Updates, Partnerships, and Automation; Oh My!
by Matthew Hoover
Houdini's Reappearing Act
Software has released Houdini 4.0, its long-awaited 3D animation solution originally
announced at SIGGRAPH 99. Houdini 4.0 has a new workflow and a customizable user
interface that's understandable but still powerful enough for Houdini's procedural
animation. The UI features browser-style navigation complete with bookmarks and
doesn't require switching modes to do lighting, rendering, animation, and so on.
VEX (short for vector expressions) is Houdini's new programmable shader language.
Houdini 4.0 is available on Linux (with support for the new Linux OpenGL from
SGI) in addition to Windows NT and IRIX. Pricing starts at $17,000, and upgrades
Side Effects is also working on an integrated game-development solution, codenamed
Proceed, that combines a games-enhanced version of Houdini technology and powerful
middleware. The package, scheduled to be available in Q2 2000 on a per-project
royalty basis, includes two platform-optimized run-time engines (one for particles
and one for motion) and a C++ code generator to connect the authoring tools and
engines. The middleware was initially developed for the PC and PlayStation 2,
and Side Effects plans to announce support for other consoles later this year.
Like Houdini, the authoring side of Proceed will run on Linux, Windows NT, and
Softimage Tools via Subscription, the EZ Way
Phoenix Tools, developers of Avid Softimage/Sumatra technology and plug-ins,
has announced EZ Tools, a new subscription-based way to purchase its plug-ins
and shaders. For an annual fee of $1,600, you get unlimited one-year use of a
large assortment of the company's tools for IK, cloth and wind simulation, fur
and hair rendering, surfacing, and more, with free updates and technical support.
Included are scores of plug-ins and shaders from the Modeling Kit, Animation Kit,
Real Surface Kit, IK-Tools, Star-Light Kit, MetaMesh Extreme, Picture Shaders,
Matter Shaders, Cloth & Wind Twirl, and the Fur Kit. If you're already a Phoenix
Tools customer, check the web site about getting credit toward EZ Tools. www.phoenixtools.com
Middleware for Sega Dreamcast
Criterion Software announced a partnership with Sega Enterprises Ltd. to bring
Criterion RenderWare3 middleware to the Dreamcast console. Already a popular tool
for developing Sony PlayStation 2 games, Renderware3 can speed up the development
of a game by taking care of common functionality and customizations that must
be made for each platform. RenderWare3 is available for PC, PlayStation 2, Dreamcast,
and later in Q1 2000, Mac, at $1,000 per seat per year, royalty-free. www.renderware.com
In other Dreamcast news, Sega is partnering with Japanese cable companies to
deliver a Dreamcast/cable modem combination starting in April, a month after the
PlayStation 2which Sony has been positioning as an Internet appliancegoes
on sale in Japan. The built-in cable modem will supersede the Dreamcast's built-in
56k modem, but Sega isn't yet marketing the Dreamcast as more than a game console.
LIPSinc. has released Echo, software that automates character lip sync in a
variety of animation packages, game engines, and multimedia platforms. The basis
of Echo is LIPSinc.'s voice digital signal processing (voiceDSP) voice-analysis
system, which takes advantage of advanced voice digital signal processing technology.
voiceDSP analyzes speech and automatically outputs a stream of morph targets for
mouth, jaw, and lip positions. Echo can output flipbook, dope sheet, and function
curve animation data, too. Licenses for Echo start at $10,000. You can download
a free demo from www.lipsinc.com.
Even Better RenderDrivefor MAX, too
Advanced Rendering Technology (ART) announced the RD5000 ($24,950), the next
generation of its rendering appliance, due to ship in March 2000. The RD5000 is
based on ART's AR350 raytracing graphics processor and will deliver two to five
times the performance of its predecessor. The RenderDrive's combination of software
and hardware in one dedicated machine has made it a popular solution for rendering
photorealistic animation and images.
ART also announced version 2.0 of the RenderDrive software, which includes
a Pixar RenderMan-compliant interface that opens up RenderMan's extensible shading
language to RenderDrive users. Version 2.0 offers a full raytracing implementation
of the language, and the RenderPipe RIB enables rendering RenderMan files from
high-end 3D apps such as Alias|Wavefront Maya and Side Effects Houdini. The software
adds support for object motion blur and a completely new sampling procedure for
ART also has a new RenderPipe plug-in for Discreet 3D Studio MAX and VIZ, which
starts at $24,950, allowing you to import, edit, and render RenderMan shaders
directly within the MAX Materials display. Any combination of RenderMan shaders
can be applied and mixed with standard MAX materials, as well as with ART's custom
RenderCoat materials library. Versions of RenderPipe for other 3D apps are in
formZ Updates to 3.5
autodessys Inc. has released formZ 3.5, the latest version
of its award-winning 3D modeling software. New features include user-definable
Project Colors, more accurate derivation of NURBS objects from parametric sources
and other modeling enhancements, web-enabled Help menu options, and support for
left-to-right text. A previously available palette, Status of Objects, has been
reintroduced in 3.5. An upgrade from v. 3.0 is $149, from v. 2.9 is $325, and
from any older version is $475. www.formz.com
Matthew Hoover is managing editor for 3D magazine. Contact him at [email protected].