What's new at Siggraph 2015: Mari 3, Maya 2016 and 3ds Max 2016 extensions, Cinema 4D R17 and more!

Updated – discover the hottest new CG and VFX tools from the conference in LA.


The Siggraph 2015 conference has come to a close, so here are the most important announcements from the world's leading VFX, animation and graphics show at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

We've spent the week bringing you the most important news from the show floor (shown here, with giant projection-mapped Josh Harker skull).

Among the highlights so far are Mari 3 from The Foundry, Cinema 4D R17 and Autodesk announcing new extension releases for Maya 2016 and 3ds Max 2016, as well as online content marketplace.

There's also the release of V-Ray for NUKE from Chaos Group and the announcement that Pixar is to release its Universal Scene Description software (USD) as an open-source project by summer 2016.

Google is also taking a big stand at Siggraph, announcing the the public beta of Zync, its Cloud Platform cloud-native rendering solution, anmong other new ventures.

Read on for more detail.

Mari 3

The Foundry is demonstrating Mari 3, the newest version of its 3D paint package. 

Aimed at texturing and look development artists in the VFX, animation and games industries, The Foundry said Mari 3 combines productivity enhancing features with broader and tighter pipeline integration.

This includes an exposed node graph for advanced users and integration with the rendering and baking capabilities of Modo, The Foundry’s 3D content creation solution.


Mari 3 brings support for widely used shaders such as Unreal, as well as for OpenSubdiv geometry.

“Fitting into the pipeline or creative lifecycle in which an artist works is just as important as enabling artists to create beautiful 3D painted and textured content,” said Jack Greasley, head of new technologies at The Foundry. “Therefore, MARI 3 continues The Foundry’s commitment to addressing not only what artists need to do but how and where they do it. This includes seamless integration with third parties, open APIs, and support for industry standards.”

The Foundry will showcase Mari 3 in a live broadcast from Siggraph today at 5:05 PM UK time.

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Maxon's Cinema 4D R17 was announced before Siggraph opened, but the show gave 3D artists and animators their first time to see it.

There are new features across modelling, sculpting, animation and more – plus integration with Houdini and SketchUp.

Find out more about what's in Cinema 4D R17 in our in-depth look at the software.


Maya 2016 Extension 1

Autodesk has announced Maya 2016 Extension 1, which will bring a number of new features on September 9.

There's a new text tool makes it easier to create branding, flying logos, title sequences, and other projects that require 3D text. 3D Type allows artists to create editable, non-destructive, multi-line, deformable type.

Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) support helps artists bring 2D designs created in applications like Adobe Illustrator to life in a 3D environment and new procedural texture and image processing nodes in the Hypershade allow simplified development of more sophisticated looks.


Game exporter workflows have been simplified and streamlined, making it faster and easier to move from Maya to game engines such as Unity, Unreal and Autodesk Stingray.

Autodesk said artists could achieve an even better LOD when changing lens length or field of view with the inclusion of screen height percentage.

There's also new live linking between Maya and the Stingray game engine that can update geometry, characters, and camera positions dynamically.

Changes can be seen instantly in either tool, eliminating the need to re-export or manually replace assets in a scene.

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3ds Max 2016 Extension 1

Autodesk has also announced 3ds Max 2016 Extension 1, available to Autodesk Subscription customers now.

This also offers a new Game Exporter to allow artists to transfer models, animation takes and other data from 3ds Max into game engines like Unity, Unreal and Autodesk Stingray.

ShaderFX has also been enhanced to support physically-based shaders in Stingray, ensuring visual consistency in booth tools.

Geodesic Voxel and Heat Map solvers allow artists to create better skin weighting faster.

There are also new Max Creation Graph (MCG) Animation Controllers that provide procedural animation capabilities


A new Live link between 3ds Max and Stingray allows design visualisation experts to assess and review their designs in an interactive 3D environment.

The new extesnion also introduces a powerful 3D text tool to build engaging visualizations: Autodesk claimed that adding and animating data driven information to a scene has never been easier.

More information about Maya and 3ds max can be found at the Area


Autodesk Creative Market

The online content marketplace acquired by Autodesk last year is expanding its offerings with the debut of 3D content.

The marketplace is currently home to nearly 9,000 shops selling more than 250,000 design assets to a community of more than one million members.

From today, artists can now search, purchase and license high-quality 3D content created by designers around the world or upload and sell original 3D models on the site.

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V-Ray for NUKE

Chaos Group's announcement of V-Ray for NUKE means that compositors can now take advantage of V-Ray's lighting, shading and rendering tools inside NUKE's node-based workflow.

The company said it was a new approach to lighting and compositing that integrates production-quality ray traced rendering into NUKE, NUKEX, and NUKE STUDIO. 

Built on the same adaptive rendering core as V-Ray’s industry-standard plugins for Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya, V-Ray for NUKE is ready for all production pipelines. 

V-Ray for NUKE is available now through select resellers. 

A V-Ray for NUKE Workstation license can be purchased for €750. This includes one floating user license and one floating render node. It can render on existing V-Ray 3.0 for 3ds Max and Maya render node licenses.


V-Ray for NUKE gives compositors the ability to adjust lighting, materials and render elements all the way up until final shot delivery.

Full control of 3D scenes in NUKE lets compositors match 2D footage and 3D renders simultaneously. The company stated that, for environments and set extension work, this cuts out the traditional back and forth that costs studios valuable time.  

“The introduction of V-Ray for NUKE adds a powerful component to a comprehensive pipeline,” said Sean Brice, product manager for NUKE, The Foundry. “By bringing increased creative capabilities and efficiencies to the pipeline, artists can focus more on the creative process, achieving better results in less time.”  

"V-Ray for NUKE gives me the creative freedom I've always wanted as a compositor; it’s addictive,” said Shahin?Toosi, lighting and senior compositor at Lipsync VFX. “I can work on lighting and comp at the same time and see the results right away. There’s no more waiting for a test render to come back from other departments. It's definitely a faster workflow.”? 

See more about V-Ray for Nuke


Fabric Engine 2 is a new version of the software that lets VFX houses create their own tools that sit within applications including 3D suites like Maya, VFX tools like Nuke and rendering engines like Renderman.

The second generation of the development platform features the Canvas visual programming system that was previewed earlier this year, as well as integration with Pixar’s RenderMan and The Foundry’s Modo.

More on Fabric Engine 2.

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SolidFrame by SolidAmim

Virtual production developer SolidAnim has introduced its new framing software, SolidFrame, at Siggraph. 

SolidFrame is a new interactive tool designed for animators and cinematographers to interactively explore a large collection of shots over their 3D animation, and rapidly create and compare multiple edits of the same animation. 

Designed for virtual production and rapid prototyping of synthetic movies, the tool assists the filmmaker in exploring the cinematographic possibilities of the 3D scene.  It is easy to use, is flexible and offers a quick set-up.

The company said SolidFrame offers a quick and user-friendly set-up of a cinematographic sequence based on several framings selected and arranged.

Based on a selected frame, users can manually reframe and play with the zoom directly in the screen-space. The software enables users to change the focal lens by freezing the framing and using focal types from the main camera/lens brands.

Recording camera moves starting from framings selected in SolidFrame and creation of a database of preferred camera moves that can then be reapplied to other virtual animations. It offers the ability to scale the camera motion (for instance 1m with the virtual camera = 10m in the 3D animation).

In addition, SolidAnim announced its partnership and distribution agreement with French government research body INRIA. 

INRIA originally developed Director's Lens technology for animators and film directors to explore and manipulate a large collection of shots over 3D animation and quickly create a first cinematographic edit over these shots.  By combining Director's Lens with SolidAnim's Solidtrack markerless virtual camera system technology, Director's Lens became the new SolidFrame. 

SolidFrame is complementary to SolidTrack's virtual camera, Mr Méliès.  By combining both technologies the user can record free camera moves without any infrastructure, said the company.


VR Gaming benchmark

Basemark and Crytek have announced a new partnership to help create a definitive PC system test for virtual reality gaming.

The new VR benchmark will enable gamers and PC hardware companies to easily assess the level of experience they can expect when running virtual reality content, and will be the first service available that gives users recognizable, real-world metrics to describe their system’s VR readiness with various HMDs.

Developed using Crytek’s Cryengine technology, the benchmark will provide detailed feedback in areas such as the best graphical settings to use with a variety of VR headsets. Basemark’s expertise in measuring performance standards will be key as they formulate an objective test that evaluates everything from frame rate capabilities to memory consumption, latency issues, 3D audio performance and more. 

Crytek’s Creative Director for Cryengine, Frank Vitz, said, “Basemark is already helping to measure technology standards in other areas of gaming, and we’re thrilled to be partnering with them as we work to establish a user-friendly yardstick for VR performance."


Google Zync cloud rendering

Google is at Siggraph this week announcing the public beta of Zync, its Cloud Platform cloud-native rendering solution.

As part of Zync, artists will get access to 1,600 dedicated Compute Engine cores to power  V-Ray, Arnold and Nuke-based renders.

With Zync now powered by Google Cloud Platform, the company said artists get the economic benefits of Google’s cloud infrastructure, which enables them spin-up compute nodes on-demand in minutes, while per-minute billing ensures they only pay for what they render with no wasted overhead. On-demand prices have also been reduced for another 15-25% for all applications it supports.

Google is also announcing Renderman integration with Zync by Google Cloud Platform.

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Pixar's Universal Scene Description

Pixar Animation Studios has announced its intent to release its Universal Scene Description software (USD) as an open-source project by summer 2016.

The company said USD addresses an ever-growing need in the CG film and game industries for an effective way to describe, assemble, interchange, and modify high-complexity virtual scenes between digital content creation tools employed by studios. 

The powerful techniques for composing and non-destructively editing graphics ‘scene graphs’ that form the core of USD have been evolving at Pixar for close to 20 years, dating back to A Bug's Life.  These techniques, such as file-referencing, layered overrides, variation, and inheritance, were completely overhauled into a robust and uniform design for Pixar's own animation system, Presto. 

Although it is still under active development and optimisation, USD has been in use for nearly a year in the making of Finding Dory, bringing new levels of performance and stability to Pixar's production.


Shotgun 6.3

Shotgun Software announced a new set of features and updates in Shotgun 6.3 that it said will make it easier for teams to review, share and provide feedback on creative projects.

The upcoming Shotgun release will include new review and approval features and an updated Client Review Site to streamline collaboration and communication within teams, across sites and with clients.

Shotgun's Pipeline Toolkit is also being updated with the Shotgun Panel, which will let artists communicate directly with other artists and see only the information relevant to their tasks directly inside creative tools like Autodesk Maya and The Foundry's Nuke, along with a refreshed Workfiles tool to find and navigate to relevant files more quickly.


KeyShot

Luxion announced that users of its real-time ray tracing and global illumination application are to get new plugin support and advanced import options for Autodesk Maya 2016 and Maxon Cinema 4D, free of charge.

These integrations allow user of each software to install a small plugin that adds export of Maya and Cinema 4D files directly to KeyShot.

Additionally, users have full LiveLinking support to update model change in KeyShot and may export KeyShot .bip files without the need to have KeyShot installed. 

The company said it would allows artists to utilise KeyShot directly from within these applications, allowing them to see their visuals sooner in the development process and create final production faster.

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ftrack 3.2

Project management tool ftrack is updating to version 3.2 next week, with a new ftrack mobile app coming in September.

Based on feedback from the ftrack community, new Workflows functionality improves project structures by removing the rigidity of sequences, shots and tasks.

Rather than being forced to work under the previous task groups, ftrack 3.2 will allow users tocustomise the layout in whatever way best suits their project. Users can rename each group to match the terminology of their domain.

According to the company, this makes ftrack relevant to a far wider range of creative disciplines and markets, such as video games, motion graphics and architecture.

This adaptability will extend across the evolution of a project. As work progresses and the production’s needs become more defined, users can reorganise a ftrack project layout as they would a file system, making project management easier, more familiar, and appropriate to a specific industry, without having to constantly rewrite code.

The company said it was currently working with individuals in various industries to create custom Workflows templates.

"With the new Workflows functionality in ftrack 3.2, ftrack is now the most flexible project management solution on the market,” says Fredrik Limsäter, ftrack CEO . “By allowing users to pick their own project structures, ftrack opens up to multiple industries that previously found the VFX shot and sequence structure a tricky workaround."


Written from scratch for the new Python pipeline, the 3.2 API has much greater scope and covers more of the functionality nestled within ftrack.  

It’s as simple as the old API, but allows more avenues for developers to tweak and hone performance, opening up whole new ways of working with the software, said the company.


Coming in September, the ftrack mobile app (pictured) will allow users to stay on top of any ongoingprojects even when away from their workstation.


Designed for project management on the go, the company said the ftrack mobile app will allow users to check in on the status of tasks, log time, stop or start timers, receive notifications, and instantly get in touch with anyone else involved in the project, wherever they are.


Vicon Vantage, Control and Cara

Motion capture specialist Vicon has announced the debut of Vantage, its new camera line, alongside the Control mobile app. The company also announced a series of updates to Cara, Vicon’s facial mocap system for film and games production.

Vicon Vantage has been intelligently designed to work cohesively with each of its components to provide up-to-the-minute information to the system operator. It continuously monitors its performance with a host of new sensors, giving the user visual feedback through the on-board camera display, in the software and on Vicon’s new tablet application Control.

This gives users the opportunity to make adjustments on the fly, ensuring a ‘right the first time’ approach, said Vicon.  

Control is Vicon’s new iOS app, which frees the user from the capture PC. Operators can remotely change camera settings, calibrate, and start and stop capture, turning what was traditionally a multiple crew setup into a one-person job.

Touch-sensitive commands let users select and monitor Vantage, T-Series or Bonita cameras in the Control app in real time.

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Vicon’s Cara system is designed to enable film and games studios of any size to bring characters to life through advanced facial tracking and capture.

The modular system allows customers to use different tracking solutions alongside Cara Post, which provides the engine and tools to extract high-quality 3D point data from marker-based capture footage.

The latest version of Cara makes this a seamless process, said the company,  delivering improved output support and increased functionality, especially when using Cara with fewer than four cameras.

"With these latest innovations, Vicon continues to pave the way for the future of motion capture,” said Imogen Moorhouse, Vicon CEO. "Vantage, Control and the latest enhancements to Cara are all part of our ongoing efforts to deliver intuitive solutions that meet a wide range of user requirements and make high-quality motion capture accessible to a new generation of customers."