What Happened at Siggraph?
Mac presence less than impressive at animation show

by David Nagel
Executive Producer
[email protected]

Last week's Siggraph show in New Orleans should have been the best ever for Macintosh. After all, NAB was a smashing success, with the Mac taking center stage in the minds and hearts of creative professionals. And with the recent announcement of multiprocessing G4s, to which developers have had access for some time now, you'd think this would mean big things for Mac animation.

After all, Macintosh is the platform of choice for all artists, right? No? Well, surely it's not Windows. What then? Irix? That's a beautiful operating system from SGI—I dare say nicer than the (current) Mac OS—running on some of the most impressive hardware you'll find anywhere. But no. Not even SGI walked away from the show the big winner. Who then?


"But Dave," you say, "Linux is a networking OS. You can't actually do anything creative on it. And besides, unlike Windows, Linux doesn't have any big companies handing developers kickbacks for writing applications."

That's what I thought. But it turns out that, even without kickbacks, developers like writing for Linux. And they have great hardware to run their programs on—from Alpha machines to SGI Linux boxes. Yes, SGI Linux boxes. This Linux business is certainly getting out of hand. Why, I even discovered that Creative Mac has a sister site called Creative Linux put out by our very own parent company, Digital Media Net.

So what happened to Mac development? Five words echoed by developers at the show: "We're waiting for OS X."

"Oooooooh. So that's it," you say. "Well, that's good news, isn't it? It means developers are interested in OS X."

Well, yes. That's the good part. But does it mean they're waiting to release products when OS X is released, or does it mean they're waiting to see whether OS X catches on before they start developing for it? I don't know. Long before the show, we saw Mac animation announcements like Maya for OS X. But very little actually announced during the Siggraph show, which would have been the ideal place to announce OS X ports, even if they wouldn't be immediately available. This tells me that there will be a lag between the release of OS X and any high-end animation products that haven't been announced by now.

Still, there was some good news coming out of New Orleans. NewTek, for example, showed off a network renderer running on the new dual-processing Macs. Boris FX launched Boris RED2. And Cinema 4D XL got an update to 6.1. We saw several announcements for future releases as well, such as Flash 5, Poser and Swift 3D.

Quality, yes. Quantity, no. It looks like we're going to have to wait another year to see whether animation developers start caring as much about the Mac as video and audio developers. By that time, Jobs willing, we'll have a brand-spanking new OS, one that will be much easier to develop for, particularly for those companies that have started honing their Unix skills on Linux.

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac; host of the Creative Mac, Adobe InDesign and Synthetik Studio Artist WWUGs; and executive producer of Creative Mac, DCC Designer, DCC Workstation, Digital DTP, Digital Pro Sound, Digital Webcast, Hollywood Industry, Presentation Master, and Video Systems sites. All are part of the Digital Media Net family of online industry hubs.

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