Innovation Week: Making hyperrealistic clouds
The brainchild of QuadSpinner’s Dax Pandhi and Cynthia Najim, Helios is intended to raise the bar for meteorologically accurate cloud renders and animations.
Tapping into Vue’s Spectral 3 atmosphere technology, Helios uses Vue xStream, the edition that works inside major 3D packages such as 3ds Max, Maya and Cinema 4D. It’s already being used by selected clients for projects that include an AAA game title and the Kickstarter-funded movie Space Command, with a public version set for release before the end of 2012.
We caught up with Dax to find out more about the technology behind Helios and how it can address a gap within the present options for CG cloud generation.
3D World: Can you briefly describe in a technical sense what Helios provides? I believe from the Quadspinner website that it taps into existing Vue technology to offer a broader and better library of cloud presets than you normally get; is there more to it? What does it do technically to boost render times?
Dax Pandhi: Helios is a complete 3D volumetric cloud creation, management, and animation solution that creates meteorologically accurate clouds in Vue. Using Vue xStream, Helios is available in 3dsmax, Maya, Cinema4D, and LightWave.
Helios uses Vue’s Spectral atmosphere engine as a platform to introduce new methods of creating and working with clouds, as opposed to just simple presets. Helios Clouds are built using QuadSpinner proprietary fractal functions that give them realistic shapes and shading not directly possible with default Vue clouds.
Since we are using our own fractal functions instead of Vue’s defaults, we can structure them to bypass unnecessary calculations and render them blazingly fast.
3D World: What level of results are you projecting in terms of increased rendering speed for clouds? What are the basic principles you use to achieve this?
DP: By taking advantage of extreme fine tuning in the clouds’ fractals, Helios can render a 1080p frame in as little as three minutes on a typical Intel i7 machine. The Helios logic core that plugs into Vue takes care of the processing of the clouds. Based on the type of cloud being used and the situation it is used in, the software will regulate the look dynamically to ensure realistic visuals.
3D World: Who do you see as your key audience for Helios? What is their need that you’re intending to address? What level of interest are you seeing?
DP: Sounds like a cliché, but the key audience for Helios is quite broad. Anyone creating natural environments eventually needs convincing clouds.
There is no truly appropriate software that creates realistic clouds in full 3D space that can interact with objects and receive dynamic lighting, while still rendering fast. Either you have to use compositing magic and matte painting, or resort to particle systems/fluid simulation. Both of those options can be expensive and time consuming.
Helios bridges the gap by providing affordable and easy to use clouds that can be integrated into an existing scene in minutes. Using the Vue xStream platform, we can provide Helios inside all major 3D packages, removing the need for any substantial investment or changes in the workflow. Helios has been designed for final output on its own, raw assets for compositing, and even specialized output for integration into game engines.
We are very pleased with the interest people have shown in Helios, which has ranged from top animation and game studios to a variety of individuals.
3D World: On target for release in Q4?
DP: Yes, we are on track for release near the end of the year. The initial release of Helios is aimed at studios and other mid- to high-level CG houses. We have a scaled-down consumer version in the works which will be released separately. Under our Early Adoption program, Helios is already being used in production. Licensees include a n AAA game title, a major aviation corporation, and the upcoming Space Command movie where it will create both terrestrial and interstellar clouds.
Go to the QuadSpinner website to find out more about Helios.
on Wednesday, July 18th, 2012 at 11:27 am under Features, Technology.
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