Plant Factory Pre Release To The Sound Of An Angry Mob

E-on’s Plant Factory Pre Release

After months of mercilessly teasing prospective customers e-on has finally announced pricing and offered up a discounted pre-release version. There is still no sign of a full release date, which is likely causing all sorts of anxiety for hungry users in and of itself. As many expected, e-on have released their much hyped product in various versions ranging in price from the quite affordable to the quite expensive. So, what’s the problem? Many e-on customers are not happy with the restrictions that come with the software such as:

  • Not being able to exchange plants/products between different versions of TPF (you/your business has licenced for all but the $1495 Producer)
  • 1 million polygon limit to the $995 Studio version of the product
  • 100K poly limit for $99 Converter product
  • Not being able to sell/redistribute content outside Cornucopia3D – could preclude game/environment applications
  • No render nodes or compositing information on versions under Producer
  • Artist and For Vue users unable to export trees as mesh – extra features with the freedom to export them revoked!

If you can afford the premium 1495 dollar version, you will have access to a very good program indeed, with the caveat that you can’t redistribute your trees. If you’re an individual or small studio on a tight budget you will be extrememely limited, especially if you don’t own Vue. The inability to export trees over 100K polygons as mesh for under $995, and then limited to 1 million polygons will likely be a deal breaker for non-Vue users, or those that heavily use other programs. The promise of a robust standalone program is looking pretty hollow to all but those with the funds to purchase a piece of software convenience priced as high as a fully featured mid-range 3D modelling/animation/VFX suit.

Do e-on expect the average user to embrace this new product with open arms? Will they? Of course, some will, but with draconian usage and feature restrictions, arbitrary version features, and a minimum buy-in of $995 for something that approaches the promise of the product, there will be a lot of disgruntled, disgusted users looking for alternatives.

One thing that is likely to win some users in the short term is the offer of a heavily discounted pre-release version of the $995 Studio version – 60% off at $395. If I had a lazy few hundred lying about I’d jump on in in an instant, but I don’t… so I won’t. Another question that comes to mind: will e-on relax the restrictions and alter the version features (in favour of something more generous) if the backlash grows, or if people simply and quietly don’t take it up? My guess is no. I think there will be enough takers to carry on as usual, but one can hope. Perhaps future versions will be more friendly to less cashed-up users – better to quietly right past wrongs than to lose face and do it upfront, right?

Alternatives time

For me, I’ll be sticking to something simpler and cheaper/free for the time being. LightWave users looking to add some green to their renders without hurting the bank can check out:

Also worth checking out for users of just about any 3D program is the GNU Arbaro – tree generation for povray (which can export as OBJ). Of course these programs don’t have all the lovely features of TPF Studio or Producer, but they will let you quickly add greenery to your scenes. And then there are the more flexible and feature rich alternatives such as Xfrog (currently 50% off) and SpeedTree too.

So, while the dream of a feature rich and affordable Plant Factory has come crashing down and made a good number of potential buyers angry, a new and exciting program has been added to the 3D-o-sphere (for those that can afford to take full advantage of it). For the rest of us it is business as usual getting by with what we have or picking up the cheaper alternatives.

Update: Since first writing e-on has removed the 1 million polygon limit for TPF Studio. One little victory for users!

Know of a neat and affordable/free plant generator? Add a link in the comments for helping of warm kudos.

Luxus For Carrara Hits DAZ 3D

DAZ Studio 4 - Create 3D Art for Free

Eliane CK showing off the power of LuxRender and Luxus with one of her unmistakeable signature images


LuxRender comes to Carrara with GPU unbiased rendering power

For those of you that have been waiting for an easy way to configure and export your Carrara scenes to an unbiased render engine then your day has finally arrived. Not only do you finally have relatively quick and easy access to unbiased rendering, but it comes at just the price of one very affordable plugin. No hundreds of dollars for licensing fees and possible hardware upgrade to CUDA compliant technology, just Luxus for Carrara and LuxRender (free). funnily enough I’ve been working on a beginners guide to Luxus for DAZ Studio (which will be posted here and available as a PDF when done) and was about to set to work on completing it just as I stumbled upon this new Carrara version.

This is great news for Carrara users. I remember when I was just starting to use the software there was talk of Reality for Carrara, and that was very exciting, but whatever the reasons, it didn’t go ahead. I doubt I was the only one that was disappointed by this turn of events. There was a lot of talk about how developing content and plugins just wasn’t financially viable for Carrara, but more than a year later here we are. Recently I’ve been modelling a lot in LightWave and exporting these models to DAZ Studio to use Luxus and then onto LuxRender.

If my experience of Luxus for DS is anything to go by then Luxus for Carrara will be a very flexible and reliable tool indeed. It is very possible that I may even consider changing my workflow. Some grumble at the current speed with which it Lux renders, but with it being rapidly developed (huge speed increases and GPU breakthroughs in just the last year) the future is looking very bright, and then again there is price. At zero dollars you just can’t beat Lux.

Myth Busted

DAZ Studio 4 - Create 3D Art for Free

DP Carrara Master Collection Shaders

And then as if to put paid to the argument that content development for Carrara is not viable, on the very same day another (unrelated) product is released. DP Carrara Master Collection Shaders from well known Carrara vendor, RingoMonfort. This new set of shaders, according to the product’s description “will bring stunning realism to your Carrara scenes using the most powerful texture room features: Anisotropic, sub-surface scattering, transparency absorption, fresnel, translucency and much more. From Faux Finish paints, corrosion, beautiful woods, crystals, metals, paints and much more.” Of course the claim is backed up with simple but effective demonstration images.

Carrara Pro 69% off

Carrara 8 and Pro are once again on heavy discount For Platinum club members the current price for Pro is $171 (69% off), so if you’re not a PC club member it is worth signing up just for the saving, even if you didn’t want to fork out for an annual subscription. Carrara is the perfect tool for the upstart 3D artist that wants a taste of everything – modelling, animation, rigging, special effects, rigid and soft body dynamics, 3D render engine that punches well above its weight, landscapes and foliage, support for DAZ/Poser content and figures, and now access to cheap unbiased rendering – everything! With Carrara 8.5 and 9 just around the corner it is indeed, once again, exciting times to be a Carrara user.

iClone5 Sales and promotions

DAZ Studio 4 - Create 3D Art for Free

iClone still topping DAZ 3D top 30 sales chart.

Also on offer at the store is a bunch of training material for MyClone, currently 100% off with the purchase of iClone Animation Pipeline (3 in 1). Of course the material is free for PC club members – just one of those perks 😉 iClone5 Facial Pipeline Power Bundle is still placed high on the DAZ 3D top 30 chart since it was first released, and currently 50% off. I can’t say I know much about it but it is one of those things that seems to be on the wish list of every small/solo animation teams wish list, and with great integration for Genesis.

New Bryce Freebie by David Brinnen and Horo

…And of course there is a cool new freebie by David Brinnen and Horo, Golden Rules Composition Helpers for Bryce. Anyone who has done any elementary visual arts course has heard all about the golden rules, but with this neat little set of tools you can easily put them into practice. On top of this David and Horo’s stores are on special with handy training material like Bryce Mentoring DVD – Videos, Scenes and Resources currently 40% off. If you happened to miss the DigiSprawl series of Bryce Artist Features then you might be labouring under the false assumption that it is an out-dated and irrelevant program. Now is as good a time as any to find out about the quirky elegance of the program and witness some of the beautiful art being made with it on a daily basis.

Ok, back to work for me 😉 Happy renderings!

Poser 10 and Poser Pro 2014 Coming May 21, 2013

Poser Pro 2014 and Poser 10 impending release

Poser Pro 2014 box art

Poser Pro 2014

Did this take anyone else by surprise? Sure, I’m not too involved in the Poser camp, but still no emails in my inbox, and then all of a sudden – Poser Pro 2014 coming out in two week! And damn do some of these features look grand.I could regurgitate feature list in full, but honestly I don’t fully understand them as I’m quite new to things like weight maps and rigging figures and conforming props. So! I’ll just point out the ones I found interesting and leave the rest of you curious types to check out the full feature break down

Highlights:

The new Pro only features are few, but for content creators they will undoubtedly be a big selling point. The new Fitting Room features tools to interactively fit clothing and props to Poser figures using various neat tools including painting selections so you can quickly modify exactly what and where you want. See the ‘tube video below for a gander at the tools in operation. Also cool is the ability to copy full body and partial morphs from figure to figure.

Other than this the average punter won’t get much from 2014 Pro that won’t be available to P10 users. These new features available for both 10 and Pro are some very strong additions, and coupled with 10’s lack of 64-bit support Pro 2012 users still have some very good incentives to make the jump.

New 10/Pro features:

  • Pixar’s OpenSubdiv finally brings subdivision to Poser no more blocky props and figures in those close-up renders
  • Rendering speed improvements when raytracing nuf said
  • Bullet Physics supporting both rigid and soft, and includes dynamic strand based hair.Are we going to see a port of “Look At My Hair” to Poser? Maybe similar easy to use styling tools that could take advantage of the new dynamics – that would be very cool.
  • Comic book preview mode in Open GL
  • 9 new human and cartoon figures
  • Magnets and deformers with weight maps + paint tools
  • Interactive Raytrace Preview – these things are so handy. Editing materials and fine tuning lighting is so much easier when you can see high quality realtime updates
  • OpenGL speed optimisationalso good :)

Madefire Motion Books: Digital Multimedia Comics Are The Way of The Future

madefire motion books promo

I’m guessing there are a lot of comic lovers and writer/artists out there in iPad/iPhone land that have heard about Madefire’s Motion Books App, but for me, and I’m assuming a lot of others too, the first word on the subject was via an announcement made on deviantART, proclaiming a strategic alliance between the two companies. As of now “deviant’s” and visitors to the site have access to the Motion Books web-based content.

For those of you who have not heard about any of this. Motion Books is a new platform that allows artists and writes to create a new breed of comic which can incorporate any mix of animation, sound effects and music in a seamless format. The software might be new, but the idea goes back at least two decades. Artists have long been experimenting with multimedia comic/graphic novel techniques. Marco Patrito’s Sinkha, is a wonderful example of this sort of medium blending, and undoubtedly one of the earliest. Sinkha was first conceived back in the early 90s, and expectedly shows many signs of being an early pioneering effort especially with its clunky interface created with Macromedia Director.

madefire motion book treatment promoWith Motion Books there is none of this clumsiness. Anyone who has ever experienced the slick digital magazine interfaces, such as that used by ISSUU, will be quite familiar with the way the web-based app feels. Those who have flipped through any number of side-scrolling iPad/Phone apps will have a good idea how it works too. Even for the utterly clueless, the interface is so simple and streamlined that they will be flipping pages in moments.

The current batch of high quality Motion Books are a fantastic example of how comics can make the jump to multimedia but retain a feel that is still solidly rooted in the traditions of the material comics and graphic novels. Just a few pages into my first MB, Dave Gibbsons’ Treatment – Tokyo: Episode 1, I found myself drawn into the atmosphere of the beautiful illustrated neon of a crime ridden future where brutality and revenge has become a televised entertainment phenomenon. The seamless and artful incorporation of animation and sound were integral to the experience. As used here and with the other beautiful first batch of MB there is a distinct feeling that comics are heading to a new level.

The strength of Madefire’s Motion Books platform lays in the tools it gives over to artists free of charge. These tools do a lot to simplify the technical aspects of creating multimedia comics. This circumvents a lot of expensive development time, and empowers content creators to realise their vision with an exciting new medium. Multimedia comics are no gimmick. I believe they are the future, and I hope that Motion Books, along with their Motion Book Tool, will be one the leading vehicle for this evolution. It is not hard to imagine we will see outgrowths on the platform such as “chose your own adventure” works, and game/comic hybrids with interactive puzzles and dialogue choices.