Softimage 3D

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Softimage Creative Environment
Softimage 3D wordmark.svg
Screenshot of Softimage|3D 3.9.2
Screenshot of Softimage|3D 3.9.2
Developer(s)Softimage, Co.
Initial release1988; 31 years ago (1988)
Stable release
4.0 / August 2001; 18 years ago (2001-08)
Operating systemWindows NT, IRIX
Type3D computer graphics

Softimage|3D is a discontinued high-end 3D graphics application developed by Softimage, Co., which was used predominantly in the film, broadcasting, gaming, and advertising industries for the production of 3D animation. It was superseded by Softimage XSI in 2000.


In 1986, the National Film Board of Canada filmmaker Daniel Langlois, in partnership with software engineers Richard Mercille and Laurent Lauzon, began developing an integrated 3D modeling, animation, and rendering package with a graphical interface suited for visual artists. The software was initially demonstrated at SIGGRAPH in 1988 and was released for Silicon Graphics workstations as the Softimage Creative Environment™.[1] Its character animation tools expanded substantially with the addition of inverse kinematics in the second release, which was used to animate the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.[2]

Softimage Creative Environment was adopted by major visual effects studios like Industrial Light & Magic and Digital Domain for use in their production pipelines, which also typically included software from Alias Research, Kroyer Films, Angel Studios and Pixar Animation Studios Inc. as well as a variety of custom tools. In 1994, Microsoft acquired Softimage, Co. with the intention of bringing high-end 3D animation software to its burgeoning Windows NT platform, and subsequently rechristened it "Softimage|3D."[3] In January 1995, Softimage|3D was announced as the official 3D development tool for the Sega Saturn.[4]

The first Windows port of Softimage|3D, version 3.0, was released in early 1996.[5] Softimage|3D Extreme 3.5, released later that year, included particle effects and the mental ray renderer, which offered area lights, ray tracing, and other advanced features.[6] 3D paint functionality was added a year later in version 3.7.[7]

In the late 1990s, Softimage Co. began developing a successor to Softimage|3D codenamed "Sumatra," which was designed with a more modern and extensible architecture to compete with other major packages like Alias|Wavefront's Maya.[8] Development was delayed during a 1998 acquisition by Avid Technology, and in the summer of 2000 Softimage|3D's successor was finally released as Softimage XSI.[9][10] Because of Softimage|3D's entrenched user base, minor revisions continued until the final version of Softimage|3D, version 4.0, was released in 2002.[11]

Release history[edit]

Version Platform Release date Price Notes
Softimage Creative Environment 1.0 SGI Jan 1989 - Beta debuted at Siggraph '88, v1.0 commercial release in 1989[12]
Softimage Creative Environment 1.65 1989 - Added texture mapping
Softimage Creative Environment 2.0 1991 $30,000 Introduced Actor module, IK, constraints, deformation lattices
Softimage Creative Environment 2.6 1993 - Added clusters, weighted envelopes. Used in Jurassic Park[13]
Softimage 3D 3.0 SGI / WinNT Jan 1996 $7,995 First Windows release
Softimage 3D 3.5 May 1996 $7,995, $13,995 (Extreme) Introduced Extreme edition (particles, metaballs, mental ray)
Softimage 3D 3.7 Apr 1997 $7,995, $13,995 (Extreme) Added 3D paint, NURBS surface blending
Softimage 3D 3.8 Apr 1998 $4,995 Added animation sequencer, polygon/color reduction tools
Softimage 3D 3.9 Mar 2000 $1,995, $3,995 (Extreme) Improved envelope weighting, updated GUI
Softimage 3D 4.0 May 2002 $1,495, $2,495 (Extreme) Added multi-UV texturing, vertex colors. Final release


The Softimage|3D feature set was divided among five menu sets: Model, Motion, Actor, Matter and Tools, each corresponding to a different phase of the 3D production process:[14]

Softimage Creative Environment 2.66 - Matter module with Render Setup dialogue box

Model: Tools for the creation of spline, polygon, patch, and NURBS primitives (later releases also included Metaballs). Boolean operations, extrusions, revolves, and bevels, as well as lattice deformations and relational modeling tools. Subdivision surface modeling was only available via a third-party plugin.

Motion: Animation of objects and parameters via keyframes, constraints, mathematical expressions, paths, and function curves. Animatable cluster and lattice deformations.

Actor: Rigging and animating digital characters using skeletons, as well as dynamics tools for creating physics-based simulations of object interaction. Included inverse kinematics and weighted / rigid skinning.

Matter: Creating and managing materials and rendering images for output. 2D and 3D textures, field rendering, fog, motion blur, and raytracing were included as standard features.

Tools: Utilities for viewing, editing, and compositing rendered image sequences and importing/exporting bitmapped images and 3D geometry.


Feature Films[edit]





  1. ^ Softimage: 16 Years of Leadership and Innovation, Softimage, archived from the original on 2002-10-15.
  2. ^ 3D Software Reviews: Softimage, Jeremy Birn.
  3. ^ "An Acquisition by Microsoft", The New York Times, Feb 15, 1994.
  4. ^ "Sega and Sony Announced their 32-Bit Systems for the U.S.". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Ziff Davis (68): 89. March 1995.
  5. ^ Microsoft Delivers High-End 3-D Animation Software for Microsoft Windows NT (press release), Microsoft, Jan 16, 1996, archived from the original on 2011-12-29, retrieved 2009-10-10.
  6. ^ Microsoft Introduces Major Upgrade to Softimage 3D (press release), Microsoft, May 16, 1996.
  7. ^ Softimage 3D Version 3.7 for Windows NT and IRIX Platforms Now Shipping (press release), Microsoft, Apr 7, 1997, archived from the original on 2009-05-02, retrieved 2007-10-13
  8. ^ Softimage's Next-Generation 3D System, SUMATRA, Introduces Non-Linear Animation (press release), 1999
  9. ^ The Long and Lonely Death of Softimage, DigitalArts
  10. ^ "Softimage Co. Announces First Customer Shipment of SOFTIMAGE/XSI Version 1.0; Softimage Grants 17,000 Licenses of Next-Generation 3-D Animation Software", Business Wire, Find articles, May 30, 2000.
  11. ^ Softimage Slashes 3D price, Broadcast now, Jun 12, 2002
  12. ^ Helen Shortal (Apr 1992), Private Revolution: SOFTIMAGE Animation Software Breaks New Ground
  13. ^ Remembering Softimage, fxguide, Mar 4, 2014
  14. ^ On Powerful Wings, Imagination Soars (PDF) (brochure), Microsoft, 1996.
  15. ^ "Softimage 3D Used in All Three Motion Pictures Nominated for Achievement in Visual Effects". press release. Microsoft. February 11, 1997. Archived from the original on 2009-04-29. Retrieved 2007-10-13.
  16. ^ "2006 Siggraph Softimage Demo".
  17. ^ George Borshukov. "Manix Shines in "The Matrix"".
  18. ^ a b "Saturn Aims for SoftImage". GamePro. No. 79. IDG. April 1995. p. 147.
  19. ^ "Shining Wisdom". Next Generation. Imagine Media (11): 157. November 1995.
  20. ^ Softimage Used by Game Developers to Create Award-Winning Games (press release), Microsoft, April 28, 1997.
  21. ^ "Tidbits...". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 96. Ziff Davis. July 1997. p. 26.
  22. ^, Archived from the original on 2001-03-03 Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  23. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions", Myst and Riven Illustrated.

External links[edit]