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3D DIRECT • June 25, 2001

New Releases of Old Standards

by Abby Albrecht

Alias|Wavefront Ships Maya 4

Alias|Wavefront is shipping Maya 4 ($2995-$16,000). The new release boasts enhancements and optimizations particularly in the areas of rendering, character animation, brush and paint tools, and games related functionality.

One of Alias|Wavefront's major goals with Maya 4 was to improve the software's general usability. Maya's feature set has been expanded to optimize and streamline production workflow. Object placement uses the new lasso select, and incremental rotate, snapping and alignment tools. Quick access to the expanded Maya Paint Effects brushes and the new shader library is also available.

With Maya 4, Alias|Wavefront continues to develop their general and character animation tools. New enhancements to the Trax non-linear motion editing technology include time warping, character merging, drag and drop, and character set editing. New character animation features include easy FK/IK switching, quaternion-based IK, motion trails, and ghosting along with a new Jiggle Deformer that automatically creates secondary "character fat/muscle wobble" animation without dynamics.

The Maya Paint Effects technology has been streamlined and enhanced with multi-processor support for painting and rendering, new auto-paint functionality for filling large areas with ease, and 35 new preset brushes to complement the existing 400. Maya 4 is no longer dependent on hardware overlays, thereby allowing users to choose from a broader selection of graphics cards. This new architecture also allows for attribute and 3D painting of subdivision surfaces, world-space reflection, and image-based brush profiles. Maya 4 also boasts improvements in the area of polygon texture mapping and editing. Maya 4 is available now for the IRIX and Windows NT platforms with early access for the Linux version in July 2001. A version of Maya for Mac OS X is scheduled to be released later this year.

Caligari Hits 5.1 with TrueSpace

Caligari Corporation released trueSpace 5.1 ($299), its 3D modeling program. The new version adds support for Macromedia Shockwave3D and other Web output capabilities and also offers enhanced modeling tools, interface integration, compatibility with standard design formats, and an updated software developers kit (SDK) for third-party plug-in developers.

Caligari's new Shockwave3D Exporter plug-in converts trueSpace5.1 objects and scenes, including all trueSpace geometry, materials, lights, views, and animation. TrueSpace5.1 also generates HTML files directly for export to Viewpoint format. A Flash plug-in for trueSpace5.1 is currently being developed.

Version 5.1 also offers: optimization of the UV mapping process; enhanced area render and icon highlights; safe-area guard lines for video output; mouse wheel support for both zooming the eye and navigating around selected objects; numerical editing of control vertices of NURBS curves and surfaces; improved SDK for third-party plug-in developers; and detailed error reporting for IGES import/export.

Eovia Relaunches Carrara

Eovia Corporation began shipping Carrara Studio ($399). Carrara 1.1 is at the heart of the Studio package and contains the matured offspring of Ray Dream Studio and Infini-D. Eovia is offering substantial upgrade discounts to owners of both legacy programs, as well as an upgrade path from Carrara 1 to Carrara Studio. For current registered Carrara 1 users, the 1.1 updater is available as a free download.

Carrara Studio includes 25 third-party plug-ins developed exclusively for Carrara Studio. Render in cartoon styles; apply procedural shaders like Slope, Brick, Lumber Yard, and Noise Factory; or apply Global Environment Lighting to illuminate a scene. In Carrara Studio, every function can be animated using timeline and storyboard editing tools. Carrara Studio provides five distinct modelers: a spline modeler, vertex modeler, metaball modeler, text modeler, and terrain modeler. NURBS models constructed in Amapi 3D 5 can be exported to Carrara Studio via the .rds format. It also includes free unlimited support via the Web, email, and phone for Carrara. The program is available for Mac and Windows.

Graphisoft Releases ArchiCAD 7

Graphisoft, a creator of architectural design software, has released ArchiCAD 7.0. Graphisoft's latest release of ArchiCAD includes integrated support of the soon-to-be-released International Alliance for Interoperability's Industry Foundation Classes 2.0 and the National Institute of Building Standards U.S. National CAD Standards 2.0. ArchiCAD also includes Internet-based design collaboration and 4D construction simulation tools. ArchiCAD 7.0 runs on Windows 98/ME/NT/2000; Mac 8.6 to 9.1 and will support Apple's latest operating system, OSX.

Mesmer Opens Distance Learning

Now's your chance to gain 3D know-how through the Mesmer Animation Labs Distance Learning Program. You can progress through online Maya or Softimage classes at your own pace, from wherever you choose, absorb according to your own schedule, share files and info with the other students, and watch video tutorials. Visit Mesmer for more information.

Sapphire Plugs Into Photoshop

Sapphire Innovations announced PluginMagic 1.1 ($31), 1250 plug-ins and filters for Adobe Photoshop 5 and higher. PluginMagic 1.1 features random effects; inverse; noise filters; emboss effects; blurs; color effects; line effects; distortions; spirals; jagged edges; frames; gradient; psychedelic; solarisation; vignette; lighting; tiled; glass distortions; shift; circular effects; and warping. It is available for NT/ 98/ME, and Mac 8.5+.

Nothing Real Shakes with Tremor

Nothing Real, a compositing software provider to the digital content creation market, announced the availability of Tremor 1.0, its realtime compositing solution. Tremor features a streamlined interface, and is 100 percent compatible with Shake and its associated rendering engine.

Tremor's initial functionality includes the following: realtime I/O in 601 and HDTV capabilities; support of the CMX edit decision list (EDL) format; automatic handling of different bit-depths (8, 16, 32) and resolutions (Web, 601, HDTV, film, Imax) within the same project for maximum flexibility; two industry-standard keyers, Keylight and Primatte; a custom version of CakeS, the asset tracking system from Unique ID Software, Ltd.; color correction tools; technology to track, stabilize, matchmove, and otherwise wrestle into submission the most demanding shots; vector-based procedural paint; distributed rendering; and third-party plug-in support.

Electric Rain Releases Swift 3D Max

Electric Rain, Inc. released Swift 3D Max ($295), a plug-in version of their Swift 3D standalone product that lets discreet 3ds max users render 3D scenes directly from the 3ds max interface to a variety of vector-based file formats, including Macromedia Flash SWF, AI, EPS, and the latest XML based vector format, SVG.

The Swift 3D Max plug-in exports 3D scenes that stay true to colors, lighting schemes, camera views, and animations. It supports an array of rendering options including three levels of outlines; five levels of cartoon shading; two levels of gradient shading; plus shadows, specular highlights, and a new preview window that allows users to see the results of each rendered frame. Swift 3D Max is able to handle models and objects containing more than 200,000 polygons, including complex intersecting and self-intersecting objects. Swift 3D Max is available on the Windows platform and is compatible with 3ds max versions 3, 3.1, and 4.

Electric Rain Releases Swift 3D LW, Too

Electric Rain, Inc. also released Swift 3D LW ($295), a plug-in that, strikingly similar to Swift 3D Max, allows NewTek LightWave 3D users to render 3D scenes directly to a variety of vector-based file formats, including SWF, AI, EPS, and SVG. Like Swift 3D Max, Swift 3D LW supports rendering options including three levels of outlines; five levels of cartoon shading; two levels of gradient shading; plus shadows, specular highlights, and a new preview window that allows users to see the results of each rendered frame. Swift 3D LW is also able to handle models containing more than 200,000 polygons. Swift 3D LW is available on the Windows and Macintosh platforms and is compatible with LightWave 3D versions 6.5 and above.

Abby Albrecht is the Web editor for 3Dgate. She liked last Friday's Farscape for its use of 3D. (And if you believe that's the real reason, she has a bridge to sell you.) You can reach her at aalbrecht[email protected].