Category Archives: News

With spring rolling into summer, this time of year is about graduations, outdoor cookouts, swimming pools and the summer movie season!

That’s why we’re proud to list the following blockbusters for summer 2013 that used SpeedTree®, with a link to each movie’s listing on IMDB.

SpeedTree - Summer 2013 movies

G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Star Trek Into Darkness
Iron Man 3

The Great Gatsby
White House Down
The Lone Ranger

Why did the special effects companies for all of these films choose SpeedTree? Get the details about SpeedTree Cinema and Studio, or download a 30-day free trial to try it for yourself.

We’re as excited as every other Trekkie to watch the new Star Trek Into Darkness movie, which opened yesterday in U.S. theaters. The movie’s special effects were lead by Industrial Light & Magic, who used SpeedTree® in some shots of the film (we may have more information to share about this later).

Click below to enjoy the trailer one last time before seeing the movie.

GDC 2013If you’re going to be in San Francisco next week, be sure visit to the IDV team in Booth #831 at GDC 2013 (March 27-29, Moscone Convention Center), where we’ll be debuting our new version of SpeedTree for Games.

Our just-released version 6.3 includes some important new features for game developers, including:

  • New Platform Support: Support of Sony Computer Entertainment’s recently-announced PlayStation®4 console and other new platforms
  • Tools-Only License Option: Availability of additional pricing configurations, including a tools-only licensing option for customers who don’t require the SpeedTree SDK
  • “Simplify” Feature: A new feature that quickly and easily creates low polygon models from high definition, cinema-quality models
  • “Mesh Wizard”: A new tool that aids the process of importing custom meshes for use as leaves, obstacles and more
  • Improved Exporters & Import Scripts:  Enhanced workflow of SpeedTree models into other software applications
  • Additional Enhancements:  Automatic computation of ambient occlusion upon “save”, double-click zoom and more

If you’re ready to take a look at the new version and have licensed v6.x, or are currently evaluating v6, v6.3 has already been added to your account.  Email me if you’re not sure about your license status, if you want to see our beta SDK support for the PS4, or have any other questions.  To schedule a meeting with us during the conference, fill out our contact form (be sure to select the check box about scheduling at meeting at GDC 2013).

“PlayStation” is a registered trademark of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.

Several games under development for the just-revealed PlayStation®4 will feature SpeedTree® for Games, and it was announced today that the game industry’s premier vegetation middleware fully supports the platform.

We’re really excited about the PS4’s system architecture. We welcomed the eight symmetric x86 cores with open arms, as I suspect most developers will. The abundant RAM, memory bandwidth, and modern AMD GPU means we can focus on bringing every SpeedTree feature over immediately instead of figuring out how we’re going to fit it all into an unfamiliar architecture.

There are some really great SpeedTree-powered PS4 titles under development and we can’t wait to tell you more about them. Stay tuned.

Read our official press release here.

Updated February 26, 2013

With the 2012 Oscars® now in the history books, it’s a good time to point out how SpeedTree® has played a part in several major productions recently recognized for excellence in visual effects. Check out the winning and nominated films/studios that have used SpeedTree to help create lifelike animated trees and vegetation on the big screen:

2012 Oscar winner for Best Visual Effects

Life of Pi (Fox 2000 Pictures presents a Haishang Films/Gil Netter Production)

Three Churches scene from "The Life of Pi"SpeedTree’s “speed” contributed efficiencies in the enhancing of natural vistas . . .

“Before SpeedTree, I was hand modeling all of my trees, which took an insanely long time.  Nothing can get you up and running, from pre-vis to the final shot, as fast as SpeedTree.”

Luke McDonald, Digital Effects Supervisor, Crazy Horse Effects

2012 Oscar nominee for Best Visual Effects

Snow White and the Huntsman (Produced by Roth Films & Universal Pictures)

Castle from "Snow White and the Huntsman"SpeedTree proved to be versatile and agile in the production of this film . . .

“SpeedTree enabled the team to address client feedback very swiftly in the period of final tweaks and changes.  SpeedTree fully delivered for us at ‘crunch time’.”

Rafael Morant, Digital Environments Supervisor, BlueBolt


VES (Visual Effects Society) 2013 nominee for Supporting Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program 

The Men Who Built America (Produced by Stephen David Entertainment)

Johnstown flood scene from "The Men Who Built America"SpeedTree was used to help depict the Johnstown flood presented in this History Channel series . . .

“SpeedTree became an integral part of our toolset . . . It saves our matte painters a lot of the hassle of extracting trees and plants from footage, and is indispensable for full 3D shots.”

Eran Dinur, VFX supervisor, Brainstorm Digital

In the coming months, you’ll be hearing more about SpeedTree’s role in visual effects for other major feature films. Suited for both large and modest production budgets, SpeedTree Studio/Cinema have become an increasingly popular choice for VFX studios around the world.

We’re pleased to share that fxphd, an online training school for post-production visual effects, and motion graphics, is now offering a course on several SpeedTree v6 animation products taught by the award-winning VFX supervisor at Brainstorm Digital, Eran Dinur.  fxphd logoThe course, PNT205: 3D Plants and Digital Environments, will guide participants working with SpeedTree and VFX software in basic concepts of animated tree and plant design as well as advanced procedural techniques.  Students will establish a solid modeling and 3D animation software foundation, and then focus on using Maya, Vue and Nuke together with SpeedTree.

Professor Dinur, recipient of an Emmy award, two VES awards and a recent VES nomination (for his work – with SpeedTree and other tools – on The History Channel’s The Men Who Built America), is an experienced SpeedTree user and brings a wealth of knowledge to the fxphd course.  “SpeedTree is a tremendously useful tool.  It saves matte painters a lot of the hassle of extracting trees and plants from footage, and is indispensable for full 3D shots,” Dinur said.

fxphd is a full professional training center, available online 24/7.  Each course in fxphd is run by a practicing VFX or editing professional.  Courses are made up of 10 weeks of classes of QuickTime movies.  fxphd co-founder John Montgomery said, “fxphd isn’t just about watching high level training movies in a vacuum. It’s also about interacting with your professor and other members.”  The professors of fxphd are each hand-picked for their expert knowledge in the field.  Upon finishing courses, students are given a certificate of completion, which can be given to prospective employers.

cmiVFX, which makes and markets detailed tutorials for visual effects artists around the world, has developed a 2-hour, 50-minute SpeedTree® tutorial for creating digital trees and forests.

“The days of using turtle equations for the sole purpose of creating branches and leaves are all but a memory when you have access to IDV’s SpeedTree Modeler,” cmiVFX notes at the tutorial web page. “cmiVFX has been the leader in 3D forest calculations for a decade using mathematical equations for growing trees. However, the times have changed . . . thanks to IDV’s SpeedTree Modeler.”

The video, created and narrated by cmiVFX founder Chris Maynard, comprises 14 chapters and covers everything from initial tree creation to working with other apps and assets in conjunction with SpeedTree, as well as the fine points of making exotic and alien trees.

Talking about the tutorial a few days ago, Mr. Maynard asserted that SpeedTree has driven a major shift in the industry’s approach to virtual vegetation. “SpeedTree has emerged as a crucial tool in the VFX pipeline for studios large and small,” he noted, “so we see a thorough instructional video as something the industry really needs.”

You can view the four-minute tutorial introduction online here. The complete tutorial is available under various terms to cmiVFX’s subscribers, or may be bought as a standalone product for $29.95.

The tutorial is entirely the creation and property of cmiVFX, and any questions about the product should be directed to cmiVFX at [email protected].

SpeedTree tutorial on cmiVFX

A few years ago, an artist at an animation firm in California was working on a major project and called my cell phone after hours to talk about SpeedTree®. I asked why he was interested in our software and his response surprised me: “You answer the phone,” he said.

Help button on keyboardDoesn’t everyone answer the phone? I wondered.

Apparently not. The artist explained that they’d been using another virtual tree product for years and had been trying for more than a week to get help from the developer, to no avail.

It’s a strange irony, in this day of automated call handling, online FAQs, chat, email and forums, that any customer or prospect would go more than a few hours without getting the help they need, especially when they’re ready to make a purchase. But it seems to be a pretty common problem in our industry. Recently, someone posted this to a competitor’s forum: “I’m trying to send you money right now but don’t know how – please call me!” Did he ever get an answer? Hard to say, but if a customer has to post to your forum to get your attention, that’s probably not a good sign.

We’re not perfect at SpeedTree, but in more than 10 years of selling our 3D tree/vegetation technology, we have always striven to reply within 24 hours (and usually, much sooner) to any inquiry, whether it’s our biggest customer with a new order, someone with a complicated technical question, or a high school student asking for academic pricing. And through the years, as we’ve talked to customers at trade shows and industry events, we’ve gotten the sense our support has been appreciated.

So why do we do it – are we just trying to be nice? Well, sure. But it’s also good for business. That artist I mentioned in the first paragraph? Turns out he was working on a little film called Avatar. And the rest, as they say, is history.

We’re excited to announce a new agreement with the Gnomon School of Visual Effects, one of the world’s leading schools for CG training, to make SpeedTree a key part of Gnomon’s training curriculum before the end of the year.

SpeedTree will be installed in the school’s computer labs, taught in its digital environment creation courses, and featured in a SpeedTree educational event at Gnomon’s Hollywood campus. IDV and Gnomon will also collaborate in the development of a SpeedTree DVD tutorial for the Gnomon Workshop, an online training resource for artists in the entertainment and design industries.

Gnomon School director, Alex Alvarez, recently shared his reasons for picking SpeedTree . . .

“Creating natural environments has become a passion that led me to SpeedTree’s powerful foliage modeling and animation tools. With its artist-friendly UI and integration with software platforms already featured in our curriculum, SpeedTree will be a great fit for us.”

Gnonom School logo

The Gnomon School of Visual Effects specializes in computer graphics training for careers in the entertainment industry. Gnomon was originally created to meet the training needs of industry artists, but has since evolved into a complete art school with programs and courses for those looking to become professional artists working on films and games. In March of 2011, Fast Company Magazine included Gnomon in its list of the 10 Most Innovative Companies in Film.

We’re always looking for opportunities to interact with CG artists and animators at IDV, which is what makes the Gnomon School such as natural fit for us. This relationship offers an ideal situation for us to support the game development and visual effects communities we serve, including the future users of our tools.

Logo for SIGGRAPH 2012In Los Angeles this week? If so, please pay a visit to the IDV team in Booth #244 at SIGGRAPH 2012 (August 7-9, Los Angeles Convention Center).  Not only does the world’s largest computer graphics conference promise to be better than ever this year, but this will also be the first time we’ve shown our new version of SpeedTree Cinema/Studio and SpeedTree for Games to the public!

We’re so thrilled about this product release that we’re offering a limited-time discount on SpeedTree Cinema and SpeedTree Studio v6.2, exclusively to qualified SIGGRAPH attendees who come to our booth at the show.

Why should you also be excited about SpeedTree Cinema/Studio v.6.2?  Here are some highlights of the new features . . .

  • Wind Wizard. Automatically computes wind parameters based on minimal guidance from the user
  • Property Categories. Category buttons appear at the top of the property for complex objects to speed up property editing
  • Simpler Mesh and Material Importing. Imports, creates, and assigns assets in one step any place where meshes and materials can be assigned to tree components; also, mesh and material import options added to “File” menu
  • Texture Conversion on Export. Converts textures to the format of your choosing during export
  • Screenshot Safe Frame. Rendering the “safe frame” for screen shots can now be enabled via the “Tree Window” properties. This feature shows the area that will be used on the next image or material export

Also appearing for the first time at SIGGRAPH, SpeedTree for Games v6.2 also features the new Wind Wizard, as well as the following . . .

  • Deferred rendering. Including multiple render target support in the Compiler, shader system, and SDK
  • Compiler Enhancements.  Featuring per-texture color balance controls for faster iterations
  • Faster Model Computations. Up to six times faster in the Modeler, mesh crawling algorithms up to three times faster, and leaf collision speeds up to 35 times faster – improvements which, combined with GUI and collection optimizations, make for an even more interactive experience
  • New Navigation Options.  Background image support, and viewport rendering options in the Modeler

The IDV team is primed and ready to demo all of these new features for the very first time on the show floor.  If you’re planning to be at SIGGRAPH, please take a few minutes to come see our latest and greatest software at Booth #244 (South Hall).