10 great new tools for 3D artists this April

Spring has sprung, and with it there are great new tools for digital artists.

The weather is getting better and the CGI community is getting excited as conference season approaches. NAB is just around the corner, with hopefully some major new announcements for CG artists. In the meantime here are some new goodies that will help fill the time.

01. Frame.io 2.0

Frame.io 2.0 makes it easier to manage your projects for review

Frame.io has vast gained a reputation as one of the leading review platforms for animation (and stills) for teams and projects of all sizes. I absolutely depend on it for a lot of my work. Version 2 has just been launched, with much better organisational tools for both reviewing and managing projects. And with additions like a SMPTE-compliant display in the viewer, Frame.io offers more tools for Pro users.

02. Arnold 5

Old versus new samplers with quad and disk lights, shown at 1 sample/pixel [Click icon to enlarge]

Arnold has become one of the leading CPU-based render engines for many DCC applications in the past couple of years, and its combination of ease of use and power have made it a favourite of freelancers and studios alike.

With Arnold 5 Solid Angle has made things faster both in render startup and ray trace time. Sampling has been vastly improved to reduce noise with lighting, and Indirect Illumination improvements mean that Arnold could finally compete with V-Ray for indoor scenes.

03. Autodesk 3DS Max 2018

Dockable UI elements are one of the key elements of the new 3DS max 2018 release

Arnold 5 is also one of the key features of 3DS Max 2018, which has started shipping. Amongst the updates to look out for, there is now volumetric support with OpenVDB; the UI gets improvements with a new QT5 framework with enhanced docking; and there's a new camera for VR projects. While on the surface this may not seem like a huge release, the UI changes and inclusion of Arnold 5 could make this a solid improvement for many artists.

04. Anima 2.5

Anima can create people that can interact with your existing models

Anima has become my default application for adding people to scenes; it's exceptional value for money, easy to use and works with a range of host DCC applications. Version 2.5 has just been released, containing new features such as support for Metropoly ready-posed characters and integration with the online asset shop. Anima can now export OpenCOLLADA, V-ray and Alembic. In terms of animation, there is an improved custom actor and Motion Clip importer, as well as better colour variation support.

05. Nvidia Titan Xp

The New Nvidia Titan Xp comes at quite a price

The Pascal version of Nvidia’s top-of-the-line gaming GPU has just been released with insane specifications (11GB of V-ram and 547.7 GB/s of memory bandwidth). It also comes with an insane price of over £1100. The great thing is, now the Nvidia GTX 1080ti looks like a positive bargain! Pascal has transformed the GPU market in the past 12 months and, with a full lineup of cards across gaming and Quadro, there is a current generation Nvidia GPU available for artists of any budget.

06. Nvidia Pascal Drivers For Mac

It's amazing how excited the Mac Pro community got about this drivers page

Not getting access to Nividia Pascal cards has been a major reason many artists have switched to Windows from Mac. For those who are left (and hackintosh users) Nvidia has just released new drivers for its Pascal cards – although the only Mac that can install a new Nvidia card is now five years old (the Cheese Grater Mac Pro). Reports of new Macbook Pros running a Nvidia GTX 1080ti through an external GPU enclosure are encouraging, and who knows what this means for future Mac Pros.

07. V-Ray 3.5 For Maya

V-Ray 3.5 has just been released for Autodesk Maya. New features for this release include the introduction of adaptive lights, which speeds up scenes with multiple light sources. There is also a much-improved IPR with a new V-Ray frame buffer and improved shading and reflections, which introduce Glossy Fresnel and the aISurface material with layered sub-surface scattering for realistic skin.

08. AMD Ryzen

The new AMD Ryzen chips are proving a strong option for new workstation builds

The initial reviews for the new AMD Ryzen chips are in, and while for gamers an Intel chip may still be a better bet, for artists Ryzen offers a range of enticing options. For a start, the chips come with many more cores for the equivalent price of an Intel chip across both the Ryzen 5 and 7 range. If you are considering building a new workstation, we strongly recommend you look at costing up an AMD Ryzen build.

09. Horizon Zero Dawn: Making of

Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the most beautiful games, period, and here is an opportunity to find out how it was made. For this documentary, VRPO went behind the scenes at Guerilla Games to find out how this stunning game was created.

10. Zync price drop

Use Google’s computing power to render your next project

Zync, the cloud render platform which was bought by Google, has just lowered its prices. Zync works with a range of DCC apps and render engines, and comes with $300 of free credit for new users. Once set up, Zync is one of the most straightforward of the cloud rendering solutions to use – and with this price cut there are even more reasons to check it out.

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