MGLA Meeting Summary for March 8, 2000

Our March MGLA meeting, held at Spectrum Studios in conjunction with the Softimage Users Group, was one of the most well-attended meeting we've had to date - one count pegged it at 300 attendees! If you made it, we hope you enjoyed it - and the refreshments provided by Softimage (thanks folks!).

We began with our usual Q&A session and invited Bob Shafron from Softimage and Cawan Starks of ProMax to join us. We covered topics from FireWire hard drives to just what Softimage's "Sumatra" was going to be.

Our first presenter of the evening was Mark Schoennagle, Senior Animator for Softimage LA. Mark gave us a preview of the soon-to-be-released software codenamed "Sumatra" from Softimage, which has since become Softimage|XSI v1.0. Detailed information is now available on their web site. Of course, at the time Mark explained that he was limited in what he was allowed to show at the meeting but did give us a broad look at what Softimage|XSI is all about. Mark began with a demo of the brisk particle system generator. He showed how you can easily manipulate and deform particles and emit custom shapes. Jitter settings, customizable shaders and fluid dynamics are also promised features.

Mark then moved into some of the exciting character animation features of the new software. The Character Animation Mixer is one part of their Non-Linear Animation (NLA) approach. This is designed to allow you to apply the same animation parameters to a number of different elements. In addition, you can take two separate animations and mix them together--even applying relative weights to various elements.

Other features mentioned included distributed rendering across a network, the ability to display a background image in rotoscope mode, and the use of "nodes" that can be attached to objects to facilitate functions such as color correction, for example.

*****

Next up was Doug MacKay from Mainframe Entertainment, an animation house that relies heavily on Softimage software. Doug began by showing a video featuring a variety of Mainframe's work which included ReBoot season 3, Beast Wars season 2, Weird-Ohs, War Planets and Beast Machines. Doug also showed us a number of animation tests for Casper's Haunted Christmas which showed off some unique shaders. Mainframes focus on developing unique "looks" was evidenced by "in development" shows such as "Scary Godmother" and "Dot's Bots" which both featured some very impressive and creative layering and texturing.

After showing their work Doug talked about the challenges presented by producing an animated series. While much of their earlier work involved the hand animation of characters, they are now relying more and more on motion capture in order to get the job out the door on a weekly basis. In addition, Mark talked about workflow and the roles of the senior animator, modeler, designer, etc.

*****

After the break Cawan Starks of ProMax took the stage to talk about their latest line of FireWire products. An early proponent of using FireWire in the DV arena ProMax now has a wide variety of DV solutions, one featuring the ability to edit multiple streams of DV in realtime over FireWire. Cawan then showed off Apple's new top-of-the-line FireWire Powerbook and talked about their line of FireWire hard disk drives - including a 37Gigabyte version for under $650.00.

An important point Cawan covered is that not all FireWire drives are created equal. Currently, all drives have a bridge circuit inside that converts from IDE or SCSI to FireWire. How these bridges buffer and pass through data determines whether or not the drives are suitable for continously streaming applications like capturing digital video. ProMax designed their own bridge to make sure they could be used for these applications.

*****

For the first time in months we were actually able to show some demo reels, and to an audience of close to 300 no less! Remember, if you show a reel please send us a follow-up email with contact information so we can list it in the summary. The presenters who did are listed here:

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Joyce Elsroad Motion Graphic Design
310 392 9234
elsroad@earthlink.net

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RGB Design Studio
949 493 1180

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Guillermo Lecuona
Featured in the reel were:
"Field Afar" show open - After Effects and Softimage.
"Little Friends Music Video"- After Effects, Softimage and Media 100.
"The Boxlifter" - After Effects, Softimage and Media 100.
Contact info:
Guillermo Lecuona (818)817-7762, (213)926-2922 or
fortisfilm@hotmail.com

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Finally, we'd also like to thank Spectrum Studios for hosting the event in conjunction with Softimage's sponsorship.

 

Your MGLA hosts -
Trish, Chris & Lucky