As expected, Apple has announced Shake 3.5, the next version of its industry-standard compositing and special effects software at NAB.

The new version delivers fresh features: new shape-based morphing and warping tools for advanced compositing and new “shape shifting” special effects. The software is described as 'fine-tuned' to exploit Power Mac G5 processors and Mac OS X 10.3.

Apple’s vice president of applications marketing Rob Schoeben said: “As high-resolution formats such as HD become commonplace in post-production, Shake is the production proven product for delivering quality, speed, openness and affordability for resolution independent visual effects.

“Apple has integrated shape-based morphing and warping, the most highly sought after features for our users, directly into Shake 3.5, making these advanced features even easier to create.”

Shake has been used in the production of every Oscar-winning film for Best Visual Effects over the past seven years, including this year’s winner, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Shake 3.5's new shape-based morphing and warping features use industry standard spline tools. Apple declares that the visual nature of the implementation makes it "more intuitive" to create and modify effects than with traditional mesh-based warping tools.

The morphing and warping tools complement Shake’s existing visual-effects tools, including layering, tracking, rotoscoping, painting and colour correction.

Improvements have also been made in Apple's Rendezvous-enabled Shake Qmaster network render manager that can now handle distributed rendering tasks for both Shake and Alias’ Maya, so visual effects artists can distribute rendering tasks across a cluster of Xserves servers or Power Mac G5s.

Shake 3.5 introduces support for 16-bit RGB and 10-bit YUV QuickTime formats, and offers what Apple claims is "one of the fastest resolution-independent software rendering engines on the market," with production-proven visual effects tools and a compositing architecture that supports multiple resolutions and color bit depths simultaneously.

Shake 3.5 integrates with Apple’s suite of professional video applications, including Final Cut Pro HD and Motion. It's available now for Mac OS X, Linux and IRIX.

Shake 3.5 will be available for OS X with unlimited render licenses for a suggested retail price of £2,099, and for Linux and IRIX for a suggested retail price of £3,399 with annual maintenance of £999. Registered users of Shake 3 can upgrade for £549. All proces include VAT.