Autodesk has announced the new features of Softimage 2014 in the run up to today’s live Unfold event.
In the pre-release press briefing, Autodesk described the update as a process of “go[ing] back through and do[ing] a lot of work on refining the capabilities we already have”.
Accordingly, there is a long list of bugfixes for the new release, but few completely new features.
New camera sequencer
The exception is the new camera sequencer, which enables users – primarily those working in pre-viz – to create, edit and retime multiple cameras as if they were one continuous shot.
Softimage previewed the feature in one of its sneak peek videos in the run-up to the announcement, but the new video at the top of the story fleshes out the workflow.
Updates to CrowdFX
Several existing features have been overhauled, the most extensively reworked being CrowdFX, Softimage’s ICE-based crowd simulation system.
Crowd Emitter IDs and the new Social Group options enable artists to control sub-groups of characters within simulations; and the Behavior Tree has been overhauled to provide improvements to actor AI.
At its heart is the Behavior Core, divided into sections for Simulation (inputs include actor properties like velocity and direction; and collision avoidance), Post-Simulation (interactions with scene objects) and Animation States.
Animation States enable artists to define when characters switch between idles and different movements or actions, and how the source animations are blended during the state transitions.
There are also a number of smaller changes: for example, the Stick To Ground node, which does exactly what its name suggests. The videos below show the new features – and CrowdFX workflow in general – in detail.
The Behavior Tree Part 1: Basic workflow – a simple simulation of soldiers ‘herding’ a crowd.
The Behaviour Tree Part 2: Adding death zones and idle zones to the simulation.
The Behavior Tree Part 3: Working with actor IDs
Defining Animation States.
Defining transitions between Animation States.
Defining offsets to Animation States between characters to add variation to the simulation results.
ICE’s new Override option
The ICE environment itself gets a “small but useful feature” in the shape of the power to override specified parameter values of anything built through ICE, including simulations, deformations and procedural models.
The parameters being overridden are displayed in a separate dialog, speeding up the process of generating multiple variants of the simulation or model.
The video above shows the feature in use to generate variants of a fire simulation, overriding the base simulation’s particle count and seed value.
Syflex cloth simulation also gets an update in the shape of support for Per Point Attributes, enabling users to vary the way in which individual points on the surface of an object are affected by simulation.
The new Crop option enables artists to exclude sets of points from the simulation, reducing calculation times; while the Map option can be used to apply weight maps to sets of points.
Finally, the way the High Quality viewport displays ambient occlusion has been overhauled, with the option to adjust parameters such as Intensity, Iterations and blur properties.
Transparency maps also now more accurately reproduce shadows, again with a range of options to control the way the effect is displayed in the viewport.
New brand identity
Softimage also gets a new ‘origami-inspired’ logo, which you can see in the homepage image for this story. The new identity is part of a company-wide revamp, bringing all of Autodesk’s product logos in line with one another.
The animation tools, including 3ds Max, Maya, Softimage and MotionBuilder, also get new brand graphics in aqua and white, described by Autodesk as an abstract “visual representation of movement”.
Softimage 2014 is due to ship on 12 April.
Tags: ambient occlusion, Animation States, autodesk, Behavior Core, Behavior Tree, camera sequencer, cloth simulation, CrowdFX, display, high quality, HQ, ICE, new features, override, per point attributes, shadows, simulation, softimage, Softimage 2014, Syflex, viewport