CGI coffee

Softimage. It's time to move on. Slowly. Gradually

softimage xsi splash screen

I found out about Softimage XSI 8 years ago by accident. While trying to create a simple curved satellite dish mesh in a trial of Maya 2011 I was getting constant crashes, weird mesh behaviors and overall was in shock "how hard it was to 3D". I then turned to the internet in search of answers and... found out, everyone was having problems with Maya. Regardless of what you were doing, it was (and still is) a goddamn mess of a 3D DCC package. Particularly for a hobbyist. And especially after it going subscription-only a couple years ago.

well shit

I then started looking for alternatives. Tried Blender... Remember 2011 Blender? Yeah... Let me just say it didn't "click" and the UI as well as the overall flow of production in Blender seemed like something from a parallel Universe. Not the one I wanted to be a part of.

There was Modo and 3ds Max. Modo was kind of weird with its layer-based material creation workflow and was actually not that intuitive to model in (at least for me as a complete noob back then). Max was kind of cool. I remember doing stuff in 3ds Max in college computer class back in the day always finding its interface a bit archaic. I played with it for a while and almost settled, before accidentally discovering a post somewhere on the web talking about about some "XSI" app. There was a screenshot and the author was praising this "XSI" for intuitive UI, ease of modeling and animation as well as a powerful tool-set and even some cool procedural capabilities.

So I tried this "XSI" which turned out to be Autodesk XSI Softimage 2011 and... was instantly hooked! Yes, it didn't have VRAY integration back then, yes, Mental Ray was a pain to work with, but over time other renderers became available: Arnold, Redshift, nowadays there's even "Sycles" - Blender Cycles integraton for Softimage, believe it or not. As well as lots of plug-ins, ICE compounds, built-in dynamics and so on...

I was set.

happy House MD

The games are over. It's previz time

All right, gang. As the title suggests, the games are over and I'm officially working on a previz (previsualization) of my upcoming short film.

The way I see it, and judging by how the big studios are doing it, the first thing to do is a very basic 2D-previz which would allow to estimate scene and event timings and check whether the whole story "works". I've already done this using GIMP and then edited all segments together in After Effects.

2D previz of the short film

Coupled with the soundtrack I've composed together with a talented music producer, I finally "saw" the whole thing "outside of my own head". And it works! The story, the tempo, the camera angles - just like I originally imagined them. Now it's time to bring the whole thing to life.

I'm currently in the process of redoing the previz in 3D as can be seen from the screenshot below. This will help polish timings further and see actual animated camera and character movement, which is uber-cool.

XSI previz screenshot

For character rigging I am using the wonderful Exocortex Species tool-set. It will allow me to not only generate MoCap and manual animation-ready rigs from my production geometry with a click of a button, but also quickly create previz-ready characters which is a true blessing.

I will be talking more about Species as I go along.

XSI window with Species rig

And yes, the whole movie, every single scene, animation and 3D special effect will be done with one and only Softimage and rendered out with Redshift. For compositing and editing I will use After Effects CS6 that I was also able to license a couple months before the whole monthly subscription thing came along, which I'm not very fond of. But I digress.

It is on, is what I'm saying.

It. Is. On.

Eric Thivierge's blog post on Softimage EOL: a year later

It's been over a year since Eric Thivierge, talented TD and creator of Species for Softimage as well as a set of other powerful tools, shared his feelings on Softimage XSI EOL.

enter image description here

First I'd like to post this quote because it perfectly reflects my feelings on the subject:

At this point I’d like to take the opportunity to say that I truly believe that Softimage got user interaction and a non-linear flexible workflow right. No other application I’ve used has anything close. The construction stack, ICE, native Object Oriented API, and countless other features go unmatched. I don’t want to use another application and it’d have been great to go my entire career not having to transition over to something else. The idea to end Softimage was one of the worst I could imagine and it was handled really poorly by Autodesk. They didn’t even have comparable replacements for things such as ICE. We’re still waiting for this stuff in Maya while other companies have been able to fly past with relative ease and implement similar workflows.

I want to comment on some of Eric's thoughts on the topic of moving on. The reasons mainly. Of course I am not an industry professional and just a hobbyist. I don't have to adapt to the DCC market, so this post should be taken with a grain of salt.

Nevertheless I just have to do this (for great justice!)

Softimage hotkeys mapping infographic

Since Autodesk officially EOL'd Softimage, XSI blogs and discussion groups have been gradually vanishing from the web which is a shame.

As a tribute to the great piece of software that Softimage is I will try to consolidate the most useful XSI-related stuff from the net.

Today we have a Softimage hotkeys infographic originally posted at XSIBase which is now non-existent. It's just too good to just perish so here are cleaned up versions in glorious PNG.