Tech Re­views: Best of the Year by Todd Sheri­dan Perry

Animation Magazine - - Content - by Todd Sheri­dan Perry

Our bril­liant tech critic picks 12 of his fa­vorite re­leases of the past year:

Lagoa. This web-based 3D sys­tem with a pro­gres­sive, phys­i­cally-based ren­der en­gine in the Cloud is ideal for prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and pro­to­typ­ing due to its phys­i­cal shaders, and the abil­ity to scan real ma­te­ri­als and de­rive shaders from them. It’s de­signed to work in­ter­ac­tively with clients or other artists. Yes, web sys­tems seem to be the new black.

Clarisse iFX. A pow­er­ful scene-as­sem­bly tool made to im­port in Alem­bic files from other 3D pack­ages for light­ing, shad­ing and even com­posit­ing with an in­tense work­flow tool and Python sup­port.

Splice. Splice is an API which ex­poses Fab­ric En­gine (on last year’s list) core ex­e­cu­tion en­gine and KL lan­guage to sup­ported 3D pack­ages. To put it sim­ply, the idea is that de­vel­op­ers can build cus­tom tools with a friendly, Python-like lan­guage with the speed ben­e­fits of C++ code. This makes it an ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial tool for com­pa­nies that cre­ate

pro­pri­etary tools. fab­ri­

splice Cur­rently in Beta, this web­based 3D Ed­i­tor fo­cuses on the mod­el­ing side of things. It shares with Lagoa the idea of work­ing in the Cloud through a browser in a shared, col­lab­o­ra­tive work­flow. But while Lagoa feels more shader and look-dev cen­tric, likes the verts. Its com­pany, Ex­o­cor­tex, is very fa­mil­iar with those as­pects of the field, given that they are the source of the near-ubiq­ui­tous Crate Alem­bic tools used in the in­dus­try.

Red­shift. This handy ren­der­ing sys­tem uti­lizes your GPU power to ac­cel­er­ate the process us­ing a bi­ased al­go­rithm to speed things up and re­duce noise.

The best news is that all the cool bells and whis­tles that you need for ren­der­ing are not sac­ri­ficed in the process. Th­ese guys seem to be the first ones out of

the gate to of­fer this great ser­vice. red­ucts/red­shift

OpenVDB. DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion joined the Open Source band­wagon, along with with ILM, Dis­ney and Sony Image­works, with this C++ li­brary for ma­nip­u­lat­ing vol­u­met­ric ob­jects like clouds and smoke. The re­sults were on full dis­play in the fan­tas­tic-look­ing

Croods, and you’ll see more of that this year in Mr. Pe­abody and Sher­man and How to Train Your Dragon 2. The great news is that Jef­frey Katzen­berg’s stu­dio has made it avail­able for the in­dus­try to take ad­van­tage of, like Hou­dini, Ren­derMan, Arnold and RealFlow be­fore it.

Ocu­lus Rift. This Kick­starter sen­sa­tion has taken game and vir­tual en­vi­ron­ment de­vel­op­ers and fans by storm. This past SIGGRAPH, Ocu­lus pre­sented the new

HD ver­sion of its next-gen vir­tual re­al­ity hel­met. Not only is the tech­nol­ogy cut­ting edge, but to dive in and start de­vel­op­ing, you can get the Dev Kit for $300—and they’ll throw in four months of Unity Pro. I’m con­sid­er­ing get­ting one for my­self, just be­cause. ocu­

Pre­vizion. An ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial sys­tem for on-set pre­vi­su­al­iza­tion of shots dur­ing pre-, post- and pro­duc­tion. There are so many tools I can’t cover them all here, but nut­shell: use track­ing sys­tems, real-time com­posit­ing and ren­der­ing to see what shots will look like dur­ing the shoot­ing so that de­ci­sions can be made right then and there, rather than months later. Who doesn’t see that as a ben­e­fit? Fire them. lightcraft­

Yeti. A rel­a­tively new en­try in the hair cat­e­gory, Yeti adds pow­er­ful node­based tools for cre­at­ing and groom­ing hair, feath­ers and in­stanced ge­ome- try within Maya. Un­like tra­di­tional fur so­lu­tions, Yeti grooms don’t rely on sur­face topol­ogy or tex­ture UVs. pere­

OpenSubDiv. Like DreamWorks with OpenVDB, Pixar is giv­ing away their “good stuff” in an ef­fort to pro­mote the in­dus­try us­ing high-speed sub­di­vi­sion sur­faces as near to real-time as pos­si­ble with a com­bi­na­tion of the GPUs and CPUs. This is al­ready on Au­todesk’s todo list to im­ple­ment in Maya. graph­ics.

ChronoSculpt. NewTek came out with this in­ge­nious tool last year, which al­lows for post an­i­ma­tion tweak­ing, fix­ing and ma­nip­u­lat­ing by sculpt­ing on top of an­i­ma­tion caches. ChronoSculpt is a stand­alone which likes to play with Light­Wave a lot, but it has no prob­lem shar­ing the sand­box with the likes of Maya and Max—or any­one who can spit out proper cache files. light­wave3d. com/chronosculpt

Sub­lime Text. An in­ter­est­ing en­try this year, but by far the most men­tioned new piece of in­dus­try tech is a lil’ ole text ed­i­tor. De­vel­op­ers I’ve spo­ken with from Pixar to Weta to Image­works to ILM ab­so­lutely swear that the highly cus­tom­iz­a­ble, so­phis­ti­cated code, markup and prose ed­i­tor has lit­er­ally changed their lives. In 2014, if you code and you don’t use Sub­lime Text, be pre­pared to be laughed out of the room. sub­lime­text. com

Todd Sheri­dan Perry is a vfx su­per­vi­sor and dig­i­tal artist who has worked on nu­mer­ous fea­tures, in­clud­ing LOTR: The Two Tow­ers, Speed Racer, 2012 and Fi­nal Desti­na­tion 5. You can reach him at todd@tea­spoon­

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