The Foundry’s Mari 2.5

Animation Magazine - - Visual Effects Tech Reviews - Web­site: the­foundry.co.uk Price: From ap­prox. $1,995

Back at the end of Oc­to­ber, The Foundry re­leased the lat­est ver­sion of its Weta-born 3-D paint­ing pro­gram ex­traor­di­naire, Mari, bring­ing it up to ver­sion 2.5 (with two sub-ver­sion re­leases since). The artists who have al­ready been work­ing with Mari know the power of it: paint­ing on 3-D ob­jects, near un­lim­ited UV tiles, PTex sup­port, elab­o­rate layer func­tion­al­ity, Pho­to­shop-like trans­fer modes and just a slew of bril­liant tools to make tex­ture-map­ping ex­cit­ing.

The big­gest jump with Mari 2.5 is that artists hang­ing out over in Mac OSX on the Ap­ple side of things can get into the act. If you are work­ing in Moun­tain Lion (OSX 10.8.4) or above and have ei­ther an NVIDIA GEForce GT 650M of Quadro (Fermi Se­ries) 4000, you are good to go. But, not to leave out Win­dows and Linux, the NVIDIA Quadro K Se­ries (2000, 4000, 5000 — and pre­sum­ably the up-and-com­ing 6000) are sup­ported, which is a crit­i­cal ad­di­tional due to the amount of VRAM Mari can hog up.

On top of this, the Mari de­vel­op­ment team has kicked in a Cus­tom Shader API to create new shaders along­side the de­fault Mari ones — a sys­tem that has been re­con­fig­ured in these later ver­sions. The API has been de­vel­oped with spe­cial at­ten­tion to cod­ing syn­tax and be­hav­ior to make sure it’s con­sis­tent with in­dus­try stan­dards. This may sound a bit deep for av­er­age paint artists, but be­lieve me, as an artist, if you have some cod­ing guys back­ing you up, you are a hap­pier artist.

Mari has es­tab­lished it­self as the go-to 3-D paint sys­tem in the in­dus­try, and does not seem to be plan­ning on los­ing that po­si­tion. Loads of smart peo­ple con­tinue to hack away at what Mari does well and re­fin­ing it, as well as what it’s not quite do­ing as well and fix­ing it. In this in­dus­try, one must al­ways in­no­vate — even if one is in the lead. The Foundry seems to be con­sis­tent about this across its whole soft­ware fam­ily.

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

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