able to the masses. I’m just going to say right now that the feature set goes way beyond this review, so be sure to take the time to visit the Side Effects website for all the goodness that Houdini brings. I’ll focus on the VFX features here, and even then, I won’t be able to hit everything.
The most exciting advance, in my nerdy mind, is that for every kind of dynamic simulation — fluids, pyro, water, grains, etc. — the solve can be distributed across multiple machines without a dependency on previous frames. In essence, if you have a farm of machines and the licenses, you can create one, uberworkstation that works on multiple parts of the grid volume, communicating channel data across the grid seams to keep everyone on the same page. I cannot express how advantageous this is as project directors demand larger and larger objects falling into larger and larger bodies of water ... filled with burning oil and lava.
That brings up viscous fluids, like chocolate and lava — and chocolate lava. This was the big thing last year, and in this new version, Side Effects has put in tools for even more complexity. Temperature and variable viscosity means that hotter fluids will be more runny, while colder ones will be more solid — and that can change as the objects cools (or heats up). This propagates into the shader for lava, where the temperature drives blackbody emissions, so the hotter the material, the brighter the material. It can also drive the formation of a delicious lava crust.
The FLIP solver for water and whitewater is highly optimized, compressing the volume and necessary data per frame so that it takes up less drive space. The compression is lossy, so, like a JPEG, it’s throwing out intermediate data (particles in this case), which can be rebuilt when the sim is reloaded. Additional optimization comes from culling the data to the FOV of the camera. The solver can handle up to 2 billion particles, which is also the case for the grain solver.
Speaking of the grain solver: For sand and dirt and fine particle stuff, the grain solver benefits from the same distributed simulations and high particle count. Sand has the unique quality of needing to be stable when not moving, despite a gagillion internal collisions taking place. Frequently this leads to jittering and exploding simulations. So, there is a node that puts particles to “sleep” until a fast-moving object or particles come in — and then the awaken node brings them back to life.
Despite this cursory overview of a substantial feature list from a feature subset, this gives you an idea of the critical advances Side Effects has been concentrating on. Current
Houdini users should be at least a little giddy.
Hiromu Arakawa’s manga Fullmetal Alchemist has been adapted to two television series, two theatrical features, several juvenile novels and an assortment of brief OAV’s. The animated versions rank among the best and best-loved anime properties of the first decade of the 21st century.
The broadcast series Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) introduced viewers to the adventures of child prodigies Edward and Alphonse Elric. Those adventures began on the night they violated the greatest taboo of alchemy by attempting to bring their mother back from the dead. (“We just wanted to see Mom’s smile again.”) A terrible price was exacted for their efforts at human transmutation. Ed lost his left leg and Al would have died, but Edward sacrificed his right arm to bond his brother’s soul to an empty suit of armor with a magical seal in blood. The robotic prostheses their friend Winry crafted won Ed the title of the Fullmetal Alchemist.
As they travel through a world that resembles early 20th century Europe, the Elric brothers conclude that only the philosopher’s stone can restore their bodies. Ordinary alchemical reactions are based on the principle of equivalent exchange: everything taken must be matched by a sacrifice of equal value, just as chemical equations have to balance. The philosopher’s stone isn’t bound by those laws but, like J.R.R. Tolkien’s one ring, its power is inherently evil. Creating a stone requires the sacrifice of human lives. The brothers also learn that previous efforts at human transmutation created the seven powerful, soulless entities known as Homunculi: Pride, Gluttony, Sloth, Envy, Wrath, Greed and Lust.
Improvised Ending Fullmetal Alchemist was animated before Arakawa had completed the manga. The filmmakers had to create an ending for her story, and added a weird twist that took Ed and his father Hohenheim to Weimar Germany in the 1920s. That storyline concluded in the feature The Conqueror of Shambala (2005).
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009) is a darker, more exciting remake that closely follows the completed manga. Although the filmmakers expanded the series from 51 episodes to 63, many of the side stories, such as the Elrics’ grueling training under the redoubtable Izumi-sensei, were shortened to keep the focus on the main plot. The extended length and tighter focus enables the viewer to grasp events more fully, including the cruel Ishvalan war that helped to shape the world the Elrics know.
In the dramatic finale, Ed and Alphonse discover that the dark master the Homunculi call father is plotting to acquire god-like powers by murdering the population of an entire country to create a gigantic philosopher’s stone. Determined to prevent this slaughter, the Elrics and their allies transform rocks and buildings into offensive weapons and protective walls in an all-out battle. Director Yasuhiro Irie fills these high-energy sequences with bold CG effects.
But the dynamic effects are eclipsed by the emotions underlying the conflict, as each of the main characters must rise to face the challenges. Although their alchemical skills and humor initially won the Elric brothers their following, the characters’ human vulnerabilities deepened fans’ affection. In Brotherhood, Edward and Alphonse each discover just how much they’re willing to sacrifice for each other. Those sacrifices make the battle and its resolution in Brotherhood the exciting finale the series demanded.
Original Charm Although its resolution is less satisfying, the original Fullmetal series retains a special charm, much of it due to Aaron Dismuke’s winning performance as the voice of Alphonse. He sounds vulnerable, yet sensible — as Al should — and his interactions with Vic Mignogna’s Ed feel utterly believable. Most of the cast (from FUNimation’s repertory company of voice actors) repeated their roles in Brotherhood, including Mignogna. But Dismuke’s voice was changing when they recorded the final episodes of the first series. (He’s done voice work in recent anime — he’s now a baritone.) Maxey Whitehead took over the role of Alphonse, but her voice is too obviously a woman’s, rather than a boy’s, and her performance lacks the same ring of authenticity.
In the booklet accompanying this re-issue of Fullmetal Alchemist, director Seiji Mizushima talks about the problems Japanese animation artists faced during the transition to digital media. For the Blu-ray release, they keyed the look to the red of Ed’s coat, the gold of his hair and the increasingly gray backgrounds as the story darkens. The muted red of Ed’s signature coat contrasts strongly with the steel blue of the military officers’ uniforms and the clearer blue of the background skies. Ed’s hair may remind viewers of the goldenrod-colored crayon in the old Crayola assortment.
Although the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise remains popular in the United States, there have been no new adventures for the Elrics since The Sacred Star of Milos (2011), a feature set during Arakawa’s original narrative, but in a new location within her world. The lack of new material is sad, but not surprising. Brotherhood brought the adventures of the Elric brothers to a definitive and ultimately satisfying conclusion. But it was hard to say good-bye to Ed and Al. Viewers had to sacrifice additional sequels for an appropriate ending to their story: An example of equivalent exchange.
Serious fans will want both Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood in their libraries. [
Globally acclaimed pop artist Takashi Murakami made his directorial debut with this 2013 hybrid flick, which blends CG creatures with Murakami’s fanciful look with live action. The plot centers on a young boy who relocates to a country town with his mother after