Thursday, October 26th, 2017 Posted by Jim Thacker

IDV ships SpeedTree Cinema 8

IDV has released SpeedTree Cinema 8, the first update to its software for generating realistic animated trees for visual effects projects in almost four years.

The update introduces a full PBR material workflow, adds new wind dynamics options, improves export of the tree models generated, and a new library of 150 PBR-ready readymade tree models.

The release also reduces the cost of a new perpetual licence of SpeedTree Cinema itself, although the old lower-cost Architect and and Studio editions have now been discontinued.

Realistic, art-directable animated CG trees, as seen in major movies
Used in more than 100 feature films and broadcast series – including ILM’s work on Kong: Skull Island – SpeedTree Cinema is geared towards creating trees for offline use.

The software enables users to generate realistic, textured, art-directable trees using procedural controls, hand drawing, or a combination of the two.

The trees can be rigged and animated automatically, with support for both wind and growth animation.

Materials: Support for a full PBR workflow
The headline change in SpeedTree Cinema 8 is support for a physically based materials workflow, including the option to edit PBR materials interactively and preview the results inside SpeedTree’s Modeler window.

PBR materials are also supported in the new SpeedTree Library: a separate paid-for library of 150 readymade trees that includes “thousands of surface-scanned PBR textures”.

Modelling and animation: new procedural controls, new Art Director Tool, more realistic wind effects
There are also a range of new procedural controls, including new options for splitting or pruning branches; and generating “more interesting” geometry for trunks, and for gashes, knots and scars.

In addition, a new leaf collision system automatically removes intersecting leaves when generating a tree.

New manual modelling features include an overhauled mesh cutout system; and a new Art Director Tool, which promises “intuitive shaping” of a tree.

The update also promises “major leaps in wind realism”, including a new “rolling wind” effect. There is a also a new wizard for generating wind animations; and existing animations are “much easier” to tune.

Performance: leaf batching and faster ambient occlusion speed up preview rendering
Under the hood, performance has been improved by a new leaf batching system that makes leaf rendering inside Modeler “up to 1,000 times faster than version 7”, helping to speed up iterative design.

Computation of per-vertex AO has also been improved, although IDV doesn’t put a figure on that one.

Export: UDIM support, better unwrapping and weighting of skinned models
The process of exporting the completed models to other DCC applications has also been “vastly improved”.

As well as exporting OBJ, FBX and Alembic files, SpeedTree comes with scripts for direct export to common DCC tools, including 3ds Max, Blender, Cinema 4D, Clarisse, Maya and Houdini, plus most key renderers.

Other improvements include support for the UDIM UV layout format used in tools like Mari; better mesh unwrapping; hierarchical exports; and better bone weighting for skinned meshes.

In addition, exported meshes and animations now “run much faster and use far less memory”.

Pricing and availability
SpeedTree Cinema 8 is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

The price of a perpetual licence – $2,995 for SpeedTree Cinema 7 – has fallen significantly, with a node-locked licence now costing $1,650 and a floating licence costing $2,500. Rental options are also available.

The SpeedTree Library is available on a subscription-only basis, starting at $1,500/year.

However, the old entry-level editions of the software – the $495 Architect edition and the $895 Studio edition – have now been discontinued, leaving former users with a significant upgrade to the Cinema edition.

SpeedTree for real-time work
At the time of posting, the middleware version of the technology, SpeedTree for Games, has not been updated from version 7; and nor has the subscription-only versions for Unreal Engine or Unity.

However, the new Lumberyard edition not only uses version 8 technology, but is free to Lumberyard users.

Read an overview of the new features in SpeedTree Cinema 8 on IDV’s blog

Read a full list of new features in SpeedTree Cinema 8 on the product website