Wednesday, December 30th, 2020 Posted by Jim Thacker

AXYZ design ships anima 4.1

Originally posted on 17 March 2020. Scroll down for news of anima 4.1.

AXYZ design has unveiled anima 4.0, a big update to its crowd animation and scene population software that increases the visual fidelity of the firm’s stock animated characters, particularly for foreground use.

The release, which is due to ship later this week, also introduces a new Maya integration plugin alongside the existing 3ds Max, Cinema 4D and Unreal Engine integrations.

An intuitive tool for less demanding crowd animation jobs
Intended for visualisation and less demanding animation work, anima enables users to add animated characters to a scene without the complexity of an AI- or particle-driven crowd simulation system.

Users draw paths for crowd characters directly in the viewport, and place scene objects like furniture and traffic lights, along with areas for animated characters to avoid.

The software is tailored for use with AXYZ design’s own Metropoly range of stock rigged characters, but users can also import their own characters and motion clips.

Integration plugins are available for 3ds Max, Cinema 4D and Unreal Engine – and, as of anima 4.0, Maya.

Animated scenes can also be exported in FBX, OpenCollada or V-Ray’s .vrscene format. Output is compatible with most third-party renderers, including Arnold, Corona Renderer and OctaneRender.

A ‘revolutionary’ increase in the quality of the stock animated characters
AXYZ design describes anima 4.0 as a “revolutionary” update, not for new features within the core application, but for changes in quality of the bundled 3D characters.

In anima 3.5, the software ships with rigged characters for use in animation, and higher-fidelity posed characters for use in still renders.

Anima 4.0 blurs that distinction, introducing a new class of ‘Ambient 3D’ characters.

They aren’t fully animatable, but they come with readymade idle movements, including breathing and limb motion, and can be made to look at the viewer or other actors.

AXYZ design says its entire library of posed characters will be updated to Ambient 3D characters over time.

In addition, the firm has introduced ‘4D Digital Humans’, intended for use as foreground hero characters, and including facial animations and clothing movements.

They are based on motion capture of live actors, and use a “new [algorithm] that allows 5GB of data [for] each character to be compressed into just 150-250MB”.

You can see the results in the demo video above: the motion of clothing is a bit noisy in some of the shots, but it helps bring close-ups to life.

According to AXYZ design, on a multi-core CPU, it is possible to “use many of these actors at the same time and achieve 120fps in Unreal Engine”.

In related news, Unreal Engine developer Epic Games announced last week that it has bundled AXYZ design characters in Twinmotion 2020.1, the latest version of its real-time visualisation software.

Process of activating licences and buying add-on content now more streamlined
Other changes in anima 4.0 include the option to buy new characters from the firm’s online store directly within the software, and automatic updates for existing bought content.

The licensing system has also been streamlined with a new unified login.

Updated 30 December 2020: AXYZ design has released anima 4.1.

The update makes a number of changes intended to improve viewport playback speed for scenes with large numbers of characters, including a new LOD system and support for GPU decoding.

The latter works on “compatible Nvidia GPUs”. We can’t find any more details in the online docs, but judging by the graphic on the AXYZ design homepage, your GPU only needs to support CUDA.

The Unreal Engine plugin has also been updated to improve real-time performance: according to the release notes, frame rates for scenes with 20 characters are 8x higher on a single GeForce GTX 1080 GPU.

In addition, the firm’s Metropoly collection of characters has been “reprocessed to give a higher and more consistent level of quality”. The changes are backwards-compatible with previous versions of anima.

Pricing and availability
Anima 4.1 is available for 64-bit Windows 7+. The integration plugins are available for 3ds Max 2014+, Cinema 4D R15+, Maya 2018+ and Unreal Engine 4.23+.

New licences cost €279 (around $340), up €30 from the previous version.

There is also a free Lite edition, which can be used for commercial work, but which limits output to four seconds of animation. Still renders are unrestricted.

Read more about the new features in anima 4.1 on AXYZ design’s blog

Read more about anima 4.0 on AXYZ design’s blog