Eric Mootz talks to Softimage.tv about his new website, latest mootzoid developments and his life as a Softimage tool maker.
Congratulations on your new website, looks really good. What made you decide to upgrade it and what’s the most useful functionality for your users?
Thank you! The decision for a new website came while I was in Berlin working at Polynoid. Allow me to quote an extract of my own newsletter:
The motivation to dump my old site and make a new one came from the boys at Polynoid while I was hanging around in Berlin beginning of the year. They made it quite clear to me that my old site was “not very pretty” (in fact they described it using swearwords and unflattering metaphors) and that I really should do something about it.
Blunt yet true! However the look of the website was only one thing that needed improvement. I also wanted to have a better site structure and a better online documentation. The guys who designed and built the site for me (PANDA (www.heypanda.de)) did a great job and came up with some really nice ideas and now, hopefully, it is easier for people to see what the plugins do, what has already been done with them, how to order them and so on.
Mootzoid’s new website
Describe your path to becoming a Softimage plugin developer
It all started the classic way, I guess. As a teenager I loved to play arcade video games, game consoles and later on played and programmed on those good old 8-bit computers (ATARI, Commodore). Then, at the age of 18, I started studying computer science and biology. There were rumours that one of our professors was into 3D things (this was in 1991), so I went to check it out with my ATARI ST under my arm. I showed the professor some of the things I had made and shortly after he gave me access to the “toys” they had: it was a Silicon Graphics Indigo with Softimage|3D version 1.x. It was love on the first sight! A few years later my first job was at a company called CPP Studios in Frankfurt(M). They had a Silicon Graphics Onyx with Softimage|3D and that is where I started programming some first little plugins for Softimage. Many years later came Softimage|XSI, then ICE, and I never stopped programming tools, but mainly just for fun or for a job.
A friend of mine, Oliver Weingarten, whom I met at a small Softimage meeting, was the one who suggested to me that I should try selling the stuff. This was around 2005, I think. Since I was getting tired of freelancing I actually liked the idea very much, but a certain lack of self-esteme prevented me from really trying it out. A couple of years later I finally released emFluid2 for ICE in 2008 and sold a few copies. Definitely not enough to make a living, but is was promising and more importantly terribly exciting to have people use my tool for their productions! Then, as I programmed and released more and more plugins, I eventually was able to reduce freelancing almost to zero and to fully concentrate on coding tools.
Current status: I am very happy with my job!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I usually get up around 8 a.m, have a coffee and a cigarette (it’s a filthy habit, I know), boot my two laptops (one Windows, one Linux) and answer emails. Once that is done I start programming. At about 8.p.m. (generally no lunch break) I will make myself something to eat, watch a movie or two, read a book and go to bed. Two or three times a week I also go running in the nearby forest to get some exercise.
A shot produced with emFlock 2
Do you freelance much, or do you work on mootzoid mostly?
I hardly freelance any more, on average perhaps once or twice a year, tops.
I know you’ve worked closely with Polynoid, how is it to adapt your workflow to a more commercial setup.
I met the Polynoids a few years back on the German Softimage user meeting “Ubertage”. End of last year while visiting them in Berlin they asked me if I would be willing to freelance for them and I accepted. The job was great in the sense that I was developing new tools for them during production, so the tools were immediately tested and the Polynoids gave me lots of feedback regarding workflow and what they would like to have. Surplus we had lots of fun, during and after work!
I see you developed emReader for Modo, is developing for other application something you’ve been considering for a while?
Yes, I have. As much as I love Softimage, it is important to not “get stuck” with a single application. Many of my customers use other 3D applications aside from Softimage and over the years I got many requests to port some of my plugins.
For starters the geometry cache reader emReader will be ported to Maya and probably to Cinema 4D. Being a fairly unspectacular plugin, emReader is well suited for me to get familar with the different SDKs before porting more complex tools such as for example emPolygonizer4.
What are your thought’s on fabric engine? are you thinking of incorporating it in any of your products?
One only needs to check out the CVs of the Fabric Engine team to know that Fabric is something very special. Most of the team members are former Softimage developers such as Paul Doyle, Philip Taylor, Helge Mathee and last but not least Jerôme Couture-Gagnon, the guy who developed ICE.
I was lucky to get a personal crash course in Fabric from Helge Mathee while I was in Hamburg for a few days. Fabric is absolutely amazing and yes, I have been wanting to incorporating Fabric into my tools for quite a while now. The only thing that kept me from doing so was simply lack of time, but it will happen soon.
What are you up to right now that you can tell us, anything exiciting for the future releases?
At the moment I am mainly working on the release of emTopolizer2 as well as on a volume renderer that will be integrated in the upcoming emFluid5. A small collection of Arnold shaders that were developed during projects at Framestore and Polynoid should also be released this year. My point cloud renderer emRPC will also get some love: emRPC5 will be implemented as a real renderer soon.
Then, when all that is done, I would very much like to start an entirely new plugin. Perhaps a SPH solver or a tree generator, let’s see.
How do you see the future of Softimage?
That’s a tough question and I must admit that I haven’t given it much though. Softimage|3D, Softimage|XSI and now Softimage have been around for so long and I don’t see why that would change, i.e. its future will be at least as good as its past. Many talented people and studios have done amazing things with Softimage during the last years (just look at all the videos on softimage.tv) and – in spite of all the rumours – Autodesk is not trying to force Softimage into “retirement”, at least that is my impression. One can of course argue about how good or bad Autodesk treats our beloved Softimage, but to say that it will be “killed” is way out of proportions.
So what is the future of Softimage? Hard to say, really. I surprisingly often hear of studios, who do not use Softimage, saying something like this: “Yes, of course we know Softimage and ICE, it seems to be simply amazing. We would love to buy a few seats and integrate Softimage into our pipeline along with Maya / 3ds max / Cinema / etc. but will Softimage still be around in a couple of years?” This always puzzles me. If one simply extrapolates the last say five or seven years then Softimage will surely still be around in a couple of years! Haha, it seems as if I changed the original question into “Do you see a future for Softimage”. Well, yes, there is!
Interview by Cristobal Infante