Remembering Softimage

We regret to inform you that the upcoming 2015 release will be the last one for Autodesk® Softimage®.

Today Autodesk announced that Softimage will be no longer. Although there will be a 2015 release of the software – shipping around April 14th – support for Softimage will continue only until April 30, 2016.

Softimage enjoyed a long and beloved history in CG and VFX production, beginning life as the Softimage Creative Environment and used by ILM in many of its early landmark productions. Microsoft acquired the company in 1994 and renamed the software Softimage|3D, before it changed hands to Avid in 1998 and then Autodesk in 2008. Many advancements in the software, which became known as SoftimageXSI, were made over time, perhaps most notably with ICE (Interactive Creative Environment).

A 'chained' T-rex drawing from Williams used to figure out the joint placement with Softimage units.
A ‘chained’ T-rex drawing from Williams used to figure out the joint placement with Softimage units. Says Williams: “Mark Dippe’ and I took a 5 foot Stan Winston model, cut it up, drove down to Cyberware, scanned in the pieces. I then rebuilt the data using b-splines (Alias v2.4) then moved all the data to SI 2.6. It took about a month to animate the daylight shot of the rex, skinned and walking.”

Former ILM artist Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams, who worked on The Abyss, Terminator 2, Jurassic Park and several other breakthrough ILM pics, told fxguide about his early experience using Softimage at the studio on Jurassic Park:

“After the first walking rex test that I did in Alias V2.4.1 (forward kinematics),” he says, “we brought in SI V2.6 (inverse kin system). As I was building the rex skin, I was evaluating SI as was Eric Armstrong. We were very impressed and bought 10 licenses running on SGI 420 Indigos. We never used the Alias forward (animation) system again. The last official animation use for Alias was T2. All data was built in Alias then ported across to SI, starting with Jurassic.”

Autodesk is offering Autodesk Softimage Subscription customers ‘no-cost options’ to migrate to either Maya or 3ds Max software as they continue to use Softimage in their pipes. The company has advised these options will be available until February 1st, 2016.

You can find out more about the Softimage announcement at Autodesk’s site, and also in this in-depth Q&A.

We’d love fxguide readers to share their stories and work using Softimage over the years too. Feel free to comment below.

6 thoughts on “Remembering Softimage”

  1. i owe a lot of my career to the softimage community and the developers while under avid. most softimage users will continue to use the software, i know we will at whiskytree.

    btw autodesk bought softimage in Oct 2008…

  2. I remember seeing “Godzilla was animated with Softimage” in the end credits of Godzilla in the 90’s, I remember feeling all warm and fuzzy just knowing about it. I spent a lot of time making dinosaurs and that sort of thing in Softimage|3D to learn more.
    I remember using a GMX2000 Glint graphics card the price of a decent car just to be able to run a high resolution screen (1600×1200).
    I remember becoming extremely quick with Soft3D, the user interface was so amazingly different from anything else. Middle click menus, double-, triple- and even quadruple clicking keys for shortcuts on the keyboard, left, middle and right mouse buttons being used for various smart context sensitive tasks. It still blows my mind when I remind myself that X C and V letters themselves actually sort of resembles graphic representations of scaling, rotation and translation tools, respectively.
    I remember baby-sitting a render all night long just because MR would crash every 5 or so frames for my first large commercial production, 750 frames of hard earned PAL frames. Went to bed at 9am.
    I remember that quirky little side program, Softimage|Particle? I loved playing with it even though it really couldn’t do a whole lot.
    I remember the first buzz on Sumatra, and even though XSI 1.0 wasn’t really ready and I started off a bit reluctant, by v1.5 I was flying.The render tree seemed intimidating, yet curiously inviting, and it turned out to change everything about how I worked.
    I remember the last version of Softimage|3D, 4.0. RIP old friend.
    I remember the blazingly fast SubD’s in XSI 3.0 (I think?), suddenly you could modify amazingly detailed subdivided objects in real time, the mayans stood by watching in awe.
    I remember spending time learning Softimage|Behaviour, did some tests, fun but ultimately it stayed experimental.
    I remember going to Siggraph 2007 in San Diego, where they showcased Moondust, a.k.a ICE to standing ovations. It was simply HUGE. Still is actually, amazing piece of software engineering.
    I even remember the amazingly simple licensing where you just pressed a button inside XSI to get an updated license file, it was all connected and working.

    Then there was Autodesk.

    Thanks for all these years Softimage, you’ve always been my favorite tool – nay companion.

  3. Vikram Puttanna

    I agree with Andrew here…. why not release XSI as open source rather than kill it….let it live on and be supported by the community.

  4. I first started using Softimage|3D in 1998 when I was still in College. A potential employer was using it so I was hoping to get a leg up in the hiring process. I took an all day course on Softimage|3D at SIGGRAPH in Orlando.

    I have many memories of my early days on Softimage, calling the support desk for help working through problems. Manny, Stephen and crew were always helpful and it was so nice being able to speak with the same folks instead of an anonymous call center. I transitioned to XSI 1.0 not long after it came out. The workflow was a bit challenging at first, but I forced myself to complete all the animation I needed for a TV show open using it. Since then I have used every release of XSI/Softimage.

    One of the shining points of Softimage has always been the community. The XSI-List (email discussion list) has maintained such a high caliber of talent and helpfulness. If you couldn’t find an answer anywhere else, you could(and still can) always find it there. Each year at SIGGRAPH, Matt Lind organizes a dinner for the folks on the list and it has been a great time to put faces with names and talk shop with fellow users. Traditionally, the developers have been very accessible and open via the ‘list and that fact did nothing but propel the loyalty of the users.

    I will continue to use Softimage for the near future, as there is no platform with the end to end flexibility and workflow elegance that this software provides. The ‘End Of Life’ for Softimage is a sad day indeed. The best do not always succeed in this world unfortunately.

  5. VFX supervisor Jordi Bares from Realise Studio also just shared this Softimage story with fxguide so we thought we’d post that here:

    “When Siggraph was still a place to share ideas without real commercial interest as the whole thing was not yet an industry, I still remember New Orleans and the Softiamge User Meeting groups with amazing music, the coolest t-shirts and some of my best friends now begin in the spotlight talking about how they did Gladiator. Then the stage was taken by an odd guy with leather jacket, looking cool as hell and starting his speech showing his work on The Matrix which basically blew everybody away. The crowds were truly on ecstacy by the extremely advanced work they did with Softimage|3D. At that point the sense of community and achievement was at its peak. The party went on and on and on and we all ended up on the famous quarter celebrating the glorious state of our lives and how cool we nerds were.
    Now looking back I realise the best part of my career has been on the shoulders of both products, Softimage|3D and Softimage|XSI, on the way lots of friend and the best memories ever burning the night at work.

    Also I remember Softimage inviting me to talk at San Antonio’s Siggraph about a documentary we did in my second project at The Mill while we were kind of a bunch of hippies (long hair included) and during the presentation that involved some very detailed notes on how to put a huge crowd of people inside Softimage I noticed a japanesse guy sleeping in the very first row and my constant efforts to wake him by passing in front of him while talking, and the guy would not wake up so I kept shouting and accelerating my speech to see if he would bother…by the end of my 45 minute talk the crowd was in tears laughing at him of course. Never met him again though.”

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