In this Softimage tutorial, we will look at using ICE to create a motion-graphics sequence. By taking advantage of the Interactive Creative Environment (ICE) in Softimage we will be able to create motion graphics faster and with better control than using keyframes or scripts. Software required: Softimage.
Introduction and Project Overview In this lesson, we're going to get acquainted with the ICE system and the particles as well so that we can build our motion graphics sequence. So let's begin by pulling up XSI, and in a brand-new scene, let's drop in a new primitive type. We're going to go to the Get, Primitive menu, and we'll go to Point Cloud and drop in a grid. The new Point Cloud primitives introduced in XSI 7 will allow us to create primitive objects, but they will not drop in shapes or geometry. They'll drop in particles wherever a vertex should be. So let's go ahead and drop in that grid. I'm going to go to my perspective viewport here or my camera viewport and maximize it. I'm going to orbit around like so. And now we have a grid of particles. And the number of particles is defined based on our grid subdivision here. And the space between every one of these particles is defined by the grid U and V lengths. It basically functions like a normal grid polygon mesh, for example, but it's still creating geometry with faces. It's going to create particles a vertex should exist. Now, let's go ahead and define some properties on these particles because if you deselect them, these guys are just a bunch of little black points here. They have no color defined. They have no shape defined. So we can change the way these properties behave or look with the help of an ICE Tree. So to do that, we'll need to bring up the ICE Tree view itself. I'm going to close out this property editor here. And now to bring up your ICE Tree, all you have to do is make your way to the View menu and go to General and then click on ICE Tree. I'm personally a big fan of the Alt+9 shortcut key, so either way or either method can be used to pull up the ICE Tree. Go ahead and pull that up like so. Now the ICE Tree over here is broken up mainly into four sections. We have an upper menu here with a whole bunch of options. Some of these are recognizable because they're also used or have the same purpose as the render tree. We also have three little views down here. The one on the left, this little chunk here, is the Preset Manager. The one in the middle is the ICE workspace. And the one on the far right is a mini-Explorer that is very contextual or very specific to ICE operations. Now let's go ahead and create an ICE Tree on this grid here. To do that, select the grid of particles, you need to have your object selected, and with it, just go the Create menu, left-click it, and select ICE Tree from the menu drop-down list. When you do this, the object that you just added in ICE Tree view will pop up in the Explorer here, and an ICE Tree operator will be added to whatever stack you're working with. So right now the ICE Tree operator resides in the Modeling stack. And an ICE Tree notice popped up inside of the ICE workspace. Now this node over here is the root node or the terminal node, and everything gets connected into this node finally, and it gets executed here. So, for example, if we want to change the shape of these particles, we would plug in a specific node into this ICE Tree port. The node that we're looking for is a set particle shape node, and you can find it in the Preset Manager. Just go to your Task list and make sure you have Particles selected as your task type. And then in here, scroll down until you get to the Setters category. And in the Setters category, look for Set Particle Shape. Once you have found the desired node that you want in the Preset Manager, you just need to left-click and drag and drop it onto the ICE workspace. Wherever you release your mouse is wherever you'll place that particular node. Now, let's talk about what it takes to work in the ICE workspace. The combination or the navigation or the keys in here are just like with any 2D editor in XSI. So, for example, if you want to navigate around, just tap the S key to access the Navigate tool. And now you can pan and zoom with the left and middle mouse buttons and the right mouse button as well just like so. Now if you want to actually move the node, you need to make sure you're in object or node selection mode, which you can do by tapping the space key. Now you can just left-click to select a node and then left-click and drag it around to move it or place it in a desired location. You can do the same thing with the ICE Tree root node itself just like so. Now another way of navigating this ICE Tree is to use the bird's-eye view, which is sometimes enabled. You may have it turned off in your preferences, which you can get to, by the way, from the Show, Preferences menu. Now, here's the bird's-eye view, and in this mode, you just need to left-click and drag within the bird's-eye view area, and you can quickly navigate around your ICE Tree. The bird's-eye view is a nice way of summarizing what you have in your ICE Tree, and it's very critical whenever you have a whole bunch of nodes in here, which you'll eventually run into one of these days. Now, if you want to connect the Set Particle Shape node into the ICE Tree port so you can get this to work, you just need to left-click the port desired or the output port, left-click and drag it out. You'll end up dragging an arrow like so. And now you can plug it into a desired port. To complete the connection process, just plug it in to a port or put your mouse over a port label, and then release your left mouse button to make the connection. If you've made a wrong connection, you can easily disconnect it by left-clicking the connecting line and pulling outwards in the left direction to disconnect it. Then let's go ahead and now and set the particle shape on these particles. So connect the execute output into the Port1 input here. And now it won't look like anything's happened, but that's because this node hasn't been used. You can double-click any ICE node to be able to access the different attributes or parameters within it that you can set. So right now, I can change the shape of these from points. Let's say I want to go ahead and have these guys be spheres. I would just left-click in this drop-down list and select the sphere option. And now it's quite important that any time you change your shape, you want to make sure you have a specific size selected. So grab the Set Particle Size node, left-click, drag and drop it like so, and now we can execute it to run it. Now there's always a good chance that your ICE Tree node will not have enough ports. If you want to add new ports, there are a few ways of doing it. One method is to right-click on any existing port and insert one before or after it. The other method is to simply plug the new connection into the new port to create a new connection or a new port that you can basically use. So there we go. Now double-click Set Particle Size. As I said, this is a default Point Cloud primitive, so no attributes are set on it. We'll need to change the size. So you can see the moment we increase the size, spheres will become visible now. I'll go ahead and leave it at 0. 4. And now we have these spheres visible, I'll just left-click and change my drawing mode to shaded so we can see them a bit better. And there we have it. So now you can go back to your Set Particle Shape node, change the shape to a desired one like maybe box, for example, or maybe cylinder or whatever you want to choose, and that's basically all that it takes to set up your ICE Tree. You just need to create one and use the ICE Tree node and execute specific commands inside of it. Now, we're going to learn more about these kinds of connections in the next lesson. We're going to learn how to change the colors of these points based on the geometry they're in. So I'll see you in the next lesson.