Basefount Technology releases Miarmy 4
Basefount Technology has released Miarmy 4, the latest update to its crowd-simulation system for Maya, improving support for blendshape animation and automatic IK, and raising the upper size limit for sims.
The software, which is compatible with Arnold, RenderMan, V-Ray and OctaneRender, is in use at many leading Asian VFX facilities and Westerns studios including MPC, Pixomondo and Zoic.
New options for blendshape animations
One striking new feature in version 4 is the option to cache and assign mesh deformation to actions, enabling Miarmy to simulate soft-body objects like jellyfish, or assign blendshape-based facial animations to characters.
Blendshapes can also now be controlled by AI logic, enabling a character to change facial expression according to the context in which it finds itself.
Improved pathing and terrain-following
There is also a new automatic IK system for a character’s feet and pelvis, preventing foot intersection or slip on uneven terrain; and a new option to synchronise the animations of linked actors like a horse and rider.
Pathing has been enhanced with the option to make crowd agents follow a path of variable width; and a new Curve Pin tool pins crowd agents to an animatable curve: for example, ants climbing up a string.
New crowd placement and dynamics options
The tools for placing and orienting crowd agents have also been updated – it’s easier to see them in the video above than to describe them in words – as have the options for creating formation targets.
In addition, any arbitrary polygon mesh can be converted into a PhysX dynamics object and made to interact with a simulation: the video shows a spiked ball and a giant snake sweeping through a crowd.
In the rendering toolset, there is a new option to link geometry visibility to the action node, making it easier to create animations in which objects appear and disappear, such as loading a catapult or bow.
Export to V-Ray, Arnold and RenderMan is also now “at least three times faster” than in previous releases.
Support for post-cache simulation and larger sims
Another key change is that agents in cached simulations can now continue to be controlled by AI logic, enabling an artist to get sign-off on the overall motion of crowd, then add dynamics on top of the cached simulation.
The upper limit on the size of simulations has also been raised: according to Basefound, Miarmy 4 can now simulate and render “more than 150,000 agents” simultaneously.
Pricing and availability
Miarmy 4 is available now for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. A node-locked licence costs $2,650 if you buy outright, or $1,950 to rent for three months; and there is also a free Express edition.