Review: Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite Ultimate 2014
Python- Tools upgrades and things to watch out for
Thanks to Jason Parks for letting me quote some of his findings in upgrading and issues he hit with the technical side of the pipeline. Read the entire post and find links to fixes and downloads to some of the problems and the post in its entirety on his blog http://www.jason-parks.com/artoftech/?p=579.
Begin Jason- If you’re like me, you like to always be using the latest version of an Autodesk product. The 2014 series has just been released and it is always quite a bit of work to convert you’re existing toolset up to the latest build.
In the case of Maya 2014, there are more than just a few issues, such as:
Python 2.6.3 -> Python 2.7.3
PyQt to PySide
PyMel 1.0.4 -> PyMel 1.0.5
Then there are always third-party compiled plug-ins to worry about. Any smart team will try to keep these to a minimum.
So the first big issue is the Python version upgrade. This should not be too big and on the surface it makes some sense to move up to the latest (last!) and greatest of the Python 2.x series.
The first heavily used third-party python module that I needed to upgrade was Perforce, which happened to be one of the most problematic. Unfortunately, the build of P4Python from the Perforce website does not import into Maya’s 2.7.3 python
Autodesk now ships pre-compiled builds of PySide which is a replacement wrapper for the QT UI libraries that work so well and are so robust and beautiful in some of the latest Autodesk products. This is a huge relief as the licensing around the PyQt wrappers were tricky and some companies were reluctant to adopt and also you were supposed to build them yourself, though there was always a version floating around the interwebs you could find, if you looked hard enough. The coolest thing about PySide is that it is Open Source.
PyMel version has been iterated as well and with it comes some improvements, I’m sure. However, there are some minor issues introduced as well. The first couple I’ve found are related to the area of Virtual Class creation discussed here. It seems the factories.py module has a minor bug in it that you need to hack.
Those are the major hurdles I’ve had to overcome so far in upgrading. If you have any questions or find any other obvious areas that need attention when you upgrade your toolset to Autodesk 2014, let me know and I’ll try to keep a running list here. Good luck.
The big joke for this release of MotionBuilder is the Ruler tool, this goofy big “Feature” unfortunately stole the spotlight from a few big improvements and smaller fixes to make MotionBuilder shine this year. Let’s start the list.
New Advanced Mocap Solver tools
As I talked about last year the mocap solver and tools built around the Actor tool had been left for dead. But not this year. This year we now have a new solver system that is open to editing with constraints live during the solving. Artists now have control over how rotation and translation are mapped and extracted directly from the marker data onto a target skeleton. This removes the actor solver and opens up the system per node to let an editor fix, manipulate, offset and improve the mapping process with less loss of detail from the source capture.
Now it isn't perfect, it won't be faster than the actor in this version but it allows for much more customization and for working with more difficult captures where the actor would have lost something or otherwise changed the source data. I am very happy to see this feature and even more excited to see it improve and grow to deal with something like quadrupeds and other complex captures.
New for this version are 60 or so fixes and improvements to the MotionBuilder HIK solver including spine squash and stretch and improved shoulder rigging and the best part, useable double-solving. MotionBuilder has several different solver types for the character rig and in the past I had to stick with the base solver and avoid the HIK solver features until this year.
The MotionBuilder 2014 team did a great job in both fixing and improving on existing features for the HIK rig while squashing lots of bugs. This is the first version of the solver that is, I think, production useable and makes editing motion capture easier instead of harder.
Linux now supported
For big film studios running Linux, having to have dual boot or dual computers to run MotionBuilder was the norm until now. MotionBuilder 2014 now runs on Linux so having all your software under one environment should make IT and the artists happy.
Some other small improvements that I am very happy about
- Fixed finally is we can adjust the height of the timeline, just right click and check Unlock action timeline height, making it useable for animation and editing once again.
- Still we can't save out poses to an offline file but the foundation for file referencing like Maya has is in this release. You have to access the file referencing features with python scripts but it is a start. MotionBuilder comes with a sample script to allow you to do basic file referencing of geometry and manage the references.
Lots of room still to improve the editing tools as I have mentioned before but there is a great foundation to grow MotionBuilder from this release and it is still one of the most underutilized tools for animators available. If you haven't used it or don't get how you can fit it in your pipeline, get some training on it and you might save days off of your animators’ schedule.
3ds Max: Big news - Animation FPS is back
3ds Max finally is useable for animation again with a giant performance update. My test file from last year is showing a jump from a low of 27fps or lower to now in 2014 – over 108fps!!! Even with some of the more filtered views like the realistic shading I get almost 98fps. While this is a great improvement, the overall UI still feels like it has gotten away from the clean, fast UI of past versions pre-ribbon additions. Lucky you can turn off most of the new UI until you get used to it but it is a bit of an adjustment if you are jumping in to it from the last version.
Here are some other things worth noting in this release.
- Populate, seeming not to be outdone by XSI, Max gets its own crowd solution. While it feels easy to get started with and edit character behavior, it is another closed system for Max where the XSI crowd tool uses ICE and allows for much more user customization because of it. That said it has some great tools for previs and feels targeted directly at architecture and not the entertainment market from the looks of it.
- More improvement to speed and visual quality for the realtime Nitrous display.