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3D DIRECT • February 26, 2001

Buffalo Render

by Abby Albrecht

New Effects from Adobe

Adobe Systems announced Adobe After Effects v5.0 ($649). The new version includes a true 3D compositing environment. In addition, new vector paint tools and 16-bit color support expand the Production Bundle version ($1499). Other new features include parenting, which allows users to animate layers hierarchically; expressions, which creates live relationships between layer properties; masking enhancements to draw masks in the Comp window, expand masks, and add Motion Blur to masks; and Macromedia Flash output. In addition to its new features, Adobe After Effects v5.0 offers dozens of interface enhancements.

The Standard version provides the core 2D and 3D compositing and effects tools for motion graphics professionals and Web designers. The Production Bundle version is designed for visual effects artists and motion graphics designers who need all of the tools in the Standard Version, plus additional keying, motion control and distortion tools, audio effects, 3D channel effects, 16-bit per channel color, vector paint tools, and support for network rendering.

Customers can upgrade to After Effects 5.0 from previous versions of the Standard version for $199 and from previous versions of the Production Bundle for $299. During the first 120 days following the product release, Standard version 3.x or 4.x customers in the U.S. and Canada can upgrade to the After Effects 5.0 Production Bundle for only $499. As an added value to After Effects v5.0 customers, Adobe is offering five free plug-ins; Card Dance, Card Wipe, Caustics, Wave World and Foam, that upon registration can be downloaded from the Expert Center.

SGI Goes Wildcat

SGI selected the 3Dlabs Wildcat II 5110 graphics accelerator as an option for its Silicon Graphics Zx10 visual workstations. The Zx10 visual workstation is a dual-processor capable Windows OS-based workstation with optimized processors, graphics, memory, and I/O subsystems. The Wildcat II 5110's dual-pipeline architecture includes a geometry accelerator, along with a new rasterization engine and bus interface chipset for use with the latest AGP Pro 4X systems. Dedicated DirectBurst, frame buffer, and texture memory offer a total of 144MB of onboard memory. SGI plans to ship the Wildcat II 5110 in the Silicon Graphics Zx10 visual workstation beginning in March, 2001.

Dell Does Too

Not to be outdone, Dell Computer Corporation also chose the 3Dlabs Wildcat II 5110 graphics accelerator as its high-end graphics option for a range of its Dell Precision Workstations. Dell will ship the Wildcat II 5110 in the Intel Pentium 4-based Dell Precision 330 starting in March, 2001. The Dell Precision Workstation 330 features the 1.4GHz and 1.5GHz Pentium 4 processors and the Intel 850 chipset with a 400 MHz system bus. The Wildcat II 5110's dual-pipeline architecture still includes a new geometry accelerator, along with a new rasterization engine and bus interface chipset for use with the latest AGP Pro 4X slots.

A Shocking Monkey

Giant Killer Robots has wrapped visual effects production on a series of shots for Monkeybone (2001). The movie combines live action, stop motion, and CGI animation. Monkeybone is the story of Stu Miley (Brendan Fraser), a cartoonist who ends up in a coma and finds himself in Downtown, the darkly carnival-like world of his comic book where he must outsmart Death (Whoopi Goldberg) to return to the world of the living.

Giant Killer Robots animated and composited 24 visual effects shots for Monkeybone. The shots iintegrated CG and live action footage. They achieved a photoreal look by constructing CG models based on miniatures and animatronics, and projecting digitally captured textures onto the models. To simplify the animation and lip synch process for Bull the bartender, they devised sliders for each phoneme and expression. The sliders worked like the strings of a marionette; each one could be pushed or pulled depending on the desired expression.

All shots were executed in a beta version of Softimage|XSI. The work was rendered in mental images mental ray, and composited in Nothing Real Shake. Rotoscope work was done in Discreet Commotion, and match-moving was done with RealViz MatchMover and techniques in XSI.

Digimation One Step Closer

Digimation, Inc. announced that work to bring its plug-in technology in line with Discreet 3ds max 4 is close to completion. Digimation released the vast majority of its plug-in updates within the first weeks of Discreet's initial shipment. All remaining tools are undergoing expedited revision to ensure they are available in the next few weeks.

Plug-in updates will be available for download from the Digimation Web site, as well as at Maxusers, a new 3ds max users site that is also accessible from within the 3ds max 4 software's Help pull-down menu (Plug-in Information). All Digimation plug-ins will have the identical functionality as they had in 3D Studio MAX 3 and will be strictly direct ports. Where functionality changes, information will be provided online.

A Giant Short

Giant Studios, a motion capture and animation studio, created Fruits of Labor, an animated short that premiered at Cinequest: The San Jose Film Festival. The short was created using BOXX Technologies RenderBOXX rendering system and Softimage|XSI 3D animation software. Fruits of Labor features a cast of simple computer graphics characters-a shiny red apple, a man, and a fly—all emphasizing stylized animation and realistic rendering. The story's realistic detail is a mixture of real-world photography and 3D computer graphics. Stitching together 360-degree photos created a spherical representation of the environment surrounding the apple, which was later imported into Softimage.

Blurring the Portal

Blur Studio has completed production of Stan Lee's 7th Portal 3D Simulation Experience, a 3D simulator ride film based on Stan Lee Media's 7th Portal Internet superhero series. The four-minute piece is slated to debut this spring at five Paramount Theme Parks worldwide. It will also be distributed internationally by Iwerks Entertainment.

Stan Lee's 7th Portal 3D Simulation Experience builds on the characters and story featured in the 7th Portal Internet series. Audience members are cast in the role of beta testers of a new video game when one of the game's villains bursts through the screen and drags them into a parallel dimension known as Darkmoor. There, they join the six 7th Portal superheroes in battling Mongorr, a tyrant who has subjugated six of the Universe's seven dimensions and is bent on conquering Earth. 3D effects are used throughout the piece to give the audience a sense of interacting directly with the much-larger-than life characters on the screen. The team used the company's state-of-the-art VICON motion capture to speed production and to make the characters appear lifelike.

Blur Studio needed to double its in-house rendering capacity to handle the number crunching challenge posed by Stan Lee's 7th Portal 3D Simulation Experience. Because it was a 3D film, Blur Studio needed to produce not one, but two four-minute films (for the left and right projectors), or more than 14,000 frames of animation. As each scene involved multiple layers of computer animation, the completed piece comprised more than a terabyte of data.

Abby Albrecht is the Web editor for 3Dgate. She's been listening to songs from Fame and other nostalgic things. You can reach her at [email protected].