CS 348C - Modeling in Computer Graphics
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 SoftImage manuals.


Account setup

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 follows:
  1. 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.
  2. Execute the following command in your home directory:
    source /usr/class/cs348c/software/softimage/.softimage
    This command defines or augments some environment variables which the SoftImage package uses; it also defines a few convenient aliases.
  3. Add the command above to your .cshrc file. This will save you some typing every time you log in.
  4. Type soft and hit Return; ignore the error messages that appear on your terminal window. This will start up SoftImage 3D.
  5. 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 screen.
  6. A warning dialogue box should show up. Press the "Create" button.
  7. 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.
  8. When a new warning dialogue box appears, press the "OK" button.
  9. Press the "Exit" button of the database creation dialog box.
  10. Press the "Exit" button at the bottom left corner of the screen.
  11. When a new warning dialogue box appears, press the "OK" button.

Account cleanup

In order to reverse the installation procedure, and reclaim the precious disk space used by SoftImage, you need to
  1. remove the line
    source /usr/class/cs348c/software/softimage/.softimage
    from your .cshrc file,
  2. remove the file DatabaseDir.rsrc from your home directory, and finally
  3. 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

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

Mental Ray is a powerful ray tracer, incorporating features such as the following: While Mental Ray is capable of distributed (parallel) rendering, this feature is not activated on the Stanford installations.

To execute Mental Ray, just type ray.irix5 in the command-line.


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 lines below:

DATABASE particle
PATH /usr/class/cs348c/software/softimage/Particle/EXAMPLES

Standalone utilities

A large collection of executables provides some of the functionality of SoftImage 3D from the command-line. Here is a sample of some standalone utilities:


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