LAS VEGAS, April 7, 1997 — Softimage Inc., the world’s leading high-end 3-D animation software company and a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft Corp., today announced at the National Association of Broadcasters convention (NAB ’97) the release of its new Softimage® Software Development Kit (SDK) version 1.7. The Softimage SDK version 1.7 further opens up the Softimage 3D architecture, allowing developers deeper access into Softimage 3D and programmatic control over both custom shaders and channel drivers. For the first time, developers will be able to build custom effects that unite the full power of the SDK’s SAAPHIRE (special effects), Mental Ray (custom shader) and CDK (channel driver) toolkits. Furthermore, plug-ins developed with the SDK version 1.7 will be compatible with Softimage 3D and Softimage’s next-generation animation system, code-named “Sumatra.”
Because the new Softimage SDK makes it easier to create special effects and plug-ins, industry support continues to grow with more than 100 developers committed to creating plug-in applications for Softimage 3D. Currently companies such as 4Dvision, Lume Inc., Infografica, Kaydara Inc. and DnA soft have shipped clever plug-ins enhancing everything from 3-D paint and organic modeling to real-time software for motion capture control. In addition, many leading Softimage customers, such as Blue Sky Productions, DreamWorks Interactive, Electronic Arts (Canada) Inc. and R/Greenberg Associates Inc., are using the SDK to create custom tools and applications to distinguish themselves in the market.
“The goal of the new SDK is to provide artists with an environment to express their own personal vision,” said Jean-Jacques Hermans, group manager, developer relations for Softimage. “That’s why the new SDK allows for better access to the Softimage 3D 3.7 architecture. By bringing together the power of SAAPHIRE, motion capture and custom shaders, Softimage 3D becomes even more extensible and customizable, allowing the artist’s own creativity to flourish.”
Developers Applaud SDK
“Many impressive realistic effects require that the plug-ins have access to both the animation and the coloration description of a scene,” said Karl Stiefvater, founder and president of Lume Inc. “By tightening the connection between SAAPHIRE effects and Mental Ray shaders, the new SDK opens the door to many interesting possibilities. We’re very excited.” One of the first Mental Ray plug-ins, Lume’s line of shaders, Lume Tools, was also used extensively throughout Riven, the sequel to Cyan’s Myst. Lume Tools will be available in April 1997.
“With the addition of new features, the new SDK SAAPHIRE gives more control over effects and allows us to easily customize Softimage 3D to our specific needs,” said Michel Besner, president of Kaydara. “The integration of FiLMBOX with Softimage 3D’s SDK helps us to continue to deliver the best software solution for the motion capture industry.”
With the first two releases of the SDK, Softimage gave developers three toolkits for building three distinct types of plug-ins: SAAPHIRE, Mental Ray and CDK in Softimage 3D. Now, with the new SDK version 1.7, SAAPHIRE allows developers programmatic control over both custom shaders and channel drivers, bringing together the complete power of all three toolkits. Key benefits for enhancing and easing development include the following:
Ability to build custom effects that streamline the animator’s workflow when using custom Mental Ray shaders.
A SAPPHIRE effect can encapsulate and customize the application of any number of Mental Ray shaders to supported 3-D elements such as materials, textures and lights.
Low-level details of setting shader parameters can be handled by a custom effect, freeing animators to make high-level choices about rendering effects.
SAAPHIRE can be used to individually keyframe shader parameters, since shader fcurves now may have different key point numbers, giving customers more control over the animation.
Custom effects can be used for a custom shader to obtain data such as light or color from the Mental Ray renderer.
Ability to create effects that initialize and run channel drivers, retrieve channel DOF values and perform take recordings.
New SDK Enhances Game Development
The new Softimage SDK makes it easier for game developers to create stunning 3-D graphics by allowing straightforward creation of cross-platform shaders, productivity tools and other plug-in applications within Softimage 3D 3.7. The new SDK also lets you build export tools for any supported platform by providing low-level access to Softimage 3D’s modeling, animation, motion capture and rendering functions.
“The SDK plug-ins we wrote were used extensively to import and massage all our motion capture data and get them into a suitable form to export into our games,” said John Rix, technical director, advanced graphics for Electronic Arts (Canada). “This gives us motion that looks a lot more realistic and fluid and allows for a large volume of moves while staying within a tight production schedule and budget.” Electronic Arts (Canada) is a beta tester of Softimage 3D 3.7 and the SDK version 1.7 and has used Softimage 3D and the SDK to create many of its hit games, such as FIFA 97, NBA Live 97, Triple Play Baseball 97 and ReBoot (currently in production).
Softimage Third-Party Resource Guide
The Softimage third-party resource guide is a comprehensive catalog where all third parties such as ISVs, hardware vendors and training centers can advertise and get to Softimage channels and the user base. The catalog is mailed to 50,000 names four times a year. Softimage is currently preparing the second edition after a very successful first edition, sent in February 1997. The third-party resource guide will continue to grow along with the SDK program. Additional information about the Softimage third-party resource guide can be found via the Internet at (http://www.softimage.com/ ) or by calling (800) 576-3846.
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 animation), Softimage Eddie (compositing) and Softimage Toonz (2-D cel animation). Additional information about Softimage and Microsoft can be found via the Internet at (http://www.softimage.com/ ) and http://www.microsoft.com/ , respectively.
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