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Massive Crowd Simulation Software Softimage Booth People wear Red Hats at Softimage Party Visualeyes Facial Tracking

New crowd simulation tools were on display, lead by Massive, the crowd simulation tool developed at Weta Digital for production on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Massive has a powerful-looking node based interface for visually programming an actor's behavior, and allowed each member of the crowd to perform in reaction to what he sees in his own field of vision.

Built-in crowd simulation functions were also one of the highlights of Softimage's new XSI 3.0. Used in films such as The One, XSI's crowd simulation was complemented by new geometry instancing functions in the included Mental Ray 3.1 renderer, and new non-linear animation tools that allowed existing animated or mo-capped walks to be mapped walking along different shaped paths with correct foot plants, and walking with correct body lean and balance over different terrains.

Softimage had some non-virtual crowds to deal with at their users group meeting, where the capacity crowd over 3000 people filled the available space, and others were left outside of the event drinking free drinks until the party followed later in the evening. The new rendering features in XSI 3 include both volumetric and geometry-based hair and fur shaders, as well as fully layerable displacement maps, allowing complex displacements to be produced that don't just move along the original surface normals, but branch out sideways into new shapes and forms.

Discreet was showing 3D Studio Max version 5, which features new global illumination rendering functions, photometric lighting, conversion (finally) of lighting and projections into filemapped textures, and new character animation functions. They also had a new program called Plasma that gave a limited version of Max, with functions added to render Flash or Shockwave websites and images for other interactive graphics.

Newtek apparently now makes its home here in San Antonio (whatever happened to Topeka, Kansas?), and was showing Lightwave version 7.5. Newtek is in an interesting position, now that competing higher-end packages have drastically cut their prices to within a few hundred dollars of Lightwave's price, Lightwave does not seem like a huge bargain anymore. The architecture and "new" features they were demoing are all starting to look somewhat old. Next Page...

Pictures and Article Copyright 2002 by Jeremy Birn www.3dRender.com