Softimage’s latest release of XSI is leaps and bounds beyond the previous one’which is saying a lot since XSI was already an extremely powerful piece of software to begin with. A huge list of advances have been implemented including new toys inside the latest version of mental ray, refined render tree functionality and overall code optimization. But, the main event is truly the reveal of ICE (Interactive Creative Environment) which sounds like it does almost everything.
ICE, which used to be known by its more flowerchild name of Moondust during development, is a node-based method of creating particle systems’for the most part, anyway. ICE can read and write information from nearly every part of the Softimage environment leaving the possibilities up to the imagination of the users. However, most use it for creating very complex particle systems and retaining incredibly fast feedback at this point in time.
The system takes the same paradigm as the XSI render tree, which closely resembles any node-based software, 3D or compositing. Information comes from somewhere, goes into the node, gets processed, and then comes back out to be passed onto another node. More advanced systems such as Houdini and Thinking Particles use this approach frequently. This method is a good way to chart the calculation, but can also become a plate of spaghetti really fast, with wires going all over the place. Fortunately, XSI allows you to create compounds, which consolidate groups of nodes into one node (always accessible later), not only for organizational purposes, but also to hide the complexity from the end user who may only need a few parameters to change the behavior of the particle system.
I can’t really express enough how potentially powerful ICE, and hence XSI, is in the hands of the right people’but it’s not surprising that shortly after XSI was released, Autodesk swooped in and purchased the company, thereby expanding its powerful oligarchy. It will be interesting to see how nParticles and ICE will get along when placed in the same dog pen together.
Prices: SoftimagelXSI Essentials Begins at $2,995
SoftimagelXSI Advance Begins at $4,695