Editor's Note

Have you heard of “volumetric video”?  Volumetric video is a video technique that captures a three-dimensional space, such as a location or performance. This type of videography captures data that is then viewed on flat screens using 3D Displays and/or VR goggles. Well, a company called Arcturus has been working on it for a while, and they may be ready to flow into the mainstream world, propelled by new developments in the eCommerce, sports, and music sectors.

Volumetric video is definitely creating waves in most of the VFX world, especially when we are talking about virtual production. As the software continues to evolve, it will become more integrated into existing production workflows, and become more user-friendly at the same time. The continued growth of the motion capture industry  around the world will also lead to new entirely new workflows we’ve never seen before.

On a down to earth level where most of us live, interactive communication is one of the more interesting uses of volumetric video. It can be used for all sorts of things from broadcast-quality events, and live-streaming global events like concerts, to other performances including sporting events.  Volumetric video is definitely a technology to keep your eyes on.  

"WhAt Software Is Best For Creating CGI? (Conclusion)"

This month in TheCGInsider – August 2022, we conclude our discussion on software options for creating CGI!

What About FX Software Options?

When it comes to selecting some software FX there are many different options to choose from.  It also depends on what kind of FX you are looking to create.  Is it for creating a gestating creature that bursts forth from its slimy egg – or humans bursting into giant plumes of fire, sparks, and smoke?  Is it electrical energy bolts that need to shoot out of a character’s eyes or an asteroid crashing into the center of a city causing total destruction and mayhem?

Different kinds of FX are handled differently.  For instance, material-based FX is often handled by the shader and materials team – shape shifting FX are often handled by the modeling and animation teams – all of these using traditional modeling, texturing, and animation software.

So, virtually all other FX else is broadly covered under the umbrella of VFX such as destruction FX, hair and fur FX, cloth FX muscle and skin FX – usually, FX that require high degrees of realism  – mainly coming from the fact that this kind of FX  creation is often physically-based. These are the kinds of FX that are usually handled by the FX department.

Does One-Size-Fit-All?

Even as advanced as the industry is at this point, there is no one-size-fits-all solution – no silver bullet of FX that can take care of all the FX requirements in a single piece of software – but don’t lose hope -we are getting there.  The ability to work with and between different software packages is critical for a VFX studio or individuals looking to do FX for a living.  Of course, you can specialize in one software package, and there are certain advantages as well as disadvantages to doing that, but maybe we’ll cover that later. 

Many animation-based VFX these days are created on a procedural basis – meaning they are based on computational rulesets – and those rulesets can be quite complex. It’s not only much faster than traditional methods of animation like keyframing – animations that a procedural system can produce just wouldn’t be done using keyframes or motion capture, or even simulation or physics-based animation.

Also to make things even more complicated is the fact that many different software packages are often needed to create an entire completed FX, (i.e. a destruction simulation must interact with a water simulation which in turn has to interact with particle simulations which in turn that have to interact with fire simulations – and so on).

Ok, What’s The Bad News?

If it weren’t bad enough that you might need to use multiple software, how do you get the software to talk to each other are files compatible, can you export all the data from one software to another cleanly?  And we can tell you from our personal experience that not all software plays well with other software.

On top of that, there are so many differences between software including differences in file types, differing ways each software handles geometry, shaders, textures, and things like scene scales unique to each software. 

This is where if you have the ability to code, you can write custom tools that will correctly translate one VFX file type into other file types that other software can read and use – which is sometimes critical. These kinds of specialized translation tools enable the different software to play together in harmony. The better they can talk and play with each other, the faster and more productive a studio can be.

Ok Software, Play Nicely!

Competition between VFX studios is fierce and the ability of a studio to crank out a high volume of VFX shots in the least amount of time will determine the winner, and enable them to land those huge VFX contracts and make huge money. SO the better your tools and the smoother your pipeline, the more successful you’ll be creating FX.

Maya was primarily an animation program until Autodesk added Maya Fluids for the creation of realistic fire and smoke FX, but it still falls extremely short on rigid body simulation used for creating dynamic destruction FX simulations.

However, 3DStudio Max along with some really plugins such as FUMEFX by Afterworks, and Phoenix by CEBAS have made creating even better smoke and fire FX faster and much easier by making the tools more intuitive to use.

The Winner For Best FX Software Is…

Combined with Thinking Particles also by CEBAS, VFX artists were able to create stunning procedural destruction sequences that really raised the bar – and was the software used for the Blockbuster film 2012.

But over the last few years, a new champion has entered the ring and has really taken over in our opinion, and is the new “king of the hill” of VFX software when it comes to the creation of ultra-realistic destruction and simulation of natural phenomena – you know we are talking about Houdini by SideFX.

It is used in virtually all of the high-end VFX work we see in today’s VFX-heavy films from Pirates of the Caribbean to super-hero movies. This is because of its procedural power, dynamics framework, and workflow management architecture and toolsets.

What About Modeling Software Options?

There is a wide range of options when it comes to selecting modeling software, and each one has its own pros and cons and strengths and weaknesses that are associated with them including learning curve and money out-of-pocket.

The industry standard software for modeling organic things such as trees, characters, creatures, and things of a more organic and natural feel would be Zbrush by Pixologic.  Autodesk has a competitor software that works in a very similar way to Zbrush called Mudbox.  These programs use a “sculpting” method for creating models. Both are great programs for creating objects of all kinds in extremely high “resolution” or detail.

Other software that is probably the most popular for modeling would include of course Autodesk’s Maya and 3D Studio MAX, however – they are among the most expensive software to purchase well. Other modeling software would include MODO by Foundry, Blender, and Rhinoceros by Rhino3D. ZBrush, Autodesk’s Maya, and 3DStudio Max can create very sophisticated textures, however, there’s some other software that’s also widely used such as MARI from The Foundry, Substance Painter by Adobe, and Deep Paint by Right Hemisphere. They are all quite good.

If you found this information valuable, please be sure to “spread the word” and pass this newsletter along to your friends and colleagues. Don’t miss next month’s issue of the CGInsider newsletter, where we’ll begin our discussion about exactly what elements go into making up a good short story, so don’t miss it! 

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"UNE BELLE ERREUR" (A Big Mistake)
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TheCGBros CGInsider Podcast

Relevant, Trending and Cool Insight - New Episodes Weekly!
New for 2021

This year, after encouragement from fans and consistent with our mission to provide our members relevant and quality content, we launched our own Podcast: TheCGBros CGInsider Podcast. In it, we’ll be answering many questions that our fans have been asking. We will also discuss trends and relevant topics about computer graphics imagery, jobs in the video industry, animation, gaming, and much more. Check it out!

Upcoming Podcasts:

This Month’s Schedule:

  • 2231 – 8/02/22 How Is CGI Hair VFX Created?
  • 2232 – 8/09/22 How Is CGI Water VFX Created
  • 2233 – 8/16/22 How Is CGI Muscles/Skin FX Created?
  • 2234 – 8/23/22 How Is CGI Fur & Feathers FX Created?
  • 2235 – 8/30/22 How Are Hand-Drawing Techniques Used In CGI?

Next Month’s Schedule:

  • 2236 – 9/06/22 How Is CGI Used To Create Motion Graphics?
  • 2237 – 9/13/22 How Is A.I. Affecting the Creation Of CGI?
  • 2238 – 9/20/22 How Is CGI Used To Restore Old Photos & Film?
  • 2239 – 9/27/22 What is Motion Tracking & How Is It Used In CGI?