The Foundry’s Mari 2.5
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.