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Motion on the Mac

Five questions with Kaydara FiLMBOX Product Manager Sam Nelson By Dave Nagel

This month Kaydara will bring its FiLMBOX line of products to the Mac OS X platform. Previously available for SGI Irix, Red Hat Linux and Windows NT, FiLMBOX is a suite of tools that provide a hub for creative production. It's a real-time 3D content authoring and delivery tool, complete with a character engine and animation tools. It integrates character animation, live motion capture, camera tracking and audio and video tools in a single, unified authoring environment. And, as a little added bonus, it lets you commingle all of these elements in real time.

The news in and of itself is significant for two reasons. First, it's always good to see non-Mac developers investing in the platform and making their wonderful creative tools available to us. Porting applications is not an easy thing; it takes time and money that could easily be spent in other areas. And there's always the risk that the effort will have been wasted. Sure, research goes into it before any moves are made, but, in the end, it's faith in the platform and its users that drives a company to expand its offerings into new territories.

Second, there's nothing like it on the Mac platform right now. You just simply can't do this kind of work on the Mac, despite the fact that the Macintosh platform dominates creative production. So, for this reason, Kaydara's innovative technologies will bring welcome relief to those who need to work with a multitude of media on high-end projects.

The added benefit is that, what with FiLMBOX popular with the motion capture device manufacturers, and what with Kaydara providing its OpenReality SDK for the Mac, we just might be seeing some new motion capture devices making their way into our neck of the computing woods. And, on the software side, NewTek has announced support for Kaydara's FBX, the file format used natively in FiLMBOX.

We had a chance to interview Kaydara's FiLMBOX product manager, Sam Nelson, about these issues and the future of digital media production on the Mac. Here's what Sam had to say.

David Nagel FiLMBOX is obviously a well known tool for 3D artists on other platforms. What made you decide to bring it to Mac OS X, as opposed to a previous Mac OS or no Mac version at all?

Sam Nelson We chose to develop for Mac OS X because with this release Apple brings the Macintosh platform to a new level of technical proficiency. With preemptive multitasking and virtual memory, technologies that are crucial for the execution of advanced 3D applications, Mac OS X is the first Mac operating system that meets the technical requirements of FiLMBOX’s real-time architecture.

Nagel What have been some of the development challenges on the Mac platform? Will there be total feature parity between all platforms, and will you bring all of the FiLMBOX components to the Mac platform? Will you support the same level of real-time on the Mac as on other platforms?

Nelson We encountered minor challenges that are not uncommon to developing for a new operating system. In the case of FiLMBOX, we had to invest significant resources in implementing the Mac OS X windowing system. Additionally, we had to ensure proper support for OpenGL viewing and audio support. The fact remains that FiLMBOX is, at the core, a C++-based architecture that provided us with the added flexibility to accomplish this task.

FiLMBOX will be available on the Mac platform in its entirety with the same full-featured product offering found on all other platforms. The video integration functionality that allows users to add a live video source within their 3D environment does require a combined video I/O board. We are optimistic that this technology will soon be available on the Mac platform.

FiLMBOX’s real-time authoring capability on the Mac is identical to the support offered all other platforms. We are very excited and pleased with the performance results that we have witnessed when compared to equivalent system configurations and graphic card vendors on other platforms.

Nagel Where do you envision the need for FiLMBOX on the Mac?

We foresee a need for FiLMBOX purely and simply because there is a well established and growing community of 3D artists on the Mac platform that need to generate an increasing amount of 3D-animated content for multiple purposes and for different media.

In general, 3D artists and animators need a cost-effective solution that favors content reuse, and ensures faster delivery of quality content. FiLMBOX’s real-time and cross-platform architecture provides the Mac user base with an established hub for acquiring 3D data whether it originates from external devices,

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