Exotic Matter has begun shipping Naiad, the fluid-simulation software used on movies including Avatar and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Developed by Marcus Nordenstam and Robert Bridson, the co-authors of Double Negative’s in-house fluid system, the release puts Naiad’s innovative toolset within reach of studios worldwide, and may even ultimately lead to a new global standard for simulations.
Fast and powerful
In addition to a range of standard tools for liquid and gaseous simulation, Naiad uses an innovative tiling approach to confine calculations only to the fluid being simulated, rather than wasting processing power on a surrounding volume of empty space.
Those who have used the software in production report that it is very fast indeed: Avatar’s entire ocean surface is said to have been simulated on a single high-spec workstation.
A new standard in simulation?
In addition to the command-line application, Naiad ships with the open source Naiad Studio GUI: a node-based interface that enables artists to build simulations by dragging and dropping Houdini-style operators.
Exotic Matter hopes that the Naiad interface format will become an industry standard in the same way that RenderMan has become for rendering, facilitating workflows between studios.
“While there are things about [the RenderMan standard] that people don’t like, I think that everyone would agree that the fact that there is a standard has allowed a lot of different parts of a 3D pipeline to work together very easily across facilities and across shows,” said Nordenstam when we spoke to him earlier this year.
“There are always going to be times when you have to go outside the standard … but hopefully, the Naiad interface will take care of 90% of bread-and-butter fluid simulation.”
Pricing and specifications
But while the release will come as welcome news for many small-to-medium-sized studios, the price and platform restrictions mean that it may be some time before freelancers get to play with the software.
The software is currently available for 64-bit Linux, with an OS X version in the pipeline. Nordenstam commented that given the small development team and Linux-based core user base, it may be some time before we see a Windows version.
The Exotic Matter currently lists the release date of the Windows edition as “possibly 2011 … but we don’t guarantee it”.
Naiad is available for an annual fee of 50,000 SEK (around $7,400), including support. Every fifth licence is free.