Friday, 5 October 2007

Day273 AutoDesk Tour and Science Viz

Autodesk Product Launch Tour
Somehow the Autodesk events in Sydney always seem kinda small (by that I mean not well attended) - not sure why. Anyhow, this time it was at a nice hotel in the city where we were treated to demos of 3ds Max 2008, Maya 2008, Motionbuilder 7.5 and Toxik 2008.

Things kicked off with a very nice showreel higlighting a huge range of 2007 things that have been done with their stuff - but since with Max and Maya they can show pretty much everything this was to be expected. There were quite a few bits in the reel that I hadnt seen and by the oohs in the crowd they were new to most of us.

The demos themselves were scripted, but done live with enough variability to make it real.

The Area Site
The Autodesk lads mentioned their community site: The Area. Having a quick look showed they have tutes, discussions and galleries. Here are a few examples included in the showcase gallery on the site.

[images built with Max/Maya software in the showcase area of Autodesk's The Area site]

back to the tour/launch:

Motionbuilder 7.5
This isnt a new version per-se, just a 'point release' as they described it. I havent really met any motionbuilder people, but looking at the demo I cant understand why more people dont use this software. It seems to plug into Maya pretty well and certainly has similar functionality, but made sane and simple allowing more energy to go into animating. The scripted blinks and breathing etc using randomised blend shaping on top of the animation layer was very nice. We also saw a nice scorpion to show it can handle more than bipeds. Oh and hte new version can handle the Max biped now as well (about time).

3ds Max 2008
What is not to love, the parametrics and proboolean stuff looked very nice, fast and adaptable. The viewport renderig capabilities were far better, handling real-time shadows, mental ray textures, daylight sim etc. I liked the multi-mode sub-object selection and scene-states as well.
The new version of Mental Ray, 3.6 (also found in Maya) had much to show off including some lovely lighting control, self illumination, photometrc lights, sky portal and lighting bloom. The time of day demo was just heavenly.
This Youtube Vid is a version covering basically what we saw, different presenter, but lots of the same files and logic.

Maya 2008
Though we were shown al manner of nice animation, skinning and UV enhancements it was the joys on nCloth that stole the show. Walking through examples with wind, flags, objects, wind breaks, pushing, breaking, tearing, leaves and more - all of it was amazing.

Toxik 2008
Compositing at this end of the equation isnt something I know enough about to comment, what we were shown may have been impressive for all I know. There was some nice HDRI stuff and workflow from Maya, but it wasnt the sexiest stuff on show.

The 64bitness of things was one thing covered, interestingly things like Toxik werent there yet as they were waiting for 64bit Python to arrive. Interoperability was mentioned, but it didnt seem to have a grand scheme - it was almost like now and again their various apps would run into each other and do a little communicating. The Mudbox acquisition was mentioned as well, along with them working on a new version.

The Autodesk dudes had some partners along for the ride:
WACOM were as much fun as always showing of their Cintiq (love it) and some of their new range of Bamboo tablets aimed at everyone, not just graphics people. In talking with their rep, they are also exploring technologies like Microsoft's Surface and new products that will give us the cintiq functionality in a wide form factor this tablet styling.
Microsoft briefly covered their Windows Computer Cluster infrastructure that would be great for our renderfarm dreams.
HP covered their workstation product line, but of most interest was their HP Remote Graphics (I will have to look into this further). They also covered the system tuning application they provide with their systems which can not only get and config the right drivers based on your system, but also on your applications as well.

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What is becoming ever more apparent is the vast overlap between the two giants of Max and Maya, surely the one company cant keep running with both of these. There is so much similarity, perhaps if they do merge and bring across some interface niceties from Mudbox, Alias and other areas we will have an uber-app. I will have to delve into this further...

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In looking for Max/Maya 2008 vids I did come across this blinder by BrooklynFUNK which is done in Max with V-Ray. Though it isnt using the new enhancements that the new Max'n'Maya packages bring - it is mighty fun.

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Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge
Listening to the Science Podcast (train travel can be very educational) brought to my attention a specific field of comunication rewarded through the Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge. Being part of FBE, Visualisation quickly means environments of various types for me, but visualising the very small, very vast, biological and notional ideas of science is an exciting field. It is certainly not a new one, but digital media of various sorts is allowing some exciting forms of expression tailored to convey knowledge, wonder and a thirst for more.

Being at the Uni (involved in multiple faculties already), it could be fun to delve deeper into realtime, immersive, rendered and evocative (maybe cartoon inspired) communication of the research all around the place.

[winning images from the 2007 Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge from their site]

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