Softimage to Bforartists

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Draise
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Softimage to Bforartists

Post by Draise » 13 Apr 2018, 17:00

I have been slowly adopting Bforartists as my go to workhorse. A lot of people use Blender here so hiring local talent has become easy - being legal and... well it's free. No overhead costs for my microstudio. I can grow. Although the Blender UI is not.. easy to learn with BFA I have worked around it, and I'm confident with new users from other software that I can assimulate their talent a lot easier than making them adopt to Blender. Used Blender for 3 years, then tried Bforartists, then in 2 months I was more proficient and productive than I ever was in Blender - and quickly surpassed my skills - even after working full time in Blender for 6 months straight all day every day..

I also have cut costs with rendering by using Unreal Engine to render and one or two good graphics cards. My workflow from BFA to UE4 is going pretty smoothly, including realtime fur with the Gfur addon and all the pro's Unreal Engine has for realtime. Worth the road. Also, it's nice to know the viewport will be pretty good in Blender using Eevee, which also will translate to BFA. It's... so comfortable to see UE4 handle hundreds of thousands geometry instances and render 4K images with volumetric lighting and the works in less than 10 seconds a frame - and more so now that I can do animal fur in realtime that look pretty decent. The tradeoff is.. less render qality - but MORE. I have more time to interate changes and perfect our art/quality on shaders, lighting and general lookdev. In an hour I can make hundreds of changes and see them, instead of a couple of changes over grain, slow rendering, crashed rendering, 5 minute preview renders... the artistic quality just is exponentially better with realtime, even with less "real" raytracing techniques.

So... there are things in Softimage I miss though.. the way it handles data, exposes everything, animates everything, layers animation, clips animation, ICE to make quick cool easy rigs without thinking too hard, and the modeling tools - God, the modifier stack is so cool. It just crunches and works. Modeling is super easy, even with it's Iconless UI and lists everywhere, the sticky keyes, the hold keys... so nice - the idea of applying operations to more than one selection at a time, a floating properties window that affects all, the explorer that just works, the find tool for everything.. it just is built for large datasets.

But... Bforartists has shown me some pro's over Softimage - rigging is simpler and less work to make it compatible to another system like UE4 - thus the animators feel more comfortable. I don't have to build shadow rigs - the concept of a shadow rig is built in - so less technical. I also don't have to build elaborate multipart systems to make IK/FK rigs, that too is built in easily. Though I miss the FULL control Softimage gives me - more so with ICE and the shape driving I could do there. I can in Bforartists with Aniamtion nodes in the same way, visually, but the playback is reduced by quite a bit - though I have yet to try driving bones that have drivers to see if that's faster (instead of getting and setting shape data). Another pro is the linked data - I feel it is more elegant than the model reference system of Softimage. Oh... sculpting and video editing. Also, the WER system is nice to use when working with Unreal, it's the same workflow. Animatics in Blender are amazing, the GP, the ability to edit 3D scenes in a video editor similar to Unreal Sequencer system, the ability to use SSAO and DOF with some basic lighting that works faster than Softimage viewport (other than poly count and slow rig playback) - it's a godsend. It's really easy to work with teams, and it's easy to use these animatics in other scenes and push data to and from different scenes. I used to hate the linking and proxy system, but now I love it.

So in order to share my prows with it, thought to share my process with two projects/clients:
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Re: Softimage to Bforartists

Post by Draise » 13 Apr 2018, 17:11

The previous project is with a largish client - 10 video contract. I first did the majority in Softimage and Mach studio pro 2, but as the team expanded, I migrated to Bforartists and UE4 in mid production.

The following images have a rig done in BFA partly built by others from Blender, but the facials I did in BFA. It's a pure bone rig, so it exports deformers ok to UE4 - most animation is preserved nicely. I like some rigging tools like the "normalize" (though in softimage you never need this) - the SHIFT+Lclick to select bone to weight that particular one (super handy) and the weight limiter... which for UE4 is a must. Sometimes I am limited to 4 weight influences per vertex to run the fur correctly. This is a UE limit - but it's nice I can fix this with one click in BFA.

Also.. using BFA has made me appreciate the features in Blender a lot more. I never new features existed, nor knew how they worked or where to find them till BFA reorganized everything to logical iconized areas - once. Removed HUGE amounts of clutter. I can breath. I can finally breath somewhere that's not Softimage. I am relieved to not need to learn hundreds of hotkeys to use the UI, and in strain and stress I can always go to an icon in a panel or toolbar.. and still work. I don't have to specialize in the software to be productive. WHich is nice... jumping to and from areas.

I like the devs there too, they listen and have been awesome in the process of building - to the point I'm trying to work on a way to compile and hire a dev to help me reach some goals for the studio with BFA.

My only quipes that I think will cause problems later on in time.. is offset animation. Add overlay animaition clips can't be edited while seeing the blend.. making the offset animation guess work and impractical. Workflow with Deltas transforms also is complicated and only gives you one layer. And...oh well... but I have easy path plotting and cool breakdown keys to help make animation collaboration easier (you can quickly get a visual representation of what's happening in the animation for others to quickly break down and improve - though it's hard convincing my animators to use that feature).

All in all.. I was dreading investing thousands of dollars per year to be legal and grow with a team using autodesk subscription models... now with this free software workflow, one that doesn't stress me out or slow us down that much - is a sigh of relief.
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Draise
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Re: Softimage to Bforartists

Post by Draise » 13 Apr 2018, 17:24

The UI of BFA is.. pretty nice with toolbars, to be honest. I am not sure if you guys like toolbar ribbons in general, typical of Maya and Max, but I found it useful. Going into a submenu or go to a hotkey to do an action sometimes is a little too annoying - or worse having to script the process.
bforartists_2017-11-20_10-23-36.png
Mouse move, click, export FBX... it's nice. Any other way, including in Blender and Softimage.... feels terrible unless I spend more time coding the export process.

I miss tearable menus though.
UE4Editor_2017-11-09_18-19-00.jpg
Here is an end render from one of the project later last year. I had nearly 300,000 instances (geometry) in the world and rendered out in under 10seconds a frame in 1080 HD. Viewport playback was slow though, but that was because I had no idea what I was doing (not many LOD's, no material compression with intention, no material instances). Animation was done in BFA/Blender and layout also in BFA, with 50-60% of the modeling. I did the rest of the modeling in Softimage. Render and lighting was done in Unreal (though character and interior renders were done with Cycles on the cloud with Amazon AWS).

In general though, I feel more comfortable with the UI in BFA - and working with the devs there has me seeing improvements I've wanted to the UI and workflow nearly be implemented "immediately". I could never imagine any other software with that service - maybe because I never could afford it and waited.. and waited.. and waited somemore for major releases that usually are minor.. then things die. Atleast here... if I just learn to compile and have some devs, then I can keep the software alive on my own with or without the institute or company. - and build my "inhouse" workflow freely.

I still don't understand how Maya is the "inhouse" development platform.... though I wish Fabric Engine was still alive..

Anyway, enough ranting.
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Mathaeus
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Re: Softimage to Bforartists

Post by Mathaeus » 15 Apr 2018, 21:38

Well, last screenshot is looking like Maya :) default. For that horizontal or vertical, icon or text, docked or floating window, IMO that should be choice of user, as well as ability to add buttons to custom toolbar in easy way, by drag-dropping or some RMB involved procedure. Max is able to do all mentioned for decades. Maya is traditionally somewhere half on road - 'vertical' shelf in Maya 2018 is a a typically Mayanish 'close to usable' joke. Personally I'm really not a supporter of icons everywhere, IMO icons are nice for common functions, save, undo, move tool and such (where we already are familiar with shortcuts), but 'extrude' for example tells more as word, instead of 'translating' the purpose of icon.
Nice to see an effort of this kind, while entire thing is looking more as set of personal preferences. as long as they won't be able to do something related to features I've mentioned. Blender GUI definitively is cluttered *and* limited, anyway I don't see this as alternative, at least not for people who already tried to customize it. On positive side, Blender GUI is still able, without floating windows, to display a much much more of useful info than Maya as worst but still relevant reference, considering the same 3d viewport area (yeah I measured this). That said, IMO development of Blender GUI should be focused on 'strategic' part, especially 3d viewport.
The renderer "turtle" used by this scene, is not currently available. The "turtle" renderer will be used instead.

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Re: Softimage to Bforartists

Post by Draise » 16 Apr 2018, 15:59

Nice comments. The toolbar of BFA is customizable, you can even place it anywhere you want and customize your toolbars with sub menu selectors and their icon sets. So that's nice. It's like a new view in the Blender UI. Like the double one in the screengrab above - typically there is only one, I put two.

Concerning the icons, they are planning to minimalize details to monochromatic or max 3 colours - and colour categorize the icons to different features. In otherwords, push the iconography more to silluehettes systems, minimalize, optimize. It was just a feat putting the icons into the Blender sourcecode itself! More than 2600+ iocns. I work with a lot of non-native english speakers and understand how the brain works.. always silluette and form first, then details - they have been a godsend in training and in general workflow. It's basic composition rules, so for me it's nice to have the icon along with the text, or just icon. The Icon/text can be toggled in the UI in BFA, so you can have both or just icons. I generally hate text only software, even the menus in Softimage sometimes, because.. even after muscle memory, I still have to spend brain power "reading" whatever I'm using and it slows me down - we don't read naturally as primitive humans, it's a learnt skill that requires a lot of eye movement and brain processing, but we do distinguish iconography/forms from the beginning as a default evolved state.

BFA has removed a lot of the Blender clutter. Sometime there were up to 5 ways to get to one tool in Blender, now in BFA there is only 1 or 2 with the toolbar - and the properties get moved to the properties shelf in all windows (instead of headers) and the tools get moved from the header menus into the tool shelf exclusively, where they belong. So... everything is a lot more discoverable, less bloated, because you only need to go to one place to know all the features available to you. Another pro of BFA over Blender.

We'll see what they do with the viewport, concerning the widget and Eevee development...

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Re: Softimage to Bforartists

Post by Mathaeus » 16 Apr 2018, 17:02

I'm afraid we have a different understanding of 'placing the shelf anywhere'. Anyway, If they'll choose to go with commercial plugin on top of official release, I'd consider it. Otherwise, if something is not included into official release and it is free, life expectancy is around one year, more or less.
Still has some sense for beginners, to avoid pushing to learn shorcut for every damn thing in Bl. One some sites like Blender Exchange, they don't even care to explain, what some thing is doing, it's only some weird shortcut combo as advice. At least BFA is a nice protest against these brutal practices.
The renderer "turtle" used by this scene, is not currently available. The "turtle" renderer will be used instead.

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Re: Softimage to Bforartists

Post by Draise » 16 Apr 2018, 17:46

Mathaeus wrote:
16 Apr 2018, 17:02
I'm afraid we have a different understanding of 'placing the shelf anywhere'. Anyway, If they'll choose to go with commercial plugin on top of official release, I'd consider it. Otherwise, if something is not included into official release and it is free, life expectancy is around one year, more or less.
Yeah.. not sure exactly. You'd have to explain. I like any new ideas.

But just so I know from what I'm understanding, the BFA toolbar is a horizontal bar.. with categories of icons set in groups, with subgroups that can be toggled and placed per user choice. It's included by default and supported by every BFA release and will be in BFA probably as long as BFA lives, which is opensource on GPL3 so can't be commercial nor can it die. The toolbar also can optionally be placed to the bottom, or on the top/bottom of any view in the layout (because it is it's own view), if you want - default is one horizontal toolbar to the tob. The vertical toolshelf of the 3D View is a different story, with tabs and text/icons. This requires a lot more modification to code to change anything. But you CAN pin panels to be tab agnostic. You were talking of the Max toolshelf that is very customizable and a good example, also horizontal, is this correct?

What are you prefering and why exactly? Thanks for clarifying, and if not all cool.

I do agree that personal preference is standard and best for all software - flexibility; but in practicallity, you want a team to pick up the same tool, know the same language, and start working as a team.. individual preferences eventually are just too expensive, so you want great defaults.
Mathaeus wrote:
16 Apr 2018, 17:02
Still has some sense for beginners, to avoid pushing to learn shorcut for every damn thing in Bl. One some sites like Blender Exchange, they don't even care to explain, what some thing is doing, it's only some weird shortcut combo as advice. At least BFA is a nice protest against these brutal practices.
Hell yeah. #:-s :ymdevil:

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Re: Softimage to Bforartists

Post by Mathaeus » 16 Apr 2018, 20:09

Draise wrote:
16 Apr 2018, 17:46
Yeah.. not sure exactly. You'd have to explain. I like any new ideas.
If they are already on Maya path, request no1 is Graph Editor that behaves exactly like Maya Graph Editor - no need to reinvent the wheel here, that part of Maya is very very well accepted and welcomed all around. There is no better. LMB for selections, LMB for time slider too (that's possible because time slider in Maya GE behaves like separate window when it comes to mouse actions). Also, enable manipulation of keys in Bl timeline - yeah I know I could use the summary of BL Dopeshit instead of timeline, but Dopeshit is still not a complete replacement of timeline, for baked simulations or general time controls. For now I constantly have a simply too much of animation related windows, with weird RMB for time scroll. If they'll be able to get any optimization here, I'm buying, together with their ideas about icons (as a sign of my good will :) ). Otherwise, Maya is for all animation, except really simple things in Blender.
The renderer "turtle" used by this scene, is not currently available. The "turtle" renderer will be used instead.

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Re: Softimage to Bforartists

Post by Draise » 16 Apr 2018, 20:30

Yeah, I have been trying to make a Lmouse in the timeline. I'm helping develop experimental keymaps for that, and I have managed some control of selecting and moving timeline with Lclick - though it has proven difficult, as the timeline drag is in the same view as the curve/dopesheet area, other than that, BFA defautls to Lclick everywhere else.

I have thought about this idea but haven't posted it to the devs yet. The timeline is really useless in Blender. The Animation Toolbar can replace the features of the timeline and add those features to the Dopesheet, NLA and graph editor for what it is lacking. I am wondering if scripting the timeline toggle will just collapse all of the dopesheet to convert it to a timeline and have the animation toolbar included in the layouts by default.
2018-04-16_13-27-37.png
Here is the modified dopesheet timeline with the animation toolbar.
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Re: Softimage to Bforartists

Post by Rork » 19 Apr 2018, 11:45

Just a question here, but did you contact the Blender guys on this?
You have some good ideas, and they're looking for SI people for input and more.
Maybe you can get some promoted into the developer stack there....

rob
SI UI tutorials: Toolbar http://goo.gl/iYOL0l | Custom Layout http://goo.gl/6iP5xQ | RenderManager View http://goo.gl/b4ZkjQ

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Re: Softimage to Bforartists

Post by Draise » 12 Jun 2018, 17:00

Heya. Been using the Rclick Blender suggestions forums.. some idea fly, others don't.

Though many concepts of BFA have transitioned into the upcoming 2.8.

For example:
-Render system toggle in the Renders tab
-Icons in the toolbar
-Lclick to use tools
-Cleaning up menu's
-UI Layout toggles with header system
-Optimizing and improving hotkeys
-New darker theme?

The developers have been very cold and harsh to the main developer Reiner of Bforartists. That's why he started the Fork in the first place, as his ideas were not being used or implemented.

All in all thouhg.. I can consider my migration to Bforartists and Unreal Engine a success.

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Re: Softimage to Bforartists

Post by mattmos » 12 Jun 2018, 17:17

Can't help but feel for the guy as blender's interface has sucked for so long, then as soon as he's done with 1.0 of bforartists they get their act together to completely revamp the main interface.

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Re: Softimage to Bforartists

Post by Draise » 12 Jun 2018, 17:46

I consider it a victory in a way. He indirectly showed that it could be better and that it should be better - and all for the end user. I can't wait to see what the fork does with 2.8.

It's a healthy competition and really, any good in 2.8 will only be less work for the fork.