architecture and game applications. With natFX, users can create 300 different types of plants and trees from around the world that grow, age, and change with the seasons.

Kaydara Debuts MOTIONBUILDER 6

Kaydara is showcasing MOTIONBUILDER 6, the newest version of the company’s award-winning character animation software. MOTIONBUILDER 6 promises improved workflow through features such as a simplified and customizable user interface, improved animation control, and enhanced keyframing capabilities. MOTIONBUILDER 6 Standard is priced at $995; MOTIONBUILDER 6 PRO is priced at $4199 and includes a year of support. Both are available on Windows 2000/XP and Mac OS X 10.2 and higher.

Imagineer Highlights Post-Production Effects Tools

Imagineer Systems is showing monet, a start-to-finish solution for inserting images (moving and still) into moving footage, whether it be DV, SD, HD, or film. The technology for monet was developed in collaboration with Cinesite (Europe) Ltd. for use on the feature film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. monet includes tools for 2D plane tracking for motion estimation, manual augmentation of the tracking data without introducing jitter, lens distortion analysis, aspect ratio conversion, scene lighting condition analysis, chromakeying using integrated Primatte technology, intensity change analysis for identifying and applying shadows and intensity highlights, and more.

Character Animation Technologies Previews New CAT

Character Animation Technologies Ltd., a New Zealand-based developer of high-end animation software solutions, is previewing a major point version of Character Animation Toolkit (CAT), its fully integrated, next-generation character animation system plug-in for 3ds max. According to the company, CAT is a complete character animation system. It features a customizable rig; a parametric motioncycle system; keyframe controls that can be assigned to all 3ds max animation controllers; a mocap importer; and a nonlinear animation system. The new CAT V. 1.5 combines all the capabilities of the original software release, and features an enhanced CATRig tool for animation rig creation. CAT Version 1.5 supports 3ds max 5 and upward and costs $995.

Hash Unveils New Software, Free Website

Hash Inc. is showcasing the latest release of its flagship 3D character animation program, Animation:Master. Version 11.0 includes new features related to work flow, modeling, rendering, and ease of use. Particularly important is the program’s new hair features. Grooming mode allows users to interactively brush, lengthen, change density, or even manipulate individual hair controls. The new hair features can also be used to create such objects as grass, plants, trees, feathers, and scales. In addition, Hash will use SIGGRAPH 2004 to draw attention to its new A:M Films website (, a database-driven film library designed to be a showcase for films and animations created with Animation:Master.

Discreet Highlights Include 3ds max, Character Studio

Discreet is showcasing many of its visual effects solutions at SIGGRAPH, including 3ds max, which contains such new enhancements as an advanced schematic view for complex scene management, integrated mental ray 3.2 renderer, a new event-driven particle system, reactor 2 stuntman dynamics, enhanced modeling and skinning tools, and an array of performance optimizations are being demonstrated in the Discreet booth. In addition, Discreet also is highlighting character studio, developed by Unreal Pictures, which Discreet recently acquired.

New Stock Footage from Artbeats

Artbeats is releasing several new Standard and HD collections featuring new footage of cloud chambers, nature scenes, children, and extreme sports. Artbeats’ array of royalty-free stock footage for film, video, and multimedia professionals is available in D1 NTSC-720×486 or D1 PAL-720×576 resolutions; many releases also are available in HD-1920×1080. Pricing for Artbeats standard collections ranges from $229-$699. HD collections range from $799-$899.

Massive Crowds

You’ve seen the crowds it generated in the Academy Award-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy, among other projects. Stop by Massive Software’s booth at SIGGRAPH and get an up-close look at how its Academy Award-winning crowd-generation software works. Using Massive, an animator or TD designs characters with a set of reactions to what is going on around them. The characters’ reactions determine what they do and how they do it. Their reactions can simulate emotive qualities such as bravery, weariness, or joy, and they can control keyframed or motion-captured animation clips, called actions. Recommended system configurations for Massive include a 2- to 3GHz Pentium processor, 1- to 2GB of RAM, an NIVIDIA Quadro FX graphics card, and Red Hat 7.2, 7.3, or 9.

Innovative Barco Display Environments

Stop by Barco’s booth to check out TRACE, a scalable, plug-and-play virtual environment designed to enable teams to visualize and analyze complex data. Barco Galaxy WARP Active Stereo 3-chip DLP projectors drive TRACE, which features a 67-inch diagonal screen and native per-channel resolution of 1280×1024 pixels. Barco also is showing VCAD, which can simultaneously display various types of large data sets on multiple displays. Key relationships between the data become apparent in stereoscopic 3D on the 150×60-inch large central screen, while additional information can be displayed on the large LCD panels and monitors on both side wings.

AJA Enhances Kona Card

AJA Video Systems Inc. is demonstrating its new Kona 2 dual-rate HD/SD 133MHz PCI-X capture card at SIGGRAPH. An HD/SD solution available for editing on the Power Mac G5, Kona 2 supports uncompressed 10-bit SDI, HD-SDI, and dual-link 4:4:4 HD at 10 and 12 bits. Kona 2 also features eight-channel AES audio, HD/SD component analog video output, and broadcast-quality HD/SD hardware up/down-conversion. Kona 2 sells for $2490.

CELCO Software for FURY and Firestorm

CELCO is showcasing its new Color Management and Film Recorder Driver software for its latest-generation FURY and Firestorm digital motion picture film recorders. The new software consists of color management tools dedicated to the Digital Intermediate process, as well as film recorder operation and calibration tools. The software provides a toolset for applying color management and 3D color-space manipulation, enabling users to visualize the output images before and after sharpening, degraining, 3D color space manipulation, and color management are applied.

Powerful Previz Tool

Kelseus is launching Antics Pre-Viz at SIGGRAPH 2004. Aimed at producers of live-action and animated programs and features, the Windows-based Antics Pre-Viz enables directors and animators to stage, rehearse, and communicate their scenes, shots, and moves in advance of final production. Users can assemble sets from the asset libraries provided with Antics Pre-Viz, or they can import assets from other 3D applications. Then they can configure and animate characters and camera setups using Antics’ behavioral scene animation tools.

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