Custom Display Host
There is a new system in XSI 4.0 called XGS. (XSI Graphic Synthesizer.) One of the tools in the system is called “custom display host.” The custom display host is an extremely useful and powerful feature. It permits users to open any foreign application (such as a game engine) in an XSI viewport. This means a game developer can now run the game directly within XSI, with no need to export anything. You can easily play the game and test it in this manner, using a joystick or the keyboard. The custom view can also interact with XSI's scene. For example, a user could select and modify a mountain's highlights in XSI and the changes would be accurately reflected in the game viewer. Conversely, one could fly through the mountains within the game engine viewport and see the camera in the XSI scene update accordingly. It's even possible to run another 3D application within the XSI viewport!
The XGS is a very open system allowing for custom plugins. One that comes with 4.0 is called Xgs_Slate. This tool allows the user to display scene information in the viewport. For people doing previsualization work or generating tests or stand-in renders this tool is a great. It has access to just about any piece of info in the scene, such as the camera info, scene name, date, time, etc. It even allows you to create icons by accepting custom bitmaps. Xgs_slate is very easy to implement and makes it very easy to visually identify shots.
XSI 4.0 comes with a new application, called XSICabs. This provides Softimage with an easy way to resolve bugs in XSI. This program essentially packages a mail with all the information pertaining to the last crash you experienced. The information is gathered automatically, but you need to manually send Softimage the cab by email, so no information is sent to Softimage without your explicit consent. Softimage's goal in obtaining this information is to locate as precisely as possible what makes the software crash.
XSICabs provides Softimage with the following pieces of information:
- An .MTT file. This file contains information about the state of the program at the time of the crash, as well as mean time to failure information.
- A SCRIPTLOG.TXT file. This is saved at the time of the crash by XSI. It contains information about the history of the session.
- An XSICMDLOG.TXT file. This contains your session script.
- An XSICab_MissingFiles.txt file. This will be present only if XSICabs cannot find at least one of the above files. It simply contains a list of the names of the missing files.
With all this great new functionality in XSI 4.0 it's hard to see what else could be improved. However, no software product is perfect. While it is nice to finally have RBDs in XSI, they are clearly a ‘1.0’ implementation and are not without their limitations. The paint tools are great, but at the moment, they aren't really designed to be a fully-fledged texture painting solution. They are better-suited to animated frame-by-frame correction of image sequences, where a standalone program like Photoshop would not be practical. This doesn't mean that you can't do texturing in the paint module. It has many of the standard tools that you'd expect in any 2D paint program and quite a few more; but it's not Photoshop.
It's a well-known fact that many 3D programs have problems with video card compatibility. XSI is no exception. Making a 3D application work with a variety of video cards is a huge challenge. Softimage can't be sure that all its users will buy certified cards. Consequently, some people without an appropriate video card will have problems. The great new additions in XSI 4.0 would be completely worthless if the application is crashing due to video card incompatibility.
The majority of XSI users don't need NURBS tools. However, the ones who do are out of luck. There have been almost no improvements in XSI's NURBS tools. While some new additions and adjustments have been made to the modeling curve tools there are still no handles to control the weighting, making it much more difficult to create complicated designs.
XSI 4.0 provides functionality absent in many other 3D programs and is different in the way it is implemented compared to the bulk of today's 3D software. The main benefit to production studios using XSI 4.0, however, is its ability to do most of the work from start to finish. Small to medium companies will benefit, as they won't need to buy separate compositors, tracking, roto and paint programs. This will save them money on software, maintenance and rendering nodes. Larger companies will benefit because a single software package is easier to integrate across a wide range of machines than a variety of applications. Similarly, training employees on one program is much easier than training them on several. XSI still has a long way to go to replace all of the tools it emulates, but with the rapid pace at which Softimage develops XSI, it won't be very long until that happens. [CGN]
Standard painting tools in XSI 4.0
XSI was used to complete many of the effects on Van Helsing,© 2004 Universal Studios.
XSI 4.0 has one of the best built-in toon shading systems available.
The FX Tree has had a huge overhaul in XSI 4.0