All-in-one Animation Tool
By Chee Yih Yang

In.Tech - August 05, 2003, 3D ANIMATORS take note: the latest edition of SoftImage XSI, version 3.5,is now in town. SoftImage XSI (www.softimage.com/XSl) is one of the better-known 3D animation software titles, and is produced by Tewksbury, Massachusetts-based Avid Technologies Inc (www.avid.com).

It has been used in producing effects for various games, movies and commercials. SoftImage XSI was used in games such as Soldier of Fortune I and 2, Half-Life 2, and Dead Or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball, while movies shot using the program include Matrix Reloaded, Spy Kids 2 and 3,and Panic Room.

Version 3.5 features a slew of additions and improvements in its rendering, interface, simulation tools, software development kit (SDK), schematic editing, and texture editing components.

In rendering, you have the option of using a new "rapid motion blur" option for large scenes and complex shading. Users also get the "incremental echo" option and enhanced memory management, so large texture or shadow map files can be divided into smaller chunks.

(Incremental echo means for a file containing multiple frames, the frames containing static scene elements will be omitted from successive frames (hence the term "echo"). This also helps reduce file sizes.)

SoftImage XSI version 3.5ís web browser and asset management tool is now available on Linux. A "contextual" option has also been added "for extra control," Avid claims.

The titleís SDK now has additional commands such as "unloading/reloading," "add-on libraries" and a "new user data blob object" option for storing binary user data on objects.

Under the simulation part of SoftImage XSI version 3.5, it is now possible for users to match the root of the generated hair fibre to fit the exact contours. Additional hair-related options include symmetry maps and new "stretchy" hair for curve-like control and grooming.

As for interoperability, SoftImage|XSI version 3.5 supports outputting to ".AAF" format. There are also new snapping functions, "texture display dimming," "numeric UV position editing" and "user defined pivoting."

The program now bundles SoftImage|Behaviour, which used to be a separate software title. Behaviour is a "crowd simulation and behavioural animation system," so that a large number of CGI (computer generated image) characters can be easily generated. It was used in the production of Napoleon, a 2002 mini-series that starred Gerard Depardieu, John Malkovich and Isabella Rossellini.

Sejaya Production Sdn Bhd (www.sejaya.com.my) Managing Director Ronnie Chan claims SoftImage XSI version 3.5 is the most complete and "user-friendly" animation software now. Sejaya is a local animation solutions provider, and the local distributor for SoftImage XSI.

"Itís also an all-in-one product, and most complete, as it comes with compositing tools," he said. Sejaya is now having discounts on its Softlinage XSI products, and hardware and software bundles, until Aug 30. For more information, call the company at (03) 4251-3823.

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