Apple has upgraded Shake - its professional compositing and visual-effects solution - to version 3.

Shake 3 is used in large-format projects by major movie studios. It offers a fast, resolution-independent software-rendering engine with visual-effects tools, as well as a compositing architecture that supports multiple bit-depths within single projects.

The app is built to exploit clusters of Macs, such as Xserves, or Power Macs, for rendering using the OS X-only Shake Qmaster network-render management software.

Shake Qmaster is Rendezvous-enabled, and offers unlimited rendering licenses. Shake 3 includes new visual effects for OS X, Linux and IRIX platforms. These include motion tracking and real-time broadcast preview.

Qmaster is based on an open architecture, reflecting Apple's open-source philosophy. This means it provides distributed rendering support for leading third-party applications, such as Maya.

The application offers new visual-effects tools, such as rotoshapes-data tracking and automated rotoscoping. Audio support has also been improved; Shake 3 lets users view audio waveforms against animation curves, making it easier to synch visual effects with audio.

A film-grain filter stimulates a variety of film stock grain, and the application's animation-curve editor has also been improved, now maintaining animation behaviours over a range of frames. Shake 3 lets compositors playback composite video on monitors in real-time previews. Users can also import Photoshop layers with blend modes.

Apple's senior VP worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller said: "With Shake 3, we're making the visual-effects software used in Oscar-winning films is more powerful and more accessible to a broader audience. Shake 3 delivers advanced new features for existing customers as well as innovative new network rendering features exclusive to OS X."

Like Final Cut Pro 4, Shake 3 is "expected" to be available in June for Mac OS X, Linux and IRIX. The Mac OS X version costs $4,950, while Linux and IRIX versions cost $9,900. An annual maintenance charge of $1,485 is also applicable. Users of Shake for Linux, IRIX and Windows can double their Shake licenses at no cost by migrating to Shake on Mac OS X.