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3D DIRECT • January 16, 2001

Art at the Very Begining

by Abby Albrecht

Save a Life, the Virtual Way

The same technologies that power interactive 3D games might save lives. NDL NetImmerse 3D game engine has been licensed by Applied Research Associates (ARA) to develop a computer-animated training environment for emergency response specialists. ARA's Southeast Division office in Raleigh, N.C. is currently developing the virtual environment for a chemical manufacturer, but the CD-ROM program might eventually be altered for use by other organizations.

"We need to create the same type of environment that one would experience in a great 3D game: realistic scenes that users can interact with just as they would in real-life situations. NetImmerse allows us to create a visual tool that HazMat teams can use to manage the resources at their disposal to mitigate a disaster," says Graham Rhodes, ARA's project engineer.

In a game environment, NetImmerse's realtime 3D graphics allow players to navigate lushly textured scenes and immerse themselves in the action of the game. In an emergency response situation, the game engine will allow HazMat teams to simulate moves inside and outside an accident site and to anticipate where danger might be after an accident. All this can be done in a computer environment that looks and feels like the real thing. John Austin, NDL's president says that, in the past, these applications required virtual reality software that used special equipment such as headsets and ran on graphics supercomputers costing $100,000 or more. With 3D game engines, the applications can be developed and used on PCs and game consoles.

The Evolving Messiah

Project:messiah group (PmG), creators and distributors of professional 3D character animation tools, celebrated its first birthday by announcing that Mac OS X ports will be available by the second quarter of 2001. The ports will work with the company's new product line, consisting of messiah:studio, messiah:animate, and messiah:render.

Raindrop's New Vision

Raindrop Geomagic has agreed to integrate its Studio 3.0 software with MetricVision's non-contact 3D measurement machines. MetricVision will distribute Geomagic software with its 100B Coherent Laser Radar Systems beginning in Spring 2001. The company's 3D laser scanning equipment is used for precise digitizing and quality inspection of large-scale objects, from airplanes to buildings and bridges. Raindrop Geomagic Studio 3.0 software automatically processes digitized 3D data for diverse engineering and Web applications.

Capturing the King

Kaydara Filmbox, realtime character animation and motion capture software, was used for Midway's game sequel, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2. The developers of the boxing title used Kaydara Filmbox to edit and animate motion data for the game's boxing competitions and outrageous moves. Featuring a wild cast of characters including well-known pop icon Michael Jackson, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 includes complicated animation sequences that were achieved through the use of motion capture. Midway used Filmbox to motion capture Jackson, and then edit and hand-animate the data. This process allowed animators to accurately translate the integrity and distinct style of Jackson's dance moves into Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2's unique game environment. The game is available now for Sony PlayStation 2, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and Sega Dreamcast game consoles.

A Bite of the Action

Computer Café produced several key visual effects shots for Wes Craven's Dracula 2000 (2000). Artists from the digital studio created some of the film's signature effects, including a crash scene where portions of a DC3 have plunged into a Louisiana bayou. As placing a real plane into a swamp would have been difficult and cost prohibitive, the filmmakers instead left it to Computer Café to produce the visual. They first produced a digital replica of a DC3, precisely accurate down to the wing flaps and landing gear. They then broke the plane up into dozens of pieces, twisting and tearing the "metal," using photos of actual plane crashes as their guide. The most difficult part of the task was placing the pieces of the plane into the live action shot of a stretch of marshy river. The portions filmed from a helicopter had many shaky camera movements. In addition, the pieces of the plane were supposed to be in the water, which involved its own rolling motion. Computer Café artists also added digital gouges to the landscape, including artificial trees to suggest the plane had skidded along the ground before entering the water, and supplemented the river water with digital water lapping against the sides of the artificial plane. They also placed digital debris—luggage, seats, and flotsam—into the water alongside the parts of the plane.

Abby Albrecht is the Web editor for 3Dgate. She gets very annoyed at vendors who ignore her or talk down to her just because she uses a wheelchair. You can reach her at [email protected].