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December 2014

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Page 45 of 51 44 POST DECEMBER 2014 he release of Autodesk Enter- tainment Creation Suite Ultimate 2015 marks the swan song for Softimage. It remains a superlative combination of effi ciency, smart design, tight integration and tools ahead of their time. It was the fi rst to natively incorporate the Mental Ray renderer, region-based interactive rendering, nonlinear animation editing, dissimilar attribute transfers, integrated compositing, and the multi-threaded visual programming interface ICE. Yet its downfall was perhaps inevitable. User at- trition during the extended development of Softimage XSI from its earlier incarna- tion proved insurmountable. Maya, with its bevy of features, powerful scripting and under-the-hood accessibility, had entrenched itself in fi lm and education. Softimage concludes by adding Alem- bic caching, improved ICE performance and usability, progressive rendering along with additional Mental Ray functions, and CrowdFX transfer between Maya and 3D character animation software MotionBuilder. It's a solid update, though not what it deserved. Upon the release of Softimage 7, the intent was to reprogram all of Softimage into the ICE platform. That would've assured its continued signifi cance and been a far more fi tting send off . MAYA 2015 Bifröst, a successor to ICE and the high- ly-vaunted Naiad fl uid simulator, headlines Maya 2015. It's still in its infancy; only liq- uids are simulated, sans foam and spray. What's present, however, is excellent, highly realistic and easy to use. Fluid dy- namics processing can be handled in the background, permitting work to continue in Maya. On a dual six-core workstation, I was able to tweak and build materials in hypershade with the occasional test ren- der while encountering no appreciable ef- fects from simulating liquids. Bifröst, at its core, is software agnostic and while well integrated into Maya's interface, currently lacks a proper node tree system. In its current state, it's more a preview of things to come: a solid foundation with exciting possibilities. Not just pyrokinetic eff ects, but the ability to seamlessly combine complex and simpler simulations with ease via voxelization instead of meshing. Voxelization is at the heart of another new standout tool: geodesic voxel binding for fast accurate skinning of characters. Other big additions to Maya 2015 include the XGen arbitrary primitive generator — a system developed at Disney to populate items and groom fur, hair, or feathers — and Pixar's OpenSubDiv libraries for faster subdivision surfaces. Several modeling tools have also been revised. Booleans can now be dynam- ically manipulated in realtime through the hierarchy hypergraph. The quad poly retopologizing tool introduced in Maya 2014 now works similarly to Modo with the addition of auto-weld, extend and re- lax tools. My favorite is the new multi-cut tool: a terrifi c combination tool that fuses Cut Faces, Split Polygon and Interactive Split tools, along with edge loop insertion. I had expected the tool to do multi-edge loop slices as in Modo, but that's still han- dled through the insert edge loop tool, which has an archaic slider restriction of 10. While easily circumvented, such issues persist as Maya's interface continues to assert that extra step. It stuns me that programs for designers consistently lack suffi cient design forethought, though Maya has made headway. 3DS MAX 2015 3DS Max 2015 is a very diff erent update to Maya. It opts to focus on core usabili- ty; the result of a new product manager and select committee of renowned 3DS Max users. The most noticeable change is a new scene explorer similar to Maya's Outlin- er that fuses Max's layer manager and situates it alongside the viewport. The most-requested feature among users, it's a thorough and excellent implementation, though a free substitute many users have relied on until now — the plug-in Out- liner — still off ers advantages. Outliner has the ability to split the scene explorer pane horizontally and its contents are also more immediately discernible due to a superior minimalist UI layout. Overall though, usability shows marked improve- ment. My other favorites include accel- erated viewport performance and a new quad polygon chamfer with edge tension control to manipulate rounding. Max has long catered to multiple markets with the aid of a strong plug-in architecture and import/export capabili- ties that made it excel as a 3D hub appli- cation. In recent years, this position has waned; made evident in the slower native adoption of Alembic support and the lack of an offi cial plug-in for the Arnold AUTODESK ENTERTAINMENT CREATION SUITE ULTIMATE 2015 3DS MAX, MAYA & SOFTIMAGE ALL COME TOGETHER IN THIS PACKAGE VITAL STATS MANUFACTURER: Autodesk PRODUCT: Entertainment Creation Suite Ultimate PRICE: Buy: $6,825; Upgrade: $4,780; Monthly: $340 WEBSITE: • Bifröst fl uids simulator • Revised modeling tools • Geodesic voxel binding T REVIEW BY OLIVER ZELLER WWW.OLIVERZELLER.COM CONTINUED ON PG 46

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