Softimage at Autodesk - an observation

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Jason Brynford-Jones

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Jun 30, 2011, 2:52:53 PM6/30/11
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I was trying to articulate the Autodesk big picture to someone the other day and thought the conversation and conclusions relevant enough to share.

Market share and growth:
When a company has a good share of any market they are eventually faced with growth issues. And growth is key to a public company's stock price (it is never enough to simply make the same revenue every year)

There are basically three options for growth in this situation:
1 Continue with your current offerings and go after the rest of the market share
2 Raise prices to grow revenue
3 Sell more products to your current user base

Breakdown - let's examine these options:
1 Continue as is. This is easy to do - everything is already in place. However any growth will be small. To gain more market share one could consider making some significant changes to existing offerings. This costs a lot and will still only return a small growth opportunity.

2 Raising prices is a simple solution. Though this would not be well received nor would it help maintaining being competitive. Also does that mean price rises happen every time you need growth? I think not.

3 Sell more products to existing customers. This sounds simple but what else can be sold? In Autodesk's case they have a large number of products which are applicable to the 3d market - they could also make new ones. However simply trying to sell additional products to the same customers is not easy - if it were, it would have already happened.

Growth Strategy:
So Autodesk, has taken a leaf out of Adobe's book and made a Suite of products at the same time improving interop (which is crucial to success)

Given Maya and Max have the largest install base of Autodesk's entertainment products, make a Suite for them to maximize growth potential (or flip that for Japan where Softimage has a large install base).

Tweak the value proposition:
After a couple of Suite combination iterations the biggest selling point of the Suite is now Softimage. Over time adding more products to the Suite helps maintains the value proposition.

Marketing:
Now the biggest selling points of Softimage are ICE and Face Robot. Trying to market the whole product is really hard when there is overlap between the products. Too many features is also harder to remember for Sales people - and for marketing to craft a clear message.

For sure Autodesk could do more marketing and events for Softimage. They could articulate the vision better and clear up some confusion and doubt. I think this will change with the Suite being the focus. We will see more air time for Softimage as it will be a big factor in the value proposition.

Training:
Do you know that for all students and facilities there is the Education Suite - which has all the products in one package? Maya, 3ds Max, Softimage, Mudbox and MotionBuilder. For sure. the job market can influence their decisions (as well as what product was used for their favorite film/game), but sill this exposure is amazing.

What does this all mean for Softimage?:
Well the irony is that if every Max and Maya user buys a suite, Softimage will actually have the highest seat count of all the products.

Does this mean Autodesk will eventually kill Softimage? If Softimage is the driving force behind a Suite - why would they? It simply does not make sense.

Conclusions:
Softimage is here to stay
Suites are the future.
The marketing message will change.
Softimage seats will grow.


Jason "Chinny" Brynford-Jones
Softimage Product Manager


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john clausing

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Jun 30, 2011, 2:59:53 PM6/30/11
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chinny,

i wonder about "support"? isn't reducing the "support" staff one way to increase revenue? surely autodesk has noticed that it employs overlapping disciplines given its 3 major products.

unfortunately, i find myself wondering if the odd man out will be softimage due to the obvious decrease in overhead should a development team be deleted.

john


From: Jason Brynford-Jones <Jason.Bryn...@autodesk.com>
To: "soft...@listproc.autodesk.com" <soft...@listproc.autodesk.com>
Sent: Thursday, June 30, 2011 2:52 PM
Subject: Softimage at Autodesk - an observation

Gene Crucean

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Jun 30, 2011, 3:01:06 PM6/30/11
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Interesting insight Chinny. Thanks for sharing.

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Eric Thivierge

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Jun 30, 2011, 3:25:00 PM6/30/11
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Thanks Chinny!

Having someone inside explaining this stuff to the user base helps for sure.

--------------------------------------------
Eric Thivierge
Technical Director
http://www.ethivierge.com

David Barosin

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Jun 30, 2011, 3:58:48 PM6/30/11
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Chinny.  Thanks for sharing the insight.    I'm always hoping for the best.    I like the idea of a suite.  Adobe offers a suite at a much reduced cost and you always have the option to buy each package a la carte. 

Are we saying that we won't be able to buy softimage without a suite and is the reciprocal going to be true for max and maya users? 

Hang in there we're rooting for you. 



Andy Moorer

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Jun 30, 2011, 4:16:34 PM6/30/11
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Very interesting, thanks for sharing.

Remember, Adobe invests a huge amount of resources towards development and marketing despite having virtually complete coverage of their market. The reason for this is twofold:

- Competition. Any company which rests on their laurels after cornering their market is doomed to be supplanted by a newcomer, which can come out of nowhere, leapfrogging the technology and outshining the existing marketing.

- Growing the market once the market share has been cornered... By increasing the capabilities of your applications, new markets will emerge and existing markets will gain more users. Simpler versions (ex Adobe elements) can also be spawned off to appeal to hobbyists and prosumers who might not otherwise be in the market.

Multiple applications appealing to the same market (internal competition) can be an excellent way to keep dominance of market share. Softimage's value to autodesk is not only from it's sales, it is also valuable in that it's user base is under the AD umbrella instead of splitting off and possibly empowering a competitor.

Adobe seems to follow that same formula, for instance many of their applications have huge overlaps in basic functionality but entirely different user bases. Adobe markets and develops each application aggressively, and in fact seems to increase their efforts on the applications with less sales - the applications which have a greater potential to reach new customers.

Under that way of thinking, AD would be wise to redouble efforts to promote and develop the packages with less market share, because they have more room to grow and in doing so can interest and excite new users into the market.

Anyway, thanks for the open outreach. Softimage is stronger and more exciting than it's ever been, and I think it has generated huge interest in potential new users of late. Keep it up. :)

Eric Turman

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Jun 30, 2011, 4:49:56 PM6/30/11
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Well and articulately stated Andy and Chinny. =)
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Meng-Yang Lu

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Jun 30, 2011, 5:54:15 PM6/30/11
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Soooooooo....

ADSK trades at 38.60 right now.  When would be a good time to buy Chinny?  Hello?  Still there?  :P

-Lu

Jason Brynford-Jones

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Jun 30, 2011, 7:27:49 PM6/30/11
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>>>

From: David Barosin

...Adobe offers a suite at a much reduced cost and you always have the option to buy each package a la carte.
>>>Same for Autodesk - I think you can even upgrade to the Premium Suite for something like $1500. meaning you are adding Soft, Mudbox and MotionBuilder for only $1500 which is a no-brainer

Are we saying that we won't be able to buy softimage without a suite and is the reciprocal going to be true for max and maya users?

>>> no, you will still be able to buy any individual product - but the price to get the Suite will be most appealing.
________________________________
From: john clausing

i wonder about "support"? isn't reducing the "support" staff one way to increase revenue? surely autodesk has noticed that it employs overlapping disciplines given its 3 major products.

>>> Reducing staff is normally only done when times are bad (IE sales are going down) and then only as a last resort. And times are not bad at Autodesk. Reducing staff does not promote growth it only effects the bottom line. And like raising prices, you can't do it every year as a growth strategy.

unfortunately, i find myself wondering if the odd man out will be softimage due to the obvious decrease in overhead should a development team be deleted.

>>> I am sorry I don't really understand what you are saying here. We are not deleting development, quite the opposite - we have expanded the team and are still hiring.

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ma...@glassworks.co.uk

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Jul 1, 2011, 7:02:06 AM7/1/11
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Interesting comments. And it's great to here from an insider that
continued developement of softimage is still on the cards at Autodesk.

However, I still believe that a key component to the growth on any
software package is the end user, and the experience they have using and,
probably more importantly, learning the software. This is the biggest
problem with softimage at the moment. There's not enough training
material. ICE is a fantastic tool, but for an artist coming over from ,say
MAX, it can easily be judged a tool for tech heads. Autodesk needs to
invest in it's training material, tutorials, videos, example scenes, these
should all ship with the package. The end user shouldn't be expected to
buy even the most basic training from a third party. Remember there's a
free trial of the software at Autodesk.com, but there's no free trial of
the third party training.

my 2 cents,
m@

Matt Morris

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Jul 1, 2011, 7:15:11 AM7/1/11
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Up until a couple of moths ago I would have agreed wholeheartedly, but there has been an explosion of training material put up on youtube since then, most of it still relevant.


I'd still like to see more training for recent tech, like ice kinematics in particular, but I believe that is on the cards (3dquakers).

More example scenes shipping with softimage wouldn't go amiss either.

Chris Marshall

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Jul 1, 2011, 7:21:27 AM7/1/11
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and of course countless user generated material on Vimeo.
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Stefan Andersson

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Jul 1, 2011, 9:45:51 AM7/1/11
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> What does this all mean for Softimage?:
> Well the irony is that if every Max and Maya user buys a suite,  Softimage will actually have the highest seat count of all the products.

Just as Toxik is the largest compositing software out there, as it
comes with every Softimage, 3dsmax, maya license sold... and
MatchMover owns the tracking market.

Seats doesn't mean jack shit if people don't use it.

Here is how I see it.

Autodesk wants to own the market, nothing strange with that (would be
weird if you wanted to be the smallest player...)
Autodesk has SideFX as a target.
Autodesk will promote Softimage as a Houdini replacement.
Autodesk will promote Softimage as a simulation package.

am I wrong?


regards
stefan

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Octavian Ureche

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Jul 1, 2011, 10:04:04 AM7/1/11
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Problem with that for autodesk is, most vfx pipelines are becoming
houdini based, and won''t be switching anytime soon (read ever as the
software is solid, efficient, smart and completely multiplatform).
Even old time xsi studios are adding it to the pipeline instead of
going all ice.
Can we not taste the irony in that?

Stephan Haitz

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Jul 1, 2011, 10:49:12 AM7/1/11
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I think it is nice that Softimage is put into the Suites. But this also
could be recognized as some sort of sell out of an not so important thing.

And if you don�t know Softimage this is fortified when you go to the
Autodesk Website. Maya & Max are well promoted, but you have to dig
around to find Softimage itself and related stuff. Same thing on nearly
all marketing channels: Print Advertising: Max & Maya, mess &
exhibitions: same thing.

If nobody promotes the strength auf Softimage other than the hype things
like ICE & Lagoa etc. nobody will have a closer look at Softimage for
general use. Cause everybody has enought to do to be up to date with
his/her Main Software, so you only will use another package if there
could be a big advantage.

In the actual "Digital Production" (German 3D Mag) at one place they
talk about the integration of mental ray into Cinema4D. And whiche
packages do you think they talk about where mental ray was integrated
long times before? No! It is not Softimage, it is Max& Maya. Not very
important but it makes another bit of the puzzle.

Ok, sorry, getting a bit offtopic...

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Mobil: 0049 (0)178 322 41 94
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Steffen Dünner

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Jul 1, 2011, 11:25:10 AM7/1/11
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2011/7/1 Stephan Haitz <ha...@trickpix.de>

I think it is nice that Softimage is put into the Suites. But this also could be recognized as some sort of sell out of an not so important thing.

First of all, thank you very much Chinny for bringing up these points! :)

Stephan mentioned that the bundling (especially in combination with the current under-representation on all Autodesk sites / news and even in their Twitters messages) could be misunderstood as a degradation of Softimage as a mere particle plugin and / or its fate as Toxic-Matchmover-like abandonware.
I talked to an official Autodesk reseller (mainly selling Max) some weeks ago and this was what he actually told me!!! Of course I know that this is completely ignorant FUD-shit but usually (potential) customers trust the words of a well-informed dealer who should be in close dialogue with Autodesk and this influences their decision of investment quite a bit, I fear.

Cheers
Steffen
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Daniel H

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Jul 1, 2011, 11:33:38 AM7/1/11
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Re: "are becoming houdini based" - Houdini is still too expensive (twice the cost), hard to use, and based on practicality, interoperability, and performance more studios appear to be piping-in Softimage. And this trending makes sense, because it's coming to most them via the Suites.

I respect Houdini, but it's too expensive, too difficult to use, requires raw scripting to do anything of substance, and even a newbie to SI can get better dynamics out of ICE in less time with much less hassle. And some of you want to gripe about SI training being thin, well take a dive into Houdini and let us know how many tutorials you find in contrast.

-Daniel

Daniel H

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Jul 1, 2011, 12:16:52 PM7/1/11
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Re: "There's not enough training material"

Actually there has been a very large push of both commercial and community driven Softimage training that has notably appeared within the last year. A Twitter account can really help in staying informed: http://twitter.com/#!/search/softimage

i3DTutorials just finished an upcoming training series on Lagoa Multiphysics and it should be out soon http://twitter.com/#!/i3DTutorials

Digital-Tutors came out with 2 new courses for SI yesterday:
Softimage Render Tree Reference Library: Illumination Nodes http://www.digitaltutors.com/11/training.php?pid=62
Softimage Render Tree Reference Library: Texture Nodes http://www.digitaltutors.com/11/training.php?pid=60

Ola Madsen continues to faithfully post his 3D World tutorials on the Caffeine Abuse blog. Here's a recent one for Procedural Orange Skin:
http://caffeineabuse.blogspot.com/2011/06/procedural-orange-skin.html

Within the last 8 months Paul Smith (the Zombie) cranked out 56 videos on SI:
http://vimeo.com/user4895541

Guillaume Laforge punched out 15 cool videos on ICE Modeling:
http://www.screencast.com/users/STBLAIR/folders/ICE%20Modeling

Autodesk recently put up some nice videos on ICE Modeling as well:
http://www.youtube.com/user/SoftimageHowTos?feature=mhee#g/c/B69E2282F6B130FC

Helge Mathee (the guy who never sleeps) and Exocortex have been steadily pushing out Momentum tutorials and updates. By the way, here's a Tech Preview for Momentum 2.5 with the new Create Fracture utility: http://vimeo.com/25813920

Stephen Blair (the one man army) cranked out 24 support and tutorial videos for SI within the last 3 months on his Vimeo channel:
http://vimeo.com/user595557/videos

It's easy to observe that Softimage training is trending up at a fast rate, which speaks to its rapidly increasing user base.

-Daniel

Graham Bell

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Jul 1, 2011, 1:05:24 PM7/1/11
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I’ve emailed you privately Steffen..

..but this type of thing does concern me and I will look into this. If we have a reseller who is actually suggesting that because Softimage has been added to a Suite that it’s abandonware, then frankly that is not on. Especially when I/we have been telling resellers quite the opposite.

Graham

From: softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com [mailto:softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com] On Behalf Of Steffen Dünner
Sent: 01 July 2011 16:25
To: soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
Subject: Re: Softimage at Autodesk - an observation

2011/7/1 Stephan Haitz <ha...@trickpix.de<mailto:ha...@trickpix.de>>
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Meng-Yang Lu

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Jul 1, 2011, 1:12:12 PM7/1/11
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Redemption on my earlier comment...

I agree that 1)  Softimage is awesome.  2) I can do a lot of things better than Houdini and faster  3)  The community is the best.

However, just do this.  www.sidefx.com  vs.  http://usa.autodesk.com/   3DS Max....mhhmmmm.... Maya.....  REVIT F$%KING ARCHITECHTURE???  WTF!

Softimage community aside from Japan is very much a little bubble.  Sadly, in order for Softimage to gain the mass popularity, it needs to find it's way into a large facility doing big vfx work.  I know that some people on the list do stuff that make the big screen, but I'm really referring to the shops that get the bulk of the shots.  And in a lot of ways, Softimage isn't on the tip of the brain when it comes to this kind of work.  At least not now...

Bash Houdini all you want, but it's almost synonymous with FX jobs.  Learn it, beat your head in, claw for every scrap of info, and you pretty much have a job anywhere here in LA.  Softimage still has gaps in the FX arsenal that needs to be covered.  Volumes??  This stuff is JUST beginning to be dev'ed by Mootz and Holger but very well established in Houdini.  There's work to be done for sure and I'm sure Softimage has the team to do it. 

If Softimage's future is to replace Houdini, it's going to have to be multi-platform.  Get that stuff good.  And secondly, it needs a rendering solution that can beat Mantra.  Distributed farm meshing and voxel rendering when it gets it would be sweet too.  All the particles slinging and pretty ICE easiness don't mean jack if I can't render it.  The FX are only gonna get bigger guys, not smaller. 

Look at it this way.  It's not like we got 3 feet left in the finish line to win this race.  We have a looooooooong ways to go.  But don't sit here in the bubble and ignore the strengths of our competition.  As Sun Tzu put it, "If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril."

Sorry for the long post...

-Lu
 

Gene Crucean

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Jul 1, 2011, 1:17:02 PM7/1/11
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Softimage community aside from Japan is very much a little bubble.  Sadly, in order for Softimage to gain the mass popularity, it needs to find it's way into a large facility doing big vfx work.

I agree! But without stripping all of the windows dependencies... this will never happen.

Graham Bell

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Jul 1, 2011, 3:14:22 PM7/1/11
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However, just do this. www.sidefx.com<http://www.sidefx.com> vs. http://usa.autodesk.com/ 3DS Max....mhhmmmm.... Maya..... REVIT F$%KING ARCHITECHTURE??? WTF!


This isn't really a fair comparison because Autodesk and SideFX, although software companies are very similar but also very different.

Autodesk have a range of great products, covering many industries, Architectural, Engineering, Construction, Manufacturing, Educations, Govenment, Automotive, Transport, etc, etc. Out of all the products, the ones listed on the front page perhaps give the best snapshot of the Autodesk folio and the industries Autodesk cover. Products like Alias Design, Civil Navisworks, Moldflow, Flame, Motionbuilder aren't listed on the main pages either, but they are no lesser product in quality or importance. The front page is just the main entrance to Autodesk and gives an overall impression of what we do, before people go further and find what they might be looking for. Look at Adobe's site, they do a similar thing.
Maurice has posted about the websites before, we really should move on from the whole 'Softimage on the front page of Autodesk.com thing' :)

On Houdini, having used it myself in the past, I'm very much an admirer of it, but holey moley you need the chops to use it :) (pardon the pun, it's been a long day, lol)

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Andy Jones

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Jul 1, 2011, 3:27:56 PM7/1/11
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I have one thing to add, since no one has mentioned it. I think in
the Houdini/XSI comparison you simply can't ignore the fact that
Softimage is a viable package for bread and butter cg work, as well as
FX, where Houdini is less so (if only in terms of the expense of the
software and talent, and the learning curve). One of Softimage's best
features has always been its lighting, and we are fortunate enough to
be yet again in a position of dominance with renderer integration with
SItoA. Competing with Houdini in effects is a bit like trying to
outrun someone when you own a car and they don't. You still want to
be the fastest runner, but if you really need to beat them, just get
in your car.

I feel strongly that the future (and present, for some) of rendering
involves fully aggregated scenes, not separate passes of different
scene components. You need that big fiery explosion to sit next to
your cg car when you render it. Otherwise you have to think about how
to cheat it, and thinking costs time and money. There's a reason why
Sony built Katana -- they needed to aggregate scenes for
lighting/render, and Maya isn't good at it.

If nothing changes, Maya, Max, Softimage and Houdini are all about to
become "plugins" for Katana/Nuke. Once that happens, the force that
has kept studios in Maya since its takeover will start to diminish,
and the barrier to incorporating new applications into pipelines will
wane. If Autodesk wants to protect their investment, they should be
looking to get scene aggregation, lighting/rendering, and comp
integrated into at least one of the 3D packages. The smart choice is
to put it in the package with the best effects capabilities, since
that's the last piece of the vfx puzzle before the bake-down to
images, and the most difficult to send to a separate aggregation tool.
(i.e., how do you export a heavy ICE instance scene to Maya? To the
extent that you can, it's a complex thing with a lot of moving parts).

That's my opinion on the matter. I've never actually seen Katana, so
correct me if I'm way off in my assumptions about it.


In terms of implementation, my brainstorm on what I would do is this:

1) Help push Alembic as far as it will go in every package, as that
will be the backbone of aggregation.

2) Push cross-package scene handoff as far as it can go for cases
where baked caches aren't suitable. With ICE Kinematics, there's no
good reason why rigged characters shouldn't be able to be imported
from Maya and Max.

3) Make shading work more like an external property that can be edited
and overridden all the way to the end of the pipeline. I.e., it needs
to be editable at the beginning of the pipeline, and the same shader
needs to be able to be edited/overridden within the aggregated scene.
For example, the shader could be referenced with an id (which could be
a filename or database entry, for example). When the scene is
aggregated, the shading can't be buried inside the Alembic files or
washed out of existence by them. Do this in a way such that object
IDs/tags can potentially be used to examine the shader from a comp,
and send specific tweaks backwards into the 3D pipeline from comp, so
that when a compositor wants a specular parameter increased, they can
actually do something about it. Make it a standard that other 3rd
party apps at the beginning of the pipeline (ZBrush, Modo, etc) can
feed into. Leverage native shader formats from the renderers
themselves, and allow hooks for custom parsers.

4) Fix the render tree and its sister editors in the other packages to
properly support multiple renderers simultaneously. My asset needs to
know how to render itself in whatever renderer I might need to render
it in later. For example, Arnold most of the time, Mental Ray when
Arnold doesn't have a feature I need yet, or Renderman when I'm
handing it off to our Vancouver facility that uses Renderman.
Auto-conversion from one renderer to another needs to be a button in
the editor, OR a callback that happens when I export, and the renderer
doesn't see a shader for itself. Not just the latter.

5) Create an optional command line callback for executing comps from
the render region, etc. I.e., facilitate studios in piping our
renders through a precomp.

6) Although it's been considered before, I would re-examine the
prospect of going cross-platform with Softimage, and potentially
re-releasing it as the "next new thing" with some cosmetic tweaks.
And if you did all of the above properly, that would not be a sham.
Without knowing the code, I can't comment on whether it would be
cost-effective even after all that, but if Soft were really going to
be Autodesk's way of making Katana look like an obsolete piece of
over-complicated big studio pipeline pushing the convergence of 3D and
2D in the exact wrong direction, that might change the equation from
where it's been in the past.


Meanwhile,

7) Keep pushing ICE.

8) Add something to fill the gap with iterative L-system type
simulations, and integrate it beautifully with ICE, so that each
execution step can take full advantage of multi-threading. I.e., we
need a way to break out into something that's a little more code-like
in its execution (potentially just code...) that executes as part of
ICE. Sort of a generic context-sensitive scop. Then we'd need some
wrappers for the obvious things (trees, lightning, fractal geo, etc).

9) Everything that seems like a good idea.


I suppose this is getting OT, but I think the initial post naturally
begs the question of where it's all going, assuming the suites have
the stated effect we're all hoping for. FWIW, XSI is slowly creeping
into our (now pretty big) shop as we speak. And it's happening in a
very passive manner, just the way it's being described. I.e., our
software dept in LA is actively trying to avoid it, and our office in
NY isn't trying to push it on them, but the suites and the need for
globalization (i.e., a universal platform in all locations) are slowly
moving it forward. Once it's there, they just need to be given a good
reason to use it, and I can come back from the underworld. (They are
heavy Houdini/Maya, currently).


> Sorry for the long post...
>
> -Lu

No worries, mate :)

- Andy

Piotrek Marczak

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Jul 1, 2011, 4:22:28 PM7/1/11
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>>
Bash Houdini all you want, but it's almost synonymous with FX jobs. Learn it, beat your head in, claw for every scrap of info, and you pretty much have a job anywhere here in LA.
>>
 
Ha thats what friend of mine did...after year of learning H. he moved from company in Poland no one heard about to weta, did there some vegetation work on Abadah.
Sent: Friday, July 01, 2011 7:12 PM
Subject: Re: Softimage at Autodesk - an observation
 

James De Colling

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Jul 1, 2011, 9:45:25 PM7/1/11
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i'd like to chime in on this suites bundle idea as well, from a games
perspective

here in japan, softimage is doing OK..not great by any means, most
studios are still Maya or Max and its switching over more every day.
we have some seats of Soft at our office, but no one wants to use it
except me, all the maya guys are thinking Modo is the new hotness and
are wanting to learn that now, even though many of the tools in modo
exist in Soft. the problem i see with soft these days is that it no
longer seems to care about the games market, Modo, Maya, Max, 3DCoat,
Mudbox etc ALL have far more useful viewports than softimage now.
Modelling tools is another area softimage has stagnated, there just
doesnt seem to be any will to develop new tools, even if that
development is just copy/pasting from Max and Maya...its all ICE this,
Lagoa that...99% of people in games dont care about ice and softimage
is putting itself firmly in the Houdini "FX tool only" category.

i'd like to think its rather telling, when you have free access to
softimage...and would still prefer to buy another copy of Modo, that
something is wrong. product development, marketing, training
material...Luxology, a company far smaller than AD...seem to be doing
far more.

I cant even recommend Softimage for new titles anymore, as no artists
want to learn it, but more importantly, the other products have
eclipsed it.


james,

James Bradford

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Jul 1, 2011, 11:00:06 PM7/1/11
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I'd like to echo what James De Colling just wrote, since I come from
games as well. Actions speak a lot louder than words and every single
release of Softimage since 08 has been almost %100 about ICE. If
Softimage still has intentions to be a complete, out of the box
solution then it would be good to see evidence of that again just as
Max and Maya continue to. I think ICE is great, but it being the sole
focus of Softimage is causing anyone but a technical artist to abandon
the package.

Andy Moorer

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Jul 1, 2011, 11:52:15 PM7/1/11
to soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
That's a reasonable concern. But as a technical artist and ICE guy, I do get frustrated that people tend to see it as a VFX rollout, when there is so much it could offer to the game industry.... Streamlining workflow and pipeline, almost entirely unexplored potential for all kinds of rigging coolness, and now that we have modeling capabilities in ice all sorts of possibilities are out there. Procedural asset creation. Customized user-made modeling tools. Texture and uv tools, and so on.

If you are a softimage studio of more than three artists and you don't have someone looking at how ICE can give you a leg up you're missing out on a lot of power. Frankly, there still aren't that many of us really pushing ICE as far as it can go yet. Use this list and ask for specific modeling tools in ICE and there's a good chance another user may be able to get something made for you before the devs can get to it.

But your point is well taken. The viewport needing love effects previs as well, and it's important that when Softimage extolls the virtues of ice they make it clear that one of the most important things about ice is that it lets the TDs in the community extend the software and share powerful tools with every user.

Game artists using soft, get your TDs and the rest of us making tools for your needs, ICE belongs to you too, and it can do a lot more than just VFX.

James De Colling

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Jul 1, 2011, 11:55:13 PM7/1/11
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Ice is all well and good,  but for my guys I would need to be able to show them how it would speed up this day to day workflow,  ie, model and map a car or charachter,  you mentioned rigging,  but those rigs need to be able to be interopeble with the engines.  I would love to know if there are people using ice for basic asset creation,  and how they are implementing it.

Bradley Gabe

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Jul 2, 2011, 1:12:10 AM7/2/11
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For me, ICE has become the ultimate production swiss army knife. I use it every single day in production for 1001 things, discovering more each day. Anything from rescuing shape data when point order gets scrambled, to setting up real time UV projections, to applying symmetry to weight maps on non symmetrical models without a symmetry map, etc, etc. The list goes on and on.

I cannot imagine being able to be efficient in CG production without it, and roux the day should I be forced into a non-Softimage pipeline (which may be quite soon). 

I had started a thread on this list not too long ago extolling the virtues of ICE as a daily production rescue kit and creative tool development environment. Perhaps people ignored that thread because it had ICE in the title... but I would suggest perhaps checking it out in the archives. It can be inspirational for anyone looking for an excuse to learn more about ICE.

-Bradley

André Adam

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Jul 2, 2011, 4:05:07 AM7/2/11
to soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
Exactly the point. Many people who do commercials or film and rave about how ICE tweaks their every-day workflows don't see that it does not apply to a games pipeline. Our assets do not live in Softimage, they live within the game engine, a fierce place, where every triangle is highly optimized and manually put into the right place. Proceduralism is not done in the 3d app, baked and put into the game, the game is doing the procedural structures live, eg dynamically tesselating an editor-generated landscapes during runtime.
ICE kinematics are only useful for rather smallish bits and pieces like little volume preservation ops (still based on bones!), that can be baked down onto the skeleton during export. (We usually don't bake point-based effects, though we eventually have some fancy point-based effects live during runtime.) Flat hierachies held together by cool ICE rigging ops, as it was promoted as the next cool thing during release of the ICE rigging toolset, don't survive outside of Softimage...
Really sorry, so far I also don't see ICE becoming the swiss army knife of game dev. Finally do something about the out of the box modeling and texturing tools instead, to get them up to standard, or even better one level higher.

    -André

Mirko Jankovic

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Jul 2, 2011, 4:16:45 AM7/2/11
to soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
On the side everything about marketing that is understandable and logical, completely ignoring every other part of Softimage and focusing on ICE alone is really big problem.
That is why there is so much flame around, when only 1 part of application is developed and that part is used just to plug it and send to Max and Maya... you can see where all paranoia (or reasonable fear?) is coming from.

Are there any plans at all, at least some working hours in developing dedicated or planned to other parts of SI, modeling, viewport, or even improving character animation part even more?

Max

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Jul 2, 2011, 4:33:39 AM7/2/11
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First of all, thanks Chinny for the insight and the usefull point of view about market and how Softimage is doing now, that post really help the userbase as Eric said.

I think Softimage is a great product, i'm a freelancer and i had the luck to pick a softwtware i felt comfy and i wanted to use, as i said many times

we are saying pretty much at only ICE development since v 7.0 when it came out, and this is great in terms of ICE itself, but it is also bad in terms of the whole package when 

you put it in comparison with other 3d tools.


If for example 3ds Max had only Krakatoa everyone wouldnt really mind at it, and that is because its just one thing, i strongly believe that Softimage needs to be updated in other things. Recently there was some threads and discussions about this, and it seemed that the road taken by Softimage was giving the users the toolsets to produce other tools.

Like we give you ICE, now create your own modeling tools.

While this might be a fun time and a learning experience for people skilled at math/vector/ICE in general, it is really something a normal artist without those knowledges cant touch and cant benefit, if not waiting and waiting for someone release that particular tool.


The fact that almost every other aspect of Softimage is stagnant and never updates in years is to me a bad thing. You are forcing a product to be considered only as ICE and this is an extreme shame because Softimage have a giant potential in every other aspect.

I think ICE doesnt have benefit to do simple and small tasks, it does the difference when you use it for complicated things, for example if i have to connect 5 nodes that are nested and inside them there are other 30 nodes to produce a sweep effect..well that is not really fast as pushing 1 button in the "Deform" panel right?


In the end, dont think things will change, Softimage will just be ICE-centric forever, you are gonna lose more potential users because of this, of course you  might gain some, the difference will be how many you are gonna get vs how many you are gonna lose.

And i'm not sure who will win. Regarding Freelancing most people take a look at Modo because it is in continue development and do things that you never will be able to do in softimage even if that package costs less than half price.


ICE is brilliant and absolutely stunning, it is a great tech and it is so powerfull, but since it came out Softimage was always related to it, feels like the name itself is Softimage-ICE, forgetting the other amazing thing it had, and with a few effort and  updates in other sections of the package it would really be a game changer and it wouldnt harm you for sure to update more things but ICE.


Max




Graham Bell

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Jul 2, 2011, 8:32:18 AM7/2/11
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I'm with Brad, Softimage/ICE is a swiss army knife and could easily work in games. Modelling and texturing is real bread and butter work in games, but a lot of this work is done in Max or Maya. Improving these tools in Softimage would be of course great, but let's be realistic, if the guys in Montreal did that, would we expect a die-hard Max modeller to see the light and switch - I'm not sure. After all, why would he want to, he knows Max and has used it for years, why should he? And this isn't where problems occur in games production and a lot of this grunt work gets outsourced anyway.

As Chinnys says, there's a lot of product overlap and personally for me it's a fight not worth picking, that's not to say I still don't want continued fixed and enhancements :). For me, I look at the pipeline and process. For example, most game artists will have to retopologise their meshes and many use Topogun and/or 3D-coat for this in addition to still using Max or Maya. Both are fine packages with some great tools. Could ICE modelling be used for this instead? Maybe it could? Could it be part of the existing workflow? Maybe?

But people will cry, Softimage is more than just package for doing tools, you can model, animate, texture, render, etc, etc. And yes that's absolutely right but as we're on the subject so can Houdini. Houdini can do all of those things, but many people use it for FX work, but they don't see it as any less of a package though and they use it along side other packages as well. This is the way productions and pipelines are now, multiple apps. Suites make sense for us and also customers.

Graham

From: softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com [mailto:softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com] On Behalf Of André Adam
Sent: 02 July 2011 09:05
To: soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
Subject: Re: Softimage at Autodesk - an observation

Exactly the point. Many people who do commercials or film and rave about how ICE tweaks their every-day workflows don't see that it does not apply to a games pipeline. Our assets do not live in Softimage, they live within the game engine, a fierce place, where every triangle is highly optimized and manually put into the right place. Proceduralism is not done in the 3d app, baked and put into the game, the game is doing the procedural structures live, eg dynamically tesselating an editor-generated landscapes during runtime.
ICE kinematics are only useful for rather smallish bits and pieces like little volume preservation ops (still based on bones!), that can be baked down onto the skeleton during export. (We usually don't bake point-based effects, though we eventually have some fancy point-based effects live during runtime.) Flat hierachies held together by cool ICE rigging ops, as it was promoted as the next cool thing during release of the ICE rigging toolset, don't survive outside of Softimage...
Really sorry, so far I also don't see ICE becoming the swiss army knife of game dev. Finally do something about the out of the box modeling and texturing tools instead, to get them up to standard, or even better one level higher.

-André


On 02.07.2011 05:55, James De Colling wrote:

Ice is all well and good, but for my guys I would need to be able to show them how it would speed up this day to day workflow, ie, model and map a car or charachter, you mentioned rigging, but those rigs need to be able to be interopeble with the engines. I would love to know if there are people using ice for basic asset creation, and how they are implementing it.

On Jul 2, 2011 12:35 PM, "Andy Moorer" <andym...@gmail.com<mailto:andym...@gmail.com>> wrote:
>
> That's a reasonable concern. But as a technical artist and ICE guy, I do get frustrated that people tend to see it as a VFX rollout, when there is so much it could offer to the game industry.... Streamlining workflow and pipeline, almost entirely unexplored potential for all kinds of rigging coolness, and now that we have modeling capabilities in ice all sorts of possibilities are out there. Procedural asset creation. Customized user-made modeling tools. Texture and uv tools, and so on.
>
> If you are a softimage studio of more than three artists and you don't have someone looking at how ICE can give you a leg up you're missing out on a lot of power. Frankly, there still aren't that many of us really pushing ICE as far as it can go yet. Use this list and ask for specific modeling tools in ICE and there's a good chance another user may be able to get something made for you before the devs can get to it.
>
> But your point is well taken. The viewport needing love effects previs as well, and it's important that when Softimage extolls the virtues of ice they make it clear that one of the most important things about ice is that it lets the TDs in the community extend the software and share powerful tools with every user.
>
> Game artists using soft, get your TDs and the rest of us making tools for your needs, ICE belongs to you too, and it can do a lot more than just VFX.
>

winmail.dat

james.d...@gmail.com

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Jul 2, 2011, 9:05:18 AM7/2/11
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you missed the part where I said the maya guys were switching....only to modo, rather than look at xsi.

"As Chinnys says, there's a lot of product overlap and personally for me it's a fight not worth picking"

well that just says to me that you guys have no interest in improving areas in softimage where max/maya are stronger...since its all under the AD banner now, you can happily recommend Max/Maya now. kind of dissapointing

Guillaume Laforge

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Jul 2, 2011, 9:10:01 AM7/2/11
to soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
Hi all,

Of course I can't speak about our next features, but what I can say (I think) is that we are not working only on ICE related things, really not.

Cheers,

Guillaume Laforge

Luc-Eric Rousseau

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Jul 2, 2011, 10:15:21 AM7/2/11
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Less than 20% of the Softimage team works on ICE, I guess it's a testament to the ability of ICE and their productivity that it looks like it's 100% of what we do :)
The suggestion that Softimage needs to fight back Modo in Japan is interesting, but that's not the feedback I've seen.  The Japanese clients are the top priority - some have hundreds of seats.  The top requests are all about SDK enhancements, shader installation and other issues, data management, etc, which Softimage is continuously delivering.  There is modeling stuff, like the weight editor and texture editor enhancements in 2012. But largely it's all about pipeline, data management, performance, and animation stuff.  People want us to fix and enhance the stuff that is already there, and deal with large number of assets. There are also custom development contracts going on and private branches with some of the larger clients, the team is not out of touch with Japan. 

ICE is progressively getting used in games for various things, including replacing custom operators, procedural building generation, and rigging.   On the rigging side, many do not use at all the built-in IK and the other built-in tools because it doesn't match the game anyway. The best way to override the built-in kinematics is with ICE Kine. The new interactive tool SDK is also great for building custom manipulators.  ICE is really an extension of the SDK, not just a simulation system for offline effects. Most people taking the decisions about which product to build the pipeline on want Softimage to continue to open up the app as a platform for custom tools.

james.d...@gmail.com

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Jul 2, 2011, 11:34:18 AM7/2/11
to soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
regarding those large installations, and the requests you get, those would be mostly from the tools / backend guys at the studio, hence the areas of interest, most likely rolling thier own engines too. but from a smaller studio like ours (140 people with around 40 seats of maya) we dont really have a tools team, nor a priority private development branch to play with...so out of the box features matter a great deal. we use Unreal, so pipeline, data managment is already there...for us, its more core tools now...if your fixing and enchancing..dont gloss over modelling and texture tools (does 2012 have uv packing without using unfold yet, or normalize islands on texel size etc?)...simple things like that that add time to basic asset creation. im all for ICE, ive seen some great things, just promise the other areas of soft will get the appropriate bumps as well, ok? ;)

james,

John Richard Sanchez

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Jul 2, 2011, 12:58:02 PM7/2/11
to soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
Wow! Interesting discussion. I have been doing some soul searching on whether I should stay with XSI. I learned Maya first but chose to keep working in XSI because I loved the tool. I still love working in it. However it seems that I get more and more calls for jobs in maya and less and less in XSI. I also see a ton for cinema4D. (Even Bradley Gabe may have to switch pipelines.)  I have to go where the work is so I may just start to phase out xsi and get more proficient in maya and cinema. I do hope that what chinny says does work and more seats of xsi will be available and hopefully used. But I am seeing the opposite. But thats just my perspective as a freelancer.
--
John Richard Sanchez
www.johnrichardsanchez.com

André Adam

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Jul 2, 2011, 1:00:26 PM7/2/11
to soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
You completely missed the point. I am not talking about gaining market
share, I am talking about preventing the left-over userbase from
abandoning this ship. This reply of yours is a pretty disastrous message
to any games studio still using Softimage.

Though I would very much like us all being in a position to discuss
strategies of gaining market share in the games biz instead.


On 02.07.2011 14:32, Graham Bell wrote:
> I'm with Brad, Softimage/ICE is a swiss army knife and could easily work in games. Modelling and texturing is real bread and butter work in games, but a lot of this work is done in Max or Maya. Improving these tools in Softimage would be of course great, but let's be realistic, if the guys in Montreal did that, would we expect a die-hard Max modeller to see the light and switch - I'm not sure. After all, why would he want to, he knows Max and has used it for years, why should he? And this isn't where problems occur in games production and a lot of this grunt work gets outsourced anyway.
>
> As Chinnys says, there's a lot of product overlap and personally for me it's a fight not worth picking, that's not to say I still don't want continued fixed and enhancements :). For me, I look at the pipeline and process. For example, most game artists will have to retopologise their meshes and many use Topogun and/or 3D-coat for this in addition to still using Max or Maya. Both are fine packages with some great tools. Could ICE modelling be used for this instead? Maybe it could? Could it be part of the existing workflow? Maybe?
>
> But people will cry, Softimage is more than just package for doing tools, you can model, animate, texture, render, etc, etc. And yes that's absolutely right but as we're on the subject so can Houdini. Houdini can do all of those things, but many people use it for FX work, but they don't see it as any less of a package though and they use it along side other packages as well. This is the way productions and pipelines are now, multiple apps. Suites make sense for us and also customers.
>
> Graham
>
>
>
> From: softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com [mailto:softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com] On Behalf Of Andr� Adam
> Sent: 02 July 2011 09:05
> To: soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
> Subject: Re: Softimage at Autodesk - an observation
>
> Exactly the point. Many people who do commercials or film and rave about how ICE tweaks their every-day workflows don't see that it does not apply to a games pipeline. Our assets do not live in Softimage, they live within the game engine, a fierce place, where every triangle is highly optimized and manually put into the right place. Proceduralism is not done in the 3d app, baked and put into the game, the game is doing the procedural structures live, eg dynamically tesselating an editor-generated landscapes during runtime.
> ICE kinematics are only useful for rather smallish bits and pieces like little volume preservation ops (still based on bones!), that can be baked down onto the skeleton during export. (We usually don't bake point-based effects, though we eventually have some fancy point-based effects live during runtime.) Flat hierachies held together by cool ICE rigging ops, as it was promoted as the next cool thing during release of the ICE rigging toolset, don't survive outside of Softimage...
> Really sorry, so far I also don't see ICE becoming the swiss army knife of game dev. Finally do something about the out of the box modeling and texturing tools instead, to get them up to standard, or even better one level higher.
>

> -Andr�

Stephan Haidacher

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Jul 2, 2011, 1:26:15 PM7/2/11
to soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
On 7/2/2011 2:32 PM, Graham Bell wrote:
> But people will cry, Softimage is more than just package for doing tools, you can model, animate, texture, render, etc, etc. And yes that's absolutely right but as we're on the subject so can Houdini. Houdini can do all of those things, but many people use it for FX work, but they don't see it as any less of a package though and they use it along side other packages as well. This is the way productions and pipelines are now, multiple apps. Suites make sense for us and also customers.

well houdini has always been an TD/FX app (even Prism was known to have
a great particle system) so this comparison doesnt work imo. softimage wasnt
a fx tool until ICE came (jeez, SI|3d was one of the worst fx apps back
then), so your clientbase are primarily artists who loved SI for its
intuitive, fast
workflow (modeler/animator but i think mostly generalists).

houdini worked hard on being more intuitive the last years, but never
forgot their core business (FX) and updated/fixed/improved issues there
as well.
i cant remember when the last modeling tool was added or improved in SI.
or the last time "Hair" was updated? i know you can do it all with ICE
(if you
have the compounds/knowledge/time/will), but still a lot people use
"hair" because its fast and easy.

--stephan

Graham Bell

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Jul 2, 2011, 2:02:48 PM7/2/11
to soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
No, it's not' disastrous' at all, Luc-Eric has mentioned about what we are doing based on requests from customer who represent a large user base in the games industry. But you have to take into account how many games studios use Softimage, outside of Japan. The games studios I see and deal with use either Max or Maya, though there are some Softimage, there isn't that many. So they look at Softimage from a completely different view.
Many don't want to switch their core 3D package from what they already use and know, but they are interested in Softimage and some have already moved to Suites


-----Original Message-----
From: softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com [mailto:softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com] On Behalf Of André Adam
Sent: 02 July 2011 18:00
To: soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
Subject: Re: Softimage at Autodesk - an observation

You completely missed the point. I am not talking about gaining market share, I am talking about preventing the left-over userbase from abandoning this ship. This reply of yours is a pretty disastrous message to any games studio still using Softimage.

Though I would very much like us all being in a position to discuss strategies of gaining market share in the games biz instead.


On 02.07.2011 14:32, Graham Bell wrote:
> I'm with Brad, Softimage/ICE is a swiss army knife and could easily work in games. Modelling and texturing is real bread and butter work in games, but a lot of this work is done in Max or Maya. Improving these tools in Softimage would be of course great, but let's be realistic, if the guys in Montreal did that, would we expect a die-hard Max modeller to see the light and switch - I'm not sure. After all, why would he want to, he knows Max and has used it for years, why should he? And this isn't where problems occur in games production and a lot of this grunt work gets outsourced anyway.
>
> As Chinnys says, there's a lot of product overlap and personally for me it's a fight not worth picking, that's not to say I still don't want continued fixed and enhancements :). For me, I look at the pipeline and process. For example, most game artists will have to retopologise their meshes and many use Topogun and/or 3D-coat for this in addition to still using Max or Maya. Both are fine packages with some great tools. Could ICE modelling be used for this instead? Maybe it could? Could it be part of the existing workflow? Maybe?
>
> But people will cry, Softimage is more than just package for doing tools, you can model, animate, texture, render, etc, etc. And yes that's absolutely right but as we're on the subject so can Houdini. Houdini can do all of those things, but many people use it for FX work, but they don't see it as any less of a package though and they use it along side other packages as well. This is the way productions and pipelines are now, multiple apps. Suites make sense for us and also customers.
>
> Graham
>
>
>
> From: softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com [mailto:softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com] On Behalf Of André Adam
> Sent: 02 July 2011 09:05
> To: soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
> Subject: Re: Softimage at Autodesk - an observation
>
> Exactly the point. Many people who do commercials or film and rave about how ICE tweaks their every-day workflows don't see that it does not apply to a games pipeline. Our assets do not live in Softimage, they live within the game engine, a fierce place, where every triangle is highly optimized and manually put into the right place. Proceduralism is not done in the 3d app, baked and put into the game, the game is doing the procedural structures live, eg dynamically tesselating an editor-generated landscapes during runtime.
> ICE kinematics are only useful for rather smallish bits and pieces like little volume preservation ops (still based on bones!), that can be baked down onto the skeleton during export. (We usually don't bake point-based effects, though we eventually have some fancy point-based effects live during runtime.) Flat hierachies held together by cool ICE rigging ops, as it was promoted as the next cool thing during release of the ICE rigging toolset, don't survive outside of Softimage...
> Really sorry, so far I also don't see ICE becoming the swiss army knife of game dev. Finally do something about the out of the box modeling and texturing tools instead, to get them up to standard, or even better one level higher.
>

> -André

winmail.dat

Gene Crucean

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Jul 2, 2011, 2:10:35 PM7/2/11
to soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
Graham that email was a little bit of a downer. I'm not gonna lie. I'm 100% in agreement with Brad also. I use ICE for soooo much more than just FX type stuff, even though recently I have been doing the coolest work I've ever done with ICE, Lagoa and Arnold. But at the same time, you must realize that most of the user base is not tech savvy enough to use ICE like this (like you and Brad are describing). I consider myself a pretty smart guy and a nice blend of art/tech. I also think I'm on the upper side of the scale when it comes to artists with tech smarts... but I even struggle with ICE sometimes. A LOT of the time to be honest. I'm always bugging people like Alan Jones, Thiago and Mootz for random help. Those guys are not the norm. So please do us all a favor and don't assume that people will just whip up a game pipeline tool in ICE at the drop of a hat... because it's so flexible. It is! But it's just not that easy for 98% of the industry.

If that is a huge selling point for you guys, then what I recommend is for AD to start doing a little bit of the leg work yourselves (hey it's soo easy, don't sweat how long it will take), and show people what can be done with ICE. Not just creating the platform itself and saying go. Having said that, 2012 is a huge step forward in this area. Nice work guys. Keep it going!!!!! The only problem is that those things are pretty much completely geared for FX work.

When did you guys implement most of the current modeling tools? v4? What year was that released in? It's a required aspect of Softimage that must be updated. While I value your opinion, you must understand that you are IN there, I am OUT here. "Here" is where the money and production realities come from. The modeling tools we have are excellent, but there are just too few of them. Period.


Improving these tools in Softimage would be of course great, but let's be realistic, if the guys in Montreal did that, would we expect a die-hard Max modeller to see the light and switch - I'm not sure. After all, why would he want to, he knows Max and has used it for years, why should he?

Because now on top of all the awesomeness of ICE, they would have the rest of the package be up to par with Modo's / * tools. This would make the entire package more appealing would it not?

These users have valid complaints. Don't just write them off and say it would be pointless to update the tools in Soft because well... somebody has already made that tool. Oh and hey, we also own that application. Go buy a seat.


... just trying to get a point across. We're all friends here right?


--
Gene Crucean - VFX & CG Supervisor / Generalist

Gene Crucean

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Jul 2, 2011, 2:14:04 PM7/2/11
to soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
Crap, I forgot to add that I don't work in games... but speaking about modeling tools specifically, those of us in VFX... ehem... *cough* also use modeling tools.

Thomas Helzle

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Jul 2, 2011, 2:28:34 PM7/2/11
to soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
With all due respect, Mr. Brynford-Jones,

the only problem with all that is, that it is completely centred
around things I don't care about a bit as a user.

I'm not using XSI so that Autodesk can grow even more fat or Photoshop
so that Adobe can impress shareholders.
And I'm so very happy that I've sold Final Cut Studio early this year,
now that Apple is doing those unbelievable stunts with Final Cut Pro
X.
I will not buy anything from a company like Apple in the foreseeable future.
I'm so fed up with big companies not being able to see their own toes
anymore for all the fat they've grown.

ICE is absolutely brilliant, but everything else seems to rather
stagnate or even degrade since version 7.

If XSI's future is big pipelines,
code-a-usable-extrude-in-ICE-yourself and needing external renderers
to get anything decent, I guess it's usefulness for me is over.
Talking only with TDs isn't the best way to get a real picture of your users.
You need infantry too ;-)

Will I buy a suite to get decent modelling tools?
Nope Sire!

Will I invest in overpriced external renderers so I don't need to use
the Demented Ray?
Not if I can help it.

Will I renew my subscription this year?
I don't think so, but you're welcome to convince me otherwise.

Cheers and Carpe Diem :-)

Thomas Helzle

Ciaran Moloney

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Jul 2, 2011, 3:04:23 PM7/2/11
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Sorry to hear that, John.
I was actually thinking that it's a very good time to be a Softimage freelancer. From my totally naive observation on both sides of the Atlantic, the problem is not a lack of Softimage freelance work. Rather it's of studios experiencing some difficulty in finding enough people for all the jobs. I'll let wiser heads debate the causes and effects of that situation. Perhaps we're a dwindling pool of talent and the good times will be short lived?

I was really happy with my decision, like you to ditch Maya back in school and go with the Soft-side. I honestly don't think I'd be enjoying the work as much as I do if I'd stayed with the Maya crowd (but maybe I'd have been a better programmer!). But for the moment, If I were to seriously get down with another application, it would be for the right job not for a lack of Soft jobs. I hope Autodesk pushes Soft enough to allow that to continue.

I'm surprised to hear about Cinema4D. I don't think I've ever seen a copy of it in the wild - is it really so popular?

Regarding modeling improvements - weren't the new modeling tools in Maya and Max essentially integrations of 3rd party plugins? Perhaps I'm way off on that, but if that was the case, I won't be loosing any sleep waiting for Autodesk to rejuvenate the modeling toolset in Soft. So, who wants to write that killer modeling plugin (the tools are all in place now)?

I just wanted to contribute something semi-positive from the POV of a generalist freelancer.

Ciaran

Ciaran Moloney

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Jul 2, 2011, 3:05:33 PM7/2/11
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That was a great post. Wise suggestions one and all.

Ciaran

Paul Griswold

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Jul 2, 2011, 4:01:00 PM7/2/11
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I have to say, this is an amazingly civil and useful discussion.  I hope all of these emails are making their way up the chain at AD & won't stay just within the dev team.

I'm in the camp with Gene, but a much less technical user.  I would love to see a major overhaul of the modeling tools as well.  Something along the lines of Modo and toss in the LWCAD toolset for good measure.  Booleans haven't been touched since Foundation as far as I can tell.  The UV toolset could take a page from 3DCoat as well.  I mainly do all my UV work over there anymore because it's just easier.  

And the viewport needs some major love.  Look at Lightwave's new Viper viewport for a nice example of what's happening with non-AD packages.

I also agree - if it's so easy to build tools in ICE, why not start building a bunch of them at AD and include them with Soft or release them as an SP?  How about slowly replacing/enhancing existing tools with ICE versions - so the menus are the same, but an ICE tree is just built when you call the tool?  That way the tweakers & TDs can have their hearts filled with joy as they dig into thing, and those of us who are less technically inclined can occasionally tinker, but otherwise enjoy a faster set of tools?

For example, the stock "rig from guide" rig - why not convert that to an ICE version?  I saw that Paul "Pooby" Smith had made an ICE kinematics demo - have you watched it?  He gives up because it's too complicated, too confusing, and too much work.  I think Paul is a pretty bright chap, so when he's giving up it should send a message that maybe there should be a simplified method available.

I also agree - don't think most of the folks who post here represent the mainstream.  I'm astonished on a daily basis at how smart everyone here is when it comes to this stuff.  I'm very much more on the artist side & generally just need to "get it done".  I can't imagine all Softimage users are as technically minded as most people who post here.  

The suite idea is appealing, but only if I can get a suite without Maya or Max.  So Softimage, Mudbox, MatchMover & Toxic as a bundle (but that's if they're going to continue developing ALL of those).

I really think Soft is the best complete package on the market today.  And I really appreciate you guys who are working there and are coming on the list to let us know what's happening.  You guys and the tech support guys are the only reason I'm still with Soft after the AD Borg swooped in.  So please keep up the communication and the awesome work.

Anyway, enough talk.  It's Saturday and I'm back at the office trying to get out a bunch of particle animations for a film premiering at Comicon!!

Paul



Graham Bell

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Jul 2, 2011, 3:27:32 PM7/2/11
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Damn, I'm sorry that wasn't my intention at all. I guess what I was attempting to say was that from my standpoint I see a lot of Max and Maya users and I try and show them as much of the Suites and Softimage as possible. I want users to adopt and use more Softimage and it's not about market share, it because I believe it's the right thing for them to do and also in the right context. The Suites are great, but they are not for everyone and you can't expect them to take ICE and throw it at a problem, or whip up pipelines.

As Chinny has correctly said, pushing the whole product can be hard when there is overlap between the products. I wasn't writing off peoples comments and saying it's pointless not to address certain features and tools, namely modelling. I want to see improvements as well.
But it's hard fight to win going up against some Max users in this area alone and convincing them that they would and could benefit from adopting and using Softimage, when they believe they have something pretty good already. And that's not my assumption, this is what I see and hear from users.

I agree that we need to do more to show that Softimage and ICE is not just about FX work and we are trying to do this.

From: softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com [mailto:softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com] On Behalf Of Gene Crucean
Sent: 02 July 2011 19:11
To: soft...@listproc.autodesk.com
Subject: Re: Softimage at Autodesk - an observation

Graham that email was a little bit of a downer. I'm not gonna lie. I'm 100% in agreement with Brad also. I use ICE for soooo much more than just FX type stuff, even though recently I have been doing the coolest work I've ever done with ICE, Lagoa and Arnold. But at the same time, you must realize that most of the user base is not tech savvy enough to use ICE like this (like you and Brad are describing). I consider myself a pretty smart guy and a nice blend of art/tech. I also think I'm on the upper side of the scale when it comes to artists with tech smarts... but I even struggle with ICE sometimes. A LOT of the time to be honest. I'm always bugging people like Alan Jones, Thiago and Mootz for random help. Those guys are not the norm. So please do us all a favor and don't assume that people will just whip up a game pipeline tool in ICE at the drop of a hat... because it's so flexible. It is! But it's just not that easy for 98% of the industry.

If that is a huge selling point for you guys, then what I recommend is for AD to start doing a little bit of the leg work yourselves (hey it's soo easy, don't sweat how long it will take), and show people what can be done with ICE. Not just creating the platform itself and saying go. Having said that, 2012 is a huge step forward in this area. Nice work guys. Keep it going!!!!! The only problem is that those things are pretty much completely geared for FX work.

When did you guys implement most of the current modeling tools? v4? What year was that released in? It's a required aspect of Softimage that must be updated. While I value your opinion, you must understand that you are IN there, I am OUT here. "Here" is where the money and production realities come from. The modeling tools we have are excellent, but there are just too few of them. Period.


Improving these tools in Softimage would be of course great, but let's be realistic, if the guys in Montreal did that, would we expect a die-hard Max modeller to see the light and switch - I'm not sure. After all, why would he want to, he knows Max and has used it for years, why should he?

Because now on top of all the awesomeness of ICE, they would have the rest of the package be up to par with Modo's / * tools. This would make the entire package more appealing would it not?

These users have valid complaints. Don't just write them off and say it would be pointless to update the tools in Soft because well... somebody has already made that tool. Oh and hey, we also own that application. Go buy a seat.


... just trying to get a point across. We're all friends here right?

On Sat, Jul 2, 2011 at 5:32 AM, Graham Bell <Graha...@autodesk.com<mailto:Graha...@autodesk.com>> wrote:
I'm with Brad, Softimage/ICE is a swiss army knife and could easily work in games. Modelling and texturing is real bread and butter work in games, but a lot of this work is done in Max or Maya. Improving these tools in Softimage would be of course great, but let's be realistic, if the guys in Montreal did that, would we expect a die-hard Max modeller to see the light and switch - I'm not sure. After all, why would he want to, he knows Max and has used it for years, why should he? And this isn't where problems occur in games production and a lot of this grunt work gets outsourced anyway.

As Chinnys says, there's a lot of product overlap and personally for me it's a fight not worth picking, that's not to say I still don't want continued fixed and enhancements :). For me, I look at the pipeline and process. For example, most game artists will have to retopologise their meshes and many use Topogun and/or 3D-coat for this in addition to still using Max or Maya. Both are fine packages with some great tools. Could ICE modelling be used for this instead? Maybe it could? Could it be part of the existing workflow? Maybe?

But people will cry, Softimage is more than just package for doing tools, you can model, animate, texture, render, etc, etc. And yes that's absolutely right but as we're on the subject so can Houdini. Houdini can do all of those things, but many people use it for FX work, but they don't see it as any less of a package though and they use it along side other packages as well. This is the way productions and pipelines are now, multiple apps. Suites make sense for us and also customers.

Graham

From: softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com<mailto:softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com> [mailto:softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com<mailto:softimag...@listproc.autodesk.com>] On Behalf Of André Adam
Sent: 02 July 2011 09:05
To: soft...@listproc.autodesk.com<mailto:soft...@listproc.autodesk.com>
Subject: Re: Softimage at Autodesk - an observation
Exactly the point. Many people who do commercials or film and rave about how ICE tweaks their every-day workflows don't see that it does not apply to a games pipeline. Our assets do not live in Softimage, they live within the game engine, a fierce place, where every triangle is highly optimized and manually put into the right place. Proceduralism is not done in the 3d app, baked and put into the game, the game is doing the procedural structures live, eg dynamically tesselating an editor-generated landscapes during runtime.
ICE kinematics are only useful for rather smallish bits and pieces like little volume preservation ops (still based on bones!), that can be baked down onto the skeleton during export. (We usually don't bake point-based effects, though we eventually have some fancy point-based effects live during runtime.) Flat hierachies held together by cool ICE rigging ops, as it was promoted as the next cool thing during release of the ICE rigging toolset, don't survive outside of Softimage...
Really sorry, so far I also don't see ICE becoming the swiss army knife of game dev. Finally do something about the out of the box modeling and texturing tools instead, to get them up to standard, or even better one level higher.

-André


On 02.07.2011 05:55, James De Colling wrote:

Ice is all well and good, but for my guys I would need to be able to show them how it would speed up this day to day workflow, ie, model and map a car or charachter, you mentioned rigging, but those rigs need to be able to be interopeble with the engines. I would love to know if there are people using ice for basic asset creation, and how they are implementing it.

On Jul 2, 2011 12:35 PM, "Andy Moorer" <andym...@gmail.com<mailto:andym...@gmail.com><mailto:andym...@gmail.com<mailto:andym...@gmail.com>>> wrote:
>
> That's a reasonable concern. But as a technical artist and ICE guy, I do get frustrated that people tend to see it as a VFX rollout, when there is so much it could offer to the game industry.... Streamlining workflow and pipeline, almost entirely unexplored potential for all kinds of rigging coolness, and now that we have modeling capabilities in ice all sorts of possibilities are out there. Procedural asset creation. Customized user-made modeling tools. Texture and uv tools, and so on.
>
> If you are a softimage studio of more than three artists and you don't have someone looking at how ICE can give you a leg up you're missing out on a lot of power. Frankly, there still aren't that many of us really pushing ICE as far as it can go yet. Use this list and ask for specific modeling tools in ICE and there's a good chance another user may be able to get something made for you before the devs can get to it.
>
> But your point is well taken. The viewport needing love effects previs as well, and it's important that when Softimage extolls the virtues of ice they make it clear that one of the most important things about ice is that it lets the TDs in the community extend the software and share powerful tools with every user.
>
> Game artists using soft, get your TDs and the rest of us making tools for your needs, ICE belongs to you too, and it can do a lot more than just VFX.
>

~~ This email address is ONLY my email for lists. If you want to send a personal email to me and do not know my main email address, please use my website's contact form. www.genecrucean.com<http://www.genecrucean.com>. Thanks. ~~

winmail.dat

Max

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Jul 2, 2011, 5:03:57 PM7/2/11
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I think no one said we dont love ICE, or ICE is not good, or even ICE isnt the
single thing that migth sell Softimage, what i think is that we are happy with
Softimage, we as user know how good ICE is and we fully understand that AD cant
really push Softimage vs 3ds MAX in rendering or modeling.
We are just saying okay ICE is fantastic and keep pushing it to get more seats
and sell more but dont forget the userbase you already have, and to those
people modeling rendering texturing rigging UV and everything is important, not
only ICE.


It seems to me that your focus is on what is important to 3ds max and Maya
users to embrace Softimage, while you are kinda forgetting the already
Softimage users since years.
Dont think we ask much, see Softimage as VFX ICE tool only is quite
depressing, not having Mental Ray fully integrated is quite depressing, not
having updated modeling tool is depressing too, so on and so forth, i guess you
guys got the point.
I'm glad if AD keeps going with ICE, but i honestly would like to see
something else targeted to users that use Softimage at 360°, not only as a
pipeline product because its been years really we dont see some real updates in
other fields thats not ICE.

Max

Ahmidou Lyazidi

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Jul 2, 2011, 5:03:30 PM7/2/11
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Hi Paul

2011/7/2 Paul Griswold <pgri...@fusiondigitalproductions.com>


I also agree - if it's so easy to build tools in ICE, why not start building a bunch of them at AD and include them with Soft or release them as an SP?  How about slowly replacing/enhancing existing tools with ICE versions - so the menus are the same, but an ICE tree is just built when you call the tool?  That way the tweakers & TDs can have their hearts filled with joy as they dig into thing, and those of us who are less technically inclined can occasionally tinker, but otherwise enjoy a faster set of tools?
 
Because in many case it will be slower in ICE than a compiled dedicated operator. It's also slower to apply a big ICE tree and make the connections than apply a classic operator.
 

For example, the stock "rig from guide" rig - why not convert that to an ICE version?  I saw that Paul "Pooby" Smith had made an ICE kinematics demo - have you watched it?  He gives up because it's too complicated, too confusing, and too much work.  I think Paul is a pretty bright chap, so when he's giving up it should send a message that maybe there should be a simplified method available.

I disagree, it's not that hard, I have myself an ICE rig project sleeping (you can see it on my Vimeo page), I just never found the time to finish and release it :\
 
Regards
--
Ahmidou Lyazidi
Director | TD | CG artist
http://vimeo.com/ahmidou/videos

David Barosin

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Jul 2, 2011, 9:32:32 PM7/2/11
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We're all looking at the same software package and seeing it in different ways.  ICE seems to have different definitions for different people.  ICE is pretty deep but there is a shallow end of the pool too.  Just try a get point position and put it into a 'turbulize around value' node then set the point positions and you have a pretty cool effect that isn't found in the stock Maya menus.  ICE Kinematics in it's simplest form is like writing expressions.  The fact that ICE is now touching upon so many aspects of the software might make it daunting to users without knowledge of what is happening under the hood.  (ICE the short list -> geo deformation, UV mapping,  particles, Lagoa, Melena hair, emfluids, syflex cloth, momentum (bullet physics),  Kinematics, geometry creation and clusters, and probably a few more I forgot to mention)

Yes ICE is very friendly to TD's and TD's make the non techincal people very happy by providing them with great tools.   If Softimage provides a strong toolset for development you end up with all the great things Eric Mootz, Thiago, Helge, Brad, Holger, Amaan, Alan and many others have created.  It's a bit of a food chain.  ICE is a very appealing and it empowers many more people than the standard c++ SDK can from other packages. 

I remember one of the points to ICE was to empower the customers with and easy development environment.  Softimage has done that.  There are a lot less people twiddling their thumbs waiting for Softimage to make them a new plug-in.  That is huge.  We could probably benefit by pausing and reflecting on that. 

The one big thing that I do miss and thought was a brilliant ideas was being able to upload and share ICE compound on a community site right in Soft.(yea for rray.de)  The biggest asset is the Softimage Community.  I'm pretty thrilled with what I have now in the software.  I think it's easier now for good things to come.  Look at GEAR for rigging.  UV mapping has had a nice improvement with unfolding and relaxing.  Guillaume just showed a nice demo of ICE and UV control. 

I don't know what the future really is with Autodesk but Softimage has seen some of the most robust development and additions under their watch.  Yes it would be great to have a big public show of affection from Autodesk rather than feel like the kept user base.  As long as they keep this good thing going I can only think more users will come around.   Look at how must attention Soft has without any heavy promo.   

Richard Perry

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Jul 2, 2011, 10:30:36 PM7/2/11
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Good day,

This is a very interesting thread, I've been watching it for days and trying to compose an angle on it.

One thing thats clear from this list, not forgetting this list is populated and voiced by the very hardcore Softimage users, is that we all love Softimage. Praise be.

I think that the development of the package has been monumental in the last few years, especially under Autodesk, the 2011.5 issue with Lagoa and stereo was an unbelievable point release that other packages just don't get. 
We're getting stability and performances updates all the time, its as slick as it gets.

ICE really did cause a unnecessary divide in peoples mindsets, but I think that even the most "artistic" of users can cobble together particles better than before, the more ambitious are pushing the boundaries of time and space. Its a joy to use, like Mr Gabe said, its useful for every day quickness if you think in its space. ICE has let us go beyond particles and given us a new platform to develop and share tools. Its an unbelievable workspace, but, as far as I'm concerned, not the only major selling point for the package.

The package is good. I fear the timing of all of this goodness is not.

By the time Soft really started to look like a player, Maya had overtaken it in film animation, Max had cornered and held the games and archviz market and Houdini had pretty much sewn up the vfx world. Then comes in Cinema4d, a product that grows and grows in design houses, giving easy access to 3d for people who dont want the hassle of learning the fundamentals of 3d. I know this is a generalisation - keep with me.

So, we have this slick, fast, evolving software, with a group of hardcore fanatics pushing it on. What we dont have is much of a market to use it in. With all the above bases covered, where do we sit? In recent years, Softimage users seem to have been segregated into small renegade teams and companies, holding the ground they are losing around them. 
In London, some of the most talented artists I know are trapped in a small bandwidth of gigs, due to the small amount of decent jobs we can get away with using Softimage commercially - the clients have even got wise to the small minded banding of the software market. Whilst equipped to deliver, and having the senior talent, where is the emerging talent?

I have found that to continue doing the work I love in film, I can no longer do it in the package I love. I have let go, embraced the darkside and now work amongst the Maya epidemic. You mention Softimage to any of them and they snort, most are aware of ICE, have heard its cool, but who's got time to look at it, they're all too busy doing cool stuff anyway...

I can't see us winning this battle, as hard as I find that to admit. I also can't see the suite intregation as a way into the already established massive studios, they're getting suites generally to get a discount on Mudbox. What's this Softimage?.....Um...make a cube...don't understand the interface...back to Maya/Max.
Who the hell uses Toxik? I tried, it made me think AE is good. That's worrying...
And to anyone bitching about the xsi modelling tools, I was "modelling" in Maya earlier, its like having every bone in your hand broken, then your hands being tied behind your back. Then losing the will to live.

I'm with Thomas Helzle some of the way, but i'm not angry, just a bit upset its come to this.

The talk of cross platforming, 3rd party renderers etc seems too late, the SDK is now cool, but its a decade behind Mayas hold, how can the man on the ground compete? 
Us Softimage users are usually jacks of all trades, brilliant 3d artists who can hold their own. Arnold is a big help, but pie in the sky and a distant dream of most aspiring users. Once we were the kings of the MR platform, now we are mere mortals, wondering if volume lights will ever work...

Education remains good at Bournemouth etc, but for how long? Since a majority of its output end up having to retrain immediately.

I sent Chinny a thank you email at the point of 2011.5. I stand by that. The software team have done well, its going in the right way, just not for me anymore.

So, this subscription time, you lose another, not because I dont love you anymore, because I have to pay the bills, have to continue with my career, have to follow the bastard tide. I'm switching licenses, and the bitter taste will last for a long time...

So long, and thanks for all the fish,

Pezzer x

p.s. Did the Creative Sheep ever get a job??!

Andy Moorer

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Jul 3, 2011, 12:48:19 AM7/3/11
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One thing that's sometimes hard to get across to max users and smaller shops in general is the power of scalability. To get the most out of any of these packages requires studios to tailor them to their use, something which Maya and Houdini have excelled at. Softimage wisely addressed scalability and customization, learning from a number of larger projects where hundreds of artists used Softimage in complex pipelines, and now it's become one of it's strengths. ICE is one particularly shiny aspect of this.

Individual artists and small shops use max for some stunning work, and many larger game companies still do. But they are also paying a price for it, I've talked with TDs at a number of game studios who despair over pipelines built around max, because it just doesn't scale well. I mean no offense, but some of the assets I see come out of small shops, often using max and which have great art skills are also almost tragically unsophisticated and need a lot of clean up.

I think it's good news that 80% of the Softimage dev team is on non-ice improvements to the software, and I hope individual non-technical game artists can perceive the huge benefits to modern software which is extensible and can be used to build robust custom solutions. Many of the recent improvements may not pertain to a single task you can envision yourself doing, but anyone who has worked at a studio with a truly smooth and sophisticated pipeline should be able to relate to how much it can improve an artist's life.

That said, it's fair to want Softimage to keep up with the feature sets of the other packages... I think a lot of the work that's gone into making Softimage a good development platform is beginning to pay dividends. Notice how soft's development has picked up in pace over the last two years? I have great hope that the devs can leverage the under-the-hood improvements they've focused on and give you guys some exciting stuff. Soft badly needed some VFX love, and they delivered big time. Let's hope the game industry gets some goodies under the tree in upcoming releases.

Maybe one thing worth doing is to describe some of the tools you most wish were in soft. There are a lot of smart people on this list (I'm not one of them) and you never know when you might catch their interest, which is basically what happened with VFX and soft. Squeak, wheels.

Andy Moorer

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Jul 3, 2011, 12:57:17 AM7/3/11