Tuesday, August 1st, 2017 Posted by Jim Thacker

Massive Software unveils Massive Prime 9.0

Massive Software has unveiled Massive Prime 9.0, the new version of its heavyweight AI-based crowd simulation software, adding a new internal shading network and a new Lanes as Generators option.

The upcoming release, announced at Siggraph 2017, will also feature a new “universal plugin” designed to enable “nearly any third-party vendor, 3D animation tool or rendering application” to add Massive support.

A heavweight AI-driven crowd simulation tool for demanding movie and broadcast work
Originally developed for use at Weta Digital on The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Massive has since become an staple of crowd simulation work throughout the movie and broadcast VFX industries.

Unlike some other crowd simulation tools, it uses a fully AI-driven approach to simulation, rather than piggybacking on the host application’s native particle systems.

In theory, that should make it more straightforward to make Massive compatible with a range of DCC software, but in practice, as a small developer, Massive Software has focused on the largest target markets.

At the minute, there are two integrated versions, Massive for Maya and the more recent Massive for Max, along with the two standalone editions, Massive Jet and the top-of-the-range Massive Prime.

New universal plugin lets Massive agents appear within viewports of other DCC tools
That may change with the release of Massive Prime 9.0, which will ship with new ‘universal’ plugin designed to enable Massive crowd agents to appear in the viewports of other tools, and in the renders they generate.

As well as commercial renderers and DCC software, Massive Software anticipates that the plugin will be used by VFX facilities to integrate Massive with their own in-house tools.

“Every year we receive multiple requests to support various animation and rendering applications,” said Massive Software CEO Stephen Regelous. “We want to make it easy for anyone to utilize Massive’s tools.”

Updated 3 August: Massive Software have provided more detail about how the new universal plugin works.

The flowchart above shows the Massive render pipeline: rather than writing out terabytes of data, the render plugin supplies a description of the crowd agents, with the actual geometry generated by the renderer itself.

According to Massive, all that a studio or developer needs to do to make the plugin work with their software is to “supply about six functions to receive data from the plugin” using a “very simple C API”.

Deeper integration is also possible: for example, by supplying a function to receive curve primitives in order to enable an application to render Massive’s dynamic hair.

Massive tells us that the plugin has been tested by Theory Studios during production of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle: work carried out in Blender. You can see a VFX breakdown here.

According to Massive, “Within days they [Theory] not only had Blender rendering the Massive agents, but they had the agents appearing in the Blender viewports as well.”

New internal shader network and Lanes as Generators feature
Another related feature in Massive Prime 9.0 is the new internal shader network, shown in the image at the top of the story, which will enable users to import, edit and build shading networks directly within Massive.

Networks imported from third-party software will “look and function the same” within Massive, enabling users to make look development changes without the need to re-import data.

The release will also add a new ‘Lanes as Generators’ feature aimed at architectural visualization.

Previously, users could assign a lane for crowd agents to follow, but had to include separate generators to tell them where to appear and what geometry to occupy in the simulation: functions now combined into one.

Pricing and availability
Massive Software hasn’t announced a release date for Massive Prime 9.0, although the firm tells us that it is “very likely to be released this year”.

The new features in version 9.0 will also be rolled out in Massive for Maya and Massive for Max. Anyone who bought Massive within a year of the release of version 9.0 will get the update free.

New licences of Massive Prime cost $16,000. Massive Jet costs $6,000. Massive for Maya costs $3,500, while Massive for Max is rental-only, and priced at $595/quarter or $1,995/year. See a comparison table.

Visit the Massive Software website