Colour graphics technology is reaching the point where it is opening up previously unimagined vistas for moviemakers and graphic artists, and Steve Jobs’ Pixar Inc in San Rafael, California is in the forefront of the revolution with its Pixar Image Computer – but the machine is so specialised that its market has been somewhat limited. Now, however, Pixar is opening it up with several new software and interface products for the machine, which is optimised for both advanced image processing and computer graphics. The new products are ChapReyes, a package that renders images of three-dimensional objects and scenes in a fraction of the time that a similar operation would take on other general-purpose computers; and interfaces between the Image Computer and the Silicon Graphics 3100 series and DEC’s MicroVAX II, and a C that enables standard C programs to run on the Image Computer. Pixar claims that with ChapReyes, the machine can achieve rendering speeds of 140,000 to 280,000 polygons per minute – performing computationally intensive rendering tasks in minutes instead of the hours they would take on superminis. The new host interfaces enable Silicon Graphics 3100 users in the fields of product design, broadcast, simulation and three-dimensional visualisation, MicroVAX II Ultrix users in the scientific community, as well as Sun Microsystems’ Sun-3 and Symbolics 3600 users all to access to Image Computer. The Silicon Graphics interface and ChapReyes are already in use by Toronto, Canada-based Alias Research Inc, which has an OEM agreement with Pixar. Using the Chap C compiler, general image processing functions which use the speed of the Pixar Chap and the flexibility of the Image Computer’s large picture memory can be easily implemented. The compiler also taps into a large existing base of C software and programming talent and will enable Pixar to broaden both the base and scope of its applications. ChapReyes will be out in the second quarter at $12,000. The new interfaces, available at the same time, will be provided through additions to both ChapLibraries and ChapTools. The Chap C compiler is set for the third quarter and will be included in ChapTools. ChapTools, at $10,000, provides software development tools, and source code for the ChapLibraries run-time system. After the recent price cut, the Image Computer is $79,000.
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