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A "donnt house" on Olympic Blvd.

Sculpting in ClayTools

3DS Max 8 Pelt function

Autodesk Toxik

Sony Drawing Booth

Disney's Toy Story 3

Organic Modeling

The last time I saw SensAble Technology at SIGGRAPH, their product was not ready for prime time - it wasn't integrated with mainstream packages, cost tens of thousands of dollars, and required a dual-processor machine to run.  This year, their ClayTools System is priced just above $2000 including hardware and software, and fully integrated with Maya or Max.  I spent a while testing the device, and it takes some getting used to, but once you are into it and have it adjusted right it gives an amazing sensation of sculpting into and carving away from clay.  The combination of a 3D input device, force feedback so you can feel what you are sculpting, and the new ClayTools software all add up to a system that anyone serious about organic modeling should check out.  Because what you are sculpting would turn out to be millions of polygons, the software includes functions for creating a controlled subdivision surface plus displacement or normal maps to represent the extra detail, as well as including plug-ins for Maya or Max that allow you to use the hardware within those programs.

The only big competitor to ClayTools is Pixologic Z-Brush, a software-only application that is much cheaper but doesn't offer the feeling of sculpting with clay.  Z-Brush was shown at the Expo in version 2.5, and is looking like a stronger and more popular system every year.

Autodesk

3D Studio Max users were excited by new features unveiled for 3D Studio Max.  According to one source, everyone at the User's Group meeting who creates texture maps was "having orgasms over" the new Pelt Mapping feature for unwrapping and evenly distributing UV's over surfaces.  This looks like the kind of feature that other companies will have to get busy copying to keep their users satisfied.

Also interesting at the Autodesk booth was their new compositing program Toxik.  While Autodesk already offers a bewildering array of different compositing programs, this new one looks to be a serious attempt to compete against Shake in the high-end Linux-based feature film compositing market.  While still in version 1, it already appears to have some advantages in its interface and some interesting nodes that could give it a few advantages over Shake.  Right now, Shake seems to own the feature film compositing market, being used on most big effects films and animated features.  If any other programs shake things up and create more competition, that can only be good for the market.

Shake

Shake showed a nice new version, Shake 4, at it's Users Group Meeting.  In addition to some nice user interface improvements, it also had new optical flow based image processing that looked as if it could correct both the flow of time and image scaling with impressive quality results.  As you'd expect for the leading film compositing application, there were also great presentations of customer work.  ILM showed work they did in Shake on War of the Worlds and Star Wars Episode 3, and there was also a presentation of work done on the hit TV series South Park.  Unfortunately, current Shake owner Apple wasted half of the meeting on platform-advocacy.  If you think platform-advocacy threads are a boring waste of time on the Internet, they are twice as dull in a hotel conference room.  Even when Microsoft owned Softimage they didn't waste half the user's group meetings like this extolling virtues of Windows.

Newtek

Once upon a time, Lightwave used to have a clearly defined niche: it was "the little engine that could" - the $2000 package that could do a lot of the same things the big boys costing $30,000 and up could do.  Times have changed.  When Alias slashed Maya Complete's price to $1995 a few years ago, Newtek lowered Lightwave's price to $1595.  Last year, when Softimage slashed XSI Foundation down to $595, Newtek didn't have a response.  This year, they have almost cut their price in half, so that Lightwave is now going for only $795.  However, if you think about what a production company pays an animator for each week of work, you have to wonder if the price difference between Lightwave and superior animation packages will be enough of a niche to keep Lightwave going.  Only time will tell.

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3dRender.com : Industry & Jobs : SIGGRAPH 2005 : page 1 | page 2 | page 3 | page 4
Pictures and Article Copyright © 2005 by Jeremy Birn