Softimage hops on The Magic Roundabout

Wed 5th Feb 2003 | News

Softimage announced that SOFTIMAGE|XSI has been chosen by French animation studio Action Synthèse to play a starring role in the animated feature film ‘The Magic Roundabout’. Action Synthèse chose to switch its existing 3-D pipeline mid-production to the SOFTIMAGE|XSI software in order to better meet the creative, schedule and budget requirements of this highly demanding and entirely computer generated movie.

Based on the 1960’s children’s cult European TV series of the same name, ‘The Magic Roundabout' is scheduled for release in France and the UK in 2004 and will feature the original cast, as well as two entirely new characters. In addition to the SOFTIMAGE|XSI software, the production companies Film Action France and Pathé UK have also signed-on some of the world's hottest talent for this widely anticipated movie. Australian pop star Kylie Minogue will lend her voice to the cartoon character Florence (Margotte), fellow singer Robbie Williams will provide the voice for the world-weary shaggy dog Dougal (Pollux) and ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ actor Joanna Lumley will be Ermintrude (Azalée), the whimsical cow.

Action Synthèse needed a robust, extensible and flexible 3-D software that could meet the challenges of creating an animated CG feature film. The superior creative toolset, highly-productive workflow capabilities, industry-leading integration of mental ray rendering technology and flexible nonlinear environment were key in the animation studio’s choice to move its pipeline to the SOFTIMAGE|XSI environment, as Pascal Rodon, Action Synthèse’s president explains:

“Two years into the project, we had some hard choices to make regarding our animation software. In the beginning, we had opted for Discreet’s 3ds Max, but we encountered too many limitations for this high-end project. Hence we decided to re-build our 3-D production pipeline around SOFTIMAGE|XSI. Thanks to the file import converter, we were able to bring the content we had already created, into SOFTIMAGE|XSI in a matter of weeks. The whole process was seamless.”

“In the past year we’ve seen a rapid increase in the number of production pipelines moving to our SOFTIMAGE|XSI software to take advantage of the system’s superior creative and productivity attributes,” says Michael Stojda, managing director of Softimage. “The move by Action Synthèse proves that even mid-production, animators and companies can realize significant gains in creative power and productivity by making the switch to XSI. This is an important factor when meeting today’s requirements for greater visual sophistication and realism while staying within tighter budgets and stringent deadlines.”

With over 50 HP workstations running the SOFTIMAGE|XSI software as well as 40 licenses of SOFTIMAGE|XSI Batch, Softimage’s batch processing & rendering solution to populate the studio’s renderfarm, the production is currently going full steam at Action Synthèse’s recently expanded production facilities in Marseilles, in the South of France.

“I am very pleased with the way things are going. In spite of a complete re-haul of our production pipeline half way into the project, we are more productive than ever and are far more confident that we will meet our production deadline, thanks to SOFTIMAGE|XSI and the amazing support we are getting from the Softimage Special Projects team,” said Laurent Rodon, president of Film Action France.

“One of the requirements at Action Synthèse was switching its pipeline from 3ds max to SOFTIMAGE|XSI without introducing any delays into the overall production schedule,” says Olivier Ozoux, director of special projects at Softimage. “To do this, we utilized the 3ds max to XSI converter tool and re-designed Action Synthèse’s production pipeline to accommodate both their existing assets and the expanded capabilities that the SOFTIMAGE|XSI software brings to the production process.”

One of the challenges currently met by the animation team of Action Synthèse is to create Dougal the dog’s signature long-haired coat:

“Thanks to the hair and fur tools of SOFTIMAGE|XSI we have more styling power than most hairdressers or pet grooming parlors, with over twenty tools and manipulation modes for grooming and painting hair, even very long shaggy dog hair,” says Marc Chevry, lead set-up and FX artist on the movie.

A significant portion of the movie takes place in a winter land, featuring snow, glaciers, and even an ice castle. In order to re-create the unique feel of winter light and ice reflections and at the same time keep rendering times under control, the team at Action Synthèse is relying on the interactive renderer within SOFTIMAGE|XSI. Thanks to the new image-based lighting pass in version 3.0 of SOFTIMAGE|XSI software, the Action Synthèsedigital artists are also able to generate entire lighting environments based on images or sequences.


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