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SIGGRAPH 2001 Roundup

Motion graphics on the move By Dave Nagel
Another SIGGRAPH has come and gone. This year's show was smaller than last year's, with several exhibitors dropping out and with attendance seemingly down. (Actual attendance figures haven't been published yet.) What does this say about the animation industry in general? Of course, the industry has hit some hard times, and so some exhibitors opted to save a little money by not showing up or by taking on a diminished presence this year. But for those who were there, the enthusiasm for the business has not diminished one bit. I, for one, was left with a sense that we're about to experience a turnaround, from both a user and technology perspective.

I've made no secret about being a Mac Man, and the depth of product offerings for the Mac?both OS 9 and OS X?no doubt contributed to my own enthusiasm. But the Mac platform wasn't the only beneficiary of exciting new technologies introduced over the last week.

Of course SIGGRAPH is heavily oriented toward 3D, so it comes as no surprise that most of the major announcements came from 3D developers. What is surprising is just how many announcements were made and how major they were. We have NewTek's LightWave [7], a major update to that product. We have a forthcoming release of Electric Image's Universe 4.0 less than a year after the release of 3.0, which, itself, was a major update from EIAS 2.x. We have a new physics system and several new plugins for Maxon's Cinema 4D XL 7. And we have a new Shockwave 3D exporter and a forthcoming integration of Mental Ray in Alias|Wavefront's Maya. Oh yeah, Softimage also announced XSI 2.0.

If you work in compositing, there's no doubt that Discreet's Combustion 2 got you a little hot and bothered, especially since it will liekly be the first compositing suite to make its way over to Mac OS X. Also in the area of compositing was the free upgrade to Boris RED, with new features and several performance enhancements.

But if I had to pick one thing everybody at the show was talking about, it would have to be a tossup between Maya and Macromedia's Shockwave 3D. But I think the edge goes to Shockwave 3D, since even the Maya folk couldn't help but talk it up. Now, this is not to imply that the makers of other Web 3D technologies were silent. Not by any means. Viewpoint, Cycore and Pulse were all out there in force as well. Cycore launched Cult3D 5.3. Viewpoint landed 15 new 3D developers for its rich media file format. And Piulse showed off its new lip synching solution for its Pulse Animation Studio.

Was that it? Not by a long shot. But I'm not going to sit here and recap all of the 2 kathousand or so announcments made at the show. To catch up on all the goings on at this week's SIGGRAPH, be sure to visit our news section at http://www.digitalmediadesigner.com/headlines/index.htm.

Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications. You can reach him at dnagel@digitalmedianet.com.

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