Friday Flashback #352


SOFTIMAGE | 3D 3.9.2 and SOFTIMAGE | XSI 1.5
From the “making of Pico” by Avant Co Japan

pico_14pico_16pico_13

Via the wayback machine and Google translate:

Since we were using SI at the time at that time, we started production at SI.

I tried things using shaders written by the company programmer · Things that used SpeedRender etc, but because it is unlikely that the required quality can be reached in the expression that can be done with shader, I will do Global Illumination I decided to try it. Although GI can be done with SI, I will use XSI for the first time because it seems that the setting using XSI seems to be finely set.

At this point there is not even even touching XSI (it is before the PV of m – flo ), it is difficult to conclude with XSI suddenly, so I will use it together with SI.

We will proceed with “schedule” that we will complete all the basic scenes such as modeling, animation and weight adjustment at SI and attach texture only at XSI.

So when we finished modeling we preliminarily converted to XSI and tried to render using global illumination. It seems that it is very difficult and time-consuming to adjust, but I have decided to proceed with the method SI → XSIm live-action shooting to final combination. Well then. To be continued …
— Hiroyuki Kashima

Friday Flashback #350


1995…Softimage used in TV’s first 3D animation series

reboot1reboot2

 

REBOOT 100% DIGITAL

ReBoot animation transcends anything else seen on network television today. It’s the world’s first 100 percent computer-animated series, telling the story of Bob, Dot and Enzo, 3D characters living in the city of Mainframe. ReBoot creators produce a whopping 60 minutes of completed animation in just six weeks. Fans love ReBoot so much, it’s been renewed for a second season.

FACING THE 3D CHALLENGE

How does Brough Lovick Television (BLT) face the unprecedented 3D challenge of producing the quantity of animation with the quality they expect? According to Chris Welman, BLT’s director of software development, the solution was found in Softimage 3D. “We’re using Softimage 3D exclusively.”

SOFTIMAGE_A NATURAL CHOICE

HIGH-QUALITY CHARACTERS

“We can animate faster with Softimage 3D than with any other package I can think of,” states Welman, “Because we’re dealing with a lot of character animation, we’re using the skeletons with path animation, inverse kinematics, flexible skin and envelops extensively.” Using Softimage 3D to endow characters with fluid motion, including natural facial expressions, hand movements and lip-synch is what makes ReBoot a ratings winner in the Saturday morning toon market.

RENDERING AT FULL THROTTLE

And what about the unique challenges in producing the weekly CGI series? Christopher Brough, the show’s producer says, “It’s getting an enormous volume of animation out of the computer and onto digital tape.”

Welman concurs, stating, “There are few people producing the quantity of 3D animation with the quality that we are today. With 21 minutes of footage to produce every few weeks, rendering time is obviously of concern. The Softimage renderer is really pretty quick, and with their mental ray renderer, it looks like they will stay ahead of the
competition in terms of photorealistic and customizable rendering.”

COMBINING TOOLSETS

BLT at times, finds it convenient to combine toolsets by writing their own software because “it’s nice to be able to write our own effects to extend the package if we have to,” states Welman. Softimage 3D tools in the hands of talented ReBoot animators delivers network television’s first highly-rated 3D animation series.

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 #334


From “Prototyping 3D Games: Lesson learned from Riven,” in the March 1998 issue of Game Developer Magazine.

“Softimage’s tools are really flexible, and are one of the biggest strengths of that whole package I think,” said Richard of the 3D application used to create RIVEN. “A lot of these animations were so complex in terms of the geometry that we knew we were only going to have one shot at fully rendering this thing — it was just going to take so much time. So we really tried to make sure that we had seen it as many times as possible in its various primitive stages, including wireframe and shaded views.”

For example, even with four SGI servers, the submarine adventures at the bottom of Jungle Island Bay lived in the queue for months because the atmospheric shaders and reflections caused the  animations to creak out very slowly, frame by frame.

Also in the March 1998 edition, a review of 3D Studio MAX R2, with a list of competitors with estimated prices:

  • Softimage 3D ($7,500)
  • Softimage 3D Extreme ($15,000)

gdm_march1998

 

Friday Flashback #331


 

BY ANY OTHER NAME:
Studio Ghibli Changes Everything with Spirited Away

… since 1995, the Studio Ghibli 3D team, armed with SOFTIMAGE®|3D, have been more than helping out with the visuals. The full transition from traditional ink & paint techniques and shooting to digital I & P and compositing was made in 1997.

by Michael Abraham

People have come to expect miracles from Hayao Miyazaki. Since he co-founded Studio Ghibli (with lifelong colleague and sometime creative collaborator Isao Takahata) in 1985, the now-revered anime director has been the creative force behind a long list of animated films that simultaneously manage to be intensely thoughtful, critically acclaimed and hugely successful. Any filmmaker – hell, any artist – can tell you how difficult it is to hit all three points. Miyazaki’s latest offering hits all three harder than ever before.

Miyazaki’s formula, if you can call it that, involves using dazzling visuals and engaging fables to suspend our disbelief, thereby clearing the way for some truly trenchant insights. The stories and insights are Miyazaki’s idea, but since 1995, the Studio Ghibli 3D team, armed with SOFTIMAGE®|3D, have been more than helping out with the visuals. The full transition from traditional ink & paint techniques and shooting to digital I & P and compositing was made in 1997.

“We are a traditional animation production studio,” says Mitsunori Kataama, 3D-CG Supervisor at Studio Ghibli. “There are about 150 people presently working here. Within that group, we have three sections using computers for production – ten people work on ink and paint, four in compositing and seven of us in 3D-CG.  We mainly use Silicon Graphics workstations, with over thirty CPUs, including those used as servers. We also use Linux and Mac OS computers.”

That set up makes for an immensely clever, and ultimately virtuous, method, and it is employed to great effect in his most recent film. Set in modern-day Japan, Spirited Away (or Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, the Japanese title) joins the daily life of ten-year-old Chihiro, a somewhat spoiled and ill-tempered girl unhappy to be moving to a new town with her family.

On their way to their new home, Chihiro and her family pass through a mysterious tunnel only to find themselves in a world not of their choosing. When her hungry parents mistakenly eat food reserved for the gods, they are suddenly transformed into pigs, leaving Chihiro as their only hope. A great many things change in this new land: a young boy becomes a dragon, an origami bird transforms into a witch and a filthy bather is reincarnated as a river god. Even Chihiro is forced to barter her real name for her survival with the evil witch Yu-baaba, who gives her the more generic sounding Sen in its place. To rescue her parents and regain her name, Sen must also change from a frightened little girl into a courageous heroine.

In creating Spirited Away, Miyazaki claims to have been making a gift specifically for his friend’s daughters, all of whom were about 10 years old at the time he got the idea. After two years and a painstaking blend of traditional cel animation and seamlessly integrated digital technology, however, it seems that his gift is being shared by just about everybody. At the time of this writing, Spirited Away is poised to overtake James Cameron’s Titanic as the single-most successful film ever shown in Japan.

Although Studio Ghibli works pretty exclusively on feature animations, with the occasional short thrown in for good measure, Spirited Away was a big job even by their standards. All of the animation, backgrounds, compositing and 3D work were accomplished in-house. Working diligently on 100 of the movie’s 1400 scenes, Kataama and his team dealt primarily with complicated scenes impossible to create solely by hand, and including intense 3D camera work and object animation.

“We used several different techniques,” says Kataama matter-of-factly. We added depth information to original 2D images by mapping hand-written backgrounds on to 3D models. In the end, we also used SOFTIMAGE|3D to calculate a reflection and a highlight component, which we then added to the hand-written background. We also developed a unique 2D Texture Shader, so we could have a multiple position camera-texture projection for mapping of our background image. We have also developed a plug-in to make changing a particular field of vision much easier.”

Another significant challenge faced by the Studio Ghibli 3D team involved the creation of realistic, ever-changing sea surface, which required the in-house development of another 2D texture shader and several material shaders. According to Kataama:

“To accurately express the look of the waves, we created a 2D texture shader that would generate a procedural texture. We really appreciate that SOFTIMAGE|3D offers such a valuable environment for developing new functions. The high-quality rendering result was extremely effective in our efforts to draw rays that would act as both reflections and highlights. For that, we were very happy to have the Ray Tracer, which we could not find anywhere else.”

Kataama pauses reflectively before continuing. “Where I used to work, we used separate in-house applications for editing modeling, animation, and texture. When I joined Studio Ghibli, SOFTIMAGE|3D immediately enabled me to do everything in an integrated environment. Even an animator working on his first 3D project can do sophisticated animation work with it right away.”

Looking to the future, Kataama and Studio Ghibli have great plans for SOFTIMAGE|XSI™. Although they are still in the evaluation phase, Kataama has already seen enough to know what will be particularly useful.

“In the coming year, we are planning to switch all work to SOFTIMAGE|XSI,” he explains patiently. “So far, we have been most impressed with Render Passes. In our work, we do final image control at compositing stage, so it is a big help that Render Passes can separate 3D into various elements.  In the past, we needed to prepare scene data when rendering, but using Render Passes means we can make multiple materials from one scene. I’ve also had a chance to look at the Render Tree, which I found very easy to use.  I was very happy because even I can create shader, even though I have no programming skills. We also have high expectations for the Subdivision Surfaces functions.”

Although they have still to evaluate the animation functions in SOFTIMAGE|XSI, Kataama and his Studio Ghibli team already know that the Animation Mixer will soon be coming in handy:

“We are planning to create a human crowd,” says Kataama. “What we have in mind is likely impossible without the Animation Mixer.  We are also looking forward to the new Toon Shader, which will help us to create an even better hand-drawn animation look.”

And, no doubt, another Miyazaki masterpiece. A film by any other name would never look this great.