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Enhance Animation Workflow

Softimage CAT v. 2.5 toolset lets artists animate quickly in a flexible environment. The latest version of the software includes a faster system for manipulating CATRigs. It also comes with copy-and-paste poses and animation layers for hubs, limbs, hands, feet, and tails to speed up the keyframe animation.


Figure    Screen shot of a character's motion capabilities in Softimage CAT v. 2.5

The software includes a procedural walk-cycle system with new walk modes, such as walking on a spot, on a line, or with a path node. Additionally, the product comes with a postmixer for bone-based facial animation so that artists can animate the characters' faces the same as they would using morph targets. Poses can be loaded, mirrored, and blended onto the facial bone hierarchy.

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Realistic 3D Surfaces

Cortona VRML Client 5.0 is ParallelGraphics' latest version of its interactive 3D plug-in for Internet browsers that also acts as a content-authoring and visualization tool. The upgrade includes support for advanced visual effects and realistic surfaces (such as DirectX shaders), new interactive features (including layers), and an improved performance with better rendering algorithms.


Figure    Sample screen shot of ParallelGraphics' 3D-authoring software, Cortona VRML Client 5.0

The software reportedly supports the latest hardware accelerators, including DirectX 9.x. It also aids Web application developers by letting them create 3D content that interfaces and works well on most Internet browsers, including Netscape, Mozilla, and Firefox.

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Editing Tool for Digital Imaging

Ulead Systems announced PhotoImpact 12 image-editing software. Reportedly, this version's ExpressFix mode and the SmartGuide task-oriented help system help introduce users to digital photography. ExpressFix mode offers a simplified interface providing commonly used photo features as guided and fully automatic tools. The SmartGuide help panel assists users in a range of photo, Web, video, and DVD tasks. Links in the SmartGuide help to automatically select the correct tools to perform an action.

PhotoImpact 12's RAW file format has been extended over previous versions to cover more camera models. Editing at high color depth now supports selection tools and objects, and 16-bit color depth objects can now be saved in PhotoImpact's native UFO file format.

In addition to the main editor, the included application package features Photo Explorer 8.6 for managing and browsing photos, video, and other digital media; PhotoImpact Album 12, a database-driven photo management tool; COOL 360 for composing panoramic images; and GIF Animator 5.05. Box and electronic download versions of PhotoImpact 12 cost $89.99. Upgrades for registered PhotoImpact users cost $49.99.

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Manage Enterprise Video Communications

Media Publisher announced its next-generation Video Control Center, the first software platform to provide centralized management and control over all components of enterprise video communications. The Video Control Center allows an organization to link all video infrastructure components, including encoders, streaming servers, videoconferencing end-points, content-delivery networks, storage, and corporate portals. Centralized controls for business video enable technical teams to manage distribution of video, while also allowing nontechnical users to easily perform many video publishing tasks on their own without technical team assistance.

The Video Control Center enables managing and preconfiguring of a company's existing video infrastructure components, thereby reducing repetitive, event-by-event environment setup and eliminating the risk of event failure.

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Alchemy Series Media Center Systems

Pcalchemy announced Alchemy Series Media Centers, which provide a rich, digital entertainment experience using such technologies as Intel's Core 2 Duo processor, Viiv, and Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. Four models are available, ranging from the diminutive Alchemy RE to the flagship Alchemy XE, featuring a high-performance Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 processor, 1 Tbyte of dedicated content storage, and an optional Blu-ray disc recorder.

The Alchemy Series Media Centers are the first media centers to include the new Gyration Media Center Remote, which is the only Green Button certified XP Media Center Edition remote control that functions for cursor/mouse control approved by Microsoft. The remote control also features an IR code database and IR learning capabilities to universally control standard home theater devices such as TVs, VCRs, cable/SAT boxes, and so on. The remote control is also equipped with a 100-foot range 2.4MHz transceiver to send cursor movement information and other commands to the PC via a small USB dongle-style receiver.

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Vista-Ready Software DVD Player

InterVideo announced the latest release of its software DVD player, WinDVD 8. Windows Vista compatible, WinDVD 8 reportedly offers new and expanded features and delivers smooth, clear video and rich surround sound.

WinDVD 8 is available in two versions: Platinum and Gold. WinDVD 8 Platinum targets power users who want the latest audio-video technologies, such as H.264 and VC1 support, and the ability to integrate with the Media Center and UPnP home networking. A universal player, the Platinum version can play back high-definition file formats, such as MPEG2-HD, VC-1, WMV-HD, and H.264 HD, as well as standard formats like MPEG4, Real, QuickTime, and Windows Media Video.

Users who buy WinDVD 8 Gold or Platinum can get HD DVD/Blu-ray disc playback functionality by purchasing the HD Upgrade Pack. Suggested list prices are $39.95 for WinDVD 8 Gold and $59.95 WinDVD 8 Platinum. For more information visit

Extract Highlights from Recorded Video

Analog Devices announced that its Blackfin processor incorporated in Hitachi's Wooo D DVR series enable the device to implement automatic extraction and playback key highlights from recorded video—a function known as automatic digesting.

Leveraging the ability of the Blackfin to execute computationally intensive algorithms, Hitachi developed a program that automatically highlights important material on a recording based on changes to audio and video outputs. Users can view the high points of their recorded shows without having to fast forward. Powering this advanced feature, Blackfin handles the audio and video processing in addition to interfacing with the host storage device.

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Figure    Hitachi Wooo D DVR

Rapid Web Application Development

YesSoftware released an upgraded version of CodeCharge Studio (CCS), its rapid Web application development environment for creating scalable PHP, .NET, ASP, Java, ColdFusion, and Perl applications. New features in CCS version 3.1 reportedly include a gallery builder for photos and online storefronts, built-in support for the WYSIWYG rich-text editor FCKeditor, and enhanced reporting and dynamic HTML handling features.

CodeCharge Studio 3.1 is available for Windows platforms, starting at $139.95 per developer. The upgrade is free for all CCS 3.0 users. Academic and volume pricing is also available. For more information visit

Pentax Cameras with Face Recognition

FotoNation announced that its Face Tracker technology is available in Pentax's latest addition to its Optio line: the 7-megapixel Optio S7 and the 10-megapixel Optio A20 digital cameras. FotoNation Face Tracker, which is available as the "Face Recognition AF & AE" function on the Pentax Optio S7 and Optio A20, automatically detects the position of a subject's face and adjusts focus and exposure before capturing the image. This reportedly new approach is important for shooting under poor lighting and at night. The technology also works for multiple faces in a wide range of facial poses.


Figure    Face Tracker automatically detects the position of a subject's face and adjusts focus and exposure accordingly

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