• Umbrella SkyEXOTIQUE 3Umbrella SkyEXOTIQUE 3Umbrella SkyEXOTIQUE 3
    yong!! I don’t know about you but I am sure 2007 lasted
    about six months! It was just one of those years that didn’t let up. As we are a busy industry, it was pleasing to see the CGSociety community stepping up to suggest items to the comprehensive list of events, films and product upgrades that made the year of 2007 such a milestone. Of course as always, the criteria for selection was that the event had to mean something to the community of artists.
    The event had to be a landmark, and be at least a little bit cool. About a thousand people visited the thread set up to have suggestions put forward. The proposals could have been products, events, movies, games, short films, software updates, even personal stuff. If they pulled enough votes, they got in. So, here now we present the public-voted list of the most requested cool items for 2007.
    number 20
    Just scraping into the top 20 is what I thought was a most ambitious and intricately-modeled search and destroy computer game. Set in the year 2552, Halo 3 involves the fight humanity has taken up against the Covenant, an alien civilization that sees humanity as a bit of a problem for their own existence. There are several sides to this whole conflict and up to the end of Halo 2, things weren’t looking too good for us all. ‘With time running out,’ as the spiel goes, ‘all hopes for the Galaxy now lie in the hands of one soldier, Spartan 117 – the Master Chief.’

    This is certainly a storyline worth watching. I wonder when they will begin the movie.

    Halo 3 site
    Meet the team
    Halo 3
    number 19
    The Assassin’s Creed game itself is staged as the Third Crusade engulfs the Holy lands. The player takes on the role of Altair, an assassin assigned to 'take out' targets on both sides of the conflict, with a mixture of guerilla tactics and acrobatics. While there’s a fair bit of hiding, creeping, climbing and running going on before any action takes place, it gives the player audience a chance to check out the countryside, generated by Raphael Lacoste and his great concept and environment team at Ubisoft for the long project.

    The character teams relied on Max and ZBrush, which I notice are both in the Top 20 here in the 2007 Retrospective.

    Ubisoft Assassin’s Creed
    CGSociety story on Assassin’s Creed
    Assassins Creed
    number 18
    Ah great! A bit of hardware coolness! Since some DirectX 10 games are ready for sale already, NVIDIA has the SLI-ready nForce motherboard and the GeForce graphics cards ready to slot in and get into action. With the ‘only just announced’ SLI system, gamers can crank up their system, (if they have the play money) to experience a 2.8X improvement in speed. The NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX is exactly the card to heat up the configuration of your PC, and no wonder there have been words out in the games press about it. Plug two more into the SLI system and watch the graphics glow. There’s a lot to explore in the NVIDIA page link below. One thing I can say is that in the past year, NVIDIA has come a long way toward connecting with a tech-savvy audience.

    The DirectX 10 support was pipped as a big plus on the board for the Microsoft Vista players. Maybe later into 2008, there will be a bigger list of games known to take advantage of this. I’ll be watching.

    GeForce 8800
    NVArt Competition
    number 17
    In June 2007, an animated mockumentary appeared with real character. Written and produced like a surfing safari film, ‘Surfs Up’ featured the animated cast as seen through the wobbly camera. What appeared also were some astonishing new techniques in water animation, techniques that took up a lot of session time at SIGGRAPH 2007 for its inventiveness. The glistening curls and convincing splashes of the ever-present ocean edge gave the water a life of its own. Oh and the film itself was pretty good too. Nice work from the team at Sony Pictures Animation.

    Surf’s Up movie site
    CGSociety feature story
    Surfs Up
    number 16
    Nothing quite prepares the viewer for the sandman pulling himself out of the silo, and the creepiness of the black Venom taking over the victims. The VFX crews (yes, plural) working on these two characters alone were really pushing boundaries. Again, the big winners were the sessions audiences at SIGGRAPH and the many other conferences staged after Spider-Man 3 swung through the cinemas. Almost every VFX house in the industry had a part in this film.

    Before production began on the Sandman character, supervisors and R&D leads spent a year developing simulation toolsets and rendering techniques. Using Imageworks proprietary Sandstorm software and their own lighting program, Katana, the final image was lit and sand particles added to integrate the digital character into a photographic plate.

    Sony Pictures Imageworks
    Spider-Man 3 site
    CGSociety feature story
    number 15
    The three separate instalments of ‘Pirates’ were all made intrinsically at the same time, and despite the well-known drama behind the scenes, which included a real life cyclone trashing the sets, the final, ‘At World’s End,’ stands up very well. The votes poured in for ‘At World’s End,’ and the industry really seemed quite ready to hail the final instalment of this magnificent show. Not forgotten is that ‘Dead Man’s Chest’ held the number one position in the Top 20 in the 2006 Retrospective.

    The faultless VFX work on the ocean storm, and the reappearance of Jack Sparrow after his time in the grip of Davy Jones’ locker, brought new strength to the story, and credence to the artists working on the show.

    Industrial Light & Magic
    ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End’
    Treasure Chest of Techniques
    Aaron McBride
    Christof Hery
    CGSociety feature story
  • number 14
    Announced just before SIGGRAPH this year in San Diego, the RenderMan Pro Server 13.5 is described as being one of the more significant releases, as the set is optimised for batch rendering of multiple camera viewpoints. Additional new features include major multi-threading performance improvements, optimized depth of field, and support for ray-traced Constructive Solid Geometry.

    RenderMan Pro Server 13.5 also incorporates Pixar's new licensing scheme permitting up to four threads or four parallel renders per host machine, substantially boosting systems performance and overall efficiency.

    Renderman Pixar site
    pre server
    number 13

    Early this year, Apple jumped into the multi-core bandwagon. The results have been a rise in performance that has other payoffs in market share. To explain, a dual core processor is a CPU with two separate cores on the same die, each with its own cache. It's the equivalent of getting two microprocessors in one. An obvious extension to this, is to then pile even more CPUs into the mix.

    Apple’s Mac Pro tower has two Quad-Core or two Dual–Core Intel Xeon processors, push speeds up to 3GHz. Even with two multicore Intel Xeon processors, Mac Pro systems speed up editing and enhance multistream and multicamera production using Final Cut Pro. In addition to supporting more simultaneous streams and real-time effects, they also accelerate video processing and rendering. Apple’s UNIX backbone has allowed it into more and more studios and this high-end move is positive and strategic.

    Apple Mac Pro
    Intel Quad core
    number 12
    The release of ‘300’ brought on a rainbow of reaction from the community. But I’m sure both ends of this spectrum were awe-struck with the film as a display of visual story-telling. Released in March, ‘300’ made sure we were splashed with lots of CG blood and thrown off several digital elephants.

    On the CGTalk forums, we were assured by those who should know, that '300' was the re-telling of a fictional comic version of an earlier story that may or may not have had anything to do with the original Persian fable.

    The dramatic color grading, I believe, made this film. If seen from the perspective of a piece of art, ‘300’ has a spectacular achievement that works as a beautiful filmic depiction of Frank Miller’s epic.

    ‘300’ trailer, Apple site
    Warner Bros. ‘300’ site
    CGSociety feature story
    Side Effects Software impressed a lot of people in the last couple of months when it released the Houdini Apprentice Program. The Apprentice Program releases a very sophisticated and flexible 3D animation package onto the market. Releasing a free non-commercial edition of the procedural software, users can now learn modeling, animating, shading and lighting, rendering and compositing. Furthermore, the Appentice HD, at US$99, allows the work to be then rendered out at HD resolutions.

    The Apprentice HD offer was a welcome step toward allowing the community to take the next step. Seeing their applications being widely used on films like "Beowulf," SideFX has moved in the right direction here.

    SideFX Software
    number 10

    The Valve Software story is one of teams gathered together to have a lot of fun making humorous, riotous and colorful shoot ‘em up and strategy games. ‘Team Fortress 2’ fills the quota for the crazy shooter and Portal was also pipped for it's sheer difference to anything else in the games sphere. Valve Software hired veterans from places like Blizzard, Pixar, WETA, Sony Imageworks, ILM, Blue Sky, and DNA to create completely unique games.

    Conversely, they had also picked up motivated youngsters who’d proven to have built interesting and innovative games, from FPS mods to college projects. Nice to see ‘Team Fortress 2’ and ‘Portal’ get a look-in. The Orange Box rocks!

    Orange Box
    Valve Software
    Team Fortress 2
    CGSociety feature story
    orange box
    number 9

    Closing the gap between the reality of CG humans on film, leaping across that ‘uncanny valley’, comes a rollicking legend of the misunderstood giant Grendel, and the Beowulf who sought to run him through to prove his place in the clan. Wow, an amazing myth retold by Sony Pictures Imageworks.

    Grendel’s Mum is played by the Jolie gal and miraculously re-invented by the team of animators. This is a tremendous effort that fully deserves the recently announced ticket into the list of Academy Award Long List VFX invitees for the production. Good luck to you guys, you all deserved it.

    Beowulf site
    Sony Pictures Imageworks
    CGSociety feature story

  • number 8
    The latest rebirth of Autodesk’s 3ds Max heralded an increase in overall speed. CGTalk forum chatter spoke of better performance, and an impressive addition of a new user interface. The release also included the appearance of Review, a toolset that has interactive previewing of shadows behind 3D assets, a new sun/sky system and advanced Design and Architectural settings.

    Scene Explorer is a new tool that holds sway over the assets of even the most complex scene. This, the MAXScript ProEditor and the Vista 32-bit, 64-bit and DirectX 10 support have been called to the stage for this vote by the user community.

    Overall, 3ds Max has remained the staple diet of 3D scene generators and character modelers. Many applications come close but they haven’t rattled much of the metal cage that Autodesk has built for this tiger.

    Autodesk 3ds Max site
    CGTalk 3ds Max thread
    pre server
    number 7
    Announced to the press and public during the SIGGRAPH Autodesk User Group Meeting in San Diego this year, Autodesk and the three owners of Skymatter made it very clear this was a step they all were taking with their eyes wide open. As you can see if you go to the Mudbox3d web site, the personality of the company has even stayed the same. As far as I can ascertain, the product will stay in its own corner, be developed independently and have a greater chance to emerge as a better product with the guidance of its original developers.

    There is also an educational version available to entice further brand awareness. Autodesk Mudbox Professional software is an advanced, high-resolution, brush-based 3D modeling application built on a powerful sculpting paradigm. Like the other packages talked about in the list, there is an introductory version that can be checked out for a much lower cost. Mudbox Basic gives teachers, students and those just entering the arena a chance to try out digital sculpting with a cut down version of the Professional model.

    Mudbox site
    Autodesk announcement
    number 6
    Crysis is the follow up to Crytek's first game and blockbuster, Far Cry. Crysis is the result of taking the good out of Far Cry and fixing the bad. Some beta-testers have said the open-ended style of the game and the suit and weapons customization will make the game very fun to play. Published by Electronic Arts and powered by CryENGINE 2, Crysis delivers the ultimate DX10 gaming experience for the PC, including unparalleled graphics, special effects and artificial intelligence.

    Leaving that aside, Crysis is an first-person-shooter, bringing together an immersive experience and emergent gameplay that includes strategy and huge environments to play in.

    Electronic Arts
    number 5
    Adobe delivered the big suite this year. Photoshop of course stays at the helm of most studios generating concepts, textures and backgrounds seen in many studio productions and game concepts. The additional flavours of Creative Suite 3 have allowed many a freelancer to branch out into other areas of creativity. Six in all, they cater for solo print artists, right through to a studio producing work for everything from phone handsets, web through to billboard work and cinema concepts and textures.

    Taking in the additional areas of web graphics, as well as swallowing Macromedia a few years ago, brought Adobe the assets of Flash, Dreamweaver and others into the fold. As far as print and high rez areas are concerned, Version Cue and Bridge were developed within the Suite to assist in coordinating teams of artists working on the same document.

    Creative Suite
    number 4
    Autodesk Maya 2008 has proven it’s place in the production pipeline of the entertainment arts industry. Like 3ds Max, there are considerable performance improvements in this year’s upgrades. The Mesh Smooth has been quickened with mesh cage editing, though you’d need a multiprocessor to really see the difference.

    More interactive previews are possible, now that there is support for layered textures, multiple UV sets and the use of the mental ray 3.6 core. These allow a greater number of effects to be directly rendered to final output using the Maya hardware renderer. This app just keeps getting better and better.

    Autodesk Maya 2008
    CGTalk Maya thread
    maya 2008

  • number 3

    It took some years for Pixologic to come up with enough new features for them to move ZBrush from 2.0 to 3.1, but they have done the move in style. Pixologic has boosted ZBrush’s speed; added real-time shadows, as well as real-time material-capture and render, with it’s MatCap. ZBrush 3.1 also now allows full 3D sculpting and texturing with alphas and textures and has activated advanced ‘digital clay’ with up to one billion polygons using HD geometry.

    The reaction from the community has been to jump on the release and create some truly spectacular work, like this hansome creature (right) by Damien Canderle.

    CGTalk ZBrush forum
    CGSociety ZBrush 3.0 article
    pre server
    number 2

    Wow! Just wow! The effort put into every tiny little detail by the ILM crew, the extreme. The work done on the transformations of trucks into robots, jets into robots and, robots into robot trucks with jets, is just awe-inspiring! Favorite scenes were the chase along the freeway, the fights in the streets and many other sequences too numerous to mention. I am so pleased they decided to run the action a little slower at some points cos there is so much I am sure I missed.

    ‘Transformers’ is one of those films I want to take home and watch frame by frame from the start to the finish. I don’t know, perhaps it’s just me. Now you know why my wife doesn’t understand me.

    Industrial Light & Magic
    Transformers Movie site
    CGSociety feature story
    number 1

    I thought this would win. ‘Ratatouille’ is a brilliantly entertaining movie that reaffirms Pixar's reputation as a CG animation leader. They produced a CG film of true quality. The story was also the big winner in this film. The characters are fully developed. Congratulations to the Pixar artists on winning first place in this year's Retrospective Poll.

    The effort put into making the food seen in Ratatouille was engrossing. The course and paper delivered at SIGGRAPH by Xenakis and Tomson explored modeling, shading and lighting CG cuisine so it looked appealing enough to eat.

    By the beginning of December, the film had grossed US$206 million in North America and a total of US$609 million worldwide, making it the third highest grossing Pixar film of all time, just behind ‘Finding Nemo’ and ‘The Incredibles.’ Perhaps not surprisingly, the film was a total success with the French audience. Bon apetit!

    Disney Pixar site
    Ratatouille site
    CGSociety feature story
    number 1

    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 a month, from 21st 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.

    OK, the community has voted and brought to the stage the very best in products, VFX and digital artistry in 2007. Although clearly the big winners for the year were the many animated films like Ratatouille and Surf’s Up, have a look at some of the games that have reared up with their market share like a breaking wave on the landscape. TV, Cinema box-office and DVD will always keep the animation, CG and VFX work alive, and games shouldn’t be seen as a competing medium. Instead, see it as an additional way to work your expertise into yet another niche market. If you haven’t thought about it already, 2008 is waiting for you.

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

    All the best,


    Paul Hellard


    1 - Ratatouille, Disney/Pixar
    2 - Transformers, ILM
    3 - ZBrush 3.1, Pixologic
    4 - Maya 2008, Autodesk
    5 - Creative Suite 3, Adobe
    6 - Crysis, Crytek
    7 - Mudbox acquired by Autodesk
    8 - 3ds Max 2008, Autodesk
    9 - Beowulf, Sony Imageworks
    10 - Valve’s Orange Box (Team Fortress2 & Portal)
    11 - SideFX Houdini Apprentice HD Offer
    12 - 300, Warner Bros.
    13 - Apple use of Intel Dual Core/QuadCore
    14 - Pro Server 13.5 , Renderman
    15 - Pirates of the Caribbean - At World’s End, ILM
    16 - Spider-Man 3, Sony Imageworks
    17 - Surf's Up, Sony Pictures Animation
    18 - GForce 8800 series, NVIDIA
    19 - Assassin's Creed, Ubisoft
    20 - Halo 3, Bungie - Microsoft

    Previous CGRetrospectives:

    Discuss this article on CGTalk

    More Articles

blog comments powered by Disqus