A DISCREET PACKAGE
Copyright 2002 www.theindependent.co.uk
[ June 9th 2002 ]
to make the children's film foundation look like
Spielberg? Well, the special-effects wizardry
that let Hollywood sink the Titanic and fill the
Colosseum with tigers and baying crowds is coming
to a PC near you. Discreet, a Quebec-based software
company which specialises in computer-simulated
effects, is about to launch a package allowing
small film-makers everywhere to compete on equal
terms with the biggest California studios.
called 3ds Max5 and comfortably the most advanced
of its sort in the industry, allows users to produce
ultra-realistic 3D effects which can be worked
into film or computer animations. In the hands
of Hollywood directors such as Steven Spielberg,
Discreet's software has won a string of Oscars,
but the new package will be sold at a price that
puts it well within the reach of producers working
on far smaller budgets. Its estimated price of
about £3,000 means it is expected to appeal to
makers of short animations for television and
designers of video games.
studios and game developers have latched on to
the huge potential of the software, which has
been used to produce effects in The Lord of the
Rings, The Matrix and in the Tomb Raider series
of video games. As well as allowing designers
to use a massive range of effects, the software
vastly speeds the animation process. A spokesman
said: "A 15-minute animation of Toy Story quality
which might have taken a year and a team of 20
people could, and has, been achieved by two people
working in a bedroom for a month."
the principal selling points of 3ds Max5 is that
it contains a revolutionary program that replicates
the physics of real life. Objects and pictures
can be designated as having certain properties,
and the program will animate them accordingly.
The software can handle cloth, liquids of different
densities, and can even be used to make rope knot
and tangle in a realistic way.
developers, one paramount attraction is the software's
ability instantly to produce 3D characters. Once
the basic design has been entered into the PC,
the program automatically animates the character.
This process alone might have cost millions before,
but can now be performed on a standard PC.
parts of the program that have won Academy Awards
include the ability to animate flames, smoke,
explosions and other natural effects on the grand
scale. In Titanic and Gladiator, Discreet was
behind the effects that showed hundreds of people
running along the deck of the sinking ship and
thousands in the crowd at Rome's Colosseum. In
both cases, very few live extras were used.
grew out of a hi-tech boom in Montreal which was
largely prompted by Daniel Langlois, the Canadian
entrepreneur whose small special-effects company
won instant fame when it animated the dinosaurs
for Spielberg's Jurassic Park. As Hollywood sent
an increasing amount of business in Quebec's direction,
Discreet was set up to commercialise the technology
further, and maintains a large studio of its own
where new effects are developed.