3-D tools pop at Siggraph


Leading 3-D software developers are scheduled to make product announcements today at computer-graphics confab Siggraph in San Diego.

"3-D (animation) continues to be a fast-developing market," said Maurice Patel, director of product marketing at Autodesk. "It's very technology-driven, much more so than the 2-D and editing markets, because there are too many unsolved problems in the 3-D world in terms of how to create lifelike characters and animation more efficiently."

Autodesk is expected to unveil new versions of its Maya, 3ds Max and MotionBuilder software packages. A new version of Toxik was announced last week.

Meanwhile, Avid Technology's 3-D subsidiary Softimage will present its strategy that involves a repackaging of system features as well as new price points.

Said Softimage director of product management Bill Roberts: "One of the things we see as the industry matures are that (varying) patterns of work are starting to emerge. We want to come up with packages that address the workflow needs." Reflecting this, the company has repackaged and priced its Essentials and Advanced versions of Softimage|XSI 6.5 software. It also will unveil the next version of facial-animation software Softimage|Face Robot at Siggraph.

Autodesk, the maker of 3ds Max, acquired Alias, the maker of Maya and MotionBuilder, in January 2006; the company has the largest 3-D user base in the world. Softimage has long been a substantial competitor in the 3-D space.

Another longtime 3-D software competitor, Side Effects Software, will be at Siggraph celebrating its 20th anniversary. It recently marked the occasion with the release of Version 9 of its flagship Hondini system.

Also today, Massive Software plans to announce Version 3 of Massive, its artificial intelligence-driven animation system, on the Windows platform as well as on Linux. Massive initially was developed to create the digital crowds in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. "If there is one single feature that customers have been asking for over others, it would have to be support for Windows," Massive founder Stephen Regelous said.

Lastly, Gear6 will report that Sony Pictures Imageworks is deploying its CACHEfx scalable caching appliances to accelerate image rendering. "The real-time data access capabilities of the CACHEfx appliance ensure we can maintain optimal application performance as we scale our processing render farm," said Nick Bali, systems research and development at Sony Pictures Imageworks.