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Siggraph Wrap

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Over 29,000 people gathered at this year’s Siggraph conference and exposition at the Los Angeles Convention Center, July 31–August.Cinematographers and colorists flocked to see Iridas’ new SpeedGrade OnSet—a $200 on-set color correction program that runs on a laptop, giving cinematographers the ability to do a rough color grade on set, and pass that information on to the colorist using the same .look file format as SpeedGrade DI (the full version of the software targeted at colorists).It addresses an issue that has become particularly acute with the advent of the digital intermediate, which gives colorists the ability to completely alter the look and feel of a shot.In addition, the .look files can also be loaded into FrameCycler, Iridas’ uncompressed playback application for color-graded playback, enabling crews to view digital dailies during production with their preliminary grading applied.The Pixel Farm was showing its new PFPlay 2.0—a disk-based playback system for reviewing 2K and 4K data—in a special demonstration at the SGI Visualization Theater. The software was running on SGI Prisms driving a new Sony SXRD 4K projector. But the process for viewing 4K data is still somewhat cumbersome, and the projector had to be fed from four graphics pipelines, that were stitched together in the projector.In terms of CG content creation, 64-bit computing was the hot topic with companies like AMD, SGI and Boxx showing their latest 64-bit processing technologies. Using 64-bit technology, visual-effects artists can work on scenes with billions of polygons and layers of video much faster than they can with 32-bit machines.AMD was recently selected as the platform for the new 23-acre Letterman Digital Arts Center campus of Lucasfilm, being built in the heart of San Francisco’s historic Presidio. When completed, Industrial Light & Magic and LucasArts will relocate to the new facility where a massive new AMD-based 64-bit data center will be able to process over 150 terabytes a day.Softimage introduced a new native 64-bit version of XSI. The new version 5.0 will also be available for 32-bit platforms, but the 64-bit version will offer much better performance. The company was also drawing crowds to its booth to see its new facial animation package—Softimage|Face Robot. The technology is built on a new computer model of facial soft tissue that mimics the range of human emotions and enables artists to create more realistic facial animations.Autodesk Media and Entertainment (formerly Discreet) also unveiled 64-bit versions of its visual effects, editing and compositing digital color grading systems. Fire v.7.0 and Smoke 7.0 editing systems; Inferno 6.5, Flame 9.5, Flint 9.5 visual effects systems and Lustre 2.6 digital color grading have all be re-architected to support 64-bit computing on SGI 64-bit Irix systems.But the main news from the company was its new version of 3ds Max—v. 8.0, (although it’s still a 32-bit application). In the new release, the company has focused on four key areas: character development, advanced modeling and texturing, a comprehensive development framework and complex data and asset management.Alias introduced Maya 7 which the company called its most significant release ever. It represents a complete re-architecture of the Maya render layers workflow, based on customer suggestions, and now supports a collaborative, parallel workflow, which iteratively refreshes geometry, allowing modelers, animators and technical directors to work on the same character simultaneously in a nondestructive way.eyeon Software announced that it will begin shipping Fusion 5, at the end of August—a long-awaited 64-bit-ready upgrade for which users have been clamoring. “Work on Fusion 5 has been in the mill for almost two years, first with the new architecture and then adding the hundreds of features and requests that we’ve received since then,” said Steve Roberts, eyeon Software’s CEO.Siggraph, now in its 32nd year, travels from city to city in an effort to bring computer graphics to the masses. Next year’s show is slated for Boston on July 30–August 3.

Written by Scott Lehane

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