Frank Beacham /
01.01.2001 12:00 AM
New Internet Content Creation and Distribution Apps Debut
One of the neat things about the Internet is that people are constantly coming up with new things to do with it. Content creators could benefit from two fresh ideas that harness network power to help create and distribute their programming.

For content creators at animation and visual effects houses, Screamline Rendering Services uses conventional Internet connections (DSL and faster) to offer powerful off-site, on-demand computer graphics rendering. It's a new service that could be quite useful for those times at deadline when a traffic jam gridlocks the in-house rendering farm.

NO FLY-BY-NIGHT

Screamline is no fly-by-night operation. It’s got Intel inside. It's part of Intel’s Internet Computing Services, a new application service provider offering raw computing power for highly parallel, time-critical applications.

Rendering jobs are priced by the frame, and cost is determined by complexity. Per frame rates can range from 17 cents to $17. Factors that determine complexity include the number of objects, polygons, light sources, shaders and textures, as well as job settings such as anti-aliasing, motion blur, raytracing and resolution.

Unique to Screamline is its JobAnalyst management tool, which is free for the downloading from www.screamlinerendering.com. It allows users to know in advance how long the job will take to complete and what it will cost. The tool incorporates algorithms that quantify processing requirements to generate a complexity factor for each project. This factor lets the customer see how changing rendering settings can affect the cost of a job. JobAnalyst also alerts content creators to potential problems with animation files before they submit the project for rendering.

"We make it very easy to send jobs in for rendering and retrieve them using existing Internet connections," said Robert J. McLaurin, Screamline's general manager. "There are no long-term contracts, so customers can submit jobs to the render farm on an as-needed basis and know up-front what the job will cost."

For a limited time, Screamline is offering a free 1,000-frame road test to graphics professionals as an introduction to the new service. Currently, it works with Maya by Alias|Wavefront with support due by the time you read this for Discreet’s 3D Studio MAX and Pixar’s Photo-realistic Renderman. Supported platforms include Microsoft Windows 2000 and NT 4 (SP6 or later) and SGI’s IRIX 5.6 or later.

ON THE NET CONTENT FRONT

RealNetworks' experiment in paid subscription Internet media appears to be catching on. The streaming media company announced that the number of paying subscribers signed up for its RealPlayer GoldPass service has now surpassed 150,000. Real said it believes that GoldPass is the fastest-growing paid media subscription service in Internet history.

The subscription, costing $9.95 a month, combines premium audio and video content, software and games, and discounts on services such as DSL Internet connections. GoldPass was launched last August.

To boost this recurring revenue stream, RealNetworks recently announced a new multiyear partnership with the National Basketball Association. Under the deal, Real will provide live streaming video feeds of NBA.com TV, the league's 24-hour digital television network, and NBA.com Audio League Pass, a package of home and away audio feeds of every NBA game.

The agreement marks the first time ever that premium cable television content will be available live, 24 hours a day, through an Internet content subscription service.

"Sports programming is one of the real magnets or cornerstones that drive this new media and the Internet," RealNetwork's founder Rob Glaser said in a conference call with reporters. "What we're going to do is grow the usage because we give people more ways to get programming they want."

PROMISE IN THE PROGRAMMING

David Stern, the NBA Commissioner, said the major distribution channel for games is still the networks that broadcast sports over the airwaves, cable and satellite. Yet, he said, the league sees promise in Internet programming,

"There will be in the not-too-distant future some NBA live programming of a modest amount on the Internet," Stern said. "We're experimenting with digital cable, and this is to move us on to see how we can experiment and help to grow what we think will be an important part of our future."

The NBA sports programming is available through RealPlayer GoldPass at www.real.com/sports/bb.html.


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