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Tessellation Times #525 - newsletter for AutoDesk 3-D Studio.

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Tessellation Times #525, Weekly Newsletter
covering 3D Topics from the Columbine Pub-
lising, publishers of 3D Artist Magazine.
Issue #25, Tuesday August 15, 1995.

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T H E T E S S E L L A T I O N T I M E S #525
Issue #25 of 1995, for Tuesday, August 15th
*The Tessellation Times* (*Tess*) is Columbine, Inc.'s weekly electronic
publication usually posted overnight Monday as a supplement to *3D Artist*
magazine. The full Web version of this issue starts at:

525.00 - Heads Up!
525.00.00 - Publisher's Report
525.00.01 - Shows & Exhibitions
525.01 - The Top New Stories from Siggraph '95
525.02 - Siggraph '95 Report By Rob Glidden
525.02.01 - Catch the Wave(lets)!
525.02.02 - Microsoft Goes Direct
525.02.03 - Macromedia Unveils Extreme 3D
525.02.04 - Intervista WorldView
Masthead - see "Details" below
Calendar - events, galleries, classes & artists call
for continuing listings, grab
Special Offers -
for continuing listings, see
Contacts - see end of file
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property of their respective owners. Columbine, Inc. and its publications
are totally independent. No companies or products are endorsed.

Published by and (c)Copyright 1995, all rights reserved:
Columbine, Inc.
P.O. Box 4787, Santa Fe, NM 87502 USA
505/982-3532 (voice); 505/820-6929 (fax)
505/820-6929x3 voice mail
E-mail: [email protected]
Alex Kiriako, Editor, *Tess*
Rob Glidden, Technical Editor
Carol Williamson, Admin. Asst.
Sally Beach, Vice Pres., Columbine, Inc.
Bill Allen, Publisher & Pres., Columbine, Inc.


525.00 - Heads Up!

*Tess* Editor Alex Kiriako is off this week, so this issue was prepared by
Publisher Bill Allen.

525.00.00 - Publisher's Report
By Bill Allen

Siggraph in Los Angeles last week was a great show, but we were disappointed
not to be able to share it with you more quickly. Tests in Santa Fe of our
remote ftp connection into our Web site in Atlanta had worked perfectly, and
Kodak's loan of a digital camera had come through as promised. So we felt
confident enough to tell you to watch for reports right from the show.
However, the ftp connection did not work from L.A. and we didn't have time
to keep trying possible solutions. Our primary job was to get the story,
which you'll see in this and the next *Tess*.

Rob Glidden and his reports about 3D hardware and operating systems, VRML,
digitizing, and modeling how-to's have become such an important and regular
part of *3D Artist* and *Tess* that we have hired him as Technical Editor.
This is a contributing editor's position, which leaves him free to pursue
his own company's content development work. He was in Los Angeles and his
first Siggraph reports are in this *Tess*.

This week we are changing several aspects about how we produce *Tess*.
Previous issues began as text files and got a last-minute conversion for the
Web, but this issue as a test started in HTML. We are also trying to cut
down on repetitious stuff in both versions.
To help you navigate a more graphical *Tess* and to optimize your time
online, we are introducing with this *Tess* some buttons and icons.
Another change is that we are moving *Tess*'s publication date to Tuesday.
Even when it gets posted early Monday evening, many of you actually read it
on Tuesday, and sometimes local midnight is close or past (such as for this
issue) when all is done.

We've got a surplus of news for you, including a bunch of new books and more
stuff from Siggraph. Watch the *Tess* NewsRoom for the most urgent items.

525.00.01 - Shows & Exhibitions

The next big VRML get-together promises to be VRML 95, 14-15 Dec. at the San
Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at U.C. San Diego. Cosponsored by SDSC and
the National Science Foundation, VRML 95 will include two days of
peer-reviewed technical papers on VRML-related research topics and a vendor
exhibit of VRML-related products such as browers, modelers, and conversion
tools. For more info, check For general
VRML info, go to the VRML repository at Glidden

525.01 - The Top New Stories from Siggraph '95

By Bill Allen, Publisher
Photos by Sally Beach, Assoc. Editor
[Using a Kodak DC-40 digital (756x504x24) camera, except as noted]

*> Consumer 3D: VRML

Increasingly heard pronounced "virmel" instead of spoken as V-R-M-L, this
was the main topic for a very large segment of Siggraph '95 attendees.
However, we ran into plenty of desktop 3D people who were little aware of
any ground swelling around them.
Aside from the general excitement, some discouraging words were heard
about meeting user expectations. Also arguments that VRML is a plot by SGI
to (pick one) dominate Internet 3D or destroy the VRML concept. Speed
clearly is a problem. Browsers showing simple flat-shaded scenes ran slowly
on Pentiums, and that was without piping it all through your phone line.
Two of the industry's very largest companies told *Tess* they hoped VRML
would just go away. Not so with their competitors. The VRML business model
seems to be to follow Netscape and give away as much free software as
possible to capture market share. Both IBM and NewTek used VRML as a way to
have something new to say, even if it wasn't very commercial. In convert
Microsoft's booth, VRML was very present but just part of normal business.
Autodesk quietly was telling users about its new 3DS-to-VRML conversion
utility ( And Caligari showed
reporters an early version of its coming VRML tools.
VRML has quickly gone beyond file format to become a movement. We can see
that conserving polygons may well become both an ethic and an art form.

[image =]

Caption: Mark Pesce (at podium and on screen) leads the Sunday evening 6
Aug. birds-of-a-feather (BOF) VRML meeting that discussed VRML 1.x and 2.0
and forming a consortium to underpin those and future specs. The gathering
went smoothly and constructively. But it likely would have been put into
total uproar if one of of the most-heard voices, VRML 2.0 committee member
Mitra, had let on that a unilateral "VRML+" spec was to be announced two
days later by his company, Worlds, Inc., in partnership with IBM.

*> Academia: Wavelets

A new way to describe 3D objects that eventually could have considerable
impact on how you work and play. See Rob Glidden's report in 525.02.01.

*> Desktop 3D: 3D Studio Max with Biped

Add "re-architect" to your buzzwordian dictionary. It apparently means to
rewrite a program from the ground up, usually to move it to a new platform
where it must use different features, or may make use of capabilities not
previously available, or, at least more than a straight port. It's the term
Autodesk uses for what it did with 3D Studio Max for (only) Windows NT 3.51.
This is the program that many once thought of as 3D Studio release 4, then
release 5 (when an interim upgrade was deemed substational enough to be
dubbed 4), and what Autodesk internally code-named "Jaguar."
For many of *3D Artist*'s readers in attendance, the most important part
of Siggraph was getting to see 3D Studio Max, and gaining the good news/bad
news assurance that 1) yes, this is an upgrade of uncommon importance, and
2) yes, to run it will require more hardware investment (fast 486 or better,
32Mb RAM, 60Mb disk space). What they didn't expect was that Max will come
with a "super plug-in" called "Biped" that goes beyond inverse kinematics
and facilitates skinned character animation that is difficult to acquire
with motion capture (such as gymnastic moves).
Biped has foot pinning, so skating should mostly disappear as a routine
headache. And it uses a footprint metaphor straight out of Arthur Murray's
dance studios to tell your character where to hit the mark.
Also in the new package are realtime 8- and 24-bit (using optional
hardware acceleration) viewing capabilities, including a floating Materials
Editor window with immediate modeling viewport response. Editor and
Keyframer are now integrated. Polygonal and Bezier spline modeling are
supported. Paths are drawn right in a viewport. TrackView not only allows
you to flexibly adjust and coordinate various animation tracks, but also
turns sound sync into a relatively easy task. Objects remember their history
and you can go back and modify earlier edits, which would seem to provide an
almost infinite undo as well as new creative possibilities.
Autodesk has not announced a list price for 3D Studio Max, which is to
ship early in 1996. Upgrade will be $495 from 3DSr4 and $995 from earlier
Autodesk understands that not everyone can or will want to immediately
make the jump to an NT system, so support will continue for the DOS r4
version and the company "will soon deliver a free patch modeler plug-in and
free VRML conversion utility to registered owners."

*> 3D Interface: MultiGen SmartModels

I attended the breakfast press briefing in MultiGen's booth because I was
curious about SGI software that costs $15,000 to $40,000 and has as its
primary claims an early implementation of the concept of behaviors and
better *low-res* models (perversely contradicting trends in resolution and
So I was stunned when the mundane presentation shifted to a demonstration
of the company's SmartModel technology for assembling scenes in realtime
using a stereo headset and two data gloves. In my introduction to *3D
Artist* issue #1 back in late 1991, I said: The *ultimate interface between
artist and computer will be to move right into the computer, so to speak.
Using VR tools, you may float around in 3D space, like some Sistine god,
reaching out to "touch" objects to assign colors and other attributes.*
The demonstration had looked easy. And, when I got the chance to try it
out, I found it was easy even though this was my first experience with
using VR gear. MultiGen's people have figured out well how to use data glove
gestures, and how to get around problems with being exact while simply
waving your hands about (fences "know" only to attach to fence posts, etc.).
Fun stuff and perfect for quickly assembling towns and parks, as
demonstrated. It isn't up to landscape architects' needs yet (terrains must
be flat), but what better way for assembling game scenes? The system is
supposed to go into beta by November and ship early next year at a price
somewhere "under $50,000."

[image = = person in VR gear]

Caption: Pinch with both hands and twist to rotate the scene, or bring your
hands together or spread them apart to zoom in or out. Pinch with one hand
on an object to bring yourself to it, or pinch space with each hand
alternately to swim through the scene. Grab a tree top and adjust its
height, or use a snap gesture to pull it from the ground and carry it
elsewhere (but it "knows" not to take root on pavement or a housetop). Tap a
finger into the palm of your other hand and a palette of materials or
objects (such as trees or whole houses) appears in that hand. The monitor at
right shows what the demonstrator is seeing. The two red blurs are hand icons.

*> Workstation 3D: SGI's Project Maya

They say it's only "the first step in a long-term technology vision," but
another shoe has dropped in the saga of SGI's purchase of Alias and
Wavefront (both now headquartered in Toronto as the SGI Alias/Wavefront
division). At Siggraph, while announcing a stack of product upgrades for
Alias and Wavefront, SGI revealed that Project Maya will merge the two
product lines into one, using "a revolutionary new architecture for creative
software." A smooth upgrade path is promised along with "data compatibility
with current products." The first resulting product is expected "within a
one-year period."
And now for a little of that longterm vision, from the 8 Aug. news
release: *Project Maya is Alias/Wavefront's accelerated path to achieving a
vision for the future of the computer graphics industry, one where:
synthetic actors, creatures and environments are pervasive in episodic
television, feature films and video games; directors interact with
computer-generated characters in the same way as they do with live actors;
where digital environments replace physical sets and props; new products are
designed and test marketed within the virtual environments exclusively
through the use of conceptual design technology; and, most importantly,
technology becomes an almost invisible tool for the artist.*

*> Architecture & Virtual Sets: Lightscape

Newly arrived on Windows NT from SGI is the Lightscape Visualization System
(LVS) from Lightscape Technologies. It gives a full radiosity solution, and
has physically-based lighting properties that support four photometric data
types. It not only provides the potential for extremely realistic lighting
[*see two articles in *3DA*#20*], but also facilitates lighting analysis.
Lightscape does not have a modeler, and animation is limited to camera
movement. Raytracing is available for refractions and reflections.
Besides DXF support, Lightscape imports 3DS, Softimage, and Wavefront
geometry and materials. Since a radiosity solution is room based rather than
camera based, an interesting side feature is output of 360-degree QuickTime
VR files. The solution itself can be exported to Open Inventor and VRML file
Reportedly Lightscape was first to be used for national broadcast of a
realtime virtual set with ABC's *Common Sense* program with John Stossel.
The radiosity solution for a room is said to take from half-an-hour to
overnight depending on complexity, then individual frames can take 15
seconds to a few minutes each to render. Cameras can move from room to room
(solution to solution).
The NT 3.5 version of LVS requires a Pentium CPU, 32Mb RAM (64Mb
recommended), and 500Mb hard drive (1Gb recommended). Price is $2,995, to
ship in September. Support for Windows 95 is promised when OpenGL becomes

[image =]

Caption: Castle interior by Agata & Andrzej Wojaczek, inspired by a B.
Piranesi print, modeled in AutoCAD, and rendered in Lightscape. Courtesy of
Lightscape Technologies.

*> Continuing Trends: Price Drops & Windows NT

It may not be new news, but two of the most important factors in 3D graphics
today are continuing price drops for 3D packages, and ascendance of Windows
NT as the platform of choice for PC 3D.
Caligari told *Tess* that it had stickered all remaining copies of
trueSpace 1 as trueSpace SE and will continue to publish the product as such
with new packaging, at $149 list, expecting a street price just under $100.
That's last year's $795 program.
A new product for Mac and PC is Ray Dream Studio which has (surprise!)
animation. And not just animation but also inverse kinematics, behaviors,
rotoscoping, wizards, and 500-plus render-ready models. List price on CD-ROM
is $499, upgrade $149, to ship in the Fall.
These are the latest among a growing number of capable economy 3D
packages, including the new MHA--a major subset of Animation Master 3.0 from
Hash, Inc. announced just before Siggraph at $199 list [see TESS#524.05].

525.02 - Siggraph '95 Report
By Rob Glidden, Technical Editor

525.02.01 - Catch the Wave(lets)!

How about a revolutionary solution to 3D graphics compression? A technology
so powerful it will obsolete NURBs? Something that eliminates the single
largest obstacle to realistic realtime 3D by completely automating Level of
Detail (LoD)? How about a revolutionary multiresolution editing capability
that will eliminate forever the tedium of point-based modeling? Even 3D
objects that come into focus while you watch during progressive transmission
over the Internet?
On the academic research front, perhaps the hottest topic at Siggraph '95
was the potential for use of wavelets in 3D graphics. Conceptually, wavelets
offer significant potential as a new technique for 3D surface description,
compression, and manipulation. Basic research has been very promising,
although commercially viable implementation remains an open issue.
Think of wavelets as a technique to describe a 3D curve or surface
(actually any stream of data, including 2D images) by breaking the data into
two conceptual parts: the general outline and the details. The first part is
the "base shape": a simple basic shape that describes the general outline of
an object. For example, the base shape of a 3D representation of a rabbit
would be a general rabbit-shaped outline or surface. The second part is the
wavelet component--the differences that vary from the base shape and that
describe the details of the shape. Think of the fur of the rabbit, or the
wrinkles of its skin, as the wavelet components.
Now, a 3D object can be described as multiple levels of wavelet detail. In
an example seen at Siggraph, a model of Mr. Spock's head starts as a 3D
primitive shape (an octahedron) so simple that it just looks like a simple
clump of low-polygon clay. As each level of wavelet detail is added onto the
base shape, the clump starts to look more and more like a face. After
several passes, the face starts to look a little like a medium-resolution
polygon version of Mr. Spock. In the final passes, Mr. Spock's face seems to
come into focus.
This wavelet technique has several interesting potential uses in the 3D
field. For 3D artists, wavelets offer the potential of multiresolution
editing. When you edit the base shape, the wavelet detail naturally follows.
So, for example, you could work at the rabbit's general outline level, and
make its ear bigger, and the fur and wrinkles would follow the changes
Wavelets could be used for compression 3D shapes because, when the base
shape fairly accurately describes a shape, the wavelet values (the wavelet
coefficients) drop to zero. This means that wavelet data usually will be
mostly zeros, which makes the data easily compressible. And since the base
shape and multiple levels of wavelet components are separate data streams,
they could be sent sequentially. In a distributed environment (say, the
Internet), a 3D object could be progressively transmitted, with the object
coming into greater focus as each level in the wavelet set arrived.
The open question for wavelets is their commercial viability, specifically
whether a fast enough implementation is possible. Demonstration projects so
far have processing bottlenecks that, if unsolved, would doom any commercial
implementation. No major 3D software application has publicly announced
plans to attempt to implement wavelets, and it appears the academic
advocates are seeking a vehicle to test or demonstrate commercial viability.
In the 2D image processing field, there is perhaps greater commercial
interest in wavelets as an image compression technique, and there are even
efforts underway to implement wavelet processing in hardware for advanced
image transmission.

525.02.02 - Microsoft Goes Direct

As expected, Microsoft announced at Siggraph its "Direct3D HAL"--the
hardware abstraction layer for Windows 3D APIs. Direct3D HAL is tightly
integrated with the recently announced DirectDraw HAL for 2D graphics
acceleration, indicating that Microsoft's design philosophy for the new era
of PC graphics acceleration will probably be "Let's all talk Directly to HAL."
Direct3D HAL represents the culmination of an intense period of
generational shift in Microsoft's graphics backend architecture. The winner
is the "Direct HAL" philosophy first announced at the Computer Game
Developer's Conference in April of this year [*3DA*#19]. But the Direct
architecture is clearly intended for more than games. At Siggraph, Microsoft
described DirectDraw as "Microsoft's composition engine for all of its
graphics subsystems."
By integrating Direct3D with DirectDraw, Microsoft is building a single
new graphics architecture for hardware acceleration. According to Microsoft,
graphics hardware manufacturers "will only need to write a single driver to
accelerate Direct 3D, DirectDraw, GDI [the Windows graphics subsystem],
OpenGL and Reality Lab."
For graphics chip makers and software developers, Direct3D HAL means the
quiet supersedure of 3D-DDI, Microsoft's original 3D device driver. The
practical effect will be that 3D graphics boards will now be able to count
on device driver support for geometry and lighting acceleration not included
in the original 3D-DDI. Also, since the Direct philosophy is that every
hardware acceleratable function should have a software-only implementation
(unlike 3D-DDI's capability-query design), Microsoft is hoping that software
developers will find the new Direct3D HAL more appealing than 3D-DDI.
A Direct3D Device Driver kit is expected for fourth quarter 1995, and
release is expected for first quarter 1996. Direct HALs are expected to be
available for both Windows 95 and Windows NT.

OpenGL for Win95 on the way: Microsoft demonstrated OpenGL on Windows 95
publicly for the first time at Siggraph. Currently in beta, it is expected
to ship shortly after the release of Windows 95.

525.02.03 - Macromedia Unveils Extreme 3D

Macromedia, Inc. introduced its long awaited Extreme 3D (code-named "Daffy")
at Siggraph. Extreme 3D is a consolidation of Macromedia's various 3D
products, particularly MacroModel, into a single 3D application that offers
modeling, animation, and rendering. Current MacroModel users will welcome
Extreme 3D as a major upgrade.
Extreme 3D continues MacroModel's spline-based modeling and adds some new
features (such as surface trim) and user interface improvements. And Extreme
3D replaces MacroModel's use of Pixar's RenderMan as the production renderer
with Macromedia's own RenderMan-reminiscent renderer. The renderer offers
sophisticated shaders and texture mapping, some high-end features such as
visible spotlights, and networked cross-platform (Mac and PC) rendering.
In a major feature expansion to the old MacroModel, Extreme 3D includes
integrated time- and frame-based animation of all editable aspects of
objects and scenes.
Also significant to potential users is Macromedia's positioning of 3D in
general, and Extreme 3D in particular, in Macromedia's own growing universe
of multimedia tools.
In the Macromedia world view, 3D is a spoke on the multimedia wheel. At
the center of the wheel are authoring tools (Macromedia's Director and
Authorware, and presumably eventually the realtime Smart 3D that Macromedia
has publicly mentioned). The spokes are the multimedia content tools such as
graphics illustration (Freehand), image processing, video, sound, type/text,
animation, and 3D.
Not surprisingly, this world view also reflects Macromedia's own corporate
growth strategy to build or acquire a major market position in each of the
spoke areas and integrate these positions into its own Director- and
Authorware-centered wheel. Many multimedia developers will find fortune in
Macromedia's multimedia wheel when content and authoring are integrated. For
example, Extreme 3D's bezier patch modeling is a natural 3D extension of
Freehand's 2D splines.
However, for some 3D content developers, it is 3D itself--not 2D
authoring, that is at center, and for them the benefit of Macromedia's
positioning of Extreme 3D as a spoke in the multimedia wheel may be less
immediately clear.

525.02.04 - Intervista WorldView

Invent a standard and you will lead in the ensuing race to market. It looks
like Intervista Software, Inc. has managed to pull off this often-imagined
strategy to launch a company. Toni Parisi, president of Intervista, is one
of the three architects of the VRML specification. And WorldView,
Intervista's new PC VRML browser, has indeed taken an early spot in the VRML
browser race to market.
Since WorldView was selected by Microsoft in its Blackbird development
package [see TESS#522.01] and for use on the Microsoft Network, Intervista
earned a prominent spot in the Microsoft booth at the show. Also, since
WorldView claims to be "unique in its early adoption of Microsoft's Reality
Lab 3D API" as the backend for a VRML browser, the company seems well
positioned to move forward in what promises to be the rough-and-tumble arena
of VRML browsers.

Please mention TESS when contacting companies about products reported here!

> Autodesk, Inc.; 111 McInnis Pkwy., San Rafael, CA 94903;; vox 415/507-5000; fax 415/491-8311; vox
800/879-4233 or 800/225-6106
> Caligari Corp.; 1955 Landings Dr., Mountain View, CA 94043; vox
415/390-9600; fax 415/390-9755; vox 800/351-7620
> Hash, Inc.; 2800 E. Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver, WA 98661;; vox 360/750-0042; fax 360/750-0451

> Intervista Software, Inc.;; 45 Liberty
Street, San Francisco, CA 94110; vox 408/345-1805
> Lightscape Technologies, Inc.; 1054 Saratoga-Sunnyvale Rd. #200, San Jose,
CA 95129;; Vx/Fx 408/342-1900
[email protected]; vox 800/343-0073
> Macromedia, Inc.; 600 Townsend St., San Francisco, CA 94103;; vox 415/252-2000; fax 415/626-0554; vox 800/326-2128
> MultiGen, Inc.; 550 S. Winchester Blvd. #500, San Jose, CA 95128; vox
408/261-4100; fax 408/261-4101;
> Ray Dream, Inc.; 1804 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View, CA 94043; vox
415/960-0768; fax 415/960-1198; vox 800/846-0111
> SGI - Silicon Graphics, Inc.; 2011 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View, CA
94043;; vox 415/960-1980; fax 415/390-6153
*Tess* and *3D Artist*'s other online activies are funded completely by
*3DA*'s advertisers, subscribers, and newsstand readers. For more about the
print magazine, please inquire to (subscription prices
go up Sept. 1st!).


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