Reallusion Summer Sale – 20% off

The Reallusion Content Store has started its summer sale for iClone content packs. 20% off everything, if it’s a standalone official pack. For those in the UK, that basically means it’s a VAT (sales-tax) free purchase. Includes CrazyTalk Animator packs. Ends June 15th 2011.

Keep in mind that the painfully-slow Element 5 ecommerce service may need a few reloads to make it apply the discount code to more than one pack at a time.

MachStudio Pro goes free

MachStudio Pro 2 is now free and works with SketchUp…

“Real-time rendering on your desktop — say good-bye to expensive render farms. The exporters included with the product provide seamless transfer of static models, animations and cameras created in popular modeling and animation programs right into MachStudio Pro. Exporters for leading CG packages such as Maya, 3DS Max, Rhino, SketchUp Pro, […] with Blender and more coming very soon.”

Full DirectX 11 support, which means you need a top-of-the-line gaming graphics card to run it, and the card needs to have at least 1Gb of memory. It’s a 500Mb download, but there are…

“No strings attached, and no personal info needed. Free full version download.”

Here’s 3D World‘s review from January 2011, back when MachStudio was at the sell-your-granny price of $4,000…

MachStudio Pro 2 is at its core a realtime engine that borrows much of its technology from the world of games, but enhances quality at the expense of frame rates (a few frames a second compared with the 60fps needed for games). The result is a renderer that can rival traditional software in quality, while delivering a massive improvement in interactivity and final rendering speed. […] photorealistic capabilities.

Wouldn’t it be great if iClone 5 Pro came with a importer plug-in for MachStudio Pro 2 that enabled the importing and running of iClone project files? If it can be done for a moving target like Blender, it must be possible to do it for iClone?

Fairy-tales re-imagined competition

Now on at CG Hub, a three month “fairy-tales re-imagined” challenge. 2D or 3D still images, with no limitations on the software used. So presumably you can Photoshop your 3D CG as much as you want. But it does need to have a WIP thread, so they can see it’s actually been created for the competition. It must also be capable of working as a 300dpi print .tif file. They’re looking for work that avoids the usual fantasy cliches.

Deadline: 4th of August 2011. Prizes looking especially tasty are a full ZBrush licence, and a one-year 3D World magazine subscription.

Above: Mark Ryden, “Awakening the Moon” (2010).

PzDB

I found an interesting content library manager for 3D assets, PzDB. Growing out of a Poser bolt-on, it now supports a host of popular 3D CG software, and some pro software. The latest version (1.2.2) came out a few weeks ago, adding support for Corel Paintshop Pro, Cinema 4D, and 3D Studio Max files. Can iClone be far behind?

This is a video demo of the older 1.2 version…

First peek at DAZ Studio 4 final

My quick first hour’s peek at the installed DAZ Studio 4 final.

There’s a nice new user interface that’s a lot more polished. But where the hell is the Animation tab? Animation seems to have completely vanished from the interface. It’s not even on the Windows / Tab options. I looked for a good 15 minutes and just couldn’t find it or a way to turn it on. Not even a timeline.

This is Studio 4…

and this is Studio 3…

Puzzling. I’ll have to have a look at the new tutorials. [ Update: it seems to be completely unavailable in the ‘Self Service’ UI layout, but is available in the other three options. ]

My immediate impression of the Content Library is that it is certainly more polished and usable in terms of layout, if not hugely improved in terms of the nightmare lack of navigability. The trade-off for the slickness is that it is now rather sluggish and sticky. It’s also confused and cryptic back at the root directory level, although there is an intriguing A-Z listing section there. But the preview thumbnails are wonderfully fresh.

Single-word keyword search is really slow, two minutes for “cats” and even then the results didn’t seem to change(?). At least it continues to let you use the Content Library easily while it crawls through a search in the background. Having recently seen Agent Ransack in action, I know that sort of keyword filename search should take seconds, not minutes.

I didn’t test render times, but the What’s New doesn’t headline any speed improvement.

The Shaping of the new Genesis-type human figures is certainly very fun and very easy. Based on this glance at the new version I’d say that, as a free tool, DAZ Studio might give the free Make Human a bit of a challenge if someone can whip up some robust Blender exporter plugins that respect body-shape morphs. On the other hand, the adjacent Puppeteer panel is completely baffling compared to iClone’s. I mean, what do you do with a blank grey grid?

Some of the more advanced Genesis capabilities seem to be locked into paid add-on plugins…

The new DS 4 is certainly a useful tool to add to our iClone armoury, if only for content conversion and for making hi-res facial close-ups that can then be rendered for use in Crazy Talk or as Face Fitting pictures for iClone characters. It’s obviously a nice upgrade, but it’s not going to make me leap back into the DAZ/Poser world and its glacial rendering times.