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NAB Coverage/3D

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With the recent announcement that Cinesite Hollywood was closing its visual effects unit, there has been much discussion about not just 3D tools, but the volatile business as a whole.
With this in mind, Softimage managing director Mike Stojda believes these businesses will be focusing on return on investment, so Softimage is aiming to make digital artists more productive.
Avid subsidiary Softimage arrived at NAB with new releases for all of its products: XSI, Behaviour, Batch, Batch Universal and Mental Ray. All are in beta, scheduled to ship in June.
New features of XSI version 3.5 include interoperability capabilities with Avid products. As an example, the company hosted a demonstration that allowed users to link and transfer multiple render passes from XSI to DS.
XSI V 3.5 features increased speed and workflow enhancements, rapid motion blur, automatic “symmetricizing” of polygons with UV and texture inheritance, hair on subdivision surfaces, seamless integration with Mental Ray 3.2, and interoperability tools for easier integration of XSI in an existing pipeline. On that subject, new in XSI are contextual SRT manipulators.
Batch, Batch Universal and Mental Ray are products developed by Mental Images and licensed by Softimage. Stojda reported that the new versions of these products offer speed and performance improvements.
At NAB, Software announced that multiple Behaviour licenses were purchased by DreamWorks for the upcoming Sharkslayer, due in the fall of 2004. Behaviour will reportedly be used by the animators to create scores of digital extras, complex crowd scenes, and schools of fish.
[INSERT ALIAS/WAVEFRONT ANNOUNCEMENT AFTER SUNDAY’S PRESS CONFERENCE]
Meanwhile, Discreet showed how 3ds max 5.1, the latest version of its professional 3D animation and modeling software, is being used at broadcast and postproduction facilities for everything from commercials to motion pictures. The company reported that it was used recently on The Core and X-Men 2.
In film, the software package enables new levels of rendered and physical realism and enhancements to its animation workflow. It also provides greater abilities to manage, process and share data between products in studio pipelines including Discreet’s own inferno, flame, flint systems and combustion software.
Dave Campbell, Discreet’s product marketing manger for 3D and animation, also emphasized productivity, explaining that as the new version offers animators visual improvements, they can reduce the number of rendered iterations. He commented, “The line between what we are working in and what we see is disappearing.”

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