Autodesk Launches VR for 3ds Max, Flame Scripting, Arnold Shaders
At SIGGRAPH 2017, Autodesk showed updates to its 3D software for media and entertainment including Maya, Arnold, 3ds Max and Flame. Some of these were announced at the time of NAB, in particular Maya 2018, 3ds Max 2018, Arnold 5.0 and the Flame Family 2018. Details about new functionality are described in these linked articles.
However, since then Autodesk has made other changes, especially in terms of encouraging users to start Media & Entertainment Collection subscriptions, that were recently announced at SIGGRAPH 2017. 3ds Max has a 3ds Max-to-VR workflow, and Arnold includes new shader functionality. Flame’s new connected conform has been developed further, and the ability to drive Flame through scripting is extended.
3ds Max Interactive
3ds Max 2018.1 now has VR authoring tools for design visualization artists and generalists called 3ds Max interactive, which is a VR engine to help create immersive and interactive architectural visualizations. It was shown as a 3ds Max to VR Workflow demo at SIGGRAPH. It is actually based on Autodesk's Stingray engine but the intention is to tune Max Interactive to the specific needs of visualization workflows rather than real-time rendering for games.
Learning a game engine can be a challenge, but progressing from a 3D environment to a VR authoring environment is also not expected to be easy for users. Last year the Autodesk LIVE Design team launched Revit Live, a cloud-based service that transforms Revit models into VR in one step. 3ds Max Interactive is not yet as straightforward, but Autodesk aims to move the more labour-intensive aspects of data-preparation to the cloud to shorten the task for artists.
An example of using automation for this is V-Ray materials translation from Max to Max Interactive, which has been successful so far. Other supporting functionality includes templates for various VR platforms that are packaged with the necessary tools and scripts that non-developers can use to create mobile, PC and room-scale VR experiences without scripting knowledge. Also, a digital content creation link tool directly connects the 3ds Max dataset to the real-time environment, so that users can work more iteratively and interactively on projects.
Initially, Autodesk hopes that - as an accessible VR engine built into the Max workflow - Max Interactive will serve as a catalyst that encourages design visualisation artists to begin creating architectural VR content. By starting in a familiar environment instead of working backwards from an external game engine or set of 3D tools retrofitted onto a VR game engine, the less familiar territory and terminology of virtual reality may seem less challenging.
Going forward, Autodesk will analyse how artists using 3ds Max Interactive, and looking for specific problems. Currently, the developers are trying to automate some of the more complex processing like geometry optimization. For users with an active subscription to Max on its own or as part of an industry collection, Max Interactive comes with their subscription at no extra cost. Follow the installation guide here.
Arnold 5.0.1 Bundles Up
Arnold 5.0.1, extending the recent 5.0 release, includes new AOV shaders for cryptomatte workflows and thin film for standard surface shaders, among other updates and optimizations. Arnold 5.0.1 is available with the latest versions of Maya and 3ds Max or as a plugin for other content creation applications. Arnold is now available for free to educational institutions through the Autodesk Education Portal.
Starting 7 September 2017, new Media & Entertainment Collection subscribers will get an Arnold 5 Pack at no extra cost. Available through resellers, the Arnold 5 Packs are Arnold renderer licenses bundled together that can be used locally or on the cloud. Each pack of five Arnold licenses costs USD $1,500, while the price of five individual Arnold annual subscription licenses is currently USD $3,000. So, purchasing Arnold Packs is considerably cheaper than buying individual licenses. Customers can buy as many as they like but the 5 Pack offer only runs until 20 October 2017.
Flame Family 2018.2
Flame Family 2018.2 adds new tools and expands choices in pipeline integration. Pybox is a new python scriptable software handler for processing images via external renderers. To do this, Pybox allows other applications to completely integrate the Flame compositing pipeline, and meanwhile the Flame artist does not have to know how to use the third-party application in order to use it in Flame.
For example, you can create a Pybox that uses Maya to render and produce content, and then have that content fed directly back into the Batch pipeline. The artist only has to add a Pybox node to the Batch schematic, and selects the correct handler.
In Action, a new customizable contextual menu option gives access to more functions in the Action schematic, including hidden functions that used to be accessible only through keyboard shortcuts. You can also use Action without having to switch back to Node Bin to add a node. The Projector node's functionality is now improved, making the topology and position of projections more controllable. Action also has three new input maps, a Motion Vectors map, Object ID map and Z-Depth map.
The new connected conform workflow can now be used to update the Sources Sequence and Shots Sequence more efficiently. New options allow you to better control the scope of connected conform operations. You can also create Connected Segments on GapFX, which are timeline segments with soft effects that affect the timeline segments located on the layers underneath.
Users can now drive the batch environment via scriptable commands with a new Python API allowing you to script the creation and layout of Batch schematics. Batch Group creation and the Batch schematic layout can be scripted, as well as the Import, Comp and Write File nodes. Artists can execute the Python script when launching Flame as a command option or, for Shotgun users, from the Shotgun console inside Flame.
Subscribers to the Autodesk Media & Entertainment Collection will now have access to Cloud Rights and to SketchBook for Enterprise as a part of the collection. Cloud Rights, applicable from 30 August 2017, are on-demand compute resources on the cloud, used to scale rendering pipelines, handled by running non-UI batch instances of 3ds Max and Maya on individual or multiple computers over the internet. Typical compute-intensive tasks this service is intended for include not only rendering but also simulations and caching. Cloud Rights can be useful for scaling and planning software resources, and reducing compute-related interruptions.
Subscription licenses to 3ds Max and Maya will start including Cloud Rights - Arnold licenses have already had them. Cloud Rights take effect when executing command line or scripted Batch processes on remote, cloud networked systems. Maya Batch and 3ds Max Batch are command line executables that are run manually or by scripted operations. The Batch tools are non-UI versions of Maya and 3ds Max that can be used to perform operations like simulations and caching that otherwise take up local system resources. Documentation will be available soon.
For each single-user 3ds Max, Maya or Arnold subscription, subscribers can use remote batch functionality over the internet for up to one instance of the non-UI software. For every multi-user subscription, subscribers can use remote batch functionality over the internet for up to 10 instances of non-UI software.
Autodesk’s drawing and painting tool, SketchBook for Enterprise, now becomes part of the subscriber collection. It is made for the early stages of content creation, for use on desktop and mobile devices, to help iterate ideas quickly and develop them into rendered concepts. The interface is minimal so it works on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, all accessed through one subscription. It has 140 standard brushes built in, with 18 blending modes, but you can create new brushes, or import brushes designed by other artists.
Familiar tools are the rectangle, oval, lasso and magic wand selection tools, and applying fill, linear gradient fill or radial gradient fill to artwork. Users can work with unlimited layers in the usual way, with 18 blending modes and layer grouping, and import or export layered PSD files, both to other software and between desktop and mobile devices. A phone or tablet may be used to scan sketches to import as transparent linework with colour data.
The Predictive Stroke function smoothes out linework and corrects basic shapes to circles, triangles and rectangles, which makes sketching go faster at the beginning. Later when you have a look in mind, Steady Stroke sets the offset between the cursor and the stroke, depending on whether you are drawing looser or tighter curves, to create smooth strokes. For more precise drawings you can use adjustable rulers, ellipse guides and French curves, and to set out a perfectly symmetrical design, there are four symmetry dimensions - X, Y, XY, and up to 16-sector radial symmetry.
Custom perspective guides snap each stroke to an on- or off-canvas vanishing point with up to 5-point, or fish-eye, perspective. You can also distort illustrations to fix perspective and proportions. A digital Copic Color Library with matching Copic Marker default brushes is a part of SketchBook as well, used to browse through groups of colours for projects or complementary colours, or create custom colour sets. www.autodesk.com