Friday Flashback #197

From March 2001: Skaramoosh used SOFTIMAGE|3D v3.9 and SOFTIMAGE|XSI v1 and v1.5 to create over 23 minutes of computer animation for Discovery’s flagship documentary ‘Land of the Mammoth’, a two-hour programme.

The project, involving in excess of 100 computer generated (CG) shots, took a core team of eight people four months to complete and includes the animation of not only mammoths but also a woolly rhino and a giant deer. The mammals were modelled in Softimage 3D v3.9 and animated using SOFTIMAGE|XSI.

Some screenshots of Softimage software from the video:




hat tip: Dan Yargici

I recently found a Quicktime of the behind-the-scenes film for a project we did at Skaramoosh for The Discovery Channel back in 2001.

We did all the animation in XSI v1 and transferred actions back to Soft 3D (can’t remember the exact version, the last before v4 iirc) for rendering due to the fact that we created the fur using Nordisk Film Fur Designer (my responsibility on the project).

The fur renders were OpenGL in Fur Designer so there was LOTS of post fudgery, but damn it was fast! Despite the speed, we still had to rent in a ton of Octanes to push it through. It was summer and everyone had to work with an rendering Octane between their legs so the office was toasty to say the least!

I don’t know if Stefano will remember, but we looked into PhoenixTools fur for Mental Ray (which he wrote iirc) at the time and I had some direct conversations with him while I tried to get to grips with it.

It was featured in the first edition of the XSI magazine (I say first edition, I think it was the only edition!) which I still have kicking about somewhere.

I’m the guy in the grey shirt, studiously taking notes at 2:13. Other people from the list past and present who make an appearance are Sebastian Read, Olly Nash, Maarten Heinstra and Keith Fallon.

And from a news release, here’s some more background on the project:

DIGITAL effects company Skaramoosh have created over 23 minutes of computer animation for Discovery’s flagship documentary ‘Land of the Mammoth’, a two-hour programme.

The project, involving in excess of 100 computer generated (CG) shots, took a core team of eight people four months to complete and includes the animation of not only mammoths but also a woolly rhino and a giant deer. A large amount of the project was completed in SOFTIMAGE|XSI version 1.0 and final stages in version 1.5.

Andrew Hunter, Digital Effects Director, Skaramoosh, said: “What excited us about this project was that we were involved in the entire production process for all the special effects shots, right from the storyboarding stage. This included the commissioning of a life size mammoth model for blue screen shoots, travelling to places as far apart as Siberia and America to film realistic backplates through to actually creating and animating all required 3D mammals and finally compositing all the shots. The backplates themselves could be made up from anything up to six different layers.”
The sequences were created to illustrate the life pattern of mammoths, where and how they lived and survived. Specifically created sequences include birth, mating, fighting and, finally, dying. There is also a sequence to illustrate what the mammoth evolutionary process was thought to have been.

The mammals were modelled in Softimage v3.9, animated using SOFTIMAGE|XSI and then brought back into Softimage v3.9 to render the fur. Once rendered the animation was taken into one of two compositing systems, Avid Illusion or Avid DS, to be composited with the backplates. Careful scheduling was required to avoid any compositing bottleneck.
‘Land of the Mammoth’ airs on the Discovery Channel on March 11.

Friday Flashback #186

The Softimage User’s Site circa 1998
Maintained by Benjamin Grosser and hosted by the Beckman Institute Visualization Facility.

The Softimage User’s Site (, garnering thousands of hits from around the world daily, provides a tremendous amount of information on Softimage.

The Learning Resources section provides links to online tutorials, books and sample databases. The KnowledgeBase Index is a quick-link to all of Microsoft’s Softimage KB entries. Of most importance is the Softimage Mailing-List Archive, a web-browsable and searchable archive of all nine of the Softimage Mailing-List’s, dating back to 1994. The Softimage Mailing-List’s are the primary source of troubleshooting and technique information on Softimage, with an average of 40-50 messages per day on the 3D list.


Friday Flashback #169

Ruby the CG parrot in a Softimage-Live virtual set.

From the SOFTIMAGE|3D docs:

You can synchronize live action and computer-generated (CG) animation in real-time to create a virtual set by using SOFTIMAGE channels and SOFTIMAGE Live. This involves creating a set and virtual characters in SOFTIMAGE|3D to interact with real actors that are positioned in front of a blue screen. Real people control the movements of the virtual character and the camera in real-time!

Friday Flashback #138

Digital Duckroom by Luca Prasso from 1991

From a thread on (excuse the Google translation from Italian):

Duckroom Digital and ‘had an idea in aerero to Montrealprima Siggraph 1990, then made ​​in the offices of Softimage in Montreal in 9 days with the ‘equally legendary Olivier Ozoux. served to show the new features of Inverse Kinematics and Dynamics freshly baked from the R & D for the Soft version 1.63 or 1.65

Luca Prasso worked for Softimage Italy as a demo artist from 1990 to 1994, and then went on to work for PDI/Dreamworks for 17 years as a Character TD.

Bio from 2006:

I discovered that I was able to merge drawing and computer skills back in 1982, when the first personal computers appeared in Italy.
At the end of 1986 I joined Compgraf, a small studio in Verona, when I learned the fundamentals of Computer Graphics.
In 1989 I moved to Milan, working for Techex, as a demo artist of CG hardware and software solution. In 1990 I joined Softimage Italy as demo artist for their 3D software package.
With them I travelled the world demonstrating the products and helping to create animations. In 1994 I realized that the Italian CG market was not moving at the same pace of the rest of the world and I decided to seek a job in the US.
In January 1995 I joined PDI as Character Technical Supervisor. I worked on commercials, special effects, feature films and TV series (The Simpsons, Marvin the Martian). I was a Technical Director in charge of Crowd scenes for Antz.
I worked as Character Technical Director Supervisor for Shrek, that won in 2001 the Oscar™ as Best Animated Feature Film.
I then worked on Shrek 2 (released in 2004), Madagascar and Shrek 3 currently in production at PDI/DreamWorks. I’m currently part of a group in charge of designing and developing the next generation of proprietary software dedicated to character setup.

Friday Flashback #117

March 2000 SOFTIMAGE|3D 3.9 was the first release distributed via “the world wide web”.

The SOFTIMAGE|3D Version 3.9 release also represents a milestone for the company as it will be the first ever release that Softimage distributes to customers via the world wide web. Rather than waiting the customary 6-8 weeks that it takes for reproduction and shipping, customers under a valid support contract will be able to log on to the Softimage Support web site to download the software.