Friday Flashback #345


Softimage “Twister” Enters Beta at SIGGRAPH

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 is well-suited for use in combination with SOFTIMAGE® |3D version 3.8, now shipping to customers, which allows users to perform interactive rendering in a next-generation environment. Combining the power of mental ray® version 2.0 with the architecture and interface of the “Sumatra” next-generation 3-D platform, Twister fits neatly into the SOFTIMAGE|3D 3.8 workflow with an interactive tool set that complements and extends the functionality of the current-generation software.

Twister takes advantage of the forthcoming “Sumatra” user interface, which provides much smoother workflow and data access while maintaining the familiar and intuitive Softimage user environment that has become integral to much of the animation industry.

Twister will revolutionize the way people handle production-level rendering,” said Dan Kraus, product manager for Softimage. “Not only does Twister provide the next generation of mental ray, but it also makes tuning and editing scene-rendering parameters a completely interactive process. We fully expect Twister to set a new benchmark in the industry as the first truly interactive renderer.”

“As a beta test site for mental ray 2.0, we’ve been extremely pleased with the truly interactive nature of the tool set and we eagerly await the opportunity to put ‘Twister’ to use in our facility,” said Dave Throssell, head of 3-D animation at London-based The Mill FX.

“Twister seamlessly integrates mental ray 2.0 into the rendering environment, thereby taking full advantage of new functionality for both interactive and batch rendering.”

 

Interactive Renderer Delivers Improved Creativity and Workflow

Twister allows users to render directly in the 3-D view, with instant feedback that shows how parameter changes affect the final rendering quality. Whereas rendering was once a time-intensive process, it will now become essentially another viewing mode. This interactive view evaluates the entire scene-rendering tree, and it allows users to view and modify all rendering effects, including motion blur and shadow mapping.

Twister also integrates many production conveniences, such as scene-level renderpass definition, allowing users to predetermine all of the computer graphics passes to be used in a production.

Next-Generation Photorealism Sets New Standard for Quality and Workflow

Twister is based on mental ray version 2.0, a next-generation renderer that will set new standards for quality and workflow. In addition to significantly improved performance, mental ray version 2.0 offers a host of new features, such as depth-map shadows, scanline motion blur and polygon displacement, as well as support for caustics, which allows the renderer to accurately calculate and render the light diffusion around a scene.

Twister allows users to distribute jobs quickly and easily across multiple CPUs, both locally and remotely, using new techniques such as distributed tesselation and local texture caching for significantly improved distributed performance.

Pricing and Availability

Twister is scheduled to be available in the fourth quarter of 1998. Licensed users of the extreme version of SOFTIMAGE|3D under a valid maintenance contract will receive
Twister at no charge. Customers with the base version of SOFTIMAGE|3D will receive an approximately 50 percent discount on Twister.

About Softimage

Founded in 1986, Softimage develops software for media-rich applications including video, film, interactive games and CD-ROM applications. Products include SOFTIMAGE|DS (video production), SOFTIMAGE|3D (high-end animation), SOFTIMAGE|EDDIE (compositing) and Toonz (2-D cel animation). The company was acquired in 1994 by Microsoft. Additional information about Softimage and Microsoft can be found via the Internet at http://www.softimage.com/ and http://www.microsoft.com/ , respectively.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq“MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

Softimage is a registered trademark and Twister is a trademark of Softimage Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft is either a registered trademark or trademark of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

Mental ray is a registered trademark of mental images Geselleshaft fur Computer Film und Maschinenintelligenz mbH & Co. KG, Berlin, Germany. All rights reserved.

Other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Softimage general information:

United States and Canada: (800) 576-3846

International: (818) 365-1359

Note to editors: If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft Web page at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/  on Microsoft’s corporate information pages.

Friday Flashback #344


The SOFTIMAGE 3D display is where you work. The software display includes the windows, a server bar at the top, two menu bars on the left and right sides containing menu cells, a wireframe colour box, a status bar made of three parts, and a playback control box.
SOFTIMAGE 3D DISPLAY

The Server Bar

The server bar is located above the four windows. The left side of the server bar shows the SOFTIMAGE 3D name and the right side shows the module names: Model, Motion, Actor, Matter, and Tools.

si_if_server_bar

When a module is in use, its name is highlighted and the server bar is coloured accordingly: violet for Model, green for Motion, salmon for Actor, blue for Matter, and gold for Tools.
si_if_modules  

  • violet for Model
  • green for Motion
  • salmon for Actor
  • blue for Matter
  • gold for Tools

Changing Modules

When you want to move from one module to another, use any mouse button to select its name in the server bar.
You can also use Supra keys to change modules:
  • F1 for Model
  • F2 for Motion
  • F3 for Actor
  • F4 for Matter
  • F5 for Tools
The Supra keys give you quick access to menu cells of other modules that are useful for your current task. For example, you could quickly go to Model to use the Edit menu cell while you are doing shape animation, then go back to Motion to save a keyframe.

Friday Flashback #339


05_CS_RE4

Summary

For Resident Evil 4 Capcom Co. Ltd. put SOFTIMAGE|XSI at the core of its development pipeline to establish an efficient workflow, to manage huge volumes of data and to create seamlessly integrated visual sophistication from event scenes to game play.

Even if you think that you’re ready to be thrilled, terrified and amazed, Resident Evil 4 might still be too much for you. It’s one fast-paced, hair-raising, visually incredible game that’s sure to be on everyone’s list for 2005 and beyond. This is definitely not your big brother’s game.

Resident Evil 4 Uses SOFTIMAGE|XSI to Redefine Survival Horror

By Alexandra Pasian

On January 27th, 2005, Capcom Co. Ltd released the latest installment in their Resident Evil franchise and redefined the survival horror genre. With spellbinding visuals, three-dimensional game play and dynamic camera work, Resident Evil 4 will have you seeing and experiencing things that you’ve never seen or felt before. Yoshiaki Hirabayashi, a Designer at Capcom, talked to us about the major role that SOFTIMAGE|XSI played in the franchise’s new look and feel.

XSI AT THE CORE OF THE DEVELOPMENT PIPELINE

In the past, Capcom used both SOFTIMAGE|XSI and SOFTIMAGE|3D for the development of the Resident Evil franchise, including on Resident Evil for Game Cube. For Resident Evil 4, , however, the development environment was migrated to SOFTIMAGE|XSI exclusively for everything from character modeling to animation as well as to the outputting of scene data to actual equipment.

When asked why Capcom selected SOFTIMAGE|XSI as their main creation tool, Hirabayashi explains: “The most obvious advantage to XSI is the fact that it builds on our already substantial knowledge and experience with SOFTIMAGE|3D. In addition, we have developed a real trust in the product through the support that Avid Technology offers. And, ultimately, we know that you have to select high quality tools if you want to create high quality games.”

6In order to achieve the quality that they wanted for Resident Evil 4, the team at Capcom first had to concentrate on their workflow. With more than ten times the amount of content of other installments in the series, the team had to be confident in their development pipeline. In the end, the content for the game was completed faster than usual because the developers at Capcom created an efficient workflow using SOFTIMAGE|XSI as the core of their pipeline.

With an environment that enables outputting to actual equipment, SOFTIMAGE|XSI helped to make Resident Evil 4 a reality. In their game development environment, Capcom also used the Animation Mixer in XSI to manage the volume of data, such as motion data and camera animation, that was necessary for game creation.

mixerIn order to export the scene data to the game, for example, the data that had to be outputted to the Animation Mixer and the character nodes needed to be selected in such a way that, after pressing a single button, the data could be played on the actual equipment.

Even though such operations normally require five to six steps, the developers were able to customize XSI so that, by coordinating the VBS and a proprietary tool, these operations were done in one step. This meant that the designers were able to play the scene in a split second without needing to pay attention to the program running behind XSI.

According to Hirabayashi: “The Animation Mixer in XSI is very intuitive, allowing the designers to easily understand the interface. And our developers appreciate the open and flexible environment. Because of all the advantages XSI has to offer, we were able to produce content faster and with better quality that surpassed even the director’s expectations.”

STREAMLINING VISUAL SOPHISTICATION

According to Hirabayashi: “There were big changes and big challenges on Resident Evil 4 as compared to previous installments. The toughest challenge involved creating all of the cinematic portions of the game as in-game cut scenes.” The team at Capcom used in-game cut scenes to create the cinematic content for the game so that the game portions and event portions would tie together seamlessly. By employing in-game cut scenes, the team was able to reduce the discrepancies in visual quality between game and cinematics, which, they felt, would allow players to concentrate on their game play. And they were absolutely right.

Resident Evil 4 has players on the run for their lives. It is wonderfully scary and offers some of the best graphics out there. What’s more, it boasts game play that is so intense that it prompted one reviewer to say: “You don’t own Resident Evil 4, it owns you.” This tension is due, in no small part, to the fact that the event scenes and game portions of Resident Evil 4 fit so well together visually.

To achieve this visual cohesion, the team at Capcom believed that they had to make sure that their in-game cut scenes had the same visual quality as a pre-rendered movie. In order to achieve the look they wanted, the team at Capcom turned to SOFTIMAGE|XSI.

MANAGING HUGE DATA VOLUME

Being able to control the volume of data was extremely important on this project. The team knew that they had to limit the number of polygons used in modeling but also knew that reducing the number of polygons—in order to add the right amount of texture data, for example—would result in a reduction of light. Achieving and keeping the right balance between quality and the data volume was quite a challenge. According to Hirabayashi, the team met this challenge using SOFTIMAGE|XSI.

“For the process of controlling the volume of data, we have to thank the powerful polygon modeling functionality in SOFTIMAGE|XSI that allowed us to quickly edit the model data. And, since XSI allowed us to make small edits to texture easily using such features as UV development, we were able to maintain the ideal quality for our cinematics and were also able to control the volume of data. This project would not have been possible without SOFTIMAGE|XSI.”