Menu Window view

When you’re editing a relational view, the Set View list includes a “Menu Window”.
I don’t think you would embed this view in a relational view. Instead, you would pop up an instance of this view, because the Menu Window view is a tear-off menu.

The only example usage I could find is in %XSI_HOME%\Application\toolbars\Main_Shelf.xsitb:

            <item type="scriptbutton" label="Polygons" userwidth="108" userheight="18" scriptengine="VBScript" tooltip="">
               <scripttext>&lt;![CDATA[Set oView = Desktop.ActiveLayout.CreateView( &quot;Menu Window&quot;, &quot;title is not used&quot; )
oView.Move 200, 160 
oView.SetAttributeValue &quot;TargetContent&quot;, &quot;ModelGetPrimitive&amp;Polygon Mesh&quot; ]]&gt;</scripttext>

So the targetcontent looks like “ModelGetPrimitive>PolygonMesh”.
The target content is composed by concatenating the module (Model), toolbar section (Get), and menu (Primitive), then an > symbol, and the menu command with no spaces.
hat tip: Luceric

The Menu Window is defined by the view %XSI_HOME%\Application\views\UITkMenuHost.xsivw.

In Softimage, a Menu Window view looks like this:

Friday Flashback #28

13 years ago, at SIGGRAPH 98, Softimage announced its next-generation rendering system, code-named “Twister”:

First Component of “Sumatra” Provides Users With a Glimpse of the Future of 3-D Rendering

ORLANDO, Fla., July 20, 1998 — Softimage Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft Corp., announced today at SIGGRAPH 98 that its next-generation rendering system, code-named ” Twister ™,” is entering the beta test cycle with delivery to customers scheduled for the fourth quarter of 1998. “Twister” is the first module of the soon-to-be-released 3-D animation platform, code-named “Sumatra,” which provides a revolutionary new approach to character animation and introduces the concept of nonlinear animation (NLA).

Twister was considered at one time to be the “the first step toward the integration of 3D in Digital Studio”, and was basically the rendering component of Sumatra (XSI).

The last-ever version of “Twister” was beta 2.5, shipped in June 1999. By then, it had been decided to combine “Twister” and “Sumatra”, because “Twister”, as a standalone product that relied strictly on .mi2, posed too many workflow and performance problems.

Here’s the executive summary from the Twister v1.0 Product Brief:

Twister v1.0 is a standalone rendering product based on the Sumatra Architecture, designed to work in conjunction with Softimage v3.7SP1. The goal of the product is to provide a finishing and rendering solution which features next-generation render functionality , while providing a transition platform for our existing customer base onto the new generation of Softimage products. Twister fits neatly into the Softimage 3D v3.7SP1 workflow, providing an interactive toolset which complements and extends existing functionality.

Twister rendering is based on mental ray v2.0, incorporating a host of next-generation rendering features such as distributed tesselation, global illumination (radiosity), and caustics (light diffusion through transparent substance). Though Twister is not generally designed for the animation scene objects, it does provide full animation for any rendering parameters, as well as lights and cameras. All standard rendering properties may be applied, including shaders, motion blur, antialiasing, etc.

Twister imports scene data from Softimage 3D in several different ways. Firstly, Twister can read and use standard Softimage v3.7SP1 scene files. Secondly, Twister can work directly with .mi2 format. The mi2 data format is the next generation of the current mental ray mi format , used by Softimage 3D v3.x to communicate with mental ray. The mi format is actually a ‘stream’ of completely resolved geometry. The mi2 format greatly improves compression by only including what has changed between frames, rather than what is included in each frame. Twister will include a plug-in for Softimage 3D v3.7SP1 which will allow direct export of .mi2 format to disk. Twister will also include converters from several other industry standard formats (IGES, DXF, etc ).

Twister also contains an interactive plug-in for SI3D v3.7SP1, which allows users to dynamically ‘export’ their current working scene to Twister, and continue working on their scene in Twister (note that any changes made in Twister can not be propagated back to Softimage).

The Twister toolset is divided into two suites – the Main Suite, which includes scene and render viewing, interactive tuning, and light/camera manipulation, and the Renderfarm, which is used for distributed render control.

Now for some screenshots…

Here’s a mock up of the Twister main suite (back then, the term “layout” wasn’t being used to describe instances of “DS Suites”). Twister was originally spec’d to include three suites: Main, Renderfarm, and 3D Paint.

Mock up of the Renderfarm suite. The non-linear editor (NLE) at the bottom was intended to show rendering passes, and the mock up doesn’t show that yet.

Snippet from the beta documentation:

Screenshots of the Render Tree and Schematic View from the beta Twister docs.

The case of the write-protected directory ‘.’

In this case, the customer got this error when he tried to render just a normal channel (with no Main channel):

' ERROR : Directory '.' is write-protected.
' ERROR : 21000-REND-RenderPasses - Unspecified failure - [line 258 in C:\Program Files\Autodesk\Softimage 2012 SP1\Addons\RenderManager\Application\Plugins\RenderManager.vbs]
' ERROR : 21000-CUST-RenderCurrentFrame - Unspecified failure

Now, ‘.’ usually means the current directory, and for XSI.exe the current directory is going to be %XSI_BINDIR% aka C:\Program Files\Autodesk\Softimage 2012 SP1\Application\bin. On Vista and Windows 7, it’s pretty common for users not to have write permissions in that folder. On my PC, I’m a member of the local Administrators account, which has write permissions, so I couldn’t repro the problem until I denied myself access.

Here’s a video walkthrough of using Process Monitor to troubleshoot this kind of problem:

Creating a batch file for rendering frame sets with xsibatch

Here’s a quick and dirty way to get a batch file that renders a scene in chunks (by “chunks” I mean something like “10 frames at a time”).

var start = 1;
var end = 76;
var step = 10;

var sCmdLine = "call \"%BATCH%\" -render \"%SCN%\"";

LogMessage( "set BATCH=" + Application.InstallationPath( siFactoryPath ) + "\\Application\\bin\\xsibatch.bat" );
LogMessage( "set SCN=" + Application.ActiveProject.ActiveScene.FileName.Value );
for ( var i=start; i<end; i=i+step )
	var x = i + step-1;
	x = (x > end) ? end : x;
	LogMessage( sCmdLine + " -frames " + i + "-" + x );

This will give you:

// INFO : set BATCH=C:\Program Files\Autodesk\Softimage 2012 SP1\Application\bin\xsibatch.bat
// INFO : set SCN=C:\Users\blairs\Documents\Support\My_Support\Scenes\PolygonReduction_CAV.scn
// INFO : call "%BATCH%" -render "%SCN%" -frames 1-10
// INFO : call "%BATCH%" -render "%SCN%" -frames 11-20
// INFO : call "%BATCH%" -render "%SCN%" -frames 21-30
// INFO : call "%BATCH%" -render "%SCN%" -frames 31-40
// INFO : call "%BATCH%" -render "%SCN%" -frames 41-50
// INFO : call "%BATCH%" -render "%SCN%" -frames 51-60
// INFO : call "%BATCH%" -render "%SCN%" -frames 61-70
// INFO : call "%BATCH%" -render "%SCN%" -frames 71-76

Now all you have to do is paste it into a text editor, do a search and replace to get rid of the “// INFO : ” (that’s the dirty part), and you’ve got a batch file that you can use to render your scene.

Python version:

from siutils import si		# Application
from siutils import siproj	# ActiveProject2
from siutils import siut	# XSIUtils
from siutils import C		# win32com.client.constants

start = 1
end = 76
step = 10

sCmdLine = 'call "%BATCH%" -render "%SCN%"'
print "set BATCH=" + siut.BuildPath( si.InstallationPath( C.siFactoryPath ), "Application", "bin", "xsibatch.bat" )
print "set SCN=" + si.ActiveProject.ActiveScene.FileName.Value
for i in range(start,end,step):
	x = i + step-1
	x = end if (x > end) else x
	print "%s %s %s %s %s" % (sCmdLine, " -frames ", i, "-",x )

Transformers: Dark of the Moon’s Powerful Visual Effects: 5 Things to Know About How They Did It – The Hollywood Reporter

Read the 5 things here. Here’s 3 things I pulled from their list:

  • The Driller consists of 70,051 parts. Only a few artists working with ILM’s most powerful desktop machines were able to load the shots where the Driller takes on the building. And they sometimes waited nearly an hour for the files to load.
  • It took a staggering 288 hours per frame to render the Driller along with the photoreal CG building that includes all those reflections in its glass.
  • For a last push on the final weekend of work, ILM’s entire render farm was used for Transformers 3. ILM calculates that that added up to more than 200,000 rendering hours per day — or the equivalent of 22.8 years of render time in a 24-hour period

I’m guessing the 288 hours per frame was just part of the 200,000 hours per day ?



via ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’s’ Powerful Visual Effects: 5 Things to Know About How They Did It – The Hollywood Reporter. via Mathieu Leclaire on the XSI Mailing List

Friday Flashback #27

Thanks to Darrin Hofmeyr, for sending in these screenshots from the SOFTIMAGE|Behavior section of the Production Series DVD:

First released back in November 2002 , Softimage|Behavior was a behavioral animation system for creating characters and choreographing 3D animated crowds that can respond to objects, other characters or changes in their environment. From the press release:

Softimage|Behavior lets an animator control individual characters in a simulation through a combination of graphical editing, scripting and debugging tools in addition to a library of pre-defined behaviors. Individual characters can be set to respond and interact in multiple ways to their environment and with other characters. The system’s integrated character engine features real-time IK, animation blending and warping, dynamic path planning, and automatic obstacle avoidance, which supports event-driven responses for characters in the simulation.

Softimage|Behavior is priced at $14,995

SOFTIMAGE|BEHAVIOR was used on the history-based mini-series Napoleon for the A&E Channel, and in James Wong’s feature film The One.
It was also used by Buzzimage for a Dollar Bank commercial. Here’s a collage of a few AVIs about this commercial that I found lying around:

And there was a press release on xsibase too:

–Buzz Image relies on SOFTIMAGE|BEHAVIOR to populate the streets of Pittsburgh in the newest Dollar Bank commercial —

And finally, courtesy of the WaybackMachine, here’s the case study that was posted on back in 2003:

The baffling case of Softimage and the MYECSP license

“MYECSP” is, of course, “Maya Entertainment Creation Suite Premium” 😉

In this case, Softimage 2012 on Linux would not not run with a MYECSP license. But it would run with a regular SFTIM (Softimage) license.

/var/tmp/SoftimageLicense.log showed there was a “Server does not support this feature” error when Softimage 2012 tried to check out the MYECSP license.

On the license server (a Windows machine btw), the LMTOOLS debug log file didn’t show anything (sometimes there are “denied” log entries that can provide a clue).

I tried setting FLEXLM_DIAGNOSTICS to 3 before I started Softimage, but I didn’t get any diagnostics from that. But I did finally find the FLEXLM diagnostics in the strace logs:

17174 write(28, "FLEXnet Licensing checkout error"..., 323 <unfinished ...>
17182 <... read resumed> "F", 1)        = 1
17182 read(27, "L", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "E", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "X", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "n", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "e", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "t", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, " ", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "L", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "i", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "c", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "e", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "n", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "s", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "i", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "n", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "g", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, " ", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "c", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "h", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "e", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "c", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "k", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "o", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "u", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "t", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, " ", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "e", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "r", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "r", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "o", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, "r", 1)                  = 1
17182 read(27, ":", 1)                  = 1

After I reformatted it, the diagnostic message looked like this:

FLEXnet Licensing checkout error: Clock difference too large between client and license server system.
Feature:       85718MYECSP_2012_0F
License path:  @mtl-example:@
FLEXnet Licensing error:-34,147

For further information, refer to the FLEXnet Licensing documentation,
available at

License file(s): @mtl2ua0150cwy@

It turned out that the system time on the workstation was off by two days (it was two days in the past).

Softimage wouldn’t use the MYESCP license because that license was from the future (it was a brand new license that had just been generated).

The SFTIM license had been generated weeks ago, so that license worked ok.