Autodesk's Softimage 2014 in Review
Sergio Rosa [nemirc] - Sr Staff Writer
Autodesk's Softimage 2014, an application designed to be used on high-end animation production and VFX, is the latest release of this digital content creation software. Softimage can be bought as a stand-alone software, or part of an Autodesk Suite that includes other packages, such as MotionBuilder and Mudbox.
I have to say, compared to previous releases, Softimage 2014 does not offer an impressive set of new features. Most enhancements are related to ICE and previewing your work (no new modeling features like Maya, for example).
One of the new features, and the one that drew my attention the most, is the Camera Sequencer. The Camera Sequencer works similar to a non linear editor, where you can set up different clips (the clips are associated to the animation in your scene, so you need to animate your scene first), and the different camera views. The idea is to save yourself time, as you don’t need to output previews of every camera view and then put them together. You can simply set the different camera views and see the result in the viewport (and, as you may know, Softimage’s viewport is very fast).
You can then output a movie preview of your entire sequence, and the preview will show all the different angles and cuts, as if it had been edited together. This feature is obviously very useful when making animatics, shot previews, or even if you want to preview your full animation before you render it.
Enhancements on the ICE CrowdFX workflow lets you create new crowd simulations more easily, and also explore the ICE tree for the simulation with a single button. Most of the changes happen behind the scenes, though, as some of the processes that perform the simulation have been changed. For example, some of the changes are related to animation blending, and how the different animations used in the simulation are triggered (this is what you call “character states”).
Softimage 2014 also offers improvements related to data exchange, since you can now import and export constraints between applications. I only tested data exchange between Maya and Softimage, since I don’t use 3D Studio Max, and even if some specific parameters are not compatible. This improvement will be very useful to translate rigged characters between applications more easily.
There’s one feature I could not test, because it seems my aging video card (an ATI FirePro 8750) doesn’t support it, even if it used to work on previous versions. Softimage 2014 adds a couple of new features to the high quality viewport: ambient occlusion and shadow casting through transparent objects. I take this as a sign that I definitely need to upgrade my video card, because problems like these are happening more frequently.
Other changes to Softimage 2014 include the ability to handle larger data files, cache shaders in high quality viewport, script editor formatting improvements and performance improvements. Changes to Softimage 2014 are more evolutionary than revolutionary, as they mostly relate to improving existing workflows.
As someone whose primary tool is not Softimage (I got it as part of the Maya Entertainment Creation Suite, and I mainly use it for Face Robot and texturing, because those two features make my game development work a lot easier), it’s hard to consider Softimage 2014 a “must have” unless you use ICE and CrowdFX a lot, or you need to improve your preview and editorial workflows. Softimage is a powerful application, but I believe its development needs more attention than what it's had for this release.
Editor's Note: Be sure to check out all the valuable resources available right here on Renderosity, for all your artistic endeavors, starting with the following related links:
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.
November 25, 2013
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