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Software Review: Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites 2014 Ultimate: Mudbox and Softimage

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Autodesk has released the 2014 editions of its Entertainment Creation Suites, offering artists and production facilities a powerful range of creative toolsets. Three kits have been released. With Standard, you pick Maya or 3DS Max, and you get MotionBuilder, Mudbox, SketchBook and Designer. The Premium edition adds Softimage to the bundle. Finally, the Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites 2014 Ultimate suite gives you both Maya and 3DS Max to make a complete suite. I am reviewing Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites 2014 Ultimate, breaking it down into three reviews. The first covered 3ds Max and MotionBuilder, this one will cover Mudbox and Softimage, and the third will cover Maya and SketchBook Designer.

Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites 2014 Ultimate

Mudbox 2014

Mudbox is a brush-based 3D sculpting and painting application built to address the needs of digital sculptors and texture artists. Mudbox, first used to help in the 2005 Peter Jackson remake of King Kong, was created to accelerate the design and sculpting efforts. Its primary use is for high-resolution digital sculpting, texture painting, and displacement and normal map creation. It can also be used as a design tool.

Mudbox gives digital modelers the ability to manipulate digital surfaces in an organic manner either imported from existing files or generated using one of the basic sculpt templates provided with Mudbox. Completed models can be exported from Mudbox to be lit and rendered in other 3D applications.

So what is new with Mudbox 2014?

• Advanced retopology tools: This new toolset allows artists to concentrate on their creations and not the underlying topologies, and will greatly reduce the time in the retopology process. The computed retopology solution works very quickly and is very simple to use. You set a couple of parameters, press the retopologize button, and you are done. There is also a guided, or user-defined method as well. This can be used when you have specific needs for certain areas or edges in your creation, so that you can define or guide the resulting edge flow. There are also tools for making finer adjustments when needed. These include patch, for patching holes; tightening, which pulls faces tight on a surface; and fairing, to smooth and relax the transition between selected faces.

Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites 2014 Ultimate

Mudbox 2014

• Extended multi-touch workflows: These have now been enhanced to support even more multi-touch devices and more abilities to sculpt and paint in a very intuitive and natural way. What this does is give you a much more tactile way to work with your creations while working with a multi-touch device such as a Wacom Cintiq display. It lets you interact more naturally when sculpting and painting in Mudbox. These devices have the ability to take input from more than one point at a time so you can take advantage of using multi-finger or a combination of finger and pen movements to manipulate your creations.

Autodesk Softimage 2014

Autodesk Softimage 2014 extends the capabilities of existing content creation pipelines for today’s demanding television, game, and film projects. Softimage is a high-performance 3D character animation and visual effects application that helps artists and technical directors working with visual effects, post-production, and 3D game development get more out of their development.

Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites 2014 Ultimate

Softimage 2014

So what is new with Softimage 2014?

• Camera Sequencer: This new toolset allows you to create, edit, re-time, and output multiple cameras as though they were one continuous shot. This can help with pre-visualization and enhance your final output animations as well. There are a number of way to access the sequencer, including through the View Layouts menu. It has three main aspects: the camera sequencer editor, where you build your sequence; the viewports that display the sequencer; and the playback controls that are used to create cameras based on your design. You can define cameras for specific time ranges and apply a non-destructive remapping to a scene.

Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites 2014 Ultimate

Softimage 2014

• CrowdFX Enhancements: These significantly improve the management of actors and their behaviors in the CrowdFX system. You have two new ICE trees: Animation Blending, which lets you better define all animation states that an actor is capable of; and Behavior, which is the animation state in use that was defined in the Animation Blending tree. This means that you have a predefined interface between Animation Blending and Behavior trees.

• ICE Enhancements: These include options for procedural content. It is now possible to override the exposed ports of compounds within the ICE procedural framework. This enables artists to use the concept of passes and partitions, where the value for any parameter can be different in each pass, in combination with any aspect of ICE. In addition, performance while interactively editing complex ICE trees has been improved.

• Enhanced FBX Support: This means that exchanging data with other applications and systems that use the Autodesk FBX 2014 asset data exchange – which include 3ds Max, Maya, and MotionBuilder 2014 – is easier than ever. You can import files with basic constraints such as position, orientation, scaling, pose, or direction. You can even import null objects as models.

• High-Quality Viewport enhancements: Enhancements have been made to the High-Quality Viewport, providing a higher-fidelity interactive experience. Shadow maps now work with transparent objects; the quality and performance of Ambient Occlusion has been improved; and shadows are now higher quality.

Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites 2014 Ultimate

Softimage 2014

The improvements to Mudbox are somewhat light, the primary additions being the retopology tools and the multi-touch abilities. Both are welcome and very useful, especially the ability to reduce the time within the retoplogy process.

Softimage has the stronger additional features here, with the additions to CrowdFX and the ability to better define animation states, the Camera Sequencing, the ICE enhancements, and the enhanced FBX support. That being said, Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites 2014 Ultimate is building up to being a pretty good update overall.

Next time I will look at Maya and Sketchbook Designer and see what they bring to the table. Until then, you can download a free trial and see for yourself.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.