Softimage has announced that it is now shipping version 4.0 of its nonlinear 3-D production environment, Softimage|XSI, worldwide. Those customers with maintenance contracts can download the latest version immediately and first time orders are shipping next week, the company claims.

The company claims that the latest version delivers advanced toolsets, performance enhancements and significant advances in the core architecture of the software, including new customization, project management, and workgroup capabilities.

For customization, a new Custom Display Host (CDH) exposes the core of the Softimage|XSI software to external applications, tools, or custom run-time engines, according to the company. The XML-based UI engine gives technical directors centralized per-scene control with scriptable Table of Contents, scenario-specific Relational Views, and configurable interface layouts.

To improve modelling and animation, Subdivision Surfaces have been integrated into the standard mesh modelling environment, which allows texture coordinates, vertex colours, weights, and shapes to propagate across modifications. Softimage claims the character animation system provides new biped, quadruped, and hybrid rig systems and a Character SDK for customizing character rig creation, animation, and editing.

The FX Tree compositor now features 2-D raster and vector based resolution-independent paint tools based on ‘Matador’ technology to improve effects, the company claims. All simulation effects share the same integrated forces and dynamics environment, so hair and fur, dynamic constraints, particles, fluids, cloth, and new Rigid & Soft Body Dynamics all work together.

The XSI RenderCore plug-in architecture allows for multiple rendering methods and can host custom plug-in renderers, views, and display engines. The new graphic synthesizer ensures high fidelity between in-context visual feedback and final production output, and version 4 also includes web-based processing and rendering queue management system.

As well as the XSI Advanced and XSI Essentials configurations, a new entry-level XSI Foundation configuration is available for $1,995 (around £1,100) from the Softimage Web site. The Foundation version includes polygon modelling tools, Subdivision Surfaces and the SOFTIMAGE|XSI toolset, according to Softimage.

The entry-level version also offers standard scripting languages, advanced Real-Time Shaders, and a workgroup-aware production framework running on floating licenses, enabling users to use multiple systems. The version does not include the level of customization possible with the Advanced and Essentials configurations, nor does it include the workforce management tools, Rigid & Soft Body Dynamics, the advanced character rig systems or the SDK.

Softimage|XSI v.4.0 Essentials is available for $3,995 (£2,200) and the Advanced configuration is available for $8,995 (£5,000).