Vintage Softimage – A tribute to Phoenix Tools and Arete

June 4th, 2010 by Stefano Jannuzzo - Viewed 25862 times -




The middle-aged of you will probably remember those names from the 90s.

Phoenix Tools was a plugin company for Softimage 3D, and I was one of the founders. We did good and bad, and we eventually closed down in 2002.

Arete had an excellent reputation for their ocean and atmospheric library, called Digital Nature Tools. I think their main business was in military simulation, however they had a part in every cg-generated ocean in the movies of the 90s.

In 2001 we joined forces to port their software under XSI (I think it was 2.0). Unfortunately, after the first version came out, both companies shut down.

8 years later, I am working on a feature animation with a few shots in water, and I realized I still had on some cd the arete psunami libraries. So, I decided to give it a try. I removed the license check from the shaders and I compiled them with good old Visual Studio 6, linking against the oldest mental ray library I could find (3.3), and in the end it worked. I was kind of touched when I finally saw the displaced grid rendering in Softimage 2010.

I think I will do no harm to anybody releasing these shaders. Both companies are dead since long, and this is my little tribute to them and the talented people who worked there.

The addon is only available for win32, and no, no chances for other platforms. That Arete library is the only one I have. If you do, use it at your own risk (and fun, i would say. There are probably better ways to do oceans nowadays).

And, you know what, I don’t even know how the full package works. I don’t have anymore the documentation, nor the scripts we provided. If my old companions will find them, I will post them later.

The basic usage however is easy. You have to connect a DNT_Ocean_Sh and DNT_Time to a DNT_Ocean_Evolver. What come out is the ocean instance, that can then go into the other nodes. Also, you want to apply DNT_Air as environment to have nice reflection and the atmosphere.

16 Responses to “Vintage Softimage – A tribute to Phoenix Tools and Arete”

  1. Ahmed Barakat says:

    this post did put a smile on my face , reminded me of the old days , metamesh extreme was a life saver , and the cloth simulator , and the library of great shaders , and the particles that replaced the old softimage particles which was an stand alone software and gave us all a better particles integration and later became the base for the old xsi particles too
    it is a bit late but thanks guys for the effort you did pack then , you kind of saved soft back then

  2. Ahmed Barakat says:

    this post did put a smile on my face , reminded me of the old days , metamesh extreme was a life saver , and the cloth simulator , and the library of great shaders , and the particles that replaced the old softimage particles which was an stand alone software and gave us all a better particles integration and later became the base for the old xsi particles too
    it is a bit late but thanks guys for the effort you did back then , you kind of saved soft back then

  3. Derek Jenson says:

    MetaMesh Extreme was the cat’s meow. Really awesome tools.

  4. Joe Saltzman says:

    Brings back great memories! I think I still have my discs in a box somewhere. I think I might be a hoarder :-/

  5. Rob Chapman says:

    woah crazy blast from the past! I remember and had these :D

  6. Bullit says:

    :D

    I think i played with Arete in Maya.

  7. Laurence Dodd says:

    Ahhh, happy days (could be the rose tinted spectacles talking). I remember a great timewarp that overlayed the fcurves, that worked so well.
    Great stuff, Cheers

  8. crystal_virgin says:

    Awesome! But what about “ERROR : PHEN 0.4 error 051011: shader “PT_Psunami_Ocean_Normals” not found?” while rendering?

    Softimage 2011 32bit

  9. oz42 says:

    wow, I remember these from way back. Phoenix Tools were great. Their particles in Soft3D were much better than Softimages. Thanks Stefano.

  10. Gassan says:

    Thanks , but it make softimage crash evry much , and it cant render more than 5 frames.

  11. 247wkman says:

    after deleting all my torrented softs long ago i realised wish i held on to them- it never occured to me that old softs could gain a nolstalgic value so a ditched the lot (‘ALIAS MAYA’, ‘AVID’ XSI and 3DS MAX- before it tried to be maya and got all ugly with the kde and of course the plugins-max needed lots of those) when i went open source for my wallits sake- they’re in a land fill somewhere they’re yours if you find them!

  12. mdonovan says:

    I always thought Aretes ‘Renderworld’ renderer did a way better job rendering their water solution than Mental Ray back then. Good memories.

  13. ThE_JacO says:

    Oh man, seems like a different era.
    When Italy still had a CG scene (and it almost looked like we would have pulled it off in film vfx), and Milan was a Softimage bastion.

    Nice work, as usual, Stefano.

  14. Oscar Gonzalez says:

    Yeah !This is just great.

    I did use those soo often back in the days, and thanks to the phoenix tools i managed to keep on being a Softimage user as opposed on jumping onto Maya like everybody else…

    Now Halfdan should repack the Pison tools, very specific but lifetaving tools!

    Thanks!

  15. Rich Lee says:

    It brings a tear thats for sure. I remember watching their demos and “dreaming” of being able to use the software…everything felt so…i dunno…cutting edge and amazing back then.

    Now if only softimage 2011 had a nice ocean plugin in like some of the other packages…

  16. random says:

    just thought i’d mention that Aretes Psunami plugin is still around for After Effects.

    owned by Digital Anarchy then Red Giant Software
    http://www.redgiantsoftware.com/products/all/psunami/

    sweet!