Autodesk is introducing new virtual production tools as part of the 2012 releases of its digital entertainment creation software and middleware, writes Carolyn Giardina.
On Tuesday 1 March, Autodesk launched its 2012 Entertainment Creation Suites packages and new versions of tools including 3ds Max, Maya, MotionBuilder, Mudbox and Softimage, as well as finishing systems Flame Premium and Smoke.
Reflected in blockbusters such as Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, the production industry is starting to embrace virtual filmmaking techniques, which include virtual sets; motion capture; and the design and creation of 3D environments, props and characters.
“Virtual moviemaking is at the top of everybody’s minds right now,” said Rob Hoffman, senior product marketing manager. “Typically these production techniques start at the extremely high end and then slowly work their way down through the production facilities.
“We have been doing a lot of work around making these tools more accessible for those individuals from a usability standpoint,” Hoffman said. “We added in stereoscopic support—in Softimage and Maya you can work in a stereo environment where you are able to put on the glasses. Motion Builder is not a product that works by itself within a production pipeline—it is used in tandem with 3ds Max, Maya or Softimage—so we have been doing work to make sure data goes back and forth in single step workflows.”
In the area of finishing, Autodesk is positioning the new version of Flame Premium as the “ultimate finishing tool” for high end post combining colour grading and VFX tools, while the new Smoke release offers addition tools for the Mac platform. “The film and TV industry relies on Mac for a lot of the work they do,” said Marc Hamaker, senior product marketing manager. “We are trying to reduce the complexity of bringing finishing tools to the Mac.”
Across the board, the new Autodesk releases also have a focus on interoperability and simplified pipeline integration. An April release is planned.
Absent from Tuesday’s announcements was Autodesk’s Lustre, but Autodesk confirmed that there will be an upgrade to this colour grading system.
“We are absolutely releasing a new 2012 version of Lustre with new feature and workflow enhancements,” Hamaker said. “In fact, we are releasing new versions of all current Autodesk creative finishing software, and our current subscription customers will all see new features and enhancements regardless of which software they own. However in high-end finishing, we believe Flame Premium offers an excellent system for today’s most challenging projects. Facilities that want to grow their business by adopting a converged finishing workflow that includes both colour and 3D visual effects will benefit from Flame Premium 2012.”