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    CGSociety :: Special Feature
    25 December 2008 by Paul Hellard

    What a year! 2008 is destined to go down as one of those years that threw everything at us. 2008 was also one of those years where influences from outside the industry started to take its toll as well. The criteria for selection into the CGSociety 2008 Retrospective was that the event had to mean something to the community of artists.
    The CGSociety community also suggested the world financial state had such an influence on their CG work, it too made it into the final list.

    Other suggestions were products, mergers, movies, games, shorts and even influential people. If they pulled enough votes, they made it onto the list. Let's cut to the chase. CGSociety presents the public-voted Top 20 CG happenings of 2008.

    Side Effects Houdini 9.5 (OS X release)
    Credit: Marvel Studios. Image by Rhythm & Hues.
    After staging an impressive public beta period for Houdini 9.5, Side Effects Software released the node-based 3D animation app. in mid-July. Houdini 9.5 brought what SideFX called the 3D industry's first node-based workflow to the Mac, ensuring that 3D artists could collaborate seamlessly in a multi-platform environment.

    Throughout 2008, Side Effects showed the industry that Houdini was able to quickly become an effective tool for artists in the pro VFX industry. With stints at Rythym & Hues on the 'Incredible Hulk' and other features, Houdini has scraped in to the CGSociety's 2008 Retrospective listing.

    Houdini store
    Learning resources


    MAXON Cinema 4D R11
    As Maxon CEO Paul Babb paraphrased at SIGGRAPH in LA, "this one goes up to eleven". Maxon CINEMA 4D's interface was totally revamped in this major version update. Touting 64-bit support on PC and Mac OS X, all kinds of features are brought forward in this update, including the CineMan tool, which lets the artist render CINEMA 4D projects using Pixar's RenderMan Pro Server, or other RenderMan compliant engines using the RIB format.

    The bundling of various industry-specific modules has turned CINEMA 4D into a truly mouldable application. These Editions can be targeted for film animation, game work and web, through into industrial and medical visualization use.



    Gobelins has turned out some amazing animators lately. The makers of this colorful chase film have spent the better part of 2008 running round the world showing the film off at festivals and climbing up on stage to collect the best awards. Straight after 'Oktapodi' won 'Best of Show' at SIGGRAPH in LA, third-year students Julien Bocabeille, Francois-Xavier Chanioux, Olivier Delabarre, Thierry Marchland, Quentin Marmier and Emud Mokhberi were back on stage to pick up the Audience Prize. Just recently, the crew won a Jury Award at SIGGRAPH Asia's Computer Animation Festival in Singapore.

    The story tells of a couple of octupi, having been caught napping in their ocean, looking after each other and determined never to part company. Along comes the stubborn chef wanting to keep supplies of calimari constant for his clients. What follows is an entertaining, enthralling chase around a sleepy Greek seaside town.

    CGSociety story on animator Emud Mokhberi


    Pixologic ZBrush 3.1 for OS X
    Pixologic bit the bullet earlier this year and released 3.1 for Mac OS X after the trial and release of the Windows version in November '07, picked as number three in last year's list. Industry reaction was terrific, very positive and ZBrush continues to be one of the tools of choice in Next-Gen game work and character development. There's a wide range of tutorial material online and on DVD for those wanting to learn more about this first digital sculpting tool.

    Lead developer Ofer Alon, and the Pixologic team are artists and are part of the creative industry. There was a lot of close collaboration when the beta program for 3.0 occurred. With input coming from Cesar Decol Jr., Ryan Kingslien, Scott Spencer, Kris Costa and a host of other major names, ZBrush has become a work of art in itself.

    ZBrush 3.1
    CGTalk ZBrush forum
    Credit: Damian Canderle

    Blue Sky's 'Horton Hears a Who'
    Credit: Twentieth Century Fox. Blue Sky Studios.

    Stepping aside from the Ice Age productions, Blue Sky Studios brought together a magnificent team with a classic story to tell. Some very high-end technologies were created, test-run and applied for this production, all to create the incredibly entertaining antics of some very believable Seuss characters.

    The lead supervising animator Mike Thurmeier and his crew largely relied upon Maya, along with various plugs-ins to speed up workflow. An old tool called 'Follow Through' was plied for tails, hair and anything that would flap in the wind. With the help of a great story, comedic voicetrack and a very tight team at Blue Sky, this film is a classic, a keeper.

    Horton Hears a Who
    CGSociety story on 'Horton'


    The World Economy
    Well, for a CG-related list to have to include the economic reality, there must be something major happening. And it's not over yet by a long shot. During the last few 'down times', the most popular escape from the economic realities were the escapist adventures in film at the theater. These days, the more sedantary will spend time on their consoles. This is where we step in. I wouldn't be the first to suggest that there are no further hard times ahead, but the call for more entertainments can only mean more work for the creatives.

    It is my hope that film and game production will continue through these darker times to entertain the masses and protect the artists to some extent.

    Wall Street Journal
    International Herald Tribune
    Financial Times


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  • Gears of War 2
    Image courtesy of Epic Games. All rights reserved.
    Just recently, the crew at Epic opened their doors to show the characters and environments for Gears of War 2 to the readers at CGSociety. Chris Perna and Jay Hawkins talked about steering the team, creating the assets and upping the ante for the reprise of the big game. Chris explains that Epic and Microsoft wanted everything to feel larger in scope in Gears 2. The Locust architecture had never been seen before, so it had to be something special. With so many below ground elements, Epic also wanted the underground to take on a different feel in these areas. they are more organic with lots of pulsing molds and fungus, root systems. To an outsider, the FPS looks like more of the same but after a couple of hours jumping around in the game personally, I am impressed with the appearance. A very cool escapist adventure.

    Gears of War 2
    Epic games
    CGSociety story

    PIXAR Presto
    Once again, the technical effort of the PIXAR short lives up to the tight comedic story. Good old slapstick. But Presto is a mix of the old and the new. The simple character dynamics mixed with the gorgeous Pixar environment.

    The result is a wonderfully timed, sensational lit gymnastic show with timing, grace and comedic brilliance. I actually thought this one would make it higher in the list but there you go.

    Presto site
    CGSociety Presto story


    Image courtesy of PIXAR. All rights reserved.

    Blender and Big Buck Bunny
    All hail the Open Source. In these days of corporate takeovers, economic resizing and foreclosures, it's good to know that there are geeks out there producing software to forward the greater creative community for the love of it.

    And just to prove their insatiable appetite for creative passion, there are crews out there volunteering their skills to produce short films that display their best.

    Here is a wonderful example of technical and artistic selflessness that in fact built this industry. Well done guys, thank you.

    Big Buck Bunny

    Stan Winston
    The VFX world lost one of the greats this year, in Stan Winston. Winston was a visual effects supervisor, make-up artist, and film director, best known for his work in the Terminator series, the Jurassic Park series, Aliens, the Predator series, and Edward Scissorhands. Stan Winston was a frequent collaborator with director James Cameron.

    The established areas of expertise for Winston were in makeup, puppets and practical effects, but he never stayed still, shifting to digital with the establishment of the Stan Winston Digital company. Here, his visions were explored for the latest blockbuster productions, many of them climbing to the VES and Oscar podiums for VFX excellence.

    Stan Winston




    Batman - The Dark Knight
    TM &© DC Comics. © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
    The amazing amount of hi resolution 8.4K IMAX work done by Paul Franklin and the large crew at DNeg makes the resulting action-packed movie well worth seeing frame-by-frame. I can vouch for that personally. The city vistas, the car/bike chase.

    The Dark Knight
    CGSociety story


    Adobe Creative Suite 4
    The Creative Suite from Adobe has been through a few upgrades that fine tuned interfaces and made several of the apps rather larger than the community thought was necessary. But with CS4, Adobe has brought many high-end production features into the suite, as well as introduced very heavy versions of Dreamweaver, Flash and Fireworks. The packs are released in six flavors for Premium and Standard applications of Design and Web work.

    Adobe Creative Suite 4

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  • Metal Gear Solid 4
    © 1987-2008 Konami Digital Entertainment Co., Ltd. PlayStation and PS3 are registered trademarks of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.
    On June 12, 2008, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (MGS4) was released worldwide for the PS3. MGS4 was a huge project that took Hideo Kojima, the virtuoso director, about three and a half years to complete.

    The Metal Gear series has been around for 21 years, with many people regarding it as a masterpiece in terms of its scenarios, gameplay and realism. Making a particular impact is its world-class graphics that go beyond the boundaries of a conventional game.

    These graphics give the action such realism and immediacy that players feel like they have been transported to a real battlefield. Oh joy unhindered! ;-)

    Metal Gear Solid 4 site
    CGSociety/Softimage story



    Autodesk Mudbox 2009

    The last time Mudbox was in this list was when Autodesk took the Skymatter in and bought the software under its wing, announced at San Diego in 2007.

    Well, Mudbox seems to have improved in the new surroundings. Mudbox 2009 arrived with some of the finest digital sculpting tools attached.

    Coming in again at number Seven on the Retro list, Mudbox has been used in the production of almost all of the latest VFX releases from European, US and Indian studios.

    Autodesk Mudbox

    Credit: www.tkio.net

    Iron Man
    Credit: DreamWorks Animation.
    What a cool film! Awash with color and technical complexities, DreamWorks brings us their next animated film, Kung Fu Panda.

    Aided in the voice talents of Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman, the animators and modelers worked some miracles on the fights scenes, chases and atmospherics. In production since 2003, the film introduces a cast of clothed and furry or feathery animals that never completely sit still, languishing, dreaming, learning, and battling throughout a collection of expansive environments.

    By staying away from pop culture and modern day references, DreamWorks hopes this film will be timeless, and 50 years from now would still be relevant.

    Kung Fu Panda DreamWorks site
    CGSociety story


    Pixar releases Wall•E
    Pixar’s latest industrious undertaking hit the screens in the US, a story of a lonely robot meant for greater things. Spending his years on Earth cleaning up humanities garbage, the little trash compacter has more gizmos than a Swiss Army knife and more soul than his hollow chest can hold. WALL•E had to show an array of emotions through body language and binocular eyes with metal flaps that doubled as eyebrows, portraying happiness, sadness, and some anger, though the temper most often belonged to Eve.

    This is no ordinary story, and is definitely not a see-it-once kind of film.

    CGSociety feature on Wall•E
    Pixar Wall•E site

    Credit: PIXAR Animation Studios

    Autodesk buys Softimage
    Softimage has been sold to Autodesk for US$35 million. Ten years back the same company was bought by Avid from Microsoft for US$275 million. Looks very much like Autodesk got an amazing price for some brilliant technology. Marc Stevens from Softimage and Marc Petit from Autodesk explained their corporate manoeuvre as just one of many over the years, similar to those taken by NVIDIA, Microsoft, Google and Adobe. Petit said Autodesk needed to be ready for a good fight, with 3D coming into the mainstream in cinema and games next year. 'We think we are a leader but in the long run we expect it to be a very competitive and heated market place.'

    Autodesk Softimage XSI
    The announcement

    The full list of items compiled by the community this year was generated in the thread promoted for the purpose on CGTalk.

    The CG Top 20 list is a result of public voting in that thread which was open for nearly two months, from 1st November through til the 20th December. If an item is not on the list, it wasn’t suggested by the thousands of people who viewed that thread.

    As the process of compiling and voting was public, there was and is no conspiracy or bias from the CGSociety towards any items listed in this year’s Top 20.

    2008 - A year of media diversity

    As predicted last year, computer games have taken more of a center stage this year. While the blockbusters like Transformers, Batman, Kung Fu Panda and IronMan made their mark, they were joined on stage by some very unique offerings. 'Little Big Planet' and 'Gears of War 2' coming from either end of the games market. More focus has also been taken by the technology itself. More 3D artists are conscious of what the software can do for them. Game engines, open source offerings and the market movements are all being closely watched as a busy but unpredictable 2009 year approaches.

    The team here at CGSociety wish you and yours all the very best for the New Year ahead.
    All the best,

    Paul Hellard


    1. Autodesk buys Softimage
    2. Pixar releases Wall•E
    3. Kung Fu Panda
    4. Softimage XSI 7 and ICE
    5. Little Big Planet
    6. Iron Man
    7. Autodesk Mudbox 09
    8. Metal Gear Solid 4
    9. Adobe CS4 release
    10. The Dark Knight
    11. Stan Winston
    12. Blender and Big Buck Bunny
    13. PIXAR Presto
    14. Gears of War 2
    15. The world economy
    16. Blue Sky’s ‘Horton Hears a Who’
    17. Pixologic ZBrush for OS X
    18. Oktapodi
    19. MAXON Cinema 4D R11
    20. Houdini 9.5 (OS X release)

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