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August 2014
Issue: SIGGRAPH 2008 - Day 1

SOFTIMAGE SHIPS XSI 7

By: Randi Altman
LOS ANGELES - The release of Softimage|XSI 7 is “a huge leap forward” for the software, according to the company’s global PR manager Kevin G. Clark. Within the new version of this 3D animation software – now shipping - is the ICE (Interactive Creative Environment) platform which takes hand scripting out of the equation and adds a node-based model, making it easier for artists to make an effect themselves or to customize an effect more easily than before.

Softimage’s (www.softimage.com) hope for Version 7 is that in addition to helping existing XSI customers, it will make them more attractive to high-end visual effects studios that are currently using Maya, with its MEL scripting, as their software of choice.
The ICE platform allows the creation of complex tools and effects extremely quickly using a node-based system instead of scripting or coding.

“Technical directors can create, package and deploy tools to teams of artists easily, who are able to use the tool ‘as is,’ or open up the tool in ICE and edit it themselves,” says Clark. “ICE is significant because it makes scripting and development easy - you’re no longer confined to relying on the programmer to create tools or effects. Artists with a bit of technical knowledge can dive in and use it themselves to create amazing effects easily using the node-based system.”

Within XSI 7 are pre-built production-ready ICE “compounds” for particle-based effects and deformations that will give artists a head start in a production. While ICE is targeted at particles and displacement mapping, it applies to other tools, such as modeling and character animation.

In terms of speed, XSI’s multi-threaded GigaCore II processing engine takes advantage of multi-core workstations, including the new dual quad cores - the company has been working closely with Intel and AMD.

Other new features included in Version 7 are support for Mental Images Mental Ray V.3.6, which offers new rendering “stand-ins” that allow users to offload objects along with rigged and animated characters to the disk until render time, resulting in light-weight scene assembly for much larger rendered scenes, and optimized controls for final gathering and global illumination. Delta II is a major update to the lightweight referencing system in XSI, with enhanced support for clusters and cluster properties, including materials, textures and UVs; and RTS III, a new realtime shading architecture allows fragment and vertex shaders to exist in one node. It is programmable and controllable from any ICE attribute.

Pricing for Softimage|XSI 7 Essentials is $2,995; Softimage|XSI 7 Advanced is $4,995. Upgrade pricing from XSI 6 is $795 for Essentials and $995 for Advanced.