Friday Flashback #142

Thanks to Emilio for suggesting this topic for a flashback.



Before Softimage started shipping with Phoenix Tools ParticleSuite in 1999, SOFTIMAGE 3D had its own standalone particle system. If you wanted your particles in a SOFTIMAGE 3D scene, you had to follow this procedure:

  • Render the SOFTIMAGE 3D scene within SOFTIMAGE 3D, using the SOFTIMAGE renderer with the Render Z Channel option selected in the Render Setup dialogue box.
  • Load the SOFTIMAGE 3D rendered images into the Particle renderer as background images.
  • Render the particle animation. Then composite the particle animation using the depth information from the z-channel of the SOFTIMAGE 3D rendered images to create seamless three-dimensional
    animation with a particle effect.

Here’s an overview of the SOFTIMAGE|PARTICLE interface (from the Particle User Guide) and a few screenshots of the viewport.




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 #136

sdk_co3April 1997 – Softimage releases new Softimage SDK, Opens Architecture Further for Expanded Customization; More Than 100 Third-Party Developers Currently Creating New Plug-Ins; Developers Applaud New SDK

hat tip: Vladimir Jankijevic

Softimage Releases New Softimage SDK Version 1.7
Opens Architecture Further for Expanded Customization; More Than 100 Third-
Party Developers Currently Creating New Plug-Ins; Developers Applaud New SDK

LAS VEGAS, April 7 1997 /PRNewswire/ — Softimage Inc., the world’s leading
high-end 3-D animation software company and a wholly owned subsidiary of
Microsoft Corp., today announced at the National Association of Broadcasters
convention (NAB ’97) the release of its new Softimage(R) Software Development
Kit (SDK) version 1.7. The Softimage SDK version 1.7 further opens up the
Softimage 3D architecture, allowing developers deeper access into Softimage 3D
and programmatic control over both custom shaders and channel drivers. For
the first time, developers will be able to build custom effects that unite the
full power of the SDK’s SAAPHIRE (special effects), Mental Ray (custom shader)
and CDK (channel driver) toolkits. Furthermore, plug-ins developed with the
SDK version 1.7 will be compatible with Softimage 3D and Softimage’s next-
generation animation system, code-named “Sumatra.”

Because the new Softimage SDK makes it easier to create special effects
and plug-ins, industry support continues to grow with more than 100 developers
committed to creating plug-in applications for Softimage 3D. Currently
companies such as 4Dvision, Lume Inc., Infografica, Kaydara Inc. and DnA soft
have shipped clever plug-ins enhancing everything from 3-D paint and organic
modeling to real-time software for motion capture control. In addition, many
leading Softimage customers, such as Blue Sky Productions, DreamWorks
Interactive, Electronic Arts (Canada) Inc. and R/Greenberg Associates Inc.,
are using the SDK to create custom tools and applications to distinguish
themselves in the market.

“The goal of the new SDK is to provide artists with an environment to
express their own personal vision,” said Jean-Jacques Hermans, group manager,
developer relations for Softimage. “That’s why the new SDK allows for better
access to the Softimage 3D 3.7 architecture. By bringing together the power
of SAAPHIRE, motion capture and custom shaders, Softimage 3D becomes even more
extensible and customizable, allowing the artist’s own creativity to

Developers Applaud SDK

“Many impressive realistic effects require that the plug-ins have access
to both the animation and the coloration description of a scene,” said Karl
Stiefvater, founder and president of Lume Inc. “By tightening the connection
between SAAPHIRE effects and Mental Ray shaders, the new SDK opens the door to
many interesting possibilities. We’re very excited.” One of the first Mental
Ray plug-ins, Lume’s line of shaders, Lume Tools, was also used extensively
throughout Riven, the sequel to Cyan’s Myst. Lume Tools will be available in
April 1997.
“With the addition of new features, the new SDK SAAPHIRE gives more
control over effects and allows us to easily customize Softimage 3D to our
specific needs,” said Michel Besner, president of Kaydara. “The integration
of FiLMBOX with Softimage 3D’s SDK helps us to continue to deliver the best
software solution for the motion capture industry.”

Key Benefits

With the first two releases of the SDK, Softimage gave developers three
toolkits for building three distinct types of plug-ins: SAAPHIRE, Mental Ray
and CDK in Softimage 3D. Now, with the new SDK version 1.7, SAAPHIRE allows
developers programmatic control over both custom shaders and channel drivers,
bringing together the complete power of all three toolkits. Key benefits for
enhancing and easing development include the following:

— Ability to build custom effects that streamline the animator’s workflow
when using custom Mental Ray shaders.

— A SAPPHIRE effect can encapsulate and customize the application of any
number of Mental Ray shaders to supported 3-D elements such as
materials, textures and lights.

— Low-level details of setting shader parameters can be handled by a
custom effect, freeing animators to make high-level choices about
rendering effects.

— SAAPHIRE can be used to individually keyframe shader parameters, since
shader fcurves now may have different key point numbers, giving
customers more control over the animation.

— Custom effects can be used for a custom shader to obtain data such as
light or color from the Mental Ray renderer.

— Ability to create effects that initialize and run channel drivers,
retrieve channel DOF values and perform take recordings.

New SDK Enhances Game Development
The new Softimage SDK makes it easier for game developers to create
stunning 3-D graphics by allowing straightforward creation of cross-platform
shaders, productivity tools and other plug-in applications within Softimage 3D
3.7. The new SDK also lets you build export tools for any supported platform
by providing low-level access to Softimage 3D’s modeling, animation, motion
capture and rendering functions.

“The SDK plug-ins we wrote were used extensively to import and massage all
our motion capture data and get them into a suitable form to export into our
games,” said John Rix, technical director, advanced graphics for Electronic
Arts (Canada). “This gives us motion that looks a lot more realistic and
fluid and allows for a large volume of moves while staying within a tight
production schedule and budget.” Electronic Arts (Canada) is a beta tester of
Softimage 3D 3.7 and the SDK version 1.7 and has used Softimage 3D and the SDK
to create many of its hit games, such as FIFA 97, NBA Live 97, Triple Play
Baseball 97 and ReBoot (currently in production).

Softimage Third-Party Resource Guide

The Softimage third-party resource guide is a comprehensive catalog where
all third parties such as ISVs, hardware vendors and training centers can
advertise and get to Softimage channels and the user base. The catalog is
mailed to 50,000 names four times a year. Softimage is currently preparing
the second edition after a very successful first edition, sent in February
1997. The third-party resource guide will continue to grow along with the SDK
program. Additional information about the Softimage third-party resource
guide can be found via the Internet at or by calling
(800) 576-3846.

Softimage Information

Founded in 1986, Softimage develops software for media-rich applications
including video, film, interactive games and CD-ROM applications. Products
include Softimage 3D (high-end animation), Softimage Eddie (compositing) and
Softimage Toonz (2-D cel animation). Additional information about Softimage
and Microsoft can be found via the Internet at and, 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 of Softimage Inc., a wholly owned
subsidiary of Microsoft Corp.
Microsoft is either a registered trademark or a trademark of Microsoft
Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.
Other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their
respective owners.
For more information on Softimage, contact: 800-576-3846 or 818-365-1359,
or on the Internet:

Plug-Ins Currently Shipping or Scheduled to Ship Within Six Months

ISV Plug-In Description Delivery
4Dvision 4D Paint NT Interactive high-end 3-D paint Shipping
4Dvision USA Sculptor NT Plug-in interface Shipping
Animats Dynamic actor NT Physics for character animation Sep. 1997
Applied Magic Producer NT 3-D effects and animations for video compositing and production Nov. 1997
ArScimed KinemaWay Simulation and visualization particles Shipping
Biodynamic Madymo translation tool Imports output file of Madymo into Softimage as animated nulls Late 1997
Cinema Graphics ShadeTree Interactive shader language authoring tool Aug. 1997
Cirad AMAP/Softimage SGI Realistic plant shapes March 1997
DIDI Monkey2 SGI/NT Posture input device for moving 3-D models, key framing and performance capture Shipping
DnA soft Flesh 3D SGI 3-D Paint 1.8 Shipping
Electric Image Renderer Optional renderer TBD
Eptron ImperActorAnim SGI Optical motion capture solutions Shipping
Eptron ImperActorAnim NT Facial animation
Inertia EVA NT Rendering program that supports 2-D bump, texture mapping, etc. July 1997
Infografica MetaReyes 3-D organic modeling Aug. 1997
Infografica ClothReyes Cartoon Cloth simulator Aug. 1997
Infografica ClothReyes rendered TBD
Kaydara Inc. FiLMBOX SGI/NT Real-time software for motion capture and device control Shipping
LionHeart ImageGlove NT Drivers and data gloves for Softimage Shipping
LionHeart ImageTrack NT Drivers and Polhemus inside track, for low-cost, short range tracking Shipping
LionHeart ImageMeet NT 3-D realtime conferencing and Softimage Live Shipping
Lume Inc. Mental Ray Shaders SGI Natural effects shaders April 1997
Marshall Graphics MegaFonts SGI/NT 1001 pro fonts for Softimage June 1997
Matrox Electronics Systems Ltd. DigiSuite Animation NT Animation recorder for DigiSuite June 1997
OZ Interactive Mental Ray Shaders Mental Ray shaders TBD
Panamotion MoveMatcher Camera motion capture system with pan and tilt memory head April 1997
PCA SoftFX Mental Ray shaders library May 1997
Pixar Softor SGI/NT Softimage to Renderman conversion Sep. 1997
Positron MeshPaint 3D NT 3-D Paint Shipping
Quantum Works Gepetto NT Real-time performance animation Shipping
Quantum Works Gepetto-Softimage NT Softimage plug-in March 1997
Sciences D Visions 3D equalizer SGI Standalone with interface to Softimage Shipping
Sciences D Visions 3D equalizer NT Standalone with interface to Softimage Fall 1997
Sven Technology Texturizer NT/SGI Adaptive texture mapping tool May 1997
SYNDESIS Interchange NT/SGI Utility that translates between more than 50 3-D file formats including Softimage Shipping
Video-Collage Softwish NT/SGI tcl/tk implementation of SAAPHIRE that offers the easiest GUI builder March 1997
Video-Collage Texturemation Seamless moving textures, includes batch JPEG-to-soft utility and script-file creation tool
Virtual tech VirtualHand NT/SGI Provides channel drivers and hand for use with CyberGlove Sep. 1997

SOURCE Microsoft Corp.

Friday Flashback #133

1998. The Sumatra logo derives from nautical and navigational imagery, such as a sextant, astrolabe, or compass. It’s also suggestive of a gyroscope, but is not a literal translation of any of these objects. This logo imagery is used to elicit the idea of a vast, unexplored environments as well as to recall the renowned navigability of the product. The “axis” suggest cartesian planes, and the arcs communicate motion/animation about a point of origin. The rough, hand-drawn character of the lines lend it an asiatic quality, in keeping with the graphic design of our other product logos.
— Charles Migos, User Interface Designer

Friday Flashback #123

Gesture. Unparalleled Artistry. XSI v.3.5

The new tools and interface in
SOFTIMAGE|XSI are really exciting.
XSI allows for a thoroughfare between
imagination and creation that we’d
never seen or experienced before.

That mad us very ecited and made
us adopt XSI into our pipeline
as quickly as possible.