Softimage 2013 is the latest release of this digital content creation software from Autodesk, and packs some interesting features, mostly related to improving your workflow. Softimage can be bought as a stand-alone software, or as part of an Autodesk Suite that includes other packages, such as Maya and Mudbox.
The Feature that caught most of my attention is the new ICE crowd simulator, CrowdFX. For those that don’t know, ICE stands for Interactive Creative Environment, and it’s a module inside Softimage that lets users create a wide variety of dynamic simulation effects (although it can be used for other tasks as well). Since CrowdFX is built on ICE, you could use ICE nodes as part of a simulation and combine those with the CrowdFX specific nodes.
CrowdFX can use any kind of animated character, and can also add variations to those characters. You can also set up goals and collision objects that the characters need to avoid, and also make some characters react to other events (for example, a character reacting to another character’s animation, or reacting after touching certain volume). Like other ICE simulations, CrowdFX simulations can run very fast, and you can even interact with them while they are playing (for example, you can move obstacles around while the characters are moving and see how characters react to that change).
You can also preview a render in real-time in the viewport using the high quality display mode. Using the high quality display mode lets you visualize shaders, lights, shadows, bump and normal maps, and more. I noticed the performance decreased a lot when using this display mode (my video card is an AMD FirePro 8750), so this should be used only when you’re setting up the lighting and materials, but should be kept off when modeling or animating. Even though turning on this display mode can be very demanding, Softimage remained very stable and never crashed, which is always a good thing.
You may know I’m mostly an animation guy, so I found the Retime Keys Tool, found in the animation curves editor, very useful. Most of the time you find yourself tweaking the timing of your animation in the curve editor or dope sheet, and this tool provides the retiming functionality, but it uses a simpler way to do it, as you simply drag the handles left or right to retime your animations.
Softimage 2013 also includes some other additions, like improved modeling tools, ability to draw implicit bone chains (chains of bones without joints or effectors), new shaders, updates and fixes to the ICE module, and updates on procedural textures so that they are compatible with the new high quality display mode. This version also adds some customization level to shelves and toolbars, and the ability to use an interaction mode similar to 3ds Max (Maya interaction mode has been available in previous versions).
One thing I like about Softimage is the sample files. Unlike many other applications I’ve used, Softimage ships with tons of sample files that you can study and experiment with, making your learning experience a lot easier.
CrowdFX makes a very good addition to those who need to create crowd simulations because they don’t need to rely on third party tools, and the high quality display mode can be a timesaver when you’re setting up shaders and lighting. Other additions, like the new shaders and modeling tools, can prove to be very useful as well, so I believe Softimage 2013 should fit the needs of long time Softimage users. If you want to check what Softimage 2013 can do for you, be sure to check the Autodesk website.
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Sergio Aris Rosa [nemirc], is Sr. Staff Writer for the Renderosity Front Page News. Sergio discusses on computer graphics software, animation techniques, and technology. He also hosts interviews with professionals in the animation and cinematography fields. You can follow him on Twitter, and if you want to see what he's up to you can visit his blog.
September 17, 2012
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