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MICROSOFT INTRODUCES SOFTIMAGE TOONZ VERSION 4.0; RAPID RELEASE OF NEW VERSION DEMONSTRATES MICROSOFT'S COMMITMENT TO 2-D ANIMATORS

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) announced today version 4.0 of Softimage(R) Toonz for the Silicon Graphics(R) platform at the SIGGRAPH '95 trade show and conference. Closely following the release of Softimage Toonz 3.5 last January, Softimage Toonz 4.0 provides even more powerful tools and an extremely intuitive user interface for traditional cel animators working in the film, video, interactive games and new media industries. Softimage Toonz 4.0 offers greatly enhanced key features such as a new pencil test module, Palette Editor, Xsheet, Ink and Paint module, and flip module, and can be further customized by adding separate modules for scanning and rendering.

"The release of Softimage Toonz 4.0 so quickly after the release of version 3.5 clearly demonstrates Microsoft's commitment to 2-D cel animation and the entire Softimage product line," said Leslie Evans, product manager for Softimage Toonz at Microsoft. "We will continue to promote Softimage Toonz aggressively and are committed to significant releases with such enhanced features as those found in version 4.0, making users even more productive while maintaining a traditional animation feel."

"We're very excited about using the new, enhanced features found in Softimage Toonz 4.0," said Tom Miller, director of digital imagery at Fox Animation. "For example, the new Palette Editor with its text editor allows us to easily create color models for inkers and painters to access the appropriate image, with the color modeler's notes. They can then color it effortlessly and without any supervision."

New Softimage Toonz Features

The new Softimage Toonz Palette Editor allows animators to predefine, lock in and distribute palettes quickly and easily, mixing colors as one would on an artist's palette. Palette Editor tools can mark up color models and label them by name as well as spec. Name and file custom studio palettes can be labeled for repeated use. With Palette Editor, users can pull up a reference frame and interactively mix paints between cel levels and background elements.

Softimage Toonz's new pencil test module lets animators easily perform tasks ranging from performing simple line tests to checking animation in conjunction with complex camera moves. Pencil test allows animators to load drawings at rough stages of completion and play them back at TV resolution in real time. With this new module, users will no longer have to depend on VCRs, QARs and external pencil devices for playback -- they can now play back animation of any length on the desktop. Soundtracks can also be loaded and played back with the pencil test control panel, which looks like that of a VCR (play, rew, fwd, loop, etc.).

Softimage Toonz's Xsheet has been enhanced to improve control and enhance interactivity with an unlimited number of pegs, cels and columns. The new Xsheet includes a multiplane camera, providing a greater depth of field in a 2-D environment. Xsheet also provides new tools that allow users to define explicit Z-values for pegs.

The new Softimage Toonz flip module simulates the traditional process of flipping action, but with enhanced capability. Taking advantage of the SGI cosmo compress board, the flip module lets users play very long animated sequences without memory problems at TV resolutions. When the cosmo board is disabled, animators can view images in multiple windows to compare and analyze motion as well as zoom in and out. Flip's "onionskinning" mode superimposes multiple images on one another for a "ghosting" effect. With onionskinning, the current frame is shown in full ink color, while the underlying images are grey scale. Users can move through these multiple frames with the zoom slide and play back the animated sequences interactively. In addition, audio files can be loaded within flip and played back in sync with the animation.

Additional Softimage Toonz 4.0 highlights include the following:

-- Image Library Tool Kit. This feature provides access to all file formats -- public and proprietary -- for writing conversion programs.

-- User Defined Interactive Transformations (UDITs). UDITs allow programmers to write custom effects such as ripple effects and dynamically load them at compositing time.

-- Ink line color. Users can easily change the ink color on a defined portion of a line.

-- Enhanced ink and paint. Now suitable for 8-bit SGI machines, Softimage Toonz provides more colors, inks and gradients for complex inked characters. Painters can ink and paint 200 to 300 or more completed cels a day with no paints, brushes, hand-mixing or matching.

-- Ink and paint virtual image. Now users can scan in high- resolution images and view the entire image (not just a portion of it) without scrolling.

-- Plt edit-labels. Users can label color mark-ups within Softimage Toonz.

-- Utilities. Softimage Toonz utilities are now included in the graphical user interface.

Pricing and Availability

Softimage Toonz 4.0 is scheduled to ship in early November 1995 and will be available for approximately $16,995 (U.S.). Softimage Toonz 3.5 customers holding a current maintenance contract will receive a no- charge upgrade to Softimage Toonz 4.0.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

Microsoft is either a registered trademark or a trademark of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries. Softimage is a registered trademark of Softimage, a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft Corp. Silicon Graphics is a registered trademark of Silicon Graphics Inc.
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(MSFT)

CO: Microsoft Corp.; Softimage; Silicon Graphics ST: California, Washington IN: CPR SU: PDT

MO-LD -- LA043 -- 2440 08/08/95 09:06 EDT
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