• Price: 299 . 1125 . 3950

  • Company: Central Saint Martins Coolege of Art and Design

  • Pros: New character-animation tools including MOTOR motion-data importing and retargeting tool. Material Manager with Shaderball display. Morph and Warp, and Crosswalk interoperability tools.

  • Cons: Essentials and Advanced versions have lion’s share of the new features. Majority of features seem aimed at studio pipeline, rather than for the solo user.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

In first inspection, Softimage|XSI 6.0 doesn’t look like much of an update. Looking around the interface doesn’t reveal many clues as to what has changed, but once you get stuck into the new features, you’ll find a wealth of new tools to get your teeth into. It’s not as radical an update as version 5 was, but still offers plenty of improvements.

Click the File menu, for example, and you’ll find a command called Crosswalk. This is an exporter function for transferring assets between XSI and Maya and 3DS Max. This is a smart move by Softimage given the dominance of Autodesk in this market. It also allows XSI 6 to be slotted neatly into a multi-platform pipeline.

 border=0 /><p>© 2006 Copyright Paramount Pictures—images courtesy of Rising Sun Pictures
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There’s a new referencing system – Delta Referencing – that allows artists to modify shared assets in the XSI interface and then update them non-destructively. Another boon for studios is the new motion retargeting tool MOTOR. This includes the ability to target imported mocap data onto multiple characters – ideal for quickly assigning motion to a crowd of game characters.
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We tried this with an imported C3D mocap file, but found that we first had to prepare the way by loading the base C3D file into XSI and creating a new pose map file that XSI understands. BVH files are supported in MOTOR (and Acclaim files can be used to drive XSI characters) and require a similar templating stage. 
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Before the mocap data can be loaded, the target character rigs first need to be assigned tags that MOTOR will recognize. The tagging is simultaneously and symmetrically reflected on the target model. Once applied, the motion is ‘live’ and can be tweaked in a property panel, plotted to keyframes, and further adjusted or combined in the Animation Mixer. Another use for MOTOR is transferring keyframe data from one animated rig to another, allowing you to re-use existing character animation to drive completely different rigged models. 
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