Carbon Scatter 2 - Make Billions!

Carbon Scatter 2 by E-on software is, in their own words:

"Carbon Scatter is the most simple and straightforward solution for creating complex and detailed populations using the native instancing technologies of 3ds Max, Maya or Cinema4D.

The Carbon Scatter plug-ins integrate e-on's patented EcoSystemâ„¢ algorithms directly inside leading CG applications, allowing you to populate your scenes with millions of native objects, and render them with your favorite renderer."

It's basically an advanced instancer. If you need millions, or perhaps billions, of things positioned pseudo-randomly (with tons of controls on exactly how that positioning occurs), Carbon Scatter 2 is worth investigating. It's a very deceptive little plug in. At first you think it's this simple, anemic little tool that you probably won't use much. Oh, how wrong you are! It's rather addictive. You start using it one day, and before you know it - you can't get enough of it. It's quite a flexible little tool.

You basically get Vue-style EcoSystems, but without the rest of Vue (no terrain tools, etc.). You can instance a small library of built-in plants, use Cornicopia assets or use your own assets in Maya. For example, make a poly cube and then instance it a million times onto a poly sphere (or perhaps something actually creative).

Carbon Scatter 2 presents itself in your favorite 3D hub application with its own drop-down menu. For me, this was Autodesk Maya 2013. Carbon Scatter 2 is nice because it is simple and yet very powerful. This makes for a fast turn around from the moment of first contact with the tool, to production results. A new user can literally be wielding millions of instances in a matter of minutes. No coding, gentle on viewport performance, lots of control.

Despite messing around with Carbon Scatter 2 for several weekends over the course of about a month and a half, I couldn't really find anything I disliked about it. Oh, there were little gripes of course, there always are, but nothing major. It's a pretty solid product and at a pretty affordable price too.

If you know how to use EcoSystems from other Vue products, you'll be right at home with Carbon Scatter 2. The dialogs are straight out of Vue xStream. If you don't know Vue, it's really easy to figure out. While a gentle learning curve is always cool, that's not the really cool part.

The really cool part is that it uses your native rendering engine's instances. This means your native shaders, your native assets, your native render settings. Thus, I can tell mentalray to raytrace a million things with ease (One of the nice things inherent to native instances is that they consume almost no memory. Go dense. Go big!).


I tried to break it. 1.1 million gear instances. Stacked several layers deep. 20 unique, high resolution gears, as generated by a gear script I wrote. Populated by Carbon Scatter 2. Rendered in Mentalray (Only 3.5 gigs of memory used!)

Carbon Scatter 2 can be used to populate forests, cities, grassy fields, pebbled beaches, etc. You could use it to greeble the Death Star if you wanted. There's a lot of flexibility packed into what looks like a simple plug in. If you say:

"I need about a million somethings."

Unless you're already a Mentalray guru and a scripting ninja, you probably need Carbon Scatter 2. At an asking price of $195, or $295 with the Botanica collection, even if you are a scripting ninja it's a pretty hard deal to pass up. The EcoSystemâ„¢ tools make managing a dense scene a lot easier.

The few things I didn't like about my whole Carbon Scatter 2 experience were relatively minor: I couldn't find a way to select multiple objects in the Add Native Object list, which means if you're adding multiple variants to an EcoSystem you have to add them one at a time. Frustrating, but manageable. I would have liked to have been able to shift-select a bunch of native objects and add them to the material en masse.

Update: After talking with the kind folks at E-on, I'm told we should be on the lookout for multi-select in future releases!

There's also the fact that Carbon Scatter 2 is not on good terms with Maya's Undo. Not to say it's on bad terms, it's just that it's entirely separate. To undo the creation of an instance population you must use the Carbon Scatter 2 'clear' button in the material editor - no big deal (This is not uncommon for third party tools).

My Take

All things considered - I'm a fan. It was very fast, flexible and could utilize native models and assets as instance candidates. The things I didn't like were minor. The price vs the amount of time Carbon Scatter 2 can save, makes it kind of a big deal.

It was really nice being able to make millions of instances at the click of a button and still have interactive performance. I attributed this to two things:

  • I was using an Nvida Quadro K5000
  • Carbon Scatter 2 uses a variety of configurable viewport proxy objects.

Due to the fact that these proxies are all under the same transform node, i.e. all one object as far as the Maya user is concerned, means you can have a lot of proxies visible in the viewport at once. You can configure the maximum number of proxies that Carbon Scatter 2 will draw in the viewport. Of course, the first thing I did was crank the setting up in an attempt to break it, but instead my machine fell to its knees as I just ran out of memory (My fault). With Carbon Scatter 2 you wield the power of millions or more - be careful! It does warn you.

I liked it. It's addictive. It's flexible. It's useful. A great product worth seriously checking out! Hats off to everyone at E-on and the whole Carbon Scatter 2 team. You can read more about Carbon Scatter 2, along with other E-on software products at the links below. Be sure to check out the free trial on the download page!

-Modulok-

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Kurt Foster (Modulok) falls somewhere between programmer and visual effects artist. When not sifting through technical manuals, he takes on freelance roles in both programming and visual effects, attempting to create a marriage of technical knowledge with artistic talent. He can be seen helping out on the Renderosity Maya forum, when time permits.

 

 

 


April 22, 2013

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