Autodesk's Softimage 2012 in Review

August 8, 2011 12:01 am

Tags: 3D, Autodesk, ICE, Maya, Softimage

Product Review: Autodesk's Softimage 2012

Autodesk recently released Softimage 2012, both as a standalone product, or as part of the Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite. Softimage 2012 features a lot of performance improvements as well as workflow improvements, but I’d say Softimage 2012 is more about integration with the rest of the EC Suite applications.

To me, one of the most significant features is that Syflex was implemented into ICE. I recall the first time I saw ICE, I asked if you could run cloth simulations, and while you were already able to run such simulations using the ICE toolset, it’s good to see a dedicated cloth simulation solution directly inside ICE, especially if that solution is a tool that’s been inside Softimage for some time.

If you’re familiar with ICE, you know ICE nodes are actually compounds made up by base nodes. This is exactly the case with Syflex nodes, meaning you can edit those compounds and change how the simulation behaves. Besides this, you can also modify the simulation using the settings Syflex users are familiar with.

Softimage ICE is no longer being used for dynamic simulations only, and, in general, it’s interesting to see how ICE is being implemented into more and more workflows inside Softimage. Autodesk has also added some procedural modeling functionality, and it would be interesting to see what hardcore ICE users would be able to do with this (maybe even an entire city, like the ones you can create in CityEngine). I have to admit, I am not familiar enough with ICE, so I can’t say how far you could go with this procedural modeling.

Just like other apps in the EC Suite, Softimage 2012 lets you send your scene to Maya, Max or Mudbox (if they are installed). The integration works just like I described in my Maya review. For example, you can send your scene to Maya, and if you’ve changed anything in Softimage, you can update the scene in Maya with the click of a button. As I also mentioned in my Maya review, you can even send ICE simulations to Maya.

You can’t exchange data with MotionBuilder the way you do it in Maya, though. What this means is that you can’t rig your character in Softimage, setup HumanIK, and then send it to MotionBuilder for animation. However, you can rig the character using the standard rigging tools and then setup the entire HumanIK rig in MotionBuilder.

Softimage 2012 also adds support for vector displacement maps. As you may know, Mudbox can generate vector displacement maps, and Softimage can take full advantage of these. Unlike standard displacement maps, vector displacement maps are able to move the vertices of the geometry in any direction, making it easier to add complex details to your models.

This new version allows the user to make the animation curve editor to look more like Maya, which I have to say is far simpler than Softimage’s. Although this is a small change, I think it’s good since many Maya users (like me) are digging more and more into Softimage, and these small details ease the transition from one app to the other (personally, I always set the interaction model for Softimage and MotionBuilder to match that of Maya).

Softimage Help is now loaded from the Autodesk web servers, so you always have the latest version of the online help available. However, if you work on the move, or in an environment where constant internet connection is not an option, you can also download and install a local copy of the documentation from the Autodesk website.

Softimage 2012 includes some significant features, most of them related to ICE, and improves performance and interoperability with other Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite applications. However, I can’t really say this is a must-have upgrade, unless you rely on ICE for various working scenarios, or use Softimage in conjunction with other software packages from the Autodesk EC Suite.

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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.




August 8, 2011

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