Review: SpeedTree Cinema 5.2
SpeedTree Cinema is probably the most feature-rich vegetation software available… but also the most expensive
Price: £3,214 / $4,995 / €3,815 | Developer: SpeedTree | Platform: Windows / Mac
SpeedTree Cinema 5.2 is a middleware vegetation generator actually living up to its promises: more, better trees – faster
- Hand-drawn trunks and branches
- World building directly in the modeller
- Mesh forces
- Object collision using PhysX engine
- Extensive library of trees and texture maps
Probably best known for its lightning rise to become the vegetation standard for games since its initial release of SpeedTreeMAX/RT in 2002/2003, SpeedTree’s parent company IDV has now unleashed SpeedTree Cinema 5.2.
A VFX middleware vegetation generator, Cinema is aimed at studio VFX artists and matte painters.
Licensed among others by ILM, the set of applications is based on a fully re-engineered build of the SpeedTree 5.0 kit, and comes, like the game version, with modeller, compiler, SDK, 3ds Max macros, and the full SpeedTree library and textures.
Looking first at the modeller, one of the biggest stand-outs is the ridiculous ease with which you can do things.
Take generating a tree, for instance. Whereas the Onyx workflow lets you generate a tree parameter by parameter, or standalone Xfrog (which hasn’t been updated in years) lets you work with splines, primitives and tropisms, one of the ways SpeedTree Cinema lets you build your tree is by simply pressing Space and then drawing with your pen or mouse.
The subsequent output can then be controlled and tweaked via control points, instead of splines, and you can draw your tree with predefined textures and behaviours.
SpeedTree vegetation natively supports the placement of exportable bones and their controls, and promises increased functionality in future releases
The ability to do this is another of SpeedTree Cinema’s strong points.
Whereas the template workflow in other apps typically is to load a tree and then tweak or snag its parameters, SpeedTree Cinema lets you define the model’s parameters beforehand, using zones and generators, which you hook up to each other a little like you do with components in Xfrog.
This makes it very easy and fast to draw unique (and very dense) vegetation or populations.
With a UI somewhat reminiscent of Xfrog or Arbaro with all its parameter input fields, you’ll find everything but the kitchen sink when you start working with your vegetation.
There’s a massive timesaver in the ability to procedurally populate world building sets, complete with masking
Another big timesaver is what SpeedTree calls mesh forces.
This enables vegetation to interact with imported objects, by growing around, through, in, over, or under them – whether it’s a bonsai in a teapot or a tree growing around a well or ruined wall.
Not quite perfect
You can build templates by defining generators and parameters in zones, enabling fast, accurate vegetation generation fairly easily
Mesh forces is not a function implemented in the other, current standalone vegetation generators on the market.
Add to that the ability to bone trees and use collision objects in-app, and you essentially have a modelling tool armed to its teeth.
We did, however, experience a few problems; there were freezes and hangs when working on trees of various
complexity, in addition to some export failures which were hard to pinpoint.
The main gripe anyone not working in a studio or possessing a pipeline will have with SpeedTree Cinema is simply its price.
As middleware, with no intent of hitting the consumer market, it is, alas, an application out of the reach of most artists.
• Hand-drawn splines for generation
• Lightning fast
• Easy to use
• Prohibitive pricing
• No reduced package for solo artists
• Some export problems
If you can afford it, SpeedTree Cinema will definitely take your vegetation work to a new level. If not, OnyxTree’s products offer some of the same functionality for less.
on Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 at 10:39 am under Applications, Reviews.
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Tags: Avatar, modelling, procedural, review, software, SpeedTree, vegetation