Navigating relationships in Softimage (new to the software)

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Sergio Mucino

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Sep 18, 2013, 10:47:28 AM9/18/13
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Hello. I have a very basic question for anyone who might be able to help.
I just got started using Softimage, and I'm having the usual problems
anyone faces when starting to use new software they're not familiar with
(just for background information purposes, I'm coming from Maya and Max.
I state this just so that it gives you an idea of the language I might
be using). One of the things that I'm having a hard time right now is
navigating scene relationships.

I'm trying to find a tool that will help me to efficiently find scene
relationships, and so far, I haven't found an easy way to navigate these
relationships. I'm trying to find my way through someone else's files,
and finding what's related to each object is a bit of a PITA at this
point. I'm using the Explorer as a starting point, but it doesn't get me
there the entire way. Let me give you an example.

I've got a mesh selected. In the Explorer, I can see it's being deformed
by a Lattice, and an Envelope Operator. I need to find the actual scene
objects that are driving these deformations. For the Envelope Op, I know
I can go to Deform/Envelope/Select Deformer from Envelope, and it will
select in the scene the objects that are driving the envelope's
deformations (I'd rather not lose my selection, just get a list of the
objects used as deformers, but I'm ok with Softimage working this way).
However, the Lattice is an entirely different story. If I select the
Lattice operator and inspect its properties, the only reference I can
find in the Properties dialog is to its cluster. If I then find that
cluster in the Cluster folder for my object, and check its properties, I
get nothing. There seems to be no way I can get to the actual Lattice
object in the scene deforming this cluster easily.

The only way I've found so far has been to use the Schematic View. If I
turn on all the Links (for the selected object only, of course.
Otherwise, I just get a noodle soup), with my geo selected I can see
links going to different objects in the scene. I had to track down each
link (which in a scene this size took a lot of scrolling, especially
since zooming out gets rid of the names on the links) until I found the
link that had "Lattice" written on it. Then I could follow it and find
the scene object that the Lattice operator refers to.

I would like to know if there's a more efficient way of navigating scene
relationships than this. I'm sure than being completely new to the
software, I'm missing a lot. I've tried googling around, and asking
people at work, but haven't been able to uncover much. If someone has
some pointers towards getting stuff done faster, I'll be very glad to
hear them. Just for information purposes only, I'm trying to get the
same information I'd get my graphing an object in the Maya Hypergraph...
a view or list of all relationships for the selected object(s).
If this is not possible (I understand Softimage might have a totally
different way of doing quite a few things), if someone else could
describe how they tend to work to find their way in the scene, I'd love
to hear that too.
I appreciate any help or pointers anyone might have. Thanks a lot for
your time!

Sergio Mucino
Lead Rigger
Modus FX

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David Barosin

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Sep 18, 2013, 11:05:57 AM9/18/13
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Try the SDK explorer (Object Details tab). (ctrl + shift +  4, using softimage keymap)

It will list the port connections.  You can select the operators (i.e. envelope, lattice)  and it will list the objects/deformers connected.

Matt Morris

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Sep 18, 2013, 11:12:26 AM9/18/13
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Also rather than having the object selected, have the operator (ie lattice op) selected in the explorer, and it will show just that link in the schematic.

Eric Thivierge

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Sep 18, 2013, 11:12:33 AM9/18/13
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Schematic view is probably as close to the Hypergraph workflow you're
going to get honestly. If your rig structure is clean and organized it
shouldn't be too bad to deal with. I will say that even the Hypergraph
can get a bit soupie.

You may need to write yourself some scripts to present the data to you
in a way you understand.

If I recall there was a command that you can get the connection info in
xml form that shows the 2 way connections and parse it from there.
Check the google group archive and search for Alan Fregtman's post
about it. I think it's been discussed a few times before.

Eric T.

Sergio Mucino

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Sep 18, 2013, 11:18:09 AM9/18/13
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Thanks a lot for the suggestions! This does indeed get me somewhere. Cheers!
--
Sergio Mucino
Lead Rigger
Modus FX

Alan Fregtman

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Sep 18, 2013, 11:19:32 AM9/18/13
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Hi Sergio,

I know where you're coming from but in Softimage it's not quite like the nodal graph inside Maya. The Schematic view hints at that concept, but it's kinda meh.

Do you know if you enable "Relations" in the "eyeball menu" (at the top of any viewport) it will visually show links between operators visually? If you have something latticed, selecting the latticed mesh will tell you that "lattice <- latticeObjectName" and you can even select it and it will select the relevant operator. (If it becomes visually overwhelming, you can just isolate your viewport to one mesh from the camera menu, "Isolate Selection".)

It doesn't quite work both ways (like selecting a lattice and getting what meshes are hooked to it) but it's still very useful.

About the XML dump of the connection stack that Eric mentioned, look in the docs for "DataRepository.GetConnectionStackInfo". It gives you an XML description of all links (in both directions I think.)

Cheers and welcome to Softimage,

   -- Alan



On Wed, Sep 18, 2013 at 10:47 AM, Sergio Mucino <sergio...@modusfx.com> wrote:

Sergio Mucino

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Sep 18, 2013, 11:21:58 AM9/18/13
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Thanks Eric! Yes, the Hypergraph can get complicated, but I'm used to finding my way through it rather reasonably.

I was actually thinking about the scripting side of things... I'm not sure how scriptable the behavior of the Schematic View is, but if I could get it to only display the selected node and any other connected nodes and hide the rest, that would already get me a long way towards a happier healthier life :-) .

I will do the search you suggested. Thanks again!

--
Sergio Mucino
Lead Rigger
Modus FX

David Barosin

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Sep 18, 2013, 11:43:17 AM9/18/13
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You can sort of get that with the XSI Explorer -  (alt + 8)  and set the viewer menu's display to schematic. 

Stephen Davidson

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Sep 18, 2013, 11:47:38 AM9/18/13
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Getting used to new software is no picnic, for sure.
Although much of what you need it familiarity with the interface,
shortcut keys are a BIG part of my personal workflow.

In the example that you give, the XSI Explorer, with the scene root
selected, will give you almost any relationship that you are looking for.
In the front, top, or any scene view window, pressing the space bar allows you to select
your object. Moving the cursor to the XSI Explorer and pressing the "f" key will instantly
show the selected object. That way you can see the relationship to any other
objects (constraint, parenting, etc).

This saves having to manually navigate the hierarchy.

Just one tip, but I hope this helps.
--

Best Regards,
  Stephen P. Davidson 
       
(954) 552-7956
    sdav...@3Danimationmagic.com

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic

                                                                             - Arthur C. Clarke


Sergio Mucino

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Sep 18, 2013, 12:24:30 PM9/18/13
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This is awesome! This gives me what I was looking for. Thanks a lot David!


Sergio Mucino
Lead Rigger
Modus FX

Sergio Mucino

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Sep 18, 2013, 12:29:31 PM9/18/13
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Thanks Alan! This is useful too. It's a bit difficult to read what's going on, since there's a lot going on in my viewports, but it may come in handy for sure for times when I do isolate stuff (I'm doing that quite a bit to inspect rigs that are already created).
I'll check on the XML dump, but it seems that everyone's suggestions have gotten me out of the hole I was in. I really appreciate it. I'll keep moving forward, even if at a snail's pace (for now :-) ). Cheers!


Sergio Mucino
Lead Rigger
Modus FX

Sergio Mucino

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Sep 18, 2013, 12:31:51 PM9/18/13
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Thanks a lot Stephen! I'm definitely using as many as possible. I'm already comfortable with the Explorer and I can move fast within it. I just wasn't able to get all the info I needed from it, but it looks like I can now. Thanks a lot for your help!


Sergio Mucino
Lead Rigger
Modus FX

Sergio Mucino

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Sep 18, 2013, 12:41:26 PM9/18/13
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Well, I don't know why, but after embedding the XSI Explorer into a Layout Panel, now it displays the standard Schematic view with everything displayed, instead of the 'filtered' one with only the selected object and its relatioships. I've been trying to locate which filter I might have turned off in the menus, unsuccessfully. Any pointers? Thanks everyone!


Sergio Mucino
Lead Rigger
Modus FX

David Barosin

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Sep 18, 2013, 12:45:25 PM9/18/13
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If you select objects in the related explorer on the left does it filter properly? 

Sergio Mucino

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Sep 18, 2013, 12:46:07 PM9/18/13
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No. It just highlights them in the Schematic View.
If I bring up a floating window of the XSI Explorer using the shortcut, it shows the same.
I'll try deleting it from the layout and see what happens.


Sergio Mucino
Lead Rigger
Modus FX

Sergio Mucino

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Sep 18, 2013, 12:52:25 PM9/18/13
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No change. I guess some preference somewhere got ticked off. I'll see if I can locate it...


Sergio Mucino
Lead Rigger
Modus FX

Stephen Davidson

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Sep 18, 2013, 12:59:53 PM9/18/13
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Good one, David. I missed that in over 20 years of using Softimage!
Well, ok ...13 years using the "XSI" interface.
You just showed me my new favorite tool.
Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

Thanks for asking the question, Sergio.
Learning something new, every day, is what this business is all about.

The value of this list is constantly reaffirmed.

Sergio Mucino

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Sep 18, 2013, 12:58:05 PM9/18/13
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Ok, it's interesting. It's only doing this for certain objects. It's not doing it for others. I'll have to look into why for some objects, the entire scene hierarchy is displayed, and not for others.


Sergio Mucino
Lead Rigger
Modus FX

Stephen Davidson

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Sep 18, 2013, 1:43:25 PM9/18/13
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are the objects part of a hierarchy?
The schematic view does show the entire hierarchy, normally.

Sergio Mucino

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Sep 18, 2013, 1:46:09 PM9/18/13
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Yeah, but that's the thing... for some objects, it displays the entire hierarchy, whereas for other objects (I tested with a direct sibling) it just displays the selected object and its relationships. I cannot find any logic into why sometimes Softimage will decide to display everything.


Sergio Mucino
Lead Rigger
Modus FX

Stephen Davidson

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Sep 18, 2013, 2:33:22 PM9/18/13
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does that sibling have other siblings?
If not, that would be correct.

Matt Lind

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Sep 18, 2013, 2:45:31 PM9/18/13
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Display is based on selection.

 

If you left-click to select in node mode, you’ll likely only see selected nodes.

If you middle or right click to select, you’ll see a branch or tree of selected nodes.

 

In the schematic view you can isolate the selection with the ‘e’ key just like in the explorer.  Press ‘w’ to return to scene view, and ‘y’ to view the current layer.  To keep the schematic display clean I use ‘draw parallel links’ and show ‘operator links’ beyond the default settings. 

 

In general, the schematic view is for the macro view of the scene while the scene explorer is for the micro view.  The combination of the two should paint the picture you’re looking for.  Use schematic to find relationships either by links or by inspecting the letter codes above the nodes, use the scene explorer to look at the details of the relationship.  If you need programming information, as mentioned in an earlier post you can use the SDK Explorer.  The SDK Explorer is mostly useful for developing new tools or for troubleshooting a misbehaving operators such as an envelope which is missing deformers. 

 

I typically put the scene explorer filter to ‘all nodes’ which gives a big dump of information, but also allows you to see things that comprise the relationships you may be looking for.  By default Softimage shows friendly cosmetic labels for names of properties, objects, and so on.  Activating ‘use script names’ tells Softimage to use the name used in code which is what you see logged in the script editor.  The ‘parameter values’ setting allows you to see parameter values when the parameter is marked.  You can also use shift + select to highlight a range of parameters, and lock them using the marking menu if you plan on changing selections frequently or use/view the same parameters often.  This is handy for viewing parameters which may not be displayed in a property’s or operator’s PPG.

 

One view that is overlooked for this type of work is the spreadsheet view.  The default queries are pretty basic, but you can create your own to dig into the scene a little deeper and make mass edits simple.  You can isolate, select, edit, and manipulate objects, properties, and parameter values from a central location.  The one thing lacking are callbacks to make the view respond to user interaction.



To answer some of your specific questions:

 

1) How to find what is deformed by a Lattice

 

In the schematic view if you select the lattice you should see a link between the lattice and the affected objects (assuming show > operator links is active).  If you select the link(s) and press <ALT + Up Arrow>, Softimage will select the affected objects.  To go the opposite direction will require some custom work on your end.  General rule of thumb is operators always live on the slaves of any master/slave relationship.  In this example the lattice is the master  and the affected objects are the slaves.

 

2) Navigating scene relationships.

 

A tool you can use in conjunction with schematic and explorer views are the custom selection filters (small circular button with triangle icon near top of MCP).  When used as a selection filter, only objects satisfying the filter can be selected in the 3D views and data views such as Schematic.  For example, if you want to find all lattices in the scene, you can set the selection filter to lattice then do a rectangular selection around the entire scene (or in schematic view).  Once the lattices are found, press ‘f’ to frame them for easier viewing (do ‘reset all user positions’ then press <CTRL + R> to make viewing more pleasant).

 

If a selection filter is used in the scene explorer, then only objects satisfying the filter criteria will be displayed in the scene explorer (equivalent to manually selecting the objects and pressing ‘e’ to isolate selection).  By default the custom filters menu is hidden in the scene explorer, therefore right-click the empty part to the right of the “?” button and choose ‘custom’.  Clicking the circular button with the triangle will give you access to the filters just like on the MCP.  To view only lattices in the scene, choose SE > [Filters] Filters > [Control Objects] Lattice.

 

If the selection filter is used from code, it will return only objects satisfying the filter criteria (or not if you choose inverse behavior). 

 

Example:  Return all lattices in the scene

SIFilter( “*”, siLatticeFilter, true, siQuickSearch ); 

 

Example 2: return everything except for lattices

                SIFilter( “*”, siLatticeFilter, false, siQuickSearch );

 

Example 3: run a custom selection filter registered as “MyCustomFilter”

                SIFilter( “*”, “MyCustomFilter”, true, siQuickSearch );

 

 

 

 

Basically, navigation in Softimage is a layered approach as the supporting tools do niche tasks which are expected to be used in a sequence to get what you want.  This allows the tools to remain simple, generic, and multi-purpose.  It’s not like Maya where you have everything-and-the-kitchen-sink in one place for a dedicated purpose.

 

In softimage you select object(s) in the viewports or schematic, then isolate or view the details in the scene explorer or press <ATL + Enter> to view the information in a PPG.  Support tools such as custom filters, spreadsheet, or the built-in navigation tools can make the process really fast even for large scenes.

 

 

 

Matt

Sergio Mucino

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Sep 18, 2013, 3:33:55 PM9/18/13
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Thanks a lot Matt. I've added some details to your comments below... cheers!


Sergio Mucino
Lead Rigger
Modus FX

On 18/09/2013 2:45 PM, Matt Lind wrote:

Display is based on selection.

 

If you left-click to select in node mode, you’ll likely only see selected nodes.

If you middle or right click to select, you’ll see a branch or tree of selected nodes.

[Sergio]: I'm aware of this. I have been selecting single objects only. Still, for many, the entire hierarchy is displayed.

 

In the schematic view you can isolate the selection with the ‘e’ key just like in the explorer.  Press ‘w’ to return to scene view, and ‘y’ to view the current layer.  To keep the schematic display clean I use ‘draw parallel links’ and show ‘operator links’ beyond the default settings. 

[Sergio]: Weird... the above hotkeys do work in the Explorer, but they seem to do nothing in the XSI Explorer. They do work on the regular Schematic View. However, they're pretty useless in this one, since I cannot isolate an object and still retain its relationships... those are hidden too. In the XSI Explorer, I can see the selected object with its related objects, but as I mentioned before, for several objects, this seems to not be the case... I get the entire hierarchy.

 

In general, the schematic view is for the macro view of the scene while the scene explorer is for the micro view.  The combination of the two should paint the picture you’re looking for.  Use schematic to find relationships either by links or by inspecting the letter codes above the nodes, use the scene explorer to look at the details of the relationship.  If you need programming information, as mentioned in an earlier post you can use the SDK Explorer.  The SDK Explorer is mostly useful for developing new tools or for troubleshooting a misbehaving operators such as an envelope which is missing deformers. 

[Sergio]: Gotcha. So far, I'm using combinations of everything.

 

I typically put the scene explorer filter to ‘all nodes’ which gives a big dump of information, but also allows you to see things that comprise the relationships you may be looking for.  By default Softimage shows friendly cosmetic labels for names of properties, objects, and so on.  Activating ‘use script names’ tells Softimage to use the name used in code which is what you see logged in the script editor.  The ‘parameter values’ setting allows you to see parameter values when the parameter is marked.  You can also use shift + select to highlight a range of parameters, and lock them using the marking menu if you plan on changing selections frequently or use/view the same parameters often.  This is handy for viewing parameters which may not be displayed in a property’s or operator’s PPG.

[Sergio]: Thanks for the tip on the names and the parameters. I'll definitely try them out.

 

One view that is overlooked for this type of work is the spreadsheet view.  The default queries are pretty basic, but you can create your own to dig into the scene a little deeper and make mass edits simple.  You can isolate, select, edit, and manipulate objects, properties, and parameter values from a central location.  The one thing lacking are callbacks to make the view respond to user interaction.

[Sergio]: Hmmm... interesting! I think custom queries are definitely worth a look. Thanks for pointing this one out!



To answer some of your specific questions:

 

1) How to find what is deformed by a Lattice

 

In the schematic view if you select the lattice you should see a link between the lattice and the affected objects (assuming show > operator links is active).  If you select the link(s) and press <ALT + Up Arrow>, Softimage will select the affected objects.  To go the opposite direction will require some custom work on your end.  General rule of thumb is operators always live on the slaves of any master/slave relationship.  In this example the lattice is the master  and the affected objects are the slaves.

[Sergio]: Ah, that <ALT + Up Arrow> shortcut is gonna prove very useful. Thanks!

 

2) Navigating scene relationships.

 

A tool you can use in conjunction with schematic and explorer views are the custom selection filters (small circular button with triangle icon near top of MCP).  When used as a selection filter, only objects satisfying the filter can be selected in the 3D views and data views such as Schematic.  For example, if you want to find all lattices in the scene, you can set the selection filter to lattice then do a rectangular selection around the entire scene (or in schematic view).  Once the lattices are found, press ‘f’ to frame them for easier viewing (do ‘reset all user positions’ then press <CTRL + R> to make viewing more pleasant).

 

If a selection filter is used in the scene explorer, then only objects satisfying the filter criteria will be displayed in the scene explorer (equivalent to manually selecting the objects and pressing ‘e’ to isolate selection).  By default the custom filters menu is hidden in the scene explorer, therefore right-click the empty part to the right of the “?” button and choose ‘custom’.  Clicking the circular button with the triangle will give you access to the filters just like on the MCP.  To view only lattices in the scene, choose SE > [Filters] Filters > [Control Objects] Lattice.

 

If the selection filter is used from code, it will return only objects satisfying the filter criteria (or not if you choose inverse behavior). 

 

Example:  Return all lattices in the scene

SIFilter( “*”, siLatticeFilter, true, siQuickSearch ); 

 

Example 2: return everything except for lattices

                SIFilter( “*”, siLatticeFilter, false, siQuickSearch );

 

Example 3: run a custom selection filter registered as “MyCustomFilter”

                SIFilter( “*”, “MyCustomFilter”, true, siQuickSearch );

 

 

[Sergio]: Ok. I'll experiment a bit with this when I have some time. Thanks!

 

 

Basically, navigation in Softimage is a layered approach as the supporting tools do niche tasks which are expected to be used in a sequence to get what you want.  This allows the tools to remain simple, generic, and multi-purpose.  It’s not like Maya where you have everything-and-the-kitchen-sink in one place for a dedicated purpose.

[Sergio]: I guess it's a matter of getting used to it (pretty much like anything). I'm kinda stuck at the "I know what I want to do, but have no idea how to do it" phase. I'm sure that as I become more familiar with how things work in SI I'll start to feel less pain :-) .

 

In softimage you select object(s) in the viewports or schematic, then isolate or view the details in the scene explorer or press <ATL + Enter> to view the information in a PPG.  Support tools such as custom filters, spreadsheet, or the built-in navigation tools can make the process really fast even for large scenes.

[Sergio]: Really appreciate the comments Matt. I've sort of arrived at a layout of tools that allows me to move along at a rather decent pace. I'm just still puzzled by the behavior of the XSI Explorer (when in Schematic mode) since it forces me to scroll for quite a bit when it just decides to barf the entire hierarchy on me to find the pieces of information I need (and I could have bet that didn't happen until I decided to "dock" it as a panel on a custom layout).
Anyway, thanks again, and I hope I won't have to spam this email list with silly things :-)  (believe me I do my homework before sending out an email to everyone here, but sometimes, I just can't move forward no more).
Cheers!

Stephen Davidson

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Sep 18, 2013, 3:02:11 PM9/18/13
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selecting hierarchies has mouse button options...
left mouse (with space) selects node...middle mouse button selects the branch
and the right mouse button selects the tree or chain.

is that what is going on?

Sergio Mucino

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Sep 18, 2013, 3:54:26 PM9/18/13
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AFAICT, this only affects selecting stuff in the viewports, not in the Explorer (which is what seems to be embedded in the XSI Explorer, which I am using).


Sergio Mucino
Lead Rigger
Modus FX

Andreas Böinghoff

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Sep 19, 2013, 4:37:16 AM9/19/13
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nice trick!
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Christian Gotzinger

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Sep 19, 2013, 1:02:05 PM9/19/13
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Just a quick tip: you can also press Ctrl+A, which always respects your selection filter. If the filter is set to lattice, Ctrl+A selects all lattices in the scene.

Matt Lind

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Sep 19, 2013, 1:53:42 PM9/19/13
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It will also select above the scene root – which is not a problem for lattices as lattices cannot exist above the scene root, but other types like custom properties can.

 

 

Matt

 

 

 

 

From: softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com [mailto:softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com] On Behalf Of Christian Gotzinger
Sent: Thursday, September 19, 2013 10:02 AM
To: soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
Subject: Re: Navigating relationships in Softimage (new to the software)

 

Just a quick tip: you can also press Ctrl+A, which always respects your selection filter. If the filter is set to lattice, Ctrl+A selects all lattices in the scene.

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