Hidden Gems of Animation
Features that deserve more attention
Tips contributed by Damijan Saccio
Principal of UVPHACTORY, NYC
This is a relatively minor tool, but for some reason we keep needing it and we needed it especially badly the day we received the first beta of version 4, so it really saved our *ss that day!
What it is
Dice Polygons is essentially a way of subdividing a polygon in a regularized way that used to be the default means for subdividing in Softimage|3D
When and how it’s used
select poly, click modify->dice polys and you have all the options you could possibly desire: you choose which axes you want, the number of slices in each direction, etc. You can even have it divide up the object equally in equal-sided grid divisions of any size you choose.
Why it’s important
This tool is important for many reasons. Often, to aid an animation or deformation you need to divide an object in a regularized way that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the ways in which the existing polygons are placed.
XSI’s beveling tools have gone from good to great. One of our biggest requests (which is not something you notice as a big change in XSI) was implemented in version 4. Simply put, you can now bevel in instead of only being able to bevel out. A perfect real-world example of why this is so important is with logos. We do a lot of broadcast design, so we work with a lot of logos. Often you need a logo in 3D and you want to put a small bevel on the extrusion. It is imperative, however, to preserve the original outline of the logo and not distort it. Formerly, if you added a bevel, it would do so outside the original boundaries, providing you with something that was not the exact logo anymore. This is unacceptable for a logo that has to represent a known brand. Fortunately the new version of XSI addresses this and adds a number of other bells and whistles, like improved rounding options that really make life for 3d artist much better. All these features are part of the: Create->Poly Mesh->Curve To Mesh tool. This ‘beveling in’ ability is absolutely key to anyone who ever has to deal with exact outlines, such as logos and type in general.
Cool new features that don’t often get mentioned:
Partition improvements: XSI version 4 has made a number of small, but incredibly helpful additions and fixes to the partitions in your render passes. Now, a partition’s visibility will override animations on individual objects in the partition. This is one of those features that seems very minor, but can immensely help your work flow in a project. Another great change is that when you add an override to partition in a pass, XSI is smarter about it and asks you if you want to add a shader connection or use the override as a parameter. Before, using the override as a parameter involved writing a bit of code in the scripting window and was very hard to undo. The workflow now is much improved and much better for an artist who doesn’t want to have to deal with the scripting window.
Selection tool improvements: XSI has done a great job introducing context sensitive menus. Version 4 adds to this by including smart selecting, accessed by holding the alt key when making polygon, edge, and point selections. Using combinations of the alt key and mouse buttons, you can intelligently select ranges of polygons, edges, and point as well as full selection loops by only clicking two places. It’s small things like this that really speed up overall production time.