Softimage has announced the latest versions of its 3D animation software packages: Softimage|XSI 6.5 and Softimage|Face Robot 1.8. Both will ship in the autumn, according to the company.

The company also announced plans to "repackage its Essentials and Advanced versions of Softimage|XSI 6.5 software to meet the specific needs of artists and studios, respectively" -- essentially changing which features are in which version, and the pricing, to appeal better to certain users.

Both Softimage|XSI 6.5 Essentials and Advanced software will include more than thirty enhancements that were developed for creative companies such as Lionhead Studios, Valve, EA, Animal Logic, Nerdcorps, Pandemic and NCSoft, according to Softimage. New tools across both versions include HDR (high dynamic range) rendermap support, additional SDK APIs allowing programmers to extend the software's capabilities, UV editing enhancements, and enhanced audio support.

Softimage|XSI 6.5 Essentials is now aimed at artists creating 3D characters and content for games, film and television. The Essentials version now includes Hair & Fur, and Syflex Cloth capabilities. The price for Essentials will increase to $2,995 (around £1,470); maintenance remains unchanged at $799 (£392), and upgrades remain unchanged at $999 (£490). XSI 6.5 Essentials will only be available to new customers and customers on active maintenance.

Softimage|XSI 6.5 XSI Advanced is aimed at technical directors and studio IT managers. It includes everything in the Softimage|XSI 6.5 XSI Essentials package, plus Behavior, a crowd and behavioral simulation system, as well as five additional XSI Batch rendering licenses. The price for Advanced will decrease to $4,995 (£2,450) and maintenance will decrease to $1333 (£653).

Face Station

Softimage|Face Robot is a 3D character facial animation tool. Version 1.8 gains many tools from Softimage|XSI including Crosswalk, MOTOR, Delta Referencing and Animation Layers. Other new features incclude a new shape rig export system, which allows users to export entire head blend shapes for use in XSI and Maya. An improved game export pipeline offers auto-enveloping, which delivers more accurate and higher quality results.

Version 1.8 also ships with seven ready-to-use preset head models, and a 23-part training video covering the Face Robot tuning process.