redmotion: Softimage 2011 Preview

12 March 2010

Softimage 2011 Preview

Softimage 2011 announced with ICE kinematics fully realised. It enables the intricacies of a rig to be contained (including the IK system) entirely within an ICE tree making it incredibly easy to transfer ICE rigs between different rigs and characters. THIS is a big advance and will really help all areas of rigging including rigs in videogames, a field which ICE has been criticised in the past for not being that useful.

There is also a new system for using/building Mental Ray shaders. Now you only need the source code and Softimage compiles it into a shader for you, automatically creating a SPDL and material node entry in the render tree, exposing all the parameters and allowing you to get on with it without the pain of having to seperately compile on specific platforms. As a result, over a hundred shaders that have (up until now) never been exposed in XSI, are now there. Including a IES/photometric light shader and all the features lighting shaders have gained since it was introduced as the built in renderer.
Face Robot has been updated to include automatic lip syncing. The main issue with Face robot in previous versions was that to use it in any meaningful way you needed to capture live performances and import the data. Many users (like me) don't have access to luxuries like performance capture systems. Now you just need the audio and you can generate the proper mouth movements for dialogue, reducing the lip syncing to a few tweaks. EDIT:  After seeing the GDC'10 presentation by the charismatic Mark Schoennagel, he pointed out a neat trick where you can lip sync to music tracks by singing the song yourself, generate the face robot lip sync from your take and then replace your voice with the original score. Sometimes with amusing results!
The Physx-based physics core in XSI has fallen behind in recent years but now it has recieved a full update to the latest version. Integrated into ICE with CUDA driven (nvidia GPU only) GPU acceleration, it apparently offers softbodies, full shape collisions with rigid bodies and more, all accessible from ICE.

Other stuff includes multiple camera rendering, render slate (which allows you to add text onto renders for play blasts, etc. Be nice to see render times on this.) UV unfold command gets some changes to speed up workflow including symmetry and the ability to reunfold individual islands instead of being forced to unfold and pack the entire object each time.

Pretty solid update for just 6 months work. The Softimage guys really do know what is needed and always surprise me. Of course, there is stuff I wish was in there but isn't yet (perhaps never will be) but I'm pretty sure this 6 month release will mean that Softimage 2012 could get at least a full years development. Then again maybe Autodesk are considering a major x.5 point release for all 3d applications in another six months, that only subscribers can benefit from (just to keep us locked into the subscription cycle.)

Lastly, the two seperate versions of Softimage and Softimage Advanced have vanished. There is now just one version of the software. It has 5 batch licenses for mental ray and comes as either a standalone or a network license (EDIT: no batch licenses with standalone version - thanks for the heads up, Stephen). I'm not sure how people with SI 2010 (not advanced) will upgrade or subscribe as of yet.

Just have to wait and see, I guess. Apparently, early April is predicted for release.


Stephen Blair said...

The network license of Softimage 2011 includes 5 Batch licenses (Batch licenses allow to run xsibatch).

The standalone license of Softimage 2011 does not include any Batch licenses.

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Anonymous said...

"Many users (like me) don't have access to luxuries like performance capture systems"

You don't need an expensive capture system to work with Face Robot. Check out Zign Track 2. It comes with two Face Robot templates and exports to C3D. So all you really need is a web cam, some green dots, and Zign Track 2.

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