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Collaboration and Choice at SIGGRAPH 2005

By John Virata

SIGGRAPH 2005 in Los Angeles may mark the turning point for desktop visual effects. While 64-bit desktop solutions are beginning to come into their own, the 800lb gorilla 64-bit desktop operating system for all the 64-bit processors that are available is still in beta. But this hasn't stopped the march of the desktop computer. 

For the first time at SIGGRAPH, Apple Computer, which was showing The Production Suite (Final Cut Pro HD, Motion, DVD Studio Pro), held the front and center booth on the SIGGRAPH show floor, and SGI, the big iron vendor of the 90s was a shell of its former self after a one year hiatus from the annual summer show. But there remains a lot of technology to be seen running on all matter of workstation, be they Windows-based, Mac-based, IRIX-based, AMD or Intel, the toolsets continue to improve, and collaboration and choice seems to be a major theme of the show, at least on the first day. Things may change by the end of the week, so stay tuned. In the meantime, read up on what was seen today.

Fusion 5 sports a 3D environment

eyeon Software showed version 5 of its Fusion compositing tool. The application has been updated with a 3D environment as well as full OpenGL acceleration to speed display views, Fusion 5's particle Suite, as well as enabling 3D text capabilities. Other features include the capability to edit a flow in ASCII, the addition of Bsplines and a mask node that enables direct masking control with the Flow. Fusion 5 is expected to ship by the end of this year.

Immersion Corp. showcased several new tools for touch sensitive 3D model manipulation as well as a new Macintosh plug-in for its Microscribe 3D digitizer. The plug-in, called MicroScribe Connections for Maya, and developed by Digital Element, gives Maya for Mac OS X users the capability to work with the MicroScribe 3D digitizer. It works with Maya 6.0 or later for Mac OS X and is fully compliant with all USB-based  MicroScribe G2 devices. The company also introduced the wireless version of its CyberGlove system, a motion capture device that is targeted at video game and film animators. The CyberGlove System, which uses Bluetooth wireless technology, takes up to 22 high accuracy joint angle measurements and is compatible with all versions of Immersion's VirtualHand Software, software that turns finger and hand motions into digital joint angle data. This data can then be incorporated into most major motion capture applications. And finally, Immersion announced that Kaydara has certified the company's VirtualHand for MOCAP plugin. According to the company, this will enable users of Kaydara's MOCAP software to capture the hand motions captured by Immersion's CyberGlove.,

Imagica announced the Imager XE-Advanced film scanner, as well as two software applications for color management and film restoration. The Imager XE-Advanced, which is two times the speed of the Imager XE, scans 4096 pixels across a 35mm Academy frame and offers cineon format with full RGB color space. It scans at two seconds per frame for 2K resolution and 4 seconds per frame at 4K resolution. The company also announced that it will release a 10k CCD option that will enable 8K oversampling to create a high image quality 4K master. The company showed Galette, color management software that enables the accurate transfer of images that are viewed on CRT displays and DLP projectors to print film. It was also showing Galette Chybox, a a real-time HD color management processor that outputs color matched HD content for film production. Cinecure is a Windows-based retouch, dust and scratch removal system that enables you to fix blemishes in an image that occur when film is transferred to video via telecine or scanner.

SGI, which was noticeably absent at SIGGRAPH 2003 in San Diego, showcased its storage and advanced visualization systems, and also announced a collaboration with Discreet and DataDirect Networks on the development of a next generation shared storage solution. The high performance SAN is being developed in an effort to address the demand for platform agnostic solutions in multi-user environments collaborating on 2K and 4K film projects, HD, and SD programming. The solution is expected to incorporate DataDirect Networks' shared storage system with SGI's InfiniteStorage Shared Filesystem CXFS, and will be compatible with IRIX, Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X operating environments.

Kelseus showcased its Antics Pre-Viz visualization tool. Antics Pre-Viz is targeted at live action and 3D animated products. It enables users to produce multi-cam action scenes that include multiple characters storylines, shots and interactions in an effort to better detail aspects of the story to clients and perspective clients.

In addition to showcasing its workstation products in several partner booths across the show floor, Hewlett-Packard, in a whisper suite, demonstrated a new technology that enables real time 3D collaboration among remote computers. Called HP Remote Graphics, the application enables artists in one location to work collaboratively with artists across the nation or around the world. What HP Remote Graphics enables is for an artist to run an application on another computer over a network, be it a local area network or via the Internet. When the sending computer requests collaboration with the receiving computer, the receiving computer, be it a Windows or Linux based system, basically surrenders its system to the sending computer, so, if the receiving computer is running Alias' Maya on Linux, the sending computer will be able to access all aspects of the receiving computer's dataset. The sending computer in turn replicates the receiving computer's desktop, with access to all the applications. It is quite a powerful product that can have lasting impressions on all markets that have a need for remote collaborative computing  where large datasets are involved.



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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at
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