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SIGGRAPH 2005: Annual conference focuses on the artist

AMD announces ILM alliance By John Virata

The start of the SIGGRAPH 2005 exposition kicked off with the announcement that AMD will supply the core technology that drives the effects pipeline at Industrial Light & Magic's new facility at the Presidio, former army base in San Francisco. ILM has outfitted the new Letterman Digital Arts Center with an AMD64-based data center complete with a render farm, file servers, and storage systems, capable of processing more than 150 terabytes of data per day.

"The potential for innovation on that 23 acres is unparalleled, said Charlie Boswell," director of digital media and entertainment at AMD. "These guys have to invent new ways and to retain their market dominance, they have to have the best IT infrastructure in the world. We look at the Presidio as the premiere technology center on planet earth."

AMD has been working with ILM since Star Wars Episode II, and helped the artists create even more effects for Star Wars Episode III. ILM created 6,500 shots in previsualization, of which 2,200 shots made it into Episode III. This was all driven via a 10 terabyte cluster server array and a 140 processor AMD64 Opteron render farm. The effects facility processed approximately 150,000 frames per day which equates to about 150 terabytes of data each day.

Over at the NVIDIA booth, the company was showcasing its latest technology serving a variety of markets. First up was a visualization dome modeled after the Hayden Planetarium in the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, showcasing simple molecules to big stars and galaxies run on an NVIDIA graphics powered single AMD Opteron-based HP xw9300.

Following the dome was a six system visualization cluster, also based on HP xw9300 workstations and NVIDIA's Quadro FX 4500 with the Quadro G-sync and SLI options. This display showed a Porsche Carrera displayed on six framelocked high resolution projectors and running an automotive styling application from Realtime Technologies.

Motion capture device company Measurand was showcasing its latest mocap device, the ShapeHand, a portable motion capture system that captures hand motions via flexible ribbons built into a glove. The ribbons attach to each finger of the glove, and serve as the basis of the motion capture device.

Measurand's ShapeHand

The device sends signals wirelessly over an 802.11b wireless connection and is compatible with Alias MoCap, including Motion Builder and MotionBuilder Pro, Softimage XSI, JACK, Character Studio, and ShapeRecorder.

3Dlabs was demonstrating its new Wildcat Realizm 500 PCI Express graphics card. The company has priced the card at $899 and features 256MB memory on a 256-bit wide bus. It features a pair of single link DVI-I connectors, stereo connector and two DVI to VGA display adapters.

e-frontier, formerly Curious Labs, and current developer of the Poser 3D figure design and animation tool, showcased several tools that are fairly new to the U.S. market. The first tool was Shade 8, a 3D design, animation and rendering tool that has been available in the Japanese market for 20 years.

Shade 8 interface

Scheduled to ship within the next several months, Shade is currently available in three versions; Designer LE, the entry level version of the application; Standard, which adds the capability to import Adobe Illustrator files and export to Photoshop for final comps, advanced Boolean and polygon modeling tools, TextEffector text tool, and the capability to output up to 4000x4000 pixel images; and Shade Professional, which adds IGES5.3 support for working with CAD based tools, Radiosity Pro and Callisto rendering tools as well as network rendering support, as well as the capability to output 22528x22528 pixel images. The company was also demonstrating MotionArtist 2.0 an easy to use Flash animation tool that enables you to easily build Flash based photography web pages, banners, presentations and websites. While a lot of the functionality of the application is template based, you can also build your own custom designed Flash projects as well. Included with the application are more than 800 images, sounds, and prebuilt animation, all of which can be customized within MotionArtist. very popular in Japan, no Action Script knowledge is required to build Flash animations with MotionArtist.

Over at the Reallusion Booth, we got a glimpse of CyClone, a 3D character animation tool that enables you to bring in your own digital photographs of your subject's head and side view and map those images onto predefined 3D talking characters. Each character can be customized via a library of clothing and hair styles. It features custom 3D face shape tools that enables you to tweak the character's head, face, lips, eyes, teeth and skin color. Once you have mapped the face onto one of the predefined models, you can then give the models life with included motion capture data. CyClone is targeted at TV and broadcast production professionals, DVD authoring, video and film production, online multimedia, professional and academic training and simulation. CyClone is available as a standalone application and as a plug-in to 3ds max.

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at
Related Keywords:SIGGRAPH 2005, Industrial Light & Magic, Letterman Digital Arts Center , Shade 8

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