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SOFTIMAGE|XSI: A Major Sky Captain Player

According to Avid, five leading Softimage customers Hybride Technologies, Pixel Liberation Front, R!OT, Rising Sun Pictures and Stan Winston Digital used SOFTIMAGE|XSI digital content creation software to create a variety of shots in SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW. The film breaks new ground by incorporating CGI into every frame, using the latest CG technology to construct all the backgrounds and sets. The film's production team, World of Tomorrow, shot footage of live actors on bluescreen and then outsourced nearly 900 CG shots to more than a dozen independent visual effects shops, more than 60% of which were created with SOFTIMAGE|XSI software.

"We are very proud of our customers' contributions to this extraordinary achievement in digital filmmaking," said Gareth Morgan, sr. product manager for Softimage. "In an industry where the technology used in the editing room often plays a pivotal role in the storytelling process, the real identity of this feature film lives in the sophisticated CG visuals. This is a great example of how SOFTIMAGE|XSI software enables a range of talented teams to collaborate on a single project and produce something truly original. Ultimately, it's ground-breaking projects like SKY CAPTAIN that are driving the innovation and creativity of the 3D industry in feature films."

* Hybride used SOFTIMAGE|XSI software to create the 3D environments and scenery for 121 shots in an abandoned mine/ice cave sequence, in which the lead characters search for the missing scientists. The Hybride team designed all the 3D models, textures and lighting with SOFTIMAGE|XSI software, and used the unique Realtime Shaders for instant high-quality previews and feedback for blocking and timing during pre-visualization work, all the way through to the final rendering.

* PLF produced 88 shots featuring the British Royal Navy flying fortress, the air squadron sent to protect the protagonists on their adventure. PLF began working with a partially animated sequence and completed it using SOFTIMAGE|XSI software with mental ray and SOFTIMAGE|XSI BatchServe for rendering to increase the resolution of CG models and for texture mapping and lighting. BatchServe became the rendering backbone for this workflow, allowing the PLF team to effortlessly control the 70 CPU render farm, where anywhere from 50 to more than 200 render passes were required for each animated shot. The software's unique non-destructive animation pipeline allowed artists to integrate motion capture data onto pre-existing characters, while using the animation mixer to create virtual extras. The Render Tree and integrated render pass system enabled more than 10 different artists to match and maintain a consistent look across the entire sequence.

* R!OT generated 62 shots for the office environment of Dr. Totenkopf played by the late Sir Lawrence Olivier the suspected villain behind the scientists' disappearance. R!OT used SOFTIMAGE|XSI software and its advanced sub-surface scattering features to construct detailed textures and lighting effects in the CG environment. Marc-Andre Samson, lead XSI technical director for R!OT, said, "The crucial goal of the CG phase was to get an optimal light and shadow ratio that would give the compositing artists latitude to apply the desired 'film noir' look to the movie. In all 62 shots, the customizable render passes set up in XSI simplified our workflow and permitted us to deliver what we needed to within an unbelievable three-week time frame."

* Rising Sun Pictures delivered a total of 150 shots, using SOFTIMAGE|XSI software to create the exterior of Dr. Totenkopf's rocket, as well as the control panel inside the cockpit. Shading was a key element in these shots, as both the interior and exterior scenes had to match the CG work completed by other vendors. Rising Sun deployed heavy use of the render tree in SOFTIMAGE|XSI software to create and control ambient occlusion and soft-shadow light capabilities, then turned these effects into textures using RenderMap. Using the full range of features in SOFTIMAGE|XSI software, such as the scripting tools for updating assets in scenes, farming out renders and general scene management tasks, Rising Sun was able to complete the work in a short time frame, requiring only a small amount of script development.

* Stan Winston Digital completed more than 100 shots, 84 of which included the development of exotic creatures and environments for the mysterious island sequence. To create all of the CG creatures on the island, artists used the subdivision-surface modeling and UV-set construction features within the Texture Editor of SOFTIMAGE|XSI software. The Stan Winston team also created a unique look for a family of flying creatures using the Syflex plug-in to animate wing dynamics. Fur shading and feather geometry were also applied to enhance the life-like skin on large ostrich-looking characters. The 3D digital trees, plants, foliage and other environmental elements round out all of the creative work produced with SOFTIMAGE|XSI software for the mysterious island sequence.

Stan Winston artists created an additional 22 shots in a Shangri-La sequence that the World of Tomorrow production team used in its final composites. After laying out and composing the shots, the team developed UV texturing, painting, coloring and lighting to give an ethereal, organic-aged look to the Shangri-La environment.

"The beauty, style and visual complexity of both sequences really pushed the artistic and technical envelope for us," said Andre Bustanoby, visual effects supervisor at Stan Winston Digital. "Completing the work on time required a complex yet integrated CG pipeline that would give our team speed and flexibility without limiting its creativity. All of the capabilities in SOFTIMAGE|XSI, such as the Texture Editor, Render Tree, Fur Shading, Passes and Partitions as well as the use of XSI SDK and BatchServe enabled us to get the job done and create the visually stunning worlds and inhabitants found in SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW."

Softimage Co. (www.softimage.com), a subsidiary of Avid Technology Inc., is an industry leader in 3D animation, 2D cel animation, compositing and special effects software, designed to address the demands of the film and commercial/broadcast and games/interactive industries. SOFTIMAGE|XSI software, an integral player in Avid's Make, Manage and Move Media(TM) strategy, is the flagship product offering from Softimage. It is a leading 3D nonlinear production environment providing animators and digital artists the freedom to make professional animation, visual effects and games from major motion pictures, to cartoons and commercials, to animated content for videogames and Websites.

Avid Technology Inc. (www.avid.com) is a leader in digital nonlinear media creation, management and distribution solutions, enabling film, video, audio, animation, games and broadcast professionals to work more efficiently, productively and creatively.

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