We are happy to announce our first release of 2021. We focused strongly on integration aspects for this one, but there are also some very useful other goodies.
This release introduces compatibility for MacOS BigSur and for the following host application versions and render engines (bold items are new):
- 3D Studio Max 2016 to 2021
- Maya 2015 to 2020
- Cinema4D R20 to R23
- Lightwave 11.6 to 2020
- V-Ray 5 and Arnold
For a detailed list of changes, check out the full release notes.
Scene by Walther Beck
The small stuff (VUE & PlantFactory)
Substance GPU engine: In the User Preferences (File – Options), you can now enable the Substance GPU engine for calculating and bitmap rendering of Substance materials. Thanks to the calculation on the GPU, you can expect speed increases of up to 200% and more when editing materials, depending on the Substance material.
Please note that the Substance GPU rendering is responsible for generating the Substance material channels whenever you change a parameter or the Substance resolution, but not for rendering the final picture.
New nodes in the Function Editor: For advanced normal map creation, RGB composer & decomposer as well as a “Normal” input were added.
Path Tracer: The Path Tracer now supports both Relighting and NPR.
Real-world displacement: Following the rewritten displacement from the last release, you can now switch optionally to a displacement mode with real-world units. This mode computes the displacement differently than the “unitless” mode, as it takes the object’s scaling along each axis into account, which is especially useful for objects with scale variations which use the same material.
Additionally, more than 500 fixes and performance improvements were added across both applications.
Scene by Barry Marshall
The BIG stuff (VUE & PlantFactory)
The big features in this release are common to both VUE & PlantFactory.
Deep integration with Cinema4D
The integration with Cinema4D has been completely revamped and encompasses
- Rewritten scene export to *.c4D file format with cameras, hierarchies and animation
- Support for V-Ray Next & Arnold in the conversion tool of the VUE plugin
- The first release of the PlantFactory technology preview plugin for C4D
Find out more in the video below.
Arnold support in Maya and 3DS Max
Arnold is now also supported for converting VUE assets in both Maya and 3DS Max. In the video, Patrice Paradis walks you through the integration in Maya.
All of our products, including the PlantCatalog, can now export assets to *.usda, *.usdc and *.usdz formats. USD is becoming increasingly popular and important in the industry, as it strives to eventually become a truly universal 3D format for easy pipeline integration, thanks to its open sourced structure and efficient data streaming.
USD is developed by Pixar. More information can be found on Pixar’s USD website.
Because USD is still in development, the supported features during import and export vary by each application. As of this release, we support the following asset types:
- Cameras and their properties such as depth of field
- Ecosystems (static and animated) with and without USD point instances
- Single objects (static and animated)
We will add more features to the USD export as the file format itself continues to expand and support more content.
Now onto the software-specific features.
Alongside this release, we include the last batch of Cornucopia3D content. More than 300 items are added to the content browsers.
One of the new content items: a rigged octopus model
In the Function Editor, three new cloud inputs were added: Cloud starting altitude, Cloud ending altitude and Cloud height. With these nodes, you can now control material properties in clouds based on their altitude within a cloud layer or metacloud. These input nodes mark the first step towards new cloud functionalities in upcoming releases. Stay tuned for more information in the future.
In addition to USD export, the Substance GPU engine, Path Tracer improvements, the Cinema 4D plugin and the new nodes from VUE in the Function Graph, we added two new main features.
You can now create leaf clusters. A leaf cluster is a baked texture map of high-resolution geometry which can be used for deriving lightweight plants that work especially well in real-time environments.
For example, you could model a twig with needles and then bake it to a leaf cluster for generating a texture map with an alpha channel. This texture map will then be used on the final coniferous tree, as real geometry for each needle would create models with millions of polygons.
Leaf clusters support baking of Color / Diffuse channels, normal maps, backlighting, Ambient Occlusion and highlights from up to three different perspectives. In addition, it will autogenerate a component based on the leaf node with one, two or three crossed planes, which can be loaded immediately from the content browser as a ready-to-go-asset.
Vastly improved UV unwrapping
The UV unwrapping algorithms that are used when baking materials to texture maps have been rewritten and produce vastly superior results with less distortion, cleaner UV island arrangement and smarter Texel density distribution.
As before, two different unwrapping algorithms are available:
- Specific UVs: this mode creates UVs that are closer to standard primitive unwrapping algorithms such as cylindrical. The UVs are easier to understand and faster to generate, but they do not respect the original polygon shapes that closely.
- Generic UVs: this mode is like manual unwrapping with seam placement. The UV islands respect the 3D polygon shape more closely and produce less distortion, but take longer to generate and are not as easily deciphered as specific UVs.
A comparison of an unwrapped section of the trunk. Specific UVs with cylindrical unwrapping are on the top right, generic UVs with polygons closer to the original shape are below.
Additional improvements & features
- Up to 25% reduced computation time for complex plants with over a million polygons
- New 3D displacement functionality for the segment node for utilizing vector displacement
- New “Position in distribution” mode in the “Parent parameters” node, which respects the start and end distribution values for children
- Two-sided materials are supported for exports in *.c4d format
- Improved compression of *.tpf species for smaller file sizes
- Improved Ambient Occlusion preview in the 3D view
Over the past releases, we put a strong emphasis on more and better pipeline integration features. While we will continue to expand on this continuously, we will bring new creative features to both VUE & PlantFactory this year. We are looking forward to disclosing more details as the year unfolds.
Enjoy the new release and have a great 2021!