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Software Review – Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites 2013 Ultimate: Autodesk Mudbox and Softimage

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Autodesk has released the 2013 editions of their Entertainment Creation Suites. This offers artists and production facilities access to a powerful range of creative toolsets. There are three editions that have been released – Standard, Premium, and Ultimate. With the Standard edition you get either Autodesk Maya or Autodesk 3ds Max as well as Autodesk MotionBuilder, Autodesk SketchBook Designer, and Autodesk Mudbox. The Premium edition additionally contains Autodesk Softimage. With the Ultimate edition you get all six of the products. I will cover all six products and will break this down into three reviews. The first will cover 3ds Max, and MotionBuilder, the second will cover Mudbox and Softimage, and the third will cover Maya, and SketchBook Designer.

Autodesk Mudbox 2013

 

Mudbox 2013

Mudbox is a brush based 3D sculpting and painting application built to address the needs of digital sculpters and texture artists. Mudbox was first used to help in the 2005 Peter Jackson remake of King Kong and was created to accelerate the design and sculpting efforts. It’s 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.

It is through the use of a simplified interface that allows for more an intuitive experience in your modeling that Mudbox, gives you the ability to create and render complex details much easier with less of a learning curve. Designed by professional artists from the game, film, television and design industry, the goal of Mudbox is to create production grade 3D artwork.

So what is new with Mudbox 2013?

• Customizable Mudbox layout – is now available through dragging, resizing, and close or open the tools and windows in Mudbox. In this way you can create a custom layout based on the way that you work. You can lock your layout so that stays the way you want or you can import and export layouts with friends or other artists.

Autodesk Mudbox 2013

• Gigatexel engine – now lets you create a lot more detail – in numbers in the billions of texels – which let you produce texture complexity required by today‘s high-resolution formats and increasingly demanding consumers. The amount of detail possible is limited only by the artist‘s hardware configuration. Even when working with multiple layers for multiple textures on a lower-end graphics card, the Gigatexel engine works automatically and transparently to help artists efficiently handle exponentially more pixels.

• ViewCube – is an on-screen 3D navigation tool that should be familiar to the users of other Autodesk 3D applications. It provides feedback about the camera view with relation to the 3D scene. The ViewCube also lets you switch between scene views quickly and easily and lets you focus on your painting and sculpting. Through the use of the ViewCube menu, you can change the size, behavior, and appearance of the ViewCube.

• 3D connexion Devices – are now supported for navigation and re-orienting your way through a view. These kinds of devices can boost your productivity in Mudbox by allowing for a two-handed work style. You can use your 3Dconnexion device with one hand to precisely position and visualize your model, while you use a stylus with the other hand to select, paint, and sculpt.

• New Selection Tools – in the Select/Move tray include Borders and UV Shell tools letting you easily select all faces on a boundary edge (such as the edge of a hole), or all faces included in a single UV shell.

Autodesk Mudbox 2013

• Reset to default – now exists in many of the properties window for many tools. This gives you the ability to experiment with adjustments to the tool settings and then reset them to the default values if you need to.

• Freeze transforms – much in the same way that you can in Maya. This gives you the ability to translate, rotate, and scale the object in Mudbox. You can then select Mesh > Freeze Transformations to set its current position as its new ‘zero’ position, essentially redefining the local origin for that object.

• Hotkey preferences – can now be set across a Suite if your Mudbox is part of a Suite. This gives you the ability to set which product hotkeys you use across the suite. New Interaction Mode preferences also let you edit this setting. Keep in mind that if you use this preference in another product in your Suite, the options will not display in the Mudbox Setup window.

• Duplicate and flip models – give you the ability to quickly create pairs of objects (like boots or gloves) or repeated features like double doors through the use of the Edit and Mesh menus. Flipping the model is also useful if the primary sculpting application in your pipeline uses a default Z-Up scene orientation. Since Mudbox uses Y-Up orientation, you can quickly and easily flip your imported to display upright in Mudbox, then flip it back when ready to export.

Autodesk Mudbox 2013

• Tiling planes – for painting and sculpting let you sculpt and paint tiled detail creating seamless, repeated features or textures. Using the new Create Tiling Plane window to specify the size and orientation of the plane, then use any paint or sculpt tool to create your repeating pattern. Use your tiled textures to efficiently cover large surface areas, or extract the sculpted detail into a displacement map (including vector displacement maps with undercuts and overhangs).

• Falloff curve editing improvements – have been updated to make it easier to adjust the shape of sculpt and paint tool falloff. You can now add or delete points on the curve with a single click. In addition, a new Falloff Curve window lets you work with an expanded view of the curve for easier editing.

Mudbox 2013 is very easy to install and it provides a very intuitive interface that takes a lot of the learning curve out of modeling in 3D. I personally like the way you can customize the interface and then lock it down as well as the ViewCube for easy access to many useful items right at your fingertips.

They have also increased the processing capability through the Gigatexel engine which means that even if you have a lower end graphics card you have the ability to create better renderings much more efficiently than ever before. There is even new support for importing and exporting 16-bit PSD files.

Softimage 2013

Autodesk Softimage 2013 software extends the capabilities of existing content creation pipelines for today’s demanding television, games, and film projects. Softimage is a high-performance 3D character animation and visual effects application. help artists and technical directors working in visual effects, post production, and 3D game development get more out of their development.

Autodesk Softimage 2013

 

So what is new with Softimage 2013?

• Viewing and playback – gives you a high quality display mode which gives a close approximation of the final rendered image in the viewport, including soft shadows, bump and normal maps, light attenuation, environment, procedural textures, and more. It works by compiling MetaSL code into CgFX instructions on-the-fly at runtime. It works with all the MetaSL shaders, as well as with many of the standard Softimage shaders for mental ray whose shader definitions have been adapted to support it. If a shader is not supported in High Quality display mode, it is ignored along with any shaders connected into it. You can start with the maximized viewport as well.

• Color management – now gives you the ability to apply gamma correction to the Fx Viewer using the FX Viewers setting on the Color Management tab of the your Display Preferences. The Lookup Table option in the Softimage|FX Viewer Settings Dialog Box has been renamed to Override Color Management Preference.

• GATOR improvements – include the ability for you to now select objects, points, edges, polygons, or clusters as the target. Previously, you could select only objects, polygons, and polygon clusters. You can now also use multiple GATOR operators to transfer envelopes from multiple objects. Each GATOR operator adds a separate envelope operator. Previously, you needed to use a single GATOR operator to transfer envelopes from all sources at once. Also, there is a new Envelope checkbox to disable the transfer of envelopes when the corresponding Transfer button is pressed.

Autodesk Softimage 2013

 

• Animation and Rigging – give you some new abilities such as you can now draw implicit bone chains from either the Model or Animate toolbar. The new Retime Keys tool in the fcurve editor lets you easily retime animation directly on the fcurves. You create retime markers to mark any segment of the fcurves you want to retime, and then drag the retime markers to squash, stretch, or shift the animation as you like. The new Disable Auto Switch option in the Animation Editor Preferences prevents the animation editor from automatically switching to the expression, scripted operator, or fcurve editor based on the type of animation that’s on the selected element.

• ICE Modeling – has new features such as the Clone Topo node creates multiple copies of the input topology. No transformation is applied so all copies are superimposed. However, later in the ICE tree you can distinguish between components on different copies and apply different transforms by using Modulo on the component indices, as done in Create Copies from Polygon Mesh. The Build Array from Set node now supports location and topology-type attributes. The Set Materials from Library compound now stores the entire material name including the path, and the performance of many of the ICE modeling nodes and compounds has been improved.

 

Autodesk Softimage 2013

 

• ICE CrowdFX- is a dedicated environment for building sophisticated crowd simulations in Softimage. CrowdFX is designed for pedestrian and stadium type simulations that require a plane on which the actors move or stand. As such, it’s not designed for flocking or schooling movements that can happen on any plane in 3D space, such as with flying or swimming. Based on ICE, it lets you create complex effects using large numbers of characters that react to their environment in an intelligent manor. Once you’ve finished a crowd simulation, you can export it in the familiar FBX format to send to Autodesk Maya and other 3D programs that can import FBX.

Autodesk Softimage 2013

 

The features in Softimage that I really like are the High-Quality Viewport and the CroudFX capability. That along with the new modeling capabilities and other tools makes it a worthy update.

When you combine this with the updates to Mudbox, the Entertainment Creation Suites is shaping up to be a really nice update made even better with 3ds Max and MotionBuilder. Next time I will finish it up with a look at Maya and the new product, 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.