Softimage EOL, a year (or so) later…


I’ve been wanting to write down my thoughts on the Softimage end of life announcement for a while but haven’t found the time or thought it best to give it a bit more time. I think now may be the right time.

Some Background

When I started college in 2002, I attended my local county college in New Jersey. The 3D courses were teaching Alias Maya 5/6. I’d only heard in conversations with other friends at other schools that it was the standard but that they were learning Softimage XSI. I knew in a few years I’d be transferring to the same University as them but didn’t give it much thought about having to switch applications.

After my two and half year stint at county college I finally transferred. I’d gotten a good footing in 3D. Knowing that I’d be transferring to a new application I knew I had to play a bit of catch up. It worked out pretty well and general concepts were the same but the interaction model was quite different. None the less I caught up and was at the same level as others in my class.

After graduation I then went to a one year post-grad certificate program at Sheridan College. The tool of choice there? Maya. Back I went re-learning the latest version of that application. It was a full year of Maya with some Softimage mixed in thanks to a very helpful individual at Softimage who was able to arrange a few student licenses to get installed for a few of us who experienced with XSI. We used XSI where we needed but completed our final short films in Maya.

I believe this early use of multiple 3D applications and having to go from one to the other has played a pretty significant role in my thoughts about the EOL.

The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief

I had the fortune of having early knowledge of the EOL for Softimage. I had a few months lead time to process my feelings before the barrage of posts, emails, and messages flew throughout the Softimage user community. I was shocked, but not surprised. After all, we all had a feeling this was going to happen when Softimage was acquired in the first place. Other clues included sub-standard releases and the development team being swapped out for one down in Singapore.

I went through the usual stages everyone else went through. However I think I went through them much faster. In the years leading up to the announcement I’d been making pretty great strides in my professional development. I’d gotten a chance to move to the opposite side of the world and work on my first feature film, released a commercial 3rd party plug-in, and had gotten a hold of some basic linear algebra and matrix maths. During that time I’d had many discussions with my then supervisor about the profession of 3D artists and Technical Directors. Ideas about how our profession shouldn’t be about what application you use but the depth of your knowledge about the underlying concepts to the field were frequent.

Thinking back, this was around the time when I started to realize that this was indeed true. I started decoupling myself from Softimage. I fired up Maya after a few years of not touching it and dug in.

Softimage is Awesome!

At this point I’d like to take the opportunity to say that I truly believe that Softimage got user interaction and a non-linear flexible workflow right. No other application I’ve used has anything close. The construction stack, ICE, native Object Oriented API, and countless other features go unmatched. I don’t want to use another application and it’d have been great to go my entire career not having to transition over to something else.

The idea to end Softimage was one of the worst I could imagine and it was handled really poorly by Autodesk. They didn’t even have comparable replacements for things such as ICE. We’re still waiting for this stuff in Maya while other companies have been able to fly past with relative ease and implement similar workflows.

Moving forward; Softimage is Dead

As much as people are going to try to fight it. Softimage is done. It’s dead. No more versions, no new features, no bug fixes, and no core changes. You’re locked in.

I don’t think it’s smart to keep using Softimage for as long as you can as your main 3D application. Let’s list a few reasons why…

  • New technologies won’t be integrated. Think of the next Alembic that may need changes to the Softimage core. Not going to happen. Good luck.
  • Job opportunities for Softimage users are now very rare, becoming even further so.
  • The longer you wait to transition, the less time you’ll have to do so.
  • You have to have the time to find the right application and update your pipeline. This isn’t something that happens over night.
  • If you’ve only ever used Softimage, you need to re-learn the new application.

My advice is to abstract your knowledge from a single application. Broaden your knowledge and don’t let yourself get locked into another application.

Conclusion

I’ve been able to handle the EOL better than most I think because I’ve been bouncing around DCC’s for most of my educational and professional career. I’ve greatly benefited from it and will continue to do so in the future.

All things said, you can do what you want. You can keep using Softimage. It doesn’t affect me. I wish everyone the best of luck moving forward as our industry is a turbulent one as of late.

Best of luck to all.