u p F r o n t . e Z i n e

the business of cad


Issue #704 |  August 16, 2011 

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In This Issue

1. SIGGRAPH 2011 Vancouver

     - Jon Peddie Research's Press Luncheon
     - Virtual Moviemaking Panelists


2. Thoughts on the Tablet Biz

     - Readers React

3. Animations for AutoCAD 2011/12 eBook

4. Out of the Inbox and our other regular columns

     I will be attending the at LinuxCon (Linux conference) in Vancouver on Wednesday this week.

     After this issue, I take the annual summer break. Look for upFront.eZine reappearing next month in your email Inbox with an irregular schedule due to my heavy travel plans -- four countries in five weeks!


     1. Boston for SolidWorks 2012 media event (end of August)
     2. Fri 2 Sept: upFront.eZine issue #705
     3. Ontario for personal travel (first half of September)
     4. Wed 15 Sept: upFront.eZine issue #706
     5. Manila for two weeks of consulting work (second half of September)
     6. Brussels for Bricsys User Conference (early October)
     7. Mon 10 Oct: upFront.eZine issue #707


"Don't be in a rush to get big. Be in a rush to have a great product."
     - Eric Ries, The Lean Startup


SIGGRAPH 2011 Vancouver

The show with the venerable name -- short for "special interest group, graphics" -- made its Vancouver, Canada debut last week, and since I live an hour away, I figured I'd better attend. The last time I was at SIGGRAPH was 22 years ago in Boston. The slogan for this year's show was "Make It Home," which make no sense to me, since it had never before been held outside of USA.


SIGGRAPH has nothing to do with CAD. Used to, though. There was an offshoot for us vector-oriented guys, but with time the raster gang fully took over. And this year, 3D took over from 2D raster. Consumers may well have already rejected 3D, but the video industry sees it as a challenge yet to be overcome -- no, to be won. As one panelist put it (see later), "We're not there yet; this is what makes computing exciting."


The show floor was crowded, the most crowded exhibition hall I've seen in a decade. (Official: 15,872 attendees, second lowest since 1983.) Monster booths from Autodesk and nVidia guarded the entrance way. Bright green lanyards with nVidia's name in big black bold text made all us attendees seem like nVidia employees for a day. The built-for-the-Olympics Vancouver West Convention Center's lights were turned down to make all those giant flat screen tvs easier to see. Not that doubly-overlapping 3D is easy to look at.


3D. Yup. In all its forms. 3D human movement recorders. 3D scanners. 3D printers. 3D monitors. 3D passive Polaroid glasses laying everywhere. Some VR [virtual reality] gear. Software for processing 3D. And drive arrays for storing the 3D data. Also, HDR stuff -- high dynamic range, a technology I consider actually useful.


Feet getting tired, I sat to watch a 3D movie, some silly thing about a young female garden gnome falling for a male one, but being shuffled off to ancient and excited ones. I watched long enough to feel comfortable claiming the free pen that flashed a blue LED in a variety of patterns. Polaroid glasses off, and the eyes go weird at the sight of normal 3D.


In second place for popularity, booths for educational facilities, including a brave cedar-and-native-art effort by the small town of Campbell River located up on northern Vancouver Island. Nice place to live, honest I've been there, but then you'd be island-locked and at the mercy of the monopolistic BC Ferry system. No thanks. I paused long enough at Champlain College's booth to learn that their "MFA in Emergent Media" meant paying them for a Masters degree in what I've being doing intuitively for 16 years. "E-newsletters" and "blogs" and all those sorts of things are "emergent" media, the cheery booth attendant is thrilled to inform me. I pick up the free notepad in which each page reminds me it was made of recycled paper, and thank her.


And then there's all those little 10x10' booths along the back, with hopeful looking entrepreneurs from other countries and their probably cool technology that will be dead next year due to too few customers and even fewer funding sources. "Hopeful looking," did I say? My heart breaks walking past them as I observe them smile grimly at the hoards ignoring them.


This was the first computer show in more than 25 years where I went without the luxury of the press pass; just a free exhibit-only pass compliments of Robert McNeel Associates. I found the reaction fascinating -- well, more along the lines of boring, to be truthful -- at being ignored, just because the word PRESS was missing from my badge. No fawning fer darn sure.

Jon Peddie Research's Press Luncheon

At lunch time, there was a seminar organized by Jon Peddie Research. Since I was registered as media, I got the free lunch in the 5-star Pan Pacific hotel, the free goody bag jammed with complimentary gifts, and got to listen -- free, 'natch -- to a five-person top notch panel talking about the challenges and promise of "virtual film making" -- filming without actors or sets.


Which is a problem. Movie goers, it turns out, like cartoons, which are unrealistic; and they like filmed movies, which are realistic. But realistic cartoons (er, computer-generated animations) other than Avatar not so much.


The luncheon audience, which I estimated at 60, was encouraged to interrupt with questions. Heh, ALL the questions came from just one of the ten tables, the one near which we loud-mouth CAD media congregated. Here are some comment made from panelists:


"The more realistic the computer generated movie, the more resistance from audiences."


"Cannot capture emotion; we are capturing 'faux' motion."


"With the human eye, there no depth of field [everything is in focus]; cameras have depth of field [only part of the image is in focus], which is what we are used to in movies. 3D animations also have no depth of field, and are over focused."


"Reduced fidelity of data is as important as increased fidelity of data, as an artistic choice. Cf. "Super 8." [Such as the currently popular Instagram and its distressed photo filters.]


One of the audience wondered, "What about the feel of a scene, such as a breeze or the smell of mold?"


Another asked, "Are digital sets being reused, such as the Planet Pandora?" Panel members: "Not as much as they should be. On the other hand, companies like Disney don't want their assets messed with [read: loss of revenue]." Another issue with the reuse of digital assets is the problem of file formats, which keep changing. "There is no archive language. In the future, we cannot reuse scenes, just like early silent movies are lost to us."


Computer-generated movies have their problems, which the computer-generated game industry doesn't seem to share; for several years now games have had greater revenues -- although I wonder if part of the difference in pricing: $50 for a game; $10 for a movie.


I wonder, "Why do we need computer-generated movies at all?" The most spectacular special effects no longer wow me, because I know they were artificially created inside a box. No stunt men were harmed in the making of today's movies.

Virtual Moviemaking Panelists

Darin Grant, Head of Production Technology, Dreamworks
Brian Pohl, Autodesk
Steve Cooper, Poser Product Manager, Smith Micro Software
Ping Fu, ceo, Geomagic
Rob Powers, vp of 3D Development, Newtek



Luncheon sponsors gave away a goody bag to me and others filled with USB drives, software, and a small horror teddy bear. In a raffle, HP gave away the world's thinnest desktop monitor ["Why does a desktop monitor need to be the word's thinnest?" I asked my table companion] and ATI -- oops, AMD -- gave away a graphics board. The winner of the graphics board had no use for it, and handed it over to his wide-eyed, delighted table mate.


Next issue: Report on the SPEC dinner meeting regarding issues surrounding benchmarking.


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Thoughts on the Tablet Biz

Readers Respond

Before we get to letters from readers on the subject of tablets, I should add that Chromebook and the Chrome-based JoliCloud will also be failures.

"I think you missed the point. The iPad doesn't need a killer app. The iPad IS the killer app. I love the device, because of it's form factor. I can take it with me anywhere. I can access data and do some manipulation, but just the idea that it's always immediately handy is the point. My iPad is now the first device I pick up in the morning and the last one I put down at the end of the day. I prefer reading my email on my iPad, and also use it to read books and magazines (including upFront). When I travel, it's my entrainment system on long flights. And when necessary, I can edit articles and open CAD files. It's not going to replace my workstation or even my notebook, but it often eliminates the need to boot up either of those devices."
      - David Cohn
      (Sent from my iPad)


"It's not hardware or software. The iPad/tablet is the best content-access and communication device developed to date. You can upload a library of textbooks, reference books, literature, technical articles, service manuals, etc. and read them -- anywhere, anytime. With the 3G option, you can access the web from anywhere. You can carry your personal photo, art and music collection around with you, so you can share it with anyone you're with. You can do email, IM, and video telephone calls. And you can play games, solo or multi-player. Any app that enhances these built-in features will thrive, and those that don't will go nowhere."
      - David Bernhardt, principal


The editor replies: "I agree with you two, except for the point that I can do all this on my Android phone as well, in a package that's several times smaller! I find my iPad 2 big and heavy and awkward compared to a smartphone and its 4" screen. Different strokes, I suppose."

"Want to make a million dollars on the Internet? Write a book on "How to Make a MILLION Dollars on the Internet", price it low enough (say $1) and wait for that 1 millionth customer."

     - Richard H Weiner


The editor replies: "Someone did. It's called "The Long Tail" (by Chris Anderson)."




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Out of the Inbox

GstarCAD says it will release a DWG viewer and editor for iPad, named GstarCAD MC. No further details at this time.


Boston Globe interviews Al Bunshaft, managing director of Dassault Systemes North America: http://articles.boston.com/2011-08-14/business/29887305_1_virtual-reality-computer-aided-design-software


Autodesk last week released the next installment of its 123D series, the Mudbox-based Sculpt app for iPad. http://123dsculpt.com


D-Cube's 2D DCM v59.0 now supports conics (cones) for the first time. http://www.plm.automation.siemens.com/en_us/products/open/d-cubed/product_news/2ddcm_version59.shtml


The National Institute of Building Sciences buildingSMART alliance, International Facility Management Association, and International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories are working to develop a research framework for BIM, starting with a BIM Research Framework Advisory Stakeholder Meeting Sept 19. More info through Labs21@i2sl.org.


Lightworks next-generation Artisan generates images of virtual products as they are being designed. Users save SnapShots at any stage of the design process, containing all materials, lighting, backgrounds, and camera views -- and can be reapplied to the model at any time. http://lightworkdesign.com

     In related news, ASCON is the first Russian company to license Artisan from Lightworks, shipping with the next release of KOMPAS-3D in September.

Letters to the Editor

"PTC CEO (his third paragraph about moving products but helping business process): absolutely true. I don't think Autodesk would argue that either."
      - David Stern

"Thanks for all the informative reportage over the years, Ralph."
      - Peter Thompson


"Thanks for all your work!! The upFront.eZine news is excellent."
     - Kelly Kinghorn


Notable Quotable

"It's ironic, but depressingly unsurprising, that web 2.0 is using faux socialization and democratization to create a world where everyone is reduced to a number on a spreadsheet."
      - Paul Carr, "A Billion Dollars Isn't Cool. You Know What's Cool? Basic Human Decency"


Thank You to Our Subscribers & Donators

These great people support upFront.eZine through their contributions of $25 (or more). Thank you, guys!

- Ross Goulter
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upFront.eZine is published every Tuesday, except during summer and Christmas vacation. Editor: Ralph Grabowski. This newsletter is read by 12,000 subscribers in 70 countries. Your comments are welcome at editor@upfrontezine.com! Deadline for submissions is every Monday noon.


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Entire contents copyright 2011 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide. Letters sent to the editor are subject to publication. Article reprint fee: $250 and up. All trademarks belong to their respective holders. "upFront.eZine," "The Business of CAD," and "WorldCAD Access" are trademarks of upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. Letters to the editor may be edited for clarity and brevity. Translations and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd.

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