EIAS workflow being revised - need experienced advicemodelling animating rendering
Posted 18 July 2012 - 03:56 AM
For creation of models, my current setup has been relying on the antiquated, yet still functional, ElectricImage Modeller. I have been running this on an older PPC G5 Mac. EIAS Animator and Camera run on a shiny new Intel MacPro tower running under OS-X Lion (which can't run older apps such as EIM). Given a lot of my work was such where the need for modelling was never great, finding an alternative for EIM was never a high priority - it worked, it imported EPS files for conversion to 3D logos etc, and it exported FACT files for EIAS. It wasn't broken, so there wasn't any need to fix it. Neat!
Recently however there has been an increasing need to address 3D modelling that's more than simple logos. Now I'm being asked to recreate a Great War battlefield c.1916, or a contoured and detailed map for an adventure documentary, or a train or a spaceship or a car.
A few weeks ago the G5 suffered a power supply failure (complete with "pop" and thin stream of evil-smelling smoke). I managed to replace the power supply thanks to a seller on eBay, so the machine's lifespan has been extended, but it's obvious I need to move on from the G5 and hence EIM (given it appears it's never coming back) to something that functions well and integrates with the EI pipeline. I'm loathe to move to a different animator/renderer - I've been using EI for 15 years now and have been delighted with the results - so it's about finding something that works well, has the sort of tool range (or better) EIM had, and doesn't require re-learning entire workflows and interfaces, or costing vast wads of cash to make it compatible with EIAS.
I've had a look at Moi3D, which certainly appears friendly and straightforward. I'm wondering though what's required to take what it creates and make it compatible with EIAS, since I can't see any reference to FACT files. I'm also wondering where the tool might be that is similar to EIM's UberNurbs. Aside from lofting a number of profiles, I'm wondering how one might quickly create the shape of - say - a cushion or pillow (or sandbag for my Great War project). Is Moi3D limited in that way? Or am I not seeing the toolset for that? Before EIM came along I was using FormZ - is perhaps that the recommended alternative? Something else?
Is there an application that folks recommend that works well as a modeller under OSX Lion (and beyond), and can provide files to EIAS with as little drama as possible? What packages are people using that they love using? I'm not doing biological modelling - not characters or otherwise. Most of my modelling revolves around logos, along with planes, trains and automobiles, but I can't rule out doing beasties and the like in the future. Any suggestions of which path to take would be greatly appreciated.
Posted 18 July 2012 - 08:15 AM
There are a couple of modelers that work perfect with EI:
• EIM is still working, on a G5 and on Intel machines with OSX 10.6 (and lower)
- if it works for you: never change a running system...
• MOI is a relative new modeler, they are at the beginning and have a bright future (afais)
• PunchCad has some nice tools, starting from under 100$ and they write a good FACT
• FormZ is doing a good job since years
• Silo is a good modeler too at a good price
• Rhino is in beta status (for Mac) and does also, since years, a good modeling job.
You can always use OBJ instead of FACT when it comes to input/output of geometrie
So you have a lot of possibilities :-)
I would use EIM as long as it works and look in the meantime for the others to learn
how they work and how they integrate in your workflow. Try a small job first and
don't try to model a complicated car in a new modeler on a tight deadline....
When using two (or more) modelers at the same time (EIM and Silo f.e.) the switch
comes slowly and you feel when its time to leave EIM (or not, there are lots of spare parts
for the G5 out there.... :-)
Posted 18 July 2012 - 02:26 PM
The only danger with modo is that as it's a good animator and renderer too - you might think of just doing the whole project there...
Posted 18 July 2012 - 03:48 PM
Thanks for everyone's feedback - sounds like good advice, and I will certainly investigate the various recommendations.
Another app I've seen around for a while but never delved into investigating is ZBrush. While it's clearly designed for organic bodies coming as it does from a clay sculpting technique, there appears to be a few examples in its impressive galleries of solid body subjects, such as armour and even a building. While I've read it deals with direct-to-surface texturemapping, I'm guessing that level of info wouldn't translate between it and EIAS and texturemapping is possibly best left to EIAS (I could be wrong in that with their "GoZ" utility - is there an opening for EIAS to be included in their integration list?). Is anybody around who has used ZBrush with EIAS and can convey their impressions? Are there any pitfalls, dangers or incompatibilities with this combination? I understand ZBrush exports OBJs, so with EIAS9 this might work really well. Thoughts?
Tomas, words can barely express how much I am anticipating EIAS9! My own user-feedback "list of suggestions" based on using 8 will wait until I've seen how well 9 stacks up
Posted 18 July 2012 - 07:44 PM
Another app I've seen around for a while but never delved into investigating is ZBrush. While it's clearly designed for organic bodies coming as it does from a clay sculpting technique, there appears to be a few examples in its impressive galleries of solid body subjects, such as armour and even a building.
I haven't posted in a while and I went through the same workflow questions. Pixologic has a free modeler that is a baby version of Zbrush called Sculptris. It's barebones but if you know how to build clay models in real life both modelers feel natural specially if you have a wacom tablet.
I second modo modeling but I leave animation to EI. I've used C4d for logos as you can have 1 project file, duplicate it to use similar setting for another client and all you have to do is import an illustrator 8 or eps file for the new project. You drag a few items around in less than 2 minutes and you have a quick 3d model. I export as Lightwave OBJ and then Transporter or OBJ to FACT to EIAS. As far as workflows are concerned you can have your custom extrusions and bevels in your own templates and then as the job calls you can add deformers or additional items.
I played with Rino beta and was able to do some amazing work within minutes (hard body modeling). MOI lasted a few minutes since my beta expired shortly after downloaded it. Hexagon from Daz had an early death (it's began resurrection) but they were offering it for free. You may get lucky and get it in one of the specials they offer. Viacad was recommended by many members here but I never dropped the $ to try it out. Form-Z team has a sketch-up like app called Bonzai that has pretty nice capabilities and personally I think it performs faster than FormZ UI wise.
I'm sure there are other tools I'm forgetting that I've experimented with but C4D logo export, modo modeling to EIAS have been my replacements. Sculptris is a fun tool and only downside I ran into was that I've had to add a lot of geometry to bring in a smooth model to EIAS while a lesser density model works well in modo and C4D ( I might not have used a smooth tool or shader in EIAS but I've had bad luck with some imports ).
Hope some of this helps.
Posted 21 July 2012 - 04:11 AM
First of all I probably need to be a bit more specific in the jobs I do. My VFX work covers a wide variety of topics, from logos and 3D type through to vehicles (aircraft, trains, cars, spacecraft, war), architecture, terrain, and on occasion a human figure or animal, chiefly for motion pictures, but also for television or web content.
I have little experience or desire to get into character design or animation, so if - for example - I need to populate a scene with 3D people I would like to call on mocap data applied to a model (not that I have done this yet but hope, should the need arise, EIAS would be up to the job).
I don't mind the idea of investing money in an app if it's going to do a job and do it well. What concerns me with any new app is the time it takes to get into it, understand its nuances and overall design, and get it to integrate with my infrastructure. I looked at Blender and from the outset it baffled me. A colleague of mine said he wasn't surprised, as it had been designed from the ground up with little consideration of existing 3D apps. Given time to unlearn all I know I might stand a chance to learn Blender properly, but there's that crucial element - time. Perhaps I've dwelt amongst the Adobe and EI family for too long (Photoshop since 1.0 in 1990 for crying out loud) and can't adapt my interface expectations well enough to be anything but a clutz amongst any app that doesn't adhere to the basic principals that Adobe and EI apps adhere to. At this time I don't know. I do recall struggling for a long time with FormZ when I was using it in the late 1990s, but then it's possible it has evolved (and I have evolved) where we could get along. MOI appears to have an interface and overall structure that I imagine I'd get into quite quickly, but it really does also appear to be fairly limited compared to some other apps. Modo sounds really good, so it has taken a step up in my considerations list, and ZBrush remains quite high as well.
Inasmuch as I'd love to wait until EIAS9 is released (and what do you keep hinting at, Tomas???) I have to model a 1916 Belgian Great War battlefield (complete with shell craters, trenches, sandbags, smashed artillery, dead horses, broken wagons, barbed wire, shattered trees and various mutilated body parts), and I'm currently at a loss as to what modeller would prove best. Given the diversity of objects to be built, I'm concerned one modeller wouldn't be able to handle all the different types of objects (except maybe for Modo, ZBrush or perhaps even Sculptris). The model and ensuing texturemaps have to be very high fidelity, as the finished result is a shot flying over the battlefield, slowly moving in on one section, all ending up as 4k cinema footage. The film makers have already shot live action plates of soldiers to be matted in, so there's a lot at stake.
Until EIAS9 is released, I'll need to retain the G5 in order to keep Transporter running, as it's not working under Lion and I'd have no way to convert OBJs or anything else to FACT files. In the short term I will probably continue using EIM for much of what I need to model, but there are certainly things (e.g. the muddy battlefield itself) that concern me enough to believe EIM wouldn't be able to handle it. One can do only so much with displacement maps applied to a shape modelled using UberNurbs. It's likeliest my own fault. I don't claim to be anywhere near the world's greatest 3D modeller - far from it - and EIM could possibly be the answer, but knowing my luck if I push and prod far enough to get halfway decent models, I get geometry errors or some illegal function or some corruption or somesuch and it all goes pear-shaped and EIM crashes and I have to start again (EIM has more often than not been one of the less stable apps I have, but then I do push quite hard). Modelling in EIM is for me has almost always been a process of patience, lateral thinking and a great many swear words.
Any more experienced suggestions, opinions and arguments would be very welcome.
Posted 23 July 2012 - 09:04 PM
Another vote here for ViaCAD and Bonzai 3D. ViaCAD is cheaper and has a slightly deeper toolset, but Bonzai has a better interface. Both of these apps produce great fac files! Bonzai has a nice terrain tool that may be of use for your battlefield project.
Posted 05 August 2012 - 09:20 PM
Just an addition - Autodesk Inventor Fusion is available for free. It's a sub-set of the full-blown Inventor application and offers solid and surface modelling along with parametric and assemblies. It outputs sat files so you should be able to get them into EI Modeller, Formz, Bonzai 3D and ViaCAD etc. Looks quite nice - available from the app store for Mac users.
Posted 21 August 2012 - 04:01 PM
My concern is with instances. I never managed to get placer deposit to work, not once. You will need a good solution here or it will be nigh on impossible to create the level of detail a project like this would need. Modo is brilliant here, I'm just finishing up a city animation project using instances to the tune of over 3.5 billion polygons! I don't think many current 3D packages really struggle with high poly counts if managed well. You can get a CAD loader & a SubD 2 Nurbs exporter for Modo if you need better integration with a CAD workflow.
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