These are some notes on the Viz v3 update. It was a talk at the Viz offices with Lars Henriksen and Bernd Riedewald; with customers from Alston Elliot, Formula1, Sky, designer techs really.
We had a day or two of talking through the advantages of the latest version of VizRT software and why we should update. Previous versions of Viz3 have had some performance problems, but now that most plugins have been re-written it should be faster than the old version. The database has been re-written and is a complete in-house solution. This should be faster and more efficient; we shall see if this has brought any problems with it. Some of the older plugins have been built in to the new version and there are plans to increase speed by converting to 64-bit version. The transition to Windows 7 will have to come next year, since XP will lose support from Microsoft by the end of 2010.
We looked at the various layouts for the connections of the Viz render engines and artist stations to the Graphics Hub. This is the software controlling access to the scene and media database.There is a free version of the graphics hub which will run up to five user connections. It takes one each for each renderer and each artist and one for any Hub Manager that needs to connect for administration, so they soon run out. We looked a various configurations; need to think how we would use this to best advantage. The graphics hub can also be set up with a replicator. Any changes will be copied to this backup server and if the prime hub fails, there should be no delay before the backup kicks in. There is a document that describes this in detail.
The Graphic Hub Manager allows a user to copy between hubs and there are automated ways of bringing one or more hubs into sync. I was told about an API a year or two back, I need to chase up whether there is one now. Replication probably won’t occur if the API is used, but it would be good to use for automated bulk updates.
Users can be created for the systems and should be used. They may have different levels of admin access, but also can have personalised setups in the Artist configuration. There can also be groups of users. There are extensive search facilities for the items in the database, by name, date, user , keyword etc, with wildcards (*). Items in the database can have keyword tags, but they need to be added with a manual system. The items need to referred to by there UID, which seems a bit complex in a script, rather than a name in the directory structure. Normal users can only import items. If importing scenes from 2.x systems and they are controlled from Trio or Content Pilot, the folders should be left in their original structure. Otherwise it would be better to transfer into the new structure which can be more efficient and flexible. The terminals for remote hubs may be started remotely, but not shut down.There is a journal of all changes to the database, so this can be checked for who did what. Alerts may be configured to show events have happened or even to send an email. Items can not be deleted if that item has been referenced anywhere.
Images can have multiple texture layers and they are more efficient than in viz 2.x. They can be combined into the texture memory, but also split again to see the originals.( This needs the MultiTexture flag ON in the config setup – there is now a complete document, the Admin Guide for information on this and other parts of the setup.) The MaterialAdvanced option gives materials that have a material combined with a shader. The RTT shaders are an extrea cost item but would give really good effects. They are the only way to use HDDR image lighting at the moment, but they have plans for HDDR lighting in the normal Viz system in the version coming next year. (NAB?)
We looked at the Artist interface where most of the designer changes will be noticed. I’m still confused by the plethora of drop down menus, tabs, folders etc. I’m sure it will be more efficient, but sometimes I think that designers shouldn’t be given too much freedom. The idea is that a project and all it needs will be within one folder group, so can be archived easily and searches will be just within the project. I shall get used to it. The positive addition for me, is the personal tab, where I can add commonly used fonts, objects and anything else that I reference often. Really speeds up building scenes. There are good search facilities around the scene and the facility to colour nodes, name camers and add some text notes is useful for documentation.
Audio is improved, it has built in mp3, wav with avi, QT coming. There are 16 channels, embedded or external; the new version will have 32 channels and be able to do effects such as Doppler variation. Tese settings are being worked on currently, so they will change in the version next year.
There are more abilities with keyframes; they can be copied/pasted, groups can be selected and moved easily. The order of keyframes may be changed or looped. There are many more keyboard shortcuts and with the improved spline handling it is much quicker to create animations. The splines have a speed curve associated with them so that the position and acceleration of the object may be adjusted more easily. It may even go back and fore without having to set keyframes, just the animated value.
There can now be more than one director on a particular object. No more insertion of extra nodes. Directors can also have a hierarchy, so that starting one, will start all its child directors. The parent director can have stop points set that will apply to the whole group. Very useful. More will be made of the foreground and background scenes. The scenes loaded there can have independent play modes, and they may be played from the Artist interface. This should be useful in the remote control of scenes as well.
Performance is improved and certainly the models can be larger and more high resolution video can be played than in v2.x. Turn off the render to screen option in the renderer. We still can gain performance that way.
Archiving scenes is now quicker. In practice, it starts as soon as the first item is dragged across, but also there is much better control of duplicates because of the way the database works. It can just take the whole folder, which has everything that the scene requires.
Most of the plugins have been taken across, Some have new features/variable. All will have better performance.Some plugins are new and will be Viz3 only, eg Visual Data Tools which is now been given free. (They have a separate install at the moment, but this will be integrated in the next version) If you haven’t used it and are creating charts and graphs, you should definitely use this.
Dynamic textures should be more used. They can have a separate camera angle and then are placed within the scene. Because they are effectively an image, they can have pixel effects added, so we can blur them, motion blur, warp etc to make it look as though this effect has been made on the object itself. The effect may be animated as well. There is also a built in chroma keyer.
They should look more at making the scripting side more useable by designers. How can we make it more like a professional editing system. Having used the original scripting plugins and then scripting within Trio, this scripting language in Artist is a bit restricted. It is home built and has no access to the usual Microsoft vbscript dll features. Reading XML feeds for example needs more classes to be written. Not a big job, but using this editor is like moving back to using notepad to code. It needs more professional coding features, debug, libraries etc; bringing the coding out to an external editor like Eclipse would be a good start. Perhaps we should have a Lua plugin, it would be ideal for configuring graphics.
From a designer point of view there are many new things to learn and use. It needs the HDDR lighting and shaders that must come next year to compete with the likes of Wasp and Brainstorm. From a developers point of view there are limited improvements for shared data but the programming tools need more work.