Review: Softimage 2012
With ICE modelling, Lagoa Multiphysics and Syflex ICE, everything else seems like cherries on the top
Softimage 2012 features a wide range of small improvements and fixes – such as numeric weight map editing – that will make everyday tasks easier
Price: £1,725 / $2,995 / €2,305 | Developer: Autodesk | Platform: PC / Linux
- ICE modelling
- Lagoa Multiphysics
- Syflex ICE
- ICE simulation subframe sampling
- Interoperability with 3ds Max, Maya and Mudbox
Since Softimage 7, one word has recurred at the top of every new feature list, and yet the program’s users can’t hear it often enough.
Even though there’s a theoretical chance we’ll eventually get tired of it, this release certainly doesn’t mark that occasion.
The word, of course, is ICE – and in the 2012 version it’s coupled with modelling.
So what is ICE modelling? Put simply, it’s the ability to create and modify geometry procedurally using ICE.
At its most elementary, it can be used to create primitives on the fly or scatter geometry based on a set of rules and conditions.
This isn’t limited to geometry per se, because the new tools also enable you to assign materials, texture projections and user normals dynamically.
This is not to be confused with the ability to use instances as shapes in the previous versions, as ICE modelling creates actual geometry that can be altered further using the standard modelling tools.
ICE modelling takes Softimage to another level, enabling you to create and modify geometry based on sets of parameters, rules and conditions
What are even more exciting, though, are the low-level nodes, which take ICE to another realm.
As you’re given access to the inner bits and pieces of the topology creation, you can just as easily build static geometry from scratch as dynamically fracturing objects over time.
Okay, if you’ve never used ICE before, ‘easily’ might be a slight overstatement, but even so it’s still achievable.
Since the geometry is part of the ICE framework, it also means that it’s non-destructive by design.
Any tool or function you might develop, or download from the internet, can be turned into a compound and saved for later use.
Another important update to ICE is the new subframe sampling, which enables you to set the number of samples calculated per frame.
This ensures that even extremely fast-moving particles and deformation will be calculated accurately.
There’s also a set of features that could be considered semi-new, depending on whether you were on an active subscription last year, as these were included in the Autodesk Subscription Advantage Pack for Softimage (SAP).
Most prominent was the addition of Thiago Costa’s powerful Lagoa Multiphysics solver, which extended the ICE framework to include tools for simulating a wide range of effects, such as liquids, plastics, cloth and soft body deformations.
The Lagoa Multiphysics solver extends the ICE framework by including tools for simulating a wide range of effects, such as liquids, plastics, cloth and soft-body deforms
The ability to turn your point clouds into geometry is a crucial part of any fluid simulation, and the new polygoniser does a terrific job, especially in combination with the Lagoa Fluid Shaper.
The SAP also added native support for stereoscopic camera rigs and rendering.
In addition, Softimage is now bundled with Composite (formerly known as Toxik) and MatchMover (3D camera tracking software).
Both have been discontinued as separate products, but they’re solid tools that are worth a closer look.
Another feature that’s been available in Softimage for years but is entitled to appear on the new features list again is Syflex cloth, this time as Syflex ICE.
While the well-known cloth simulator Syflex has been included in Softimage for years, it’s just become even more powerful by getting ported to ICE
While Syflex hardly needs any further introduction, it’s worth pointing out a few things.
All in all, it’s just as exciting as it sounds, because it brings almost the entire Syflex toolset into ICE.
Not only will the node-based structure give far superior access to your attributes and their relation, but you can use most of the ordinary ICE nodes in conjunction, which greatly adds to the control of your simulation.
The performance is excellent and parameters can be changed on the fly, with instant feedback while playing back the animation (depending on your computer and the complexity of the simulation).
The ICE version is slightly faster in some areas than the ‘old’ plug-in, which is still available, but a perhaps more welcome bonus is that the previous (seemingly arbitrary) five-figure values have been tuned and now comply with Softimage’s default simulation values where one unit equals 10cm.
The only thing we can pick on is not about the ICE integration itself, but rather what didn’t make it into this release – namely, support for Mass maps and the Skin and Flesh simulators.
Whereas traditional displacement maps can only displace geometry along one axis, their vector counterparts can use a combination of all three
As with all Autodesk 2012 releases, the other major theme is interoperability.
A new section in the File menu enables you to round-trip scene data from and to any of Autodesk’s applications with a single click of the button.
This is especially handy when using the new vector displacement maps, which enable you to paint high- resolution maps in Mudbox and quickly bring them back into Softimage.
Traditional displacement maps can only displace the geometry along one axis, whereas the vector counterpart can use a combination of all three.
It’s a useful feature when you’re trying to cut back on the polygons.
To further help interoperability and keep consistency between the applications, the 2012 tools’ respective F-Curve editors have received an overhaul.
They now share the same terminology and much of the functionality, but don’t worry – this feature can easily be disabled if you prefer the old Animation Editor in Softimage.
As well as the headline updates, there’s also a list of lower-profile new features that will certainly save a few grey hairs for anyone who uses Softimage on a daily basis.
Weight maps and vertex colour properties can now be edited numerically using the Weight Editor, and the brush size can be set to smaller values than 0.01.
A Stop button has been added to the playback control and will instantly stop the playback, which has previously been an irritating issue when using Wacom tablets.
Support for QuickTime has also been added to the 64-bit version.
The ICE modelling framework is a substantial addition, and might be what’s needed for Softimage to reclaim its market share in the film industry.
One of the greatest benefits of ICE is that it’s enabled individuals and companies to develop and share custom tools, with Lagoa being an eminent example of this.
Given that ICE modelling is still a young technology, to say the least, it’s safe to say that we can expect interesting tools to be developed in time to come.
• ICE modelling
• Syflex ICE
• Lagoa Multiphysics
• Subframe sampling
• Viewport shading lags behind 3ds Max and Maya
• iray still not implemented
Either the ICE modelling framework or Lagoa Multiphysics alone would make this a must-have update; Syflex ICE and interoperability are bonuses
on Thursday, September 1st, 2011 at 3:30 pm under Applications, Reviews, Uncategorized.
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Tags: Autodesk, ICE, Lagoa multiphysics, modelling, Softimage, Syflex