We’ve been waiting for this for some time, and it’s finally here — a huge upgrade to Jitter, the data processing, realtime 3D/2D/video graphics powerhouse. Along the way, though, is a nifty upgrade for Max die-hards with lots of cool stuff hiding behind a 4.5.5 version upgrade.

I can’t wait to get my hands on this one. Here’s why:

New in Jitter 1.5:

Way more performance: Cross-platform GPU support (that’s the graphics brain of your video card), including GPU video support for things like HD video, and multiprocessor support.

Network support: Stream between machines using native Jitter data, and broadcast your video using LiveMedia (Mac/PC) and QuickTime Broadcaster (Mac only).

Programmer friendly: Java, JavaScript, and Expressions (finally). Hey, I’m no programmer and even I’m glad to have more JavaScript.

Windows video input: Adding video ins required extra work on the PC side of things; no more, thanks to DirectX support.

FreeFrame support for open-source plugins: This fabulous open-source video plug-in format has made appearances on software like Isadora; now it’s finally in Jitter, massively expanding development options and access to video effects.

Bunches of other things: Better MSP audio support, better Flash support, and lots of other cool stuff. Huge upgrade, folks.

New in Max/MSP 4.5.5 (PDF | download):

Templates: Fire up your favorite patch “stationary” and get going, just like in Word. And there’s even a new autostart patcher.

Clippings (Paste From . . .): Re-use commonly-used patches even more quickly by instantly patching them in. Live “performance patching” (creating patches as you go during a musical performance) may really catch on now.

Prototypes: Hard to explain in a bullet, but these are basically reusable user interface objects so you can recycle your GUIs more easily.

And more: It’s now easier to type into existing objects, and new Max/MSP objects allow some JavaScript trickery and even signal processing code in Java.

No mistake about it, Jitter is the hard-core real-time graphics system to beat, and while cheaper or free options are great, Max/MSP gives you some luxuries for your cash investment when it comes do doing your own audio patching. The Max upgrade is free; Jitter upgrade is US$189 (or less, if you’ve got a student discount, etc.)