CS 348C - Modeling in Computer
Fall quarter, 1995
Coordinator: Apostolos Lerios
SoftImage is a computer graphics software package, distributed by Microsoft corporation. It
contains a large collection of executables, from a production quality
modeling and animation system, to a ray tracer, a particle system
simulator, and standalone utilities for image compositing, format
conversions, and much more. Many of these tools come in handy when the
students generate renderings for their project presentations. For this
reason, students are strongly encouraged to browse the printed
- The complete set of printed SoftImage manuals is available from
the course coordinator for very short-term loans.
- The Reference 1 and Reference 2 binders of the
User's Guide to SoftImage 3D (part of
the printed documentation) are available at the teaching laboratory in Sweet
Hall, in a box labeled CS 348C. A copy of the SoftImage 3D tutorial, with individual lessons
separately bound, is also available at the same location.
- Microsoft maintains on-line
information on SoftImage, although very little documentation on
the package itself is available on the WWW.
This section describes the procedure that the students should follow
in order to customize their accounts for use with the SoftImage
package. The following procedure applies verbatim only to the
SoftImage installation at the teaching laboratory in Sweet
Hall. For the installation at the computer graphics laboratory in CIS, the
customization procedure is similar but not identical; the primary
differences are that
The customization procedure for the teaching laboratory has as
- in CIS, the SoftImage directory is
- some demo files may be present only in one of the two
- Log on to one of the Silicon
Graphics Indigo workstations. You have to log on to the console
itself - the steps that follow will fail if you attempt to customize
your account via remote login.
- Execute the following command in your home directory:
This command defines or augments some environment variables which the
SoftImage package uses; it also defines a few convenient aliases.
- Add the command above to your .cshrc file. This will
save you some typing every time you log in.
- Type soft and hit Return; ignore the error messages
that appear on your terminal window. This will start up SoftImage 3D.
- When the copyright screen appears, press any mouse button. Wait
for a few seconds and until a new screen appears, containing four
grids in the center and two columns of buttons on either edge of the
- A warning dialogue box should show up. Press the "Create" button.
- A new dialogue box should appear. Type soft in the
Name field and press the "Create" button. This will create
a file named DatabaseDir.rsrc in your home directory, as
well as a SoftImage database named soft. A SoftImage
database is a collection of directories in which models of 3D scenes
are stored, along with their textures, animation data, and much more.
- When a new warning dialogue box appears, press the "OK" button.
- Press the "Exit" button of the database creation dialog box.
- Press the "Exit" button at the bottom left corner of the screen.
- When a new warning dialogue box appears, press the "OK" button.
In order to reverse the installation procedure, and reclaim the
precious disk space used by SoftImage, you need to
- remove the line
from your .cshrc file,
- remove the file DatabaseDir.rsrc from your home
directory, and finally
- remove the SoftImage database. To this end, execute the following
command in your home directory:
rm -fr soft
Components of the SoftImage package
All components of the SoftImage package are available via a licensing
protocol. This protocol is automatically executed every time a
SoftImage executable is invoked, and hence is, usually, transparent to
the user. However, since Stanford has only 8 licenses, it is quite
possible that invoking a SoftImage executable will only produce an
error. In this case, just try invoking the executable again at a later
time, hoping that a license will have been freed up by another user.
All components of the SoftImage package execute only on Silicon Graphics workstations. Also,
most of them require the user to be logged on the workstation's
console; if this is not the case, some executables will simply exit
without reporting any errors.
SoftImage 3D is an integrated system that allows the user to access
most of the features of the SoftImage package, including 3D modeling,
animation, and rendering. To enter SoftImage 3D, just type
soft in the command-line, and press any mouse button when
the copyright screen appears.
Mental Ray is a powerful ray tracer, incorporating features such as
While Mental Ray is capable of distributed (parallel) rendering, this
feature is not activated on the Stanford installations.
- It renders many geometric primitives, including NURBS.
- It allows complex camera specifications, including motion blur
and lens effects.
- It handles area light sources.
- It provides handles for user-defined shaders.
- It incorporates several optimizations for reducing rendering
- It uses a very simple, yet powerful, scene definition language.
To execute Mental Ray, just type ray.irix5 in the
Particle is a particle system simulator. It offers a friendly user
interface to defining and rendering particle systems. To execute
Particle, just type particle in the command-line.
Several examples of particle systems are available in a demo SoftImage
database. In order to make this database visible to the
particle executable, modify the file
DatabaseDir.rsrc in your home directory by adding the two
A large collection of executables provides some of the functionality
of SoftImage 3D from the command-line. Here is a sample of some
- blur blurs an image. A host of other image processing
utilities are also available, such as contour for contour
extraction, contrast for contrast alteration,
effect for image rotation and flipping, noise
for noise addition,
- composite allows the user to digitally compose images.
- display shows the contents of an image file on the
screen, while flipbook displays image sequences as
- soft2sgi and sgi2soft convert images
between the SoftImage (pic) format and the Silicon Graphics
(rgb) format. Similar utilities are available for a host of
other image formats, including PostScript.
- soft2dxf and dxf2soft convert scenes
between the SoftImage format and the DXF (Drawing Interchange File)
format. A similar pair of utilities is available for the IGES (Initial
Graphics Exchange Specification) format.
The SoftImage package also contains a few other modules, such as
Minerva and Ray Rebels, which are not available on the Stanford
installations. However, if student projects require the use of these
modules, the coordinator will install them upon demand.
There is also a SoftImage
newsgroup for French speakers, in case you are interested.
Last update: 13 December 1995 by Apostolos "Toli" Lerios