MGLA April 3 2001 Meeting Summary

------Meeting Sponsored by ProMax------

Lineup: Apple OSX & iDVD/ Elements of Anarchy: Text / ColorTheory / Electric Image Universe


Our April Meeting was hosted by Chris, Dan and Lucky as Trish was out indulging in her other passion: California native plants. Nonetheless, we had a very informative and successful meeting. The first bit of news was the sudden demise of the Pittard Sullivan design firm who had just closed there doors and let everyone go. We discussed how that might impact the desktop-designer community who make up the bulk of our membership. On one hand, the lack of collateral work coming from a large firm such as Pittard Sullivan may result in a local slow down. But on the other hand, the high-end clients who were supported by Pittard Sullivan may begin to look for design studios, such as Reality Check or Belief, who focus more on quality graphics than catered lunches.

We also discussed the disconcerting fact that in some instances updating your Mac's firmware will cause RAM to disappear. This is due to the fact that the new firmware updates will disable RAM that does not meet apple's specifications for that machine. This subject was later addressed during the presentation on OSX. In the meantime, it has been discussed on the MGLA's forum, including links to a RAM check utility.


Our first presenter of the evening was Paul Saccone who came by to show us Apple's long-awaited new operating system OSX (officially pronounced "OS-Ten," not "OS-Ex" if you were wondering). Paul was excited about the feature in OSX that will help us folks who run high-end digital graphics software on the Mac - specifically preemptive multi-tasking and other Unix-like features.

Paul continued by describing the format apps running under OSX can take. Classic apps are those that currently run under OS9. Carbon apps are a subset that take advantage of some of the new OSX features. Cocoa apps have been written from the ground up for OSX. Lastly, Java2 apps can take advantage of OSX capabilities as well.

As far as graphics go OSX features Quartz for 2D graphics and imaging, much like the previous Quickdraw. Quicktime is implemented for movie playback as before and OpenGL is integrated for 3D display. Lastly, Aqua is the "new look" of OSX.

The next subject was the sticky RAM issue. It was pointed out that many of the random crashes people experienced under OS9 were related to out-of-spec RAM. Apple wanted to eliminate these types of crashes and thus disables installed RAM that's not up to snuff. Paul explained that any reputable RAM vendor should replace out-of-spec RAM with the correct chips. For more information on this issue you can check out <> or <>. Co-host Chris Meyer then again re-iterated his long-standing admonition that buying "cheap RAM" is never a good idea.

APPLE iDVD & DVD Studio Pro

Next, Paul discussed Apple's iDVD and DVD Studio Pro software. iDVD is the "consumer" level software and has certain limitations, such as a one-hour limit on the amount of content it can hold. iDVD also will not allow you to create a duplicateable disc. DVD Studio Pro is a $1000 application designed to compete with current DVD mastering software selling in the $30,000 range and does not have these limitations. It was also noted that the SuperDrive included with the PowerMac G4 733 will not make duplicatable discs. However, Jerry from ProMax noted that they knew of a company who could make a master DVD from a SuperDrive-created disc. Paul concluded by showing us just how easy it is to create a DVD with iDVD software.


Next up was frequent MGLA presenter and host of the Bay Area Motion Graphics group Jim Tierney. Jim now has his own Plug-in company called Digital Anarchy <>. He came down to show Elements of Anarchy a suite of After Effects plug ins for created interesting text-based background element effects - or "text stuff" a term eloquently coined by co-host Chris Meyer.

The plug ins allow you to create random text elements in a variety of patterns and with various types of movements from a Matrix-look to text that looks as if it's being printed on a computer screen and even text that follows layer paths. These plug-ins are designed to create text that not necessarily legible, however you can input specific text if you like. There are also a wide range on animatable parameters, many with randomization functions. Elements of Anarchy is available for $59.00 while in public beta. The final release will sell for $79.00.


Next up was Matt Silverman who came down to show us a new program he developed called Color Theory. Matt developed this program in response to a real-world design challenge he faced in doing a job for Yahoo. Yahoo's logo is a vibrant yellow and Matt noticed that the art director had come up with a number of mock ups which used a variety of colors complimentary to Yahoo's yellow. Matt then took a class on color theory to learn how and why colors compliment each other and what makes them clash.

As a computer-guy Matt was shocked to learn that the official primary colors are Red, Yellow and Blue - not Red, Green and Blue as we are used to from our computer display's color model. Matt explained that the first color wheel based on RYB primary colors was developed in 1812 and that there are specific formulae for determining a color complimentary and split complimentary colors. Matt's Color Theory software does this for you automatically.

The program comes in two flavors Color Theory and Color Theory DV. The latter will mirror out to an NTSC monitor via the Mac's FireWire port. The standard version retails for $149.00. The DV version is $249.00. Color Theory is available through Toolfarm <>.


After our break Peter Lish from Electric Image <> took the stage to show us the long-awaited release of Electric Image Universe. Peter began by showing us Universe Modeler 3.0. He first covered some of the highly anticipated additions such as non-uniform scaling and unlimited undos. Peter then showed the powerful rounding/beveling tools found in Universe Modeler 3.0. We looked at the improvements to the UberNurbs modeling feature which greatly benefited from the addition of undos. Peter also showed us the new Lattice Deformation tools which now allows you to deform a solid or surface object with a control cage much like you do with UberNurbs. Some of the other significant additions shown were LAW functions which allow you to create wires and surfaces via mathematical formulae, object based tessellation which allows you to independently control the level of detail for each object, and Nurbs surfaces.

Next Peter switched to Universe Animator 3.0. Animator now has a look more like Modeler and many of the program functions have been added to menus for easy access. Peter showed us the new Ubershape plug in which allows you to create a variety of basic and complex primitives. Next was the completely re-written Inverse Kinematics system of Universe Animator 3.0. Peter showed us how you can easily add an IK handle to a bone chain. This is a significant improvement in EI's ability to perform character animation.

Universe's new Raytracing engine was shown next. Peter described how you can now use raytraced reflectivity, transparency and shadows to great effect. He showed us one example of raytraced shadows on a fabric sofa that was quite stunning. He also showed some raytraced water created with Northern Light's Psunami plugin <>. Peter then explained that EI is still quite adept at getting the high-quality look without the rendering hit that raytracing inevitably introduces.

Peter then showed us some finished work done in Universe and Electric Image 2.9. Of particular note was the short film "Duality" a Star Wars homage that integrated live action with 3D sets. The movie can be seen at <>. Finally Peter showed a new plug in called Pixel Grain that takes an animated grayscale movie and creates geometry from that. It was inspired by the digital city building scene in the movie X-Men.

Universe is carbonized and will run under Mac OSX. However, there are currently no dongle drivers available so the key cannot be seen. Peter assured us that this problem was being addressed.

Universe is now cross-platform and runs on Mac, PC and Sun. The price is $1995.00. More information can be found a the main Electric Image website <> or at the new Universe website <>. Lastly, we are very appreciative that Electric Image donated a fully copy of Universe 3.0 for our raffle. Thanks folks!


Speaking of that raffle, we had a good night, as Electric Image donated both a copy of Universe plus two copies of Amorphium Pro, Matt Silverman donated a copy of ColorTheory, and Apple donated a pair of pro optical mice. And of course, we continue to thank the good folks at ProMax <> for sponsoring the overall meeting, so admission can be free.

Trish, Chris, Lucky, and Dan
Your MGLA Hosts

door prizes for this meeting contributed by: