View Full Version : XSI: the holy grail of 3D aps?
08-17-2005, 01:07 AM
I've been tinkering around with Softimage's XSI mod tools for half life 2 on and off for a while but for the love of me I can't seem to figure out the workflow of XSI (assuming of course that the workflow in the mod tool version of XSI is similar to that found in Foundation, Complete, or Advanced). Now I've heard a lot about XSI's nonlinear workflow, but what exactly does that mean? People (i.e. members of Valve that appeared in Softimage's promotional/marketing video clips) speak of it as if XSI is the holy grail of CG creation, which in turn has only confused me.
If I wanted to create a game character, how would the nonlinear workflow of XSI affect my work speed versus me using some other "linear (?)" 3D ap such as Maya or 3dsmax?
All you XSI diehards, now is the time to defend your beloved application, and I hope you can really educate me in the process.
08-17-2005, 04:14 AM
Extremely watered-down example...
Character in max:
1. Model character
2. Rig character
3. Skin character.
4. Make morph targets.
5. Texture character.
6. Do some basic animation.
7. Cringe as art director asks you to add 2 more fingers and a tail to character.
8. Redo steps 2-6, and hope Step 7 doesn't reoccur.
Max's approach can leave you painted into a corner. Skinning and morphing are completely locked into your topology, and changing the base mesh can destroy all work that comes after the modeling... requiring you to redo a lot of things (especially morphs) and cost a lot of time, effort, money, etc.
Character in XSI:
1. Model character
2. Rig character
3. Skin character.
4. Make morph targets.
5. Texture character.
6. Do some basic animation.
7. Art director asks you to lose the tail and add ears.
8. Remove tail polys, add ear polys.
The non-linear approach in XSI basically allows you to change topology without destroying any topology-dependent work you've already done. With XSI v5's new GATOR feature, it will get even better - as you'll be able to transfer UV projections, skinning, animation and textures between different models... instead of doing 10 characters with 20 steps each, you'll be able to use a ton of data from the first character and simply transfer it to another.
08-17-2005, 04:40 AM
First of all thorn, thanks for answering! However your answer has gotten me wondering some more.
The non-linear approach in XSI basically allows you to change topology without destroying any topology-dependent work you've already done.
...How is that possible?
Don't laugh at me...
08-17-2005, 06:10 AM
No one's laughing, don't worry... XSI's "non-linear" approach means that you can go into the "explorer", find your model, expand the model's tree, and basically, you get a list of the actions that you made to make the model, set it up, etc... Think of it as multiple undo but in such a way that you can go back and seletively undo items (by picking them from a list...) This is the simplified explanation, and I'm sure someone else can explain it much better.
Basically, you can create cylinder, transform it (say, make it bigger), and then apply a bend deformation to it... Well, say somewhere down the road that you didn't like the size that you deformed it, so you go back into the construction history, select the transform action and either delete it, or pull up a property window to adjust it further.
On that note, if you notice your performance decline in XSI (your realtime interaction), you can freeze the construction history to free up memory. You can also freeze it from just a specific point back in the history if you don't want to freeze all of your work...
I hope that this helps... Go into the Mod tool and try it out! (I'm pretty sure that the non-linear stuff works in the Mod tool)
08-17-2005, 06:55 AM
All the explanations given to you about nonlinear aspect of softimage here are excellent, but I get the feeling that you are putting too much importance to the non-linear aspect of xsi too soon. If you are starting with 3d apps this will not matter at all until you get more familiar with the program and start doing more demanding projects. What Im trying to say is that dont worry right now about non-linear just yet, just learn how to model texture and animate and eventually the non-linear aspect of xsi will be more easy to understand, and youll appreciatte it..................hope this helps.
08-17-2005, 08:32 AM
Dany is right. But I like to highlight the fact, that most application has a strict workflow. With XSI I feel, it conforms to my need. With max, or maya I lost lot of works, and was left knee deep in the shit, because of the linear workflow. With XSI you may start model, then UV map, texture, continue model, skin, continue model, UV map, refine skin, refine model, etc. That's why I fell in love with XSI. I don't say, it's the perfect 3D app, but I think it's close to that.
Just coming from longtime as a max user coming to xsi I really appreciate this post and thank you j3st3r for asking! I can wholly tell you about the painting yourself into a corner situation in max, it is so true!
however, I did catch an instructional session for max this year at GDC and part of the demo was showing the Projection modifier that did enable GATOR like features in max eg transferring vertex weighting from one character to another. It looked like cool stuff, but I haven't tried it out yet myself, and think it may be part of max 7.5 which I have not tried.
08-18-2005, 05:46 PM
XSI may lack some features in comparition to Max or Cinema 4D or Maya or Lightwave, but what it has is most streamlined and workable. Highlight for me is the system of overrides and Render passes. I really am not happy when i have to use other packages mostly becouse of lack of such well thought out system. Animation is pretty good, and with render tree its pretty easy to get the output you want in regards to looks.
Lack of plugins is one indication that most users find what they need in the software already. However I for one would most welcome more SDK options, becouse I like to push every software a little further my way ;).
08-18-2005, 09:39 PM
I'm a long time max user (4.2 since, like, forever, because we couldn't update mid production), but I'm not here to talk it up. I'm actually interested in how XSI might improve my productivity as a character modeller/ rigger.
The "non-linear" workflow is actually very well possible in max, too, but with some restrictions regarding the topology/rig, so I'd like to know how much better XSI is in those areas, namely non-destructive rigging and skinning.
So with max, I can model, uv, and as well change both of that after skinning the mesh to, say, a Character Studio biped, and as long as Physique stays on the modifier stack, I can go down the stack and add modifiers beneath that.
BUT, adding or removing bones is a no-go with Physique. So this is the first big issue I'm hoping XSI being helpful. Can I add or remove bones after the skinning is done, without losing any manual tweaks? Manual skinning on vertex level should be possible - how good is the automatic process? Can I transfer the skin weights between similiar characters which don't necessarily have the exact rig (i.e. bipeds with varying finger count/face bones) ? For instance, that would simplify LOD-creation.
Another thing would be morphtargets. In max you must use modified copies of the original mesh, which means if the body is tweaked and changes the vertex count, the untweaked face still has to be redone. And you can't mirror morphtargets in max, right now I'm doing vertex snaps to the mirrored copies.
Last but not least. Is there something similar to Character Studio's biped? Since one only has to tweak the parameters and the proportions and all the technical stuff is ready-made/ consistent, that's a great time saver I don't want to lose.
Thanks for any input!
08-19-2005, 06:01 AM
XSI has a built-in biped guide, and a tool to build rig from biped guide. It has no automatic footstep tool, but can be done pretty fast. The biped guide/rig is more powerful (to me) than CS Biped.
I think that every user has his own favourite tool. If you do well in Max, and feel good with Max, I see no point to migrate. If you are not satisfied, jump on XSI ship. But never compare directly to Max, or other software, because it has a completely different way of working.
My beloved example is the Grouping. In Maya, or Max, grouping is "hierarchical", and there cannot be overlapping. While in XSI it's real grouping. Your group may overlap. You may create groups of human, animal characters, and you may group element of the previously mentioned groups further, like animals and people from the farm, animals and people from the city, etc. That's a really powerful thing.
Scene management. In this area, XSI cannot be beaten. Your scene is organized, whenever you look to the scene explorer you see everything on it's place, you may explore your scene in different ways, etc.
Modelling. Everything can be a coordinate system. You may pick an edge to be your coordinate system, or point, or other model, etc.And with ease. Symmetry is OK for shaping, but little clumsy when you add elements.
Skinning. This is my favourite. The weighting continuously conforms to the topology...It's lovely in XSI. Especially when art director would like to change something on the model, but you've spent hours with rigging, and animating.
Animation Mixer. The most powerful non linear editor I've ever seen, it works just like a non-linear movie editor. I'm able to keep my character and all of his animations within one scene file.
FCurve Editor Dopesheet. Superfast, supereasy to manage. Very very cool. I use both of these editors to animate. Fcurve is cool for the charactersitic, while dopesheet for timing.
Texture Editor, it was a little bit strange at first, but when I understood how it works, I was stunned, how fast and easy.
What I love in XSI, that when the user conforms to it, he realize, how easy it is to work with. Just an example. The move point tool works on geometries, UV samples in the UV editor, and keys on FCurve Editor also.
All in all, I don't use as much plugins for XSI as I used for MAX, or Lightwave. I have few shaders, I wrote few scripts, but that's all. XSI is just fine right out of the box.
08-19-2005, 09:40 AM
j3st3r hit most points.
I've started working at a games studio that uses Maya and max, and let me tell you...it feels like going back a generation of 3D. All the limitations and weak work arounds can really hurt being able to just focus on the art.
wanzai, I could go into how morphs etc work in xsi, but all you need to know is that its completely nonlinear and you will never lose anything. Heck, even with a fully rigged face, you can have animated cutting tools and poly reductions on the face, and it will dynamically update and animate/deform with lipsync perfectly. I've tried to crack the puppy and find a fault in the process, but it's rock solid.
So *if* you aren't happy with max or feel some of the limitations are impacting on you quailty/speed of work, definately give xsi a crack for a month or so.
08-19-2005, 11:15 AM
I think Wanzai should stick to 3DS, he's doing great stuff with it (hi mate :)! )
At the moment I'm really struggling with XSI, I love Softimage, but there are several things that bug me. I started using Softimage|3D with version 3.0 and got used to its nice workflow, which is still good in XSI, but due to all the amazing new possibilities in 3D it has become very complicated, but the handling is still better than in most of the other 3D programs, which I think is mainly done by the avoidance of pushing around tiny windows.
But I really just started switching to XSI, so there is still a lot to explore for me and get used to, the render tree for example (eeeek, I'm lost !)
What I really miss is a possibility to have a vector output like in Softimage|3D, even if the lin2eps stuff is quite annoying, but converting stuff with a console really impresses the ladies ;).
I once saw a friend of mine doing amazing stuff with cinema, which made me drool and in the same moment sad because XSI is missing a feature to output graphics like that. I mean what’s the use of having a Pixel based hidden line, eh ?!
Often I need to do reduced illustrations of architecture for art-projects and figured out that hidden lines are a great way to illustrate it and sometimes I use hidden lines for Flash. Rendering a hidden line for a DIN A2 print is a bummer ...
At least they got the particles back, they kicked out in Softimage|3D 3.7 or so ...
I really fell in love with Softimage but missing a reasonable output for Illustrators and Flashguys really makes me think we should stay "just friends" ...
Maya is sexy too ;)
08-19-2005, 11:10 PM
Long time no see, great to see you here! Just discovered this place, eh? Thanks for the compliment, I think you're right (that I should stick to 3ds max). Before looking at other applications maybe I should see what new script there are for max and, more importantly, what the new versions already can do...
The UI of XSI is cooler, though ;) and that's something you can hardly copy - in contrary to some functions you could imitate with scripts. And the price is really attractive (and since I'll be a student soon, I could get Advanced for <300 USD... :drool: )
08-20-2005, 12:35 AM
The biggest difference between XSI and other apps that I feel is that while other apps may have more discrete features and functions than XSI, like Max having extrude+rotate while XSI doesn't, XSI's core way of doing things is more freeform and allows you to either do everything else better than other apps or easily emulate the special functions the other apps may have.
In simpler words, XSI has a stronger base, while other apps may have many more additions but lack a strong base.
08-20-2005, 06:51 AM
yeah max is always trying to copy, i think they made an animation mixer for max 8
just like xsi's,
dont know if its any good though or how often it will ... crash.
08-20-2005, 05:00 PM
I think I found a pretty good article exactly for me questions :)
08-20-2005, 05:00 PM
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