J Cube releases Multiverse Studio V5
Originally posted on 16 January 2018. Scroll down for updates.
Japanese developer J Cube has released Multiverse Studio V5, the latest version of its high-performance framework for assembling and playing back complex visual effects or animation scenes inside Maya.
The update adds tools for navigating and manipulating complex asset hierarchies, including a new outliner; plus the option to read and write Alembic or USD files as sequences, and Alembic data as layers.
(Version 5.0.0 actually came out in October 2017, but version 5.2.0, released yesterday, is the first public build in the 5.x release cycle, and is the first one J Cube refers to as ‘V5’.)
Read and modify complex scenes interactively in Maya for shot layout or set dressing
Created for use at Japanese animation house Polygon Pictures, of which J Cube is an R&D spin-off, Multiverse Studio is now developed in partnership with Foundry, which also distributes the software.
In the West, it has been adopted by studios including Luma Pictures, which used it on Doctor Strange.
The software is designed to read, play back and modify complex scenes – such as those generated during shot layout or set dressing in visual effects or feature animation – inside Maya.
Rather than being stored within Maya, geometry is effectively ‘streamed‘ to the viewport or an offline render engine from packed archives, usually in Alembic or USD format, improving performance.
Multiverse Studio is also designed to improve interoperability between Maya and other pipeline tools, particularly Katana and Houdini, and supports MaterialX, Lucasfilm’s open standard for rich material data.
New in V5: navigate and edit complex asset hierarchies without unpacking the source archives
Multiverse Studio V5 adds new functionality for navigating complex asset hierarchies, including the Multiverse Look Outliner (MLO), shown in the demo video above.
The MLO enables users to expand hierarchy trees, perform pattern searches, select hierarchy items, and perform overrides for visibility, material assignments, attribute set overrides and affine transformations.
It is possible to select any item and assign materials or attributes without unpacking the original archive.
Materials, displacements and attribute assignments and overrides are resolved procedurally at render time using any of Multiverse Studio’s supported renderers: 3Delight, Arnold and RenderMan.
More options when reading and writing Alembic and USD files, better playback of packed geometry
The update also makes it possible to read or write per-frame sequences of Alembic or USD files, rather than having to transfer data between Maya and other apps as a single, very large multi-frame file.
Multiverse Studio can also now read and write Alembic data as layers, with the option to override properties like transforms, positions, UVs or normals.
Other changes include new point cloud and bounding box draw modes to improve interactivity in very complex scenes; and improvements to playback caching of packed geometry.
Updated 30 April 2018: J Cube has released Multiverse Studio 5.5.
The update adds support for the new 3Delight | NSI renderer due in Katana 3.0, making Multiverse Studio the first publicly available product to support the NSI API.
Since this story was originally posted, other updates have introduced support for rule-based shader assignment, and Cryptomatte support when rendering with Arnold. You can find the full changelog here.
Updated 19 November 2018: J Cube has released Multiverse Studio 5.7.3. The update makes it possible to write assets in Pixar and Apple’s USDZ format, intended for augmented reality content.
Pricing and availability
Multiverse Studio V5 is available for Maya 2016+ on Windows, Linux and macOS. It is compatible with Katana 2.6 and Houdini 16.0+, and the 3Delight 12, Arnold 5 and RenderMan 21 renderers.
Interactive floating licences now cost $480, while batch licences cost $160: both down since version 4.4.
Rental options are available, with node-locked licences starting at $85/year per pair of interactive and batch licences; and quarterly volume plans for floating licences.