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Thread: Softimage/Mental ray integration

  1. #1
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    Default Softimage/Mental ray integration

    Hello everyone

    Question for Softimage Mental ray users: how is the integration going over there?

    I'm using Max and here things are just abysmal. There are plugins out there that good people write that expose some stuff to us, but without them we would still be stuck in 5 years ago. And even those good people can't do everything.
    Not one single "new" mental feature is exposed. Unified sampling, importons, irradiance particles, native IBL (for which you have to dig through text files of A&D and change code to even get it to work), which has been superseded by IBL shaders... I could be forgetting something.
    Now i'm reading about Mental 3.11 and it's new shaders, lighting options, GPU use. I know we at Max will probably never see those, one has to ask why did they even hired Zap.

    At the same time often on forums people say that Softimage has the best Mental out of the box integration (compared to Max and Maya), and since i'm just a hobbyist i was thinking about making the switch.

    Is that true, are all new features exposed by default in Softimage?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    Is that true, are all new features exposed by default in Softimage?
    Nope.

    Honestly, move to Maya.

    I say this for lots of reasons not just integration related but the overall strategy for Softimage seems to escape Autodesk, or they aren't being clear. Possibly both. mental ray integration in Softimage has also suffered lately and Maya gives you direct access to string options to add features. This makes it a lot easier to circumvent integration problems.

    But I also believe cooperation between nVidia and Autodesk for integration has improved on the Maya front, but I don't know about Softimage.
    "Don't argue with an idiot, they will drag you down to their level and beat you over the head with experience."

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Remydrh View Post
    Nope.

    Honestly, move to Maya.
    Honestly mr integration is not the only thing that led me to Softimage. It was hearsay on forums also About how Softimage is more intuitive, "easier" to work with, with completely new rewritten code, smoother work flow, and all in all a better rounded piece of software. But, it could all be a matter of personal preference.

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    Softimage is definitely a nice piece of software and is typically stable. But we have migrated away to Houdini and Maya.

    We are more interested in the consistent long term commitment which is why Maya feels like the safer bet for now. Softimage feels somewhat like it's shifting focus lately but we don't know to what.
    "Don't argue with an idiot, they will drag you down to their level and beat you over the head with experience."

  5. #5
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    thetrooper0000,

    Don't make your decision based on fear (of Autodesk killing Softimage) as this often leads to future frustrations and headaches. Think and inform well before making a decision.

    Since everyone has an opinion and nobody is afraid to express it, I personally recommend you to go with Softimage. Autodesk stated numerous times that they're committed to keep developing Softimage and thus far they did just that. Now I'm not saying that the future is definitely bright, however I can't say this about any software/company either, so worrying too much about things that are out of your control is not very productive.

    Softimage has ICE which is a great environment for creating amazing effects and even complex tools for simulations and all sorts of things (research it). If Softimage were to stop being developed this second, many years from now would still be a great viable software.

    Maya looks like an old 20th century software while Softimage looks like the future.
    -
    McNistor
    Last edited by McNistor; December 11th, 2012 at 18:38.

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    softimage with ice is a very powerful software you can pull data from ice in mental ray (at vertex and particle context) .
    mentral ray in xsi its a little bit faster than maya but there are things missing (ptex for example) .render tree is more user friendly compared with the old hypershade from maya.

  7. #7
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    Maya or SI integration? At least for Maya, things are looking better than they have in some time. . .
    "Don't argue with an idiot, they will drag you down to their level and beat you over the head with experience."

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Remydrh View Post
    Maya or SI integration? At least for Maya, things are looking better than they have in some time. . .
    lately yes I agree, but up until the last few years Softimage RULED THE ROOST in regards to Mental Ray integration, this there is no doubt. XSI lost a key MR integration specialist in the Autodesk acquisition to Houdini, the devs at Mental Ray back then (if there are any left) surely remember the formidable Halfdan Ingvarsson? Also, some of the reasons / excuses / that were formally given in the past, (ive used Softimage & Mental Ray for over 15+ years) for the lack of up-to-date features implemented by Softimage in previous versions of MR were not because they could not implement them. of course they could! they chose not to because, from their own perspective they were too buggy or simply did not work as advertised.

    And sorry Remydrh, the mill, where I believe you work, started off as a Softimage / MR only post production house here in Soho London, where there is still, despite all the odds, a strong community of Softimage studios and users. Mostly these studios are using Arnold now, but yet again, it was developed inside of Softimage first! and also appears to have gained much ground in Maya too - due to a number of circumstances that appear to be still being discussed here on this forum.

    Now I truly do not want to start a an application war, because simply, Maya has won this battle on sheer number of users alone, and since Maya has vastly more seats, so Autodesk believes that is where they should invest most, its simple economics so your advice to a new user is good - up to a point. the thing is, (imo) , Softimage IS more mature, robust, flexible and intuitive. exaggeration somewhat here - but I can knock up prototype stuff in ICE in hours that could normally take a number of Maya TD's a few days to code - another thing you will hear in the forums, so these simple economics the smaller studios cannot ignore, and I do believe Softimage is going to gain a lot more traction in the smaller shops Advertising world at least over the next year or so. But ignore history at your own peril, what has happened with Softimage over the last 5 years could just as easily happen with Maya. Autodesk has seemingly managed to stifle 3d rendering & visual effects innovation in the last 10 years - or however long its owned Maya - for its own profits and benefits, how long can they do continue to do this before the studios revolt and break away from them? cant be long now... change is in the air

  9. #9
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    We do use Arnold as well as mental ray, but our usage of Softimage has begun to dwindle. We only have one artist in LA that uses it. A few in NYC, but more in London. Which is a shame because for awhile we saw it as the possible Autodesk version of Houdini. Which was great because Maya FX is truly behind the times. And for awhile if you looked at some Autodesk developer comments, it seemed like they started to look at Softimage as a possible Game Developing software. This made a few users in VFX cringe.

    As for rendering, mental ray is still our workhorse renderer. It's used on the majority of rendering and typically outperforms Arnold. A reason for Arnold was two fold: 1. We had (past tense) high hopes for the translator. It's a bit of a mess now for Maya and breaks compatibility often. 2. Artists that know nothing about rendering can hit the render button and get a frame from Arnold. That's a double edged sword.

    And as you mention, XSI at the time had great integration for mental ray. It was one of the few reasons Autodesk even tried with their products. But once Autodesk bought Softimage, they no longer had competition for feature integration. As for the bugs, this is misleading. We were told that Autodesk didn't like the support they were getting for the translators. When we pointed out the translators were THEIR software. . .they suddenly got quiet. In the meantime, no one was reporting bugs to mental images. So they began to sit there and fester. So the reputation became that mental ray was the problem. Even now I get emails where Autodesk asks about a feature for mental ray that was THEIR idea! They don't even remember what they did on their own time!

    In my history at The Mill, we have managed to complete multiple bug fixes in just a few days each for most of them. If ARC gets an actual example file that's well prepared, they can identify causes nearly immediately. The problem is that Autodesk does not accept the new builds of mental ray during the year. In fact, most users are currently suffering bugs in OEM products I know to be fixed in mental ray for about a year now. Even feature changes are consistently rejected by Autodesk. For example, Unified Sampling originally only sampled visual phenomenon, RGB. It was changed to RGBA a long time ago. Almost a year ago now. But Autodesk products never got the update. This is part of the reason for the horrid perception.

    Our recent experience as customers of ARC has been good. We get fixes and updates consistently and typically quickly. End users without this relationship are definitely getting the short end of the stick.

    The only reason I say "Maya" is because if you are a mental ray user (the question being asked in this forum) then I know the plans for Maya right now show much more promise than Softimage. The users for Softimage need to make more noise to Autodesk to get similar treatment. We spent the last year with other users absolutely pounding Autodesk to put resources into integration.
    "Don't argue with an idiot, they will drag you down to their level and beat you over the head with experience."

  10. #10
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    Jeez, Remydrh, you make it sound like SI users are warrior monks of the Old Order, hunted down and by the Empire, shunned by its subjects...

    And of course, everything you say is true, but I'd suggest that it's colored significantly by your experience and environment (just like anybody). It's just that your environment features awesome support and infrastructure for getting things done in Maya. After nearly 20 years in Soft, and nearly as long in MR, I'm finding myself reluctantly moving to Maya for many freelance gigs. So I'm also messing around with it on my own. And you know what? There are some things I like better in Maya -- when I'm at the shop of a client who has a talented development and tools team and really smart TD's. At places that don't fit that description, of which there are plenty (like working at home!), there's much less that's better about it, and much that's just horrible. And it's not so much my struggles, which I mark down to inexperience or general lack of mental agility, as those of the experienced Maya users around me.

    Primarily, it boils down to bad workflow and UI decisions. Tasks that I might pass on to someone ("please make the following changes to these textures and these UV maps," say) and get back in an hour in a Soft shop might take 3 or 4 or 6 in a Maya shop that doesn't have good tools of their own (and training in their proper use available to their freelancers!). Things like lack of render regions, the ridiculous Hypershade workflow, the render layer issues, and of course the slipshod integration of MR, all contribute to this. Everything just reinforces the old stereotype that Soft is better out-of-the-box, but harder to extend and integrate into other pipelines, and Maya is the opposite, even including things that one might think would have to be similar -- like, say, MR settings and tools. Other than straight-up animation work (which is of course critically important), which seems to be about as efficient in Maya as Soft, everything seems harder to do -- not for me, but for the people who haven't ever used anything BUT Maya. Need to modify a rig in Soft for one shot -- the animator can often just do it. In Maya, the answer usually seems to be "we'll have to send it back to the rigger to add that feature." Not a problem if you have a rigging department, but if the rigger was freelance and she's moved on to the next job, at the next shop...

    So to the OP -- from the perspective of a mostly-Soft user, how's the MR integration going in Soft? Not so good. You can find lots of complaints from me all over the internets about AD's lame attitude and high inertia. And a lot of specific requests for better implementation. But it's (evidently) not as bad as it could be.

    What makes it tolerable, other than signs like this forum and others that show nVidia's willingness to work to improve the situation for MR in general, which benefits all the DCC apps that rely on it to varying degrees, is the fact that it's becoming easier and easier for the average SI user to expose at least some of MR's newer features. I'd argue that it's even easier to do than in Maya, unless you have easy access to smart folks like Remydrh and his colleagues.

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