With Maya, 3ds Max and other Autodesk M&E applications like Mudbox, Softimage and MotionBuilder experiencing tighter integration than ever, and Autodesk increasingly nudging us all toward their Entertainment Creation Suite over individual products, we thought it’d be a good idea to round up all of our favourite features in a single, cross-application post. (Although let’s be honest, we all know 3ds Max has managed to bag the most interesting update…)
Populate crowd engine
3ds Max 2014 and 3ds Max Design 2014 have bagged our 3D solutions architect Ben’s award for most interesting update, adding the Populate crowd engine to their already impressive list of tools. Perhaps a more natural fit for architects than VFX types, although potentially helpful for any kind of pre-viz work, Populate lets you dictate the flow of crowds around a model, their density, their gender mix and how they should behave. As well as dictating flows for moving crowds, you can specify certain areas of your model as ‘idle zones’, which will then be populated with small groups of busy-looking (but stationary) people – nice if you’re designing something with both indoor and outdoor spaces.
As you’d expect from a company with Autodesk’s M&E pedigree, Populate is slightly swisher than the kind of crowd control tools you usually find in architectural programs, but don’t confuse it with CrowdFX – this has had its own update, and is now even more awesome (see below).
Another handy addition to 3ds Max and 3ds Max Design is Perspective Match, which makes it easier to add 3D models to photographs. Whip up your 3D model, and then when you’re ready to drop it into your image, turn on Perspective Match. You’ll be given a range of vanishing lines to align to surfaces and objects in your photo. Simply use these to dictate the perspective you need for the model, set your camera angle, and all your 3D elements should appear perfectly aligned to the 2D objects in the background. Ace.
Maya and Mudbox have both had their retopology tools refreshed, meaning it’s now easier than ever to repurpose existing models, or edit meshes created from scans or motion capture. Models imported into Maya 2014 or Mudbox 2014 should now be far more accurate on arrival, meaning your artists spend less time correcting the model before they get down to animating it. The process of correcting and then animating the model is now far more automated, so you can get the broad strokes out of the way quickly and dedicate more time to detail work – especially in Mudbox.
You can retain detail but reduce file sizes along your production pipeline using the same retopology toolset – choose a target polygon count and choose the level of detail you need to retain, and Maya will create a working model that matches your specifications. You can also manually set hard and soft topology rules for models you’ve created in Mudbox. Hard curves tell Mudbox to put a curve exactly where you’ve drawn it, while soft curves dictate the general flow and shape of the model, and will be reflected throughout rather than creating a specific edge.
Part of the Autodesk 360 suite of cloud-based tools, ReCap Studio and ReCap Photo are both designed to make it easier for you to create 3D models from photos and laser scans, and clean, organise and visualise the massive data sets scans can create. You can import data from several scanners to create your models, register while you scan and even mix photographic and scanned data so that you can see realistic surfaces on your scanned model, rather than just a point cloud.
Improved ICE and Crowd FX
For those of us who care to work on a truly massive scale, there have been updates to Softimage‘s ICE FX and Crowd FX packages. You can now override any components created through ICE, including particles and crowds, so that they’re easier to isolate when you’re editing a composition. It’s now far easier to control the behaviours of individuals in Crowd FX using a ‘behavioural tree’ model (if you’ve ever seen a node based editing or VFX system, picture that and you’re pretty much there.) Autodesk have some nicely in-depth demos of the Softimage updates here.
Multitouch Wacom control
If you’ve been bitten by the touchscreen bug and are looking for ways to get closer to your image, you’ll be pleased to hear that Autodesk’s 2014 line supports the multitouch controls on Wacom’s multitouch enabled pen tablets, including the Inutos5 and Cintiq range. You can now use one hand to manipulate your model or zoom and pan around your viewport, all while editing using your pen at the same time. (Autodesk have a handy tutorial on the multitouch controls you can use in Mudbox here.)
MotionBuilder is coming to Linux!
Okay, so this isn’t a specific new feature, but we’re still excited to hear that MotionBuilder 2014 will work on Linux machines, making it easier to slot in alongside other high-end solutions you may already be running on Linux systems in your facility. Huzzah!