MARKET: XSI is the latest big player in the high-end 3D animation software market, and is being developed by the company that once ruled the market with their earlier Softimage 3D product. Softimage lost a lot of market share to Maya during the years that they were developing XSI, but have recently began gaining some ground back now that XSI has shaped-up as a formidable competitor to Maya.
KEY FEATURES: Modeling in XSI is very strong when working with polygons, as well as multiple types of subdivision surfaces, although NURBS functionality is still very limited. XSI's non-linear animation system sequences clips of animation, but also allows animators to blend and transition between different riggings, constraints, expressions, and externally referenced models. XSI comes with a seamlessly integrated copy of the popular Mental Ray renderer, and includes support for "render regions" which let artists drag a box over any part of any modeling window, and see a fully raytraced mental ray rendering of the corresponding part of the window, which updates as parameters are adjusted, such as moving a shadow when a light is moved, or updating with changes to the camera position or animation. The Rendering system also has the most complete support for customized render passes implemented in any package, and XSI now also includes an integrated compositing system.
HISTORY: Before XSI, the earlier Softimage product called Softimage|3D
(view screenshot) was a popular animation system used in many feature films. The Softimage Creative Environment (the earlier name for Softimage|3D) was the first commercial package to support Inverse Kinematics and other animation break-throughs. Softimage had been an independent company in Montreal, but was acquired by Microsoft in 1994, and became the first of the high-end programs that had been based on the SGI (IRIX) platform to port to Windows NT. Microsoft later sold Softimage to Avid, in exchange for a portion of Avid's stock which Microsoft still owns.