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Interview with SideFX / Houdini

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 Interview with Spiralgraphics

Written by Benoît Saint-Moulin
Date : 2006-12-28 12:31:46


Here is an Interview of Alkis "Atlas" Roufas, the founder of Spiral Graphics, a software company that specializes in texturing tools for 3D artists!

Atlas, can you tell me a bit about how Spiral Graphics started?

In 2002 I noticed how unrealistic the procedural wood generators of the time were, and decided to start analyzing the mathematics of wood as a personal project in my spare time.

Soon I realized that my ideas didn't only apply to wood, but applied to almost any material.

The more I experimented, the more convinced I got that my work would be of benefit to the 3D community.

Eventually I was able to assemble a team of like-minded developers and Spiral Graphics was founded.

"Today, Spiral Graphics software can generate just about any material imaginable."

Your most known tool is probably Genetica, THE procedural texture application, how did Genetica get started?

Once Spiral Graphics was founded, Genetica became our first product. That's where all my original ideas ended up, and where the majority of the team's creative energies continue to be focused today.

Genetica PRO 2.5 interface

What kind of customers does Spiral Graphics have?

Since textures are useful to anyone working with 3D, our customer base is pretty broad.

Our customers include traditional 3D artists, game artists, architects . . . Our customer base is also pretty evenly split between professionals and hobbyists.

To be honest, the broadness of our customer base came as a bit of a surprise.

I mean, at one end of the spectrum we have companies using it for professional work, but then we also have high school students using it to modify games like Half-Life 2.

With easy to use but powerful interface is Genetica also used by technical users?

Yes. Although most of our customers fall into the categories we already talked about, our customers also include engineers, product designers, package designers, people doing 3D medical visualizations, and so on.

Again, the use of textures is as broad as the use of 3D itself.

One customer mentioned using Genetica to help recreate crime scenes in 3D for use as courtroom visual aids.

An aerospace customer mentioned using Genetica to create terrain textures for flight training simulators.

Even people outside of 3D have discovered it, for example someone in the textile industry mentioned finding it useful for designing repeating patterns that are later woven in cloth.

People in a lot of new areas are discovering textures, including the technical users you asked about.

Genetica PRO 2.5 Nodal compositing

Genetica is great, but do you know some limits of your tools?

I think Genetica's current limitation is that it is purely a procedural tool.

Procedural generation can be an amazing time-saver, for example, Genetica textures are resolution-independent, which means that if you create a texture with a resolution of 512 by 512 in mind, it is no trouble to re-render it at a resolution of 1024 by 1024.

Genetica also provides a fully non-destructive texturing environment, so any change made to a texture can be undone or altered in any order, and so on. On the other hand, a procedural environment means you need to select the appropriate procedure for producing the effect you want.

If you want to edit a texture in a very specific way, for example, if you want to put a big green eyeball in the middle of an alien skin texture, it may be easier to do it in a traditional painting program than in a procedural application.

How will you improve Genetica in the next release?

For one thing, the limitations I just mention are being seriously worked on.

I can't go into too many specifics yet, but you can expect to see an interesting new combination of the benefits of the procedural technique with the benefits of traditional techniques.

When do you plan the release of Genetica 3.0?

It will be out later in 2007.

How do you think 3D is evolving in next 5 years?

One trend that I see is the continued replacement of general purpose 3D tools with semi-automated subject-specific tools. Originally, modeling meant the use of general purpose tools like primitives and polygon sculpting.

Then an increasing number of subject-specific tools started gaining popularity, like Poser for making people, or Bryce for making landscapes.

Although these first tools were a lot quicker to work with, the results were questionable. But since that time, subject-specific tools have continued gaining ground, for example, Vue has largely replaced Bryce with its more realistic landscapes, and many popular 3D applications have added very easy to use subject-specific tools for trees, cloth, and hair.

I think work in this area is far from finished. Over the years I expect many more subject-specific tools to appear for things like non-human creatures and monsters, everyday objects, furniture, architecture, easy room layout, and more.

Another important development is one I expect to stem from the growing popularity of massive virtual worlds. With games like World of Warcraft, the growth in the number of virtual world users has been absolutely explosive (figure below).

The challenges of making these worlds, and even more so the next generation of virtual worlds to follow them, will be very different than the challenges faced by today's artists.

Creating a city scene that shows a dozen buildings is very different than creating a city with 500 buildings, each of which contains dozens of functional rooms with unique furniture arrangements and art. Similarly, creating a scene that shows some mountains is much different than creating an entire working continent.

Today's virtual worlds might not be that extensive, but I expect it isn't long before they are. Now imagine if you have gotten to the stage where you are placing individual trees, rocks, roads, and buildings over a continent, and then realize through play testing that the overall structure of the landmasses needs to be rearranged. Or imagine if you are arranging the furniture in individual rooms within the buildings of a city, and then realize that the city should have twice as many rooms, but each room should be half the size.

I expect that to help solve these issues a new breed of 3D tool will emerge where the artist works at a more abstract procedural level rather than with the final polygons. And of course, along with these new tools there will be new skill sets and exciting new job opportunities.

"Massively multiplayer game subscriptions have been growing exponentially, leading to new challenges for the 3D industry. Additional statistics are available from www.mmogchart.com."

Atlas, thank you.

Thank you, Benoît.

You visit Spiral Graphics web site at www.spiralgraphics.biz !

TDT3D is using Genetica to produce his seamless textures pages !

Making-of Dynamo Making-of Still Life Timbre en réalité augmentée Les outils de plantes 3D ? Comparatif Terragen Vs. Vue

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