EI Technology Group has announced that EIAS 5.5 is now shipping. EIAS, previously known as Electric Image Universe, is a 3D animation and rendering engine. Electric Image Universe previously came bundled with Electric Image Modeler, but is now bundled with Nevercenter SILO for 3D modelling.

Upgrade orders are being taken for EIAS 5.5, and fulfilment of the orders will begin at the end of this month. An upgrade from Electric Image Universe 5 costs $299 (around £170). Upgrades from all other versions cost $499 (£280). Curiously, the EI Web site contains no details about availability or pricing of a full version of the software.

EI claims that EIAS 5.5 incorporates significant performance improvements as well as a host of new features, including caustics, a built-in scripting tool, new shaders, HRDI support, an array of new animation capabilities, new deformation tools, and GrangerFX plug-in support. It is available for Mac OS 9 or X and Windows 2000 or XP.

EIAS now includes radiosity, multi-processor support, match move, material library system, Macromedia Shockwave support, unlimited network rendering, a vast array of character animation tools, global illumination, and more.

The Transporter application has been significantly rewritten for this release, according to EI, now running under Mac OS 9, OS X and Windows. It can import LightWave 6 (LWOB) format files and UVs from .obj files.

Electric Image will no longer come bundled with the Electric Image Modeler. According to the company they no longer have a license with the company on whose modelling engine Electric Image Modeler was built.

Owners of previous versions of Universe can still use the EI Modeler with the latest version or they can purchase a version of Nevercenter SILO for an additional $50 (£30) with an upgrade to 5.5. SILO is currently a Windows only modelling tool, though Nevercenter are planning an imminent release for Mac, according to Electric Image.