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Bringing Brilliant Animation to the Web

 
 

By Kelly Fansler

Superman is about to leap onto the Internet. You will soon be able to watch weekly webisodes of Superman thanks to some amazing new technology by Brilliant Digital Entertainment (http://www.multipathmovies.com). Teaming with DC Comics, Brilliant Digital has created the Multipath Adventures of Superman for CD-Rom, the Internet, and interactive DVD. Brilliant Digital Entertainment has produced other titles as well. Their library of 3D animated Multipath Movies include the characters Xena Warrior Princess, Ace Ventura Pet Detective, Popeye and others. Presently they are putting the finishing touches on a 3D Multipath Music Adventure starring the rock band K.I.S.S.

Ok, what is a multipath movie? A Multipath Movie is a movie that allows the viewer to make certain choices along the way that influence the stories progression. Should Superman save the people on the bridge or should he stop Metallo? Should Clark Kent travel with Lois or with Jimmy? Depending on what you choose, the story is different. Sometimes very different. Sometimes Superman saves the day and sometimes he does not.

The animation quality of Superman is amazing. The characters have a very realistic look to them. Brilliant Digital used a skin over mesh technology that drastically improved the quality of some of their previous titles. Since rendered is done in real time on your computer, the faster your computer is, the better your animation quality will be. In addition, Brilliant Digital worked with Intel on technology to make certain titles better on Pentium III computers. “Superman”,” Xena—Death In Chains” and “KISS Immortals” all have better overall quality when run on a Pentium III computer. A 3D card is also recommended but not required.

The storyline of the “Superman—Menace of Metallo” title is strong. DC Comics has found a way to deliver the unique story line quality from their comic books that has seemed to escape other platforms such as movies, cartoons and definitely live action TV shows. A feature I really liked was that I could optionally find out more information about the characters. When I first played Superman, I skipped all the detail and rushed to one of the many unique endings. Of course, I had caused the death of Lois Lane and the world was destroyed. But then, I played the movie again, listened to the character details, and this time, well, I destroyed the world again…

The next Superman title, “Boxing the Parasite” is almost complete. This adventure will pick up right where “Superman—Menace of Metallo” leaves off. Although the first Superman title was a complete story, they leave some details to be discovered. You will be able to see the second Superman title on Warner Bros. Entertaindom.com right after the first 6 webisodes of “Superman—Menace of Metallo” finish their run.

“K.I.S.S. Immortals” is also under development by Brilliant Digital Entertainment. Described as a Multipath Music Adventure, this title is sure to be a hit with the K.I.S.S faithful. It also will give Brilliant Digital the opportunity to show off a new uncharted area on the Internet, Music Videos. A 3 to 4 minute AVI file of a music video would easily be 3 or 4 meg and about 3 inches by 3 inches on screen. However a video made in Brilliant’s B3D format would be less than 1 meg and run full screen. “K.I.S.S. Immortals” is planned for release later this year (1999) and will also be found on Entertaindom.com.

If you want to try out Superman or any of Brilliant Digital's titles, you can go to their homepage and click on Previews. Select any of the titles, but I have to recommend the Superman preview. I would also recommend clicking on Lex Luthor to see how realistic the Internet animations are. Another recommendation would be to check out the futuristic Gravity Angels previews.

Recently, Brilliant put together a showcase of new technologies in their Developer Network section. From there, you can also get a sneak peak at all sorts of 3D technologies. These previews include an interactive shopping, an online 3D repair center, and movies using advertising built in. You can also get different 'skins' for your digital projector or get instructions on how to create your own.

The Digital Projector is used to view Multipath Movies. If you have already visited Brilliant Digital's website, you probably downloaded the digital projector. The projector is a stand-alone application that plays the movies. Also included in the download is a plugin that allows movies to be played on HTML pages. This is how the previews are run on Brilliant’s website. If you haven't been to their site, the digital projector will be installed automatically when you select any of the Multipath Movie Previews.


“Xena—Death in Chains” Brillant Digital Entertainment

Not only are the Multipath Movies Brilliant, but the technology behind them is pretty amazing also. To make Multipath Movies successful, Brilliant Digital needed to create a very small file format that could stream both sound and 3D instructions across low bandwidth connections. They also needed to find a way to allow interactive real time decisions by the user. Finally, they needed to create a set of tools to allow them to create these movies. The final Internet streaming format is labeled B3D.

The B3D format is the latest technology released from Brilliant Digital. In the B3D format, the "Dancing Baby" file is about 100K. That is significantly smaller than its original format. If you received the "Dancing Baby" a few years ago, you probably still remember the huge file you downloaded (it was over 2 meg). The file was in the AVI format that is still used by most animators to display 3D animations on the web. B3D not only shrinks the file size to something that is reasonable to download, it also allows animations to run full screen and in high resolution. However, because the animations are rendered in real time, the complexity of the animation may be somewhat limited.

Brilliant Digital released part of their toolset in May, B3D Max. With B3D Max, animators can create extremely small streaming 3D animations for the web that include sound. B3D Studio, set for release Q2 of 2000, is a full-featured development platform for creating interactive 3D content for distribution on the Internet, DVD, CD-ROM and broadcast video. Brilliant Digital is already using this toolset in-house.


“K.I.S.S. Immortals” Brillant Digital Entertainment

Take for example the multipath movie Gravity Angels. This movie was first available on Interactive CD-ROM. Then it was migrated to the Internet. Now with the same content and Brilliant's latest technology, they have completed the two-hour movie available for television broadcast. The television movie is not interactive, but broadcasters can select from multiple segments to create unique viewings. Finally, an interactive DVD version should hit store shelves around January 2000.

The Interactive DVD Multipath Movies will also mark another major technological achievement for Brilliant Digital. Because the movies will be fully rendered, the 3D Graphics considerably more lifelike and sharper than their computer based versions. With one click of your DVD player’s remote control, you can decide if Superman should save Lois or save Jimmy from the clutches of Metallo. This will be the first chance that most of America gets to experience true Interactive TV.

If you are a 3D Animator or simply enjoy watching 3D animations, you may also want to check out http://www.DancingPixel.com. This website showcases 3D animations sent in from both professionals and aspirant 3D animators. A jury composed of industry leaders, including Jim Bannister, senior vice president Warner Bros. Online Networks, Fred Seibert, president of MTV Online Networks, and Terry Thoren, president of Klasky Csupo (producers of the ``Rug Rats''), will judge the top five animations in each category. Prizes will be awarded to the winners in the following categories: Best Drama, Best Comedy, Best Experimental/Abstract, Best Music Clip and Best Commercial.

DancingPixel animations vary from humorous to bizarre. 3D animations on this site are something like independent films on the Sundance channel. You will definitely see all sorts of animations on this site. From what I have seen, the new B3D format lends itself very well to mini-movies and music videos. On the music video front, B3D could easily spread as fast as MP3 did. Thanks to the B3D format, you are able to download music and a 3D video.

You may see that more and more E-Commerce sites using Brilliant Digital’s B3D format to keep visitors coming back for more. Brilliant Digital recently teamed up with DVDExpress to create a series of webisodes titled “Everyone wants to be a Critic”. The new webisodes may be available as you are reading this at http://www.DVD.com.

Brilliant Digital Entertainment has created the content and the technology for a new form of Internet entertainment. When asked what their next major goal is, Brilliant Digital will simply state revenue. With several new partners and an their 3D Internet technology, they are on the right track. Investors in Brilliant Digital stock will be pleased to see that goal fulfilled as the company has spent the last three years perfecting their content and technology. Brilliant Digital is a public company that trades on the American Stock Exchange under the symbol BDE.

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Kelly Fansler is a freelance writer and long time fan of Brillant Digital Entertainment.


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