Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Maya 2015 Extension 1 has some really nice improvements

As if Maya 2015 wasn't jam packed enough with new features. It looks like Extension 1 has some really cool added features. Here are some that stood out to me.

  • Performance Profiler. At first I thought this would be a simple ui with some real time feedback on Maya's performance but it turns out to be way more robust. You can now easily spot choke points during any process and the profiler will identify the exact maya action that's sucking up your performance. This is great if you want to optimize a scene.
  • Send to feature is now extended to game engines. The really awesome send to feature that lets you send a scene from one package to another now extended to engines. Now you can take an asset from maya and in the click of a button, send it straight to Unreal.
  • Modeling toolkit fully integrated. It looks like the modeling toolkit has usurped a lot of the obsolete modeling tools in Maya proper now.
  • Cloud import export. This one seems pretty cool. You can upload content directly to a server. I'm curious to see this feature progress.
  • Color Management. This one is really great. You can transfer your color information from compositing tools like flame into Maya and the viewport will properly update the color scheme of your scene to match the tool that you originally set your color values in. 
Hit the jump for video demonstrations of these tools in action!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Mari 2.6

Working at LucasFilm has exposed me to a lot. One thing that I learned about that I didn't see much of at EA is The Foundry products. In particular the tool that stands out is Mari. I've taken some time to talk about Quizel's dDo and there's also Substance Painter out there which both handle surface painting beautifully but Mari handles surface painting so well, I really need to share it.

For starters Mari 2.6 supports GLSL which allows you to author surfaces on shaders familiar to those in modern game engines. If the shader out of the box does not quite match up, you can write a custom shader in Mari that fits your engine better using their Custom Shader API. Your shader will still be able to support all of Mari's great authoring features which allow artists to really build accurate surface materials that will translate nicely to an engine. Mari's shader engine will soon be able to also simulate rendering engines like Arnold and VRay as well.

Another thing that really speaks to Mari's power is it's robust Python API and terminal mode. You can write batch scripts and pipeline scripts in Mari to process assets through Mari without having to even open the UI, freeing the artists from doing any sort of monotonous tasks by hand. It's really easy to write python scripts for Mari too. There are already scripts out there to transfer Mari assets into Maya and back.

One of my favorite features of Mari at the moment is it's particle texture transfer system. Basically you can take a super high resolution film quality asset and overlay it on a game resolution equivalent and transfer all of the detail from one mesh to the other. This is similar to Zbrush and Mudbox's detail transfering except for surfaces. You could transfer surface detail from a really high resolution mesh with tons of UDIMs to a game resolution mesh with one UV map and get the proper diffuse, specular, normal, roughness, etc. maps for your engine. All in all, this software is really great and I highly recommend it.

Hit the jump for some video demonstrations of Mari 2.6

Disney Lookdev process for Big Hero 6 and Frozen

I'm so glad that I stumbled onto this gem of a presentation by Disney. They go into incredible detail on how they designed their characters for Big Hero 6 and Frozen with lots of emphasis on design principles like shape and appeal. The process is definitely painstaking and requires lots and lots of disciplines to coordinate their efforts. It's definitely needed to get the best possible design that holds up against lots of animation. These guys show you how they designed some major and minor character from concept to finish and include steps like stress testing the character rig. They also talk about the pipelines between sculpted concept and usable asset. If you're into character development and look development, I highly recommend taking the time to watch this presentation all the way through. There is so much content to take in and the workflow that they demonstrated definitely feels straight forward and approachable.

Hit the jump to see the full video presentation at the Zbrush Summit this year:

NVIDIA Turbulence/ Unreal 4 Particles and Vector Fields

So I've seen this technology evolve over the years and it looks like we're getting closer and closer to seeing GPU accelerated particles becoming easy to access in an engine. In this case NVIDIA's APEX Turbulence ended up turning into NVIDIA Turbulence and now evolved into Unreal Engine 4 Vector Fields. it's getting easier to access and experiment with this tech for any kind of high fidelity particle animation or fluid animation in real time. I've talked about the Titan's real time fluid effects that was shown earlier this year but there is something really mesmerizing about Vector Fields and I wanted to definitely share what I've found thus far. If you happen to have a copy of Unreal 4, definitely check it out. It's 20 bucks a month and you don't necessarily have to pay every month if you don't want to.

Hit the jump for video demonstrations and tutorials on how to get started with Unreal 4 and NVIDIA Vector fields now: