Softimage Launches New Version of Mental Ray Distributed Rendering Environment

LOS ANGELES, May 16, 1996 — As part of its latest high-end 3-D modeling, animation and rendering software, Softimage Inc. is introducing a more powerful version of mental ray, its distributed, fully programmable rendering environment for Softimage® 3D. With this new release, available with Softimage 3D Extreme or as a concurrent user network license, mental ray is significantly more capable, faster and easier to use. It supports many new innovations, including interface enhancements, an extensive library of shaders and effects, a robust development environment and support for cross-platform distributed rendering. All mental ray features, including distributed rendering, are now available for the first time on Intel® Pentium® Pro, Alpha and MIPS® RISC 4400-based systems for the Microsoft® Windows NT® operating system and Silicon Graphics®

In addition, Softimage has announced attractive pricing for network and standalone concurrent user licenses of mental ray that will enable customers to build extremely cost-effective distributed rendering networks, also called renderfarms. Renderfarms speed production work and lower costs.

As part of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) here, Softimage is demonstrating a massive renderfarm, with mental ray, running in a network of more than 30 Windows NT and Silicon Graphics laptops, single and multiprocessor workstations, and servers based on Intel Pentium Pro, Alpha and the MIPS RISC 4400 microprocessor.

Several independent software developers, including Lightscape Technologies Inc. and The VALIS Group, are demonstrating new plug-in applications that enhance mental ray’s rendering capabilities. These plug-in applications are based on Softimage’s new software development kit.

Through a combination of advanced ray-tracing capabilities, procedural shaders, volumetric rendering, distributed processing and a programmable architecture, mental ray has established the benchmark for rendering quality by producing the industry’s most detailed, photorealistic images for films, videos, commercials and games.

Most recently, Buf Compagnie (France) used mental ray to produce imagery for the feature film
“The City of Lost Children”

La Cit
édes Enfants Perdus”
). R/Greenberg Associates (New York) used mental ray to create a photorealistic version of the Statue of Liberty for an Oldsmobile Aurora commercial. Digital Domain (Los Angeles) used mental ray to produce a stunningly realistic animated character, the T-Meg, for the Terminator 2 3-D attraction at Universal Studios Florida.

“Even the best animation system is not complete without the extendible capabilities of a fully functional, high-quality rendering solution,”
said Daniel Langlois, founder of Softimage and senior director at Microsoft.
“With mental ray, artists can easily create the type of complex, photorealistic and innovative imagery that provide a competitive edge in the industry.”

All mental ray enhancements are available for Windows NT-based workstations and servers and Silicon Graphics systems. The enhancements include the following:

  • Distributed rendering. Mental ray is a distributed rendering solution that can take advantage of multiprocessor and networked hardware, including Windows NT-based workstations and servers and Silicon Graphics systems, to dramatically reduce the time it takes to render a complex animation scene. Availability of mental ray on Windows NT allows customers to choose from a variety of high-performance, low-cost hardware platforms based on Alpha, Intel Pentium Pro and MIPS R4400 microprocessors for fast, cost-effective renderfarm solutions.

  • Shader library. Softimage 3D Extreme ships with an extensive library of mental ray shaders and effects, including some of the most challenging effects such as hair, smoke, fog and environmental effects such as sunsets and sunrises. Shader libraries are updated continually at no charge through Softimage’s World Wide Web site, . Through an Internet browser, customers can quickly view an effect in action to determine how it can be used in an animation scene.

  • Enhanced programmability. With mental ray programmable shaders, animators can differentiate their imagery with unique, visually exciting custom effects. An open application programming interface based on C, made available through the Softimage software development kit (SDK), enables customers to directly access the mental ray rendering engine for building custom shaders that match their unique creative environments. To help bolster a community of plug-in applications, Softimage in February introduced the Softimage Developers Connection program.

  • Interface enhancements. Mental ray is now fully integrated into Softimage 3D, making it easier to render images. A new render preview window also saves time in getting the right effects. A new shader ball allows customers to find the desired effect quickly.

In addition to mental ray distributed rendering, Softimage 3D version 3.5 includes many other significant enhancements including full NURBS (nonuniform rational B-spline) modeling, an enhanced particle animation system and other features. (For more information on Softimage 3D, see the
“Microsoft Introduces Major Upgrade of Softimage 3D”
news release.)

Plug-in Applications

As part of E3, several ISVs plan to demonstrate applications developed with the Softimage SDK. Lightscape Technologies (San Jose, Calif.) is demonstrating the integration of the Lightscape Radiosity Server and Softimage 3D using the Softimage SDK. A viewer linked to the server will provide real-time display and navigation of the radiosity solution from within Softimage 3D. The VALIS Group (Tiburon, Calif.)will announce it plans to ship several cross-platform, procedural shaders that eventually will be included as part of its Shader of the Month Club for Softimage 3D. The VALIS Group develops and markets special-effects applications and a series of procedural shaders for Renderman.

Pricing and Availability

Softimage 3D and Softimage 3D Extreme are shipping today for the Silicon Graphics platform; Windows NT-based versions are scheduled to be available in August. Licensed users of Softimage 3D version 3.5 can obtain networked or standalone, cross-platform concurrent user mental ray licenses. Approximate U.S. prices are single license, $2,495; four-pack, $7,995; eight-pack, $13,995; 16-pack, $23,995; 24-pack, $29,995; and 48-pack, $47,995.

Founded in 1986, Softimage develops software for media-rich applications including video, film, interactive games and CD-ROM applications. Products include Softimage 3D (high-end modeling, animation and rendering), Softimage Eddie (compositing) and Softimage Toonz (2-D cel animation). The company was acquired in 1994 by Microsoft Corp. Additional information about Softimage and Microsoft can be found via the Internet at and respectively.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (NASDAQ
) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

Softimage is a registered trademark of Softimage Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft and Windows NT are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

Intel and Pentium are registered trademarks of Intel Corp.

MIPS is a registered trademark of MIPS Technologies Inc. MIPS is a wholly owned subsidiary of Silicon Graphics.

Silicon Graphics is a registered trademark of Silicon Graphics Inc.

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