It’s been four years, but Softimage’s Sumatra is finally ready. It won’t hit the streets until the end of May, but the fully working application is currently on show at the NAB 2000 in Las Vegas. It runs on NT and Irix, but Softimage has also hinted towards future versions on Linux and possibly even Mac OS X. "We are looking at new OSs like Linux very carefully," said Hugues Leveille-Nizerolle, Softimage’s general manager. "We’ve got to keep these new OSs in perspective – but when it is needed then we will create it." Central to the new product, now called Softimage|XSI, is a completely different creation metaphor. Borrowing heavily from video editing applications to create a design method touted as ‘non-linear animation’, XSI is an integrated application for modelling, animating and rendering 3D sequences in realtime. Non-linear animation introduces elements to animators such as a timeline with multiple tracks, transitions and the ability to save and reuse ‘clips’ across multiple projects. To aid this XSI includes many tie-ins to Softimage|DS, the company’s realtime editing application. XSI includes many innovative rendering tools – such as interactive rendering and a render tree. Interactive rendering allows animators to make changes to lighting, textures, materials and rendering attributes – with the results seen in seconds. The render tree brings all of the shader commands into a single interface. Also, multiple passes are also now possible. The feature set for XSI also includes a scripting language utilizing standard languages such as VBScript, Jscript and Perlscript. Through the new XSI Viewer, scenes can be looked at as if they were in the end environment – from film to PC to console. XSI is available in two versions: XSI Essentials, costing around £5150, and XSI Advanced, costing around £7700. The Advanced bundle adds integrated particles, soft bodies and an additional Mental Ray license (Essentials only includes a single license). Upgrades and maintenance price will be released nearer to the shipping date.