Check out in-depth technical and production details of Forest Pack and RailClone, flagship 3D packages of iToo Software.
iToo Software is the 3D development company best known for creating Forest Pack and RailClone, two of the highest ranked plugins for Autodesk 3ds Max with a wide range of applications in Archviz, VFX and Games. iToosoft was Founded in 1999 in sunny Cádiz, by the sea in the south of Spain.
We talked with Jaime Parga, Marketing Manager, iToo Software for this exclusive interview.
Hi Jaime, thanks for joining us. Let us know about foundation and success of iToo Software.
Hi Amit, thank you for having us over and for giving us the chance to talk about our company. iToo Software was founded in Cádiz (southern Spain) in 1999 by two brothers, Carlos and Daniel Quintero. Even 19 years later, we remain a relatively small, agile and friendly company, with a team of just 8 people at the present.
The company was born out of necessity. Daniel and Carlos started out in the 3D industry working for a rendering company, and one of their early projects was to “paint” a golf course in Max, which at the time was still fairly new. At some point, after placing the umpteenth tree by hand, they couldn’t take it anymore and came up with a time-saving idea to alleviate their “suffering”: create a plugin to manage huge amounts of geometry without consuming computer resources. That was the moment when the guiding principles that still drive our products today were born.
We have been official Autodesk developers since we started way back at the turn of the millennium. In fact, the first release of Forest Pack was made public in 2000. RailClone first saw the light nearly 10 years later, but even then some of its founding ideas can be seen in the free Clone modifier that has been around now for nearly as long as Forest Pack.
Since the beginning, our aim has been to create parametric plugins that are easy to use and have nearly unlimited power. Therefore integration of both products with the most popular render engines in the industry was paramount. Only then could we enable the handling of huge polygon counts with a very low consumption of resources. We also offer free versions of both plugins, which can be used without limitations for any personal or commercial project. Although some features are disabled, many of them are identical to the Pro versions.
Archviz was and still remains the core of our client base, though we also see many interesting uses of both our tools, Forest Pack and RailClone, in other areas of the CG industry, including VFX, Animation and Gaming.
Discuss in brief regarding Forest Pack.
As we mentioned, Forest Pack was our first major plugin and we’re delighted that it has become such an essential tool for so many people. It’s now the most popular scattering plugin for 3ds Max and it’s grown from its humble origins as a way of solving the Carlos and Daniel’s golf course conundrum, into a complete solution for creating vast areas of any objects from trees and plants to buildings, crowds, aggregates, ground-cover, rocks and more.
Forest Pack uses advanced algorithms and native shaders for the main render engines, to create scenes with a huge number of objects and polygons, even with limited computer resources. Basically, if you can model it, Forest Pack can scatter it! There’s also a host of ways to control the look and distribution of objects. You can simulate natural distribution patterns use advanced mapping and randomisation tools, and fine-tune scatters with granular control over every aspect of the plugin.
We’re honoured that, besides being a standard in the Archviz niche, countless VFX studios now rely on Forest Pack’s production-tested algorithms and native shaders to render scenes with virtually unlimited numbers of objects and polygons, all without putting a strain on your PC or render farm.
And best of all if you want to join the ranks, as mentioned before, there is a free version of the plugin that can be used with no commercial limitations!
Discuss in brief regarding RailClone.
When it was released, RailClone introduced a unique approach to parametric modelling. There is nothing else quite like it in 3ds Max.
Custom meshes, defined by the user, are arrayed along splines according to a set of construction rules to create sophisticated procedural objects. If you think that sounds like a cloning tool, you’re right, but it’s so much more! It doesn’t just distribute object, it allows you to deform, control and randomise them in all kinds of sophisticated ways to create incredibly useful procedural models. Even better, it does this in a relatively simple and artist-friendly way compared to most other parametric modelling tools. It also maintains the instancing power of Forest Pack, so huge structures with ridiculous poly counts are made possible.
The new concept allows users to build complex realistic and crucially interactive structures for Architectural Visualization, Films and Games using a graph editor. We also include a growing library of macros and presets to help you get started, and we have loads of tutorials and examples to make it easy to learn and fast to use.
As well as with Forest Pack, we offer a free Lite version of the plugin to be tested without limitations.
Apart from 3ds Max, are you supporting any other software?
We have nothing to officially announce (yet), but we are interested in closing the loop for Archviz users. We get a lot of requests from Cinema 4D and SketchUp artists so we’re looking into the viability of a port. We’re also investigating expanding our VFX user base by moving into Maya.
These things are on our roadmap for the long term. In the short term, we’re examining how we can better support artists that use 3ds Max in conjunction with real-time engines. We’re pleased to say that Epic’s new Datasmith tool is able to export both Forest Pack and RailClone objects whilst maintaining instancing, and Unity’s FBX support makes similar things possible, if via a slightly more manual process.
The name ‘iToo’ is quite unique. What is the reason/motto behind it?
iToo was the nickname used by Carlos and Daniel in a demo scenes group back in 1995.
They were creating demos to participate in coding competitions. At that time by today’s standards the machines were really basic – PC 386 running at a only 16 Mhz – and despite this limitation, they were creating 3D graphics and effects in real time. This grounding was fundamental for the creation of a company, based on squeezing every last bit of performance out of your renders.
How Forest Pack and RailClone can be integrated into existing production pipeline of 3ds Max?
From the outset, it was essential that Forest Pack and RailClone worked with the most popular render engines so that integration into existing pipelines was as frictionless as possible. We do this in two ways, for those render engines like V-Ray that have a published SDK, we provide support natively. For other render engines like FStorm, Octane and Redshift, we provide our own SDK so that the renderer’s developers can add support for out tools themselves.
So far this strategy has been very successful with Forest Pack currently supported by over 12 renderers including V-Ray, V-Ray RT, Corona, FStorm, Octane, Maxwell, Redshift and soon Arnold. RailClone isn’t far behind.
For users that need to port content to real time, we’re pleased to announce that our SDK was also used by the Epic team in Datasmith to support the export of Forest Pack and RailClone objects to Unreal while retaining instancing. For large VFX pipelines, we’ve also added the ability to export scatter information in XML format for a wide variety of uses in advanced pipelines.
Our SDK is public, so anyone interested in developing complementary tools should get in touch and we’ll send them the details.
Let us know how iToo software was used for Indian mega blockbuster ‘Bahubali – The Beginning’.
Forest Pack was used extensively by Makuta VFX for Baahubali: The Beginning, and also in its sequel, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. It’s actually a good showcase to illustrate how Forest Pack can be used in feature film.
For example, there’s a sequence that features a large waterfall. Actually, that’s an understatement, it’s a massive waterfall standing at about 1.5km tall set amid lush green mountains, dense foliage and vegetation. The concept artists had created some amazing pre visualization, but without Forest Pack’s memory efficient instancing power it would have been an enormous – if not impossible – challenge for Makuta’s 3D artists to create them in 3D.
Set in the same location, there’s a section of the film nicknamed “The Tarzan Sequence” by Makuta’s artists. It was packed with huge trees, vines, a multitude of vegetation and thick carpets of moss, all carefully laid out. Using Forest Pack, Makuta’s artists started by laying out all of the base structures; from the detailed branches in the foreground to the gnarly trees at the back. From there they added more and more detail, exploiting Forest Pack’s ability to art-direct every aspect. For example, the branches are covered with 3D moss and the artists were able to carefully create natural variation and realism by controlling the direction, angle and elevation of growth. They also used numerous complex distribution maps to specify areas where they wanted a certain plant to grow or place specific items which would complement the shot.
Talking of distribution maps, they were also used to carefully scatter over 400 types of unique building and over 50 varieties of plant for the Mahishmati City scenes. This was not a small city either, at 10km long and 6km wide, it’s the size of San Marino! To achieve this, the artists at Makuta hand-painted 30 unique 10k distribution maps which were then fed into Forest Pack to distribute all the objects including houses, buildings, palaces, statues, schools, markets, factories, mills, canals, arenas, temples, towers, people of various class, standing and job description, horses, carts, elephants, camels, birds and more.
Share production credentials of Forest Pack and RailClone till now.
In the last few years, we’ve seen very high adoption, culminating in the positioning of Forest Pack as the number 1 plugin for 3ds Max and RailClone among the first 10 in the rankings of several media outlets including 3D World Magazine and 3D Artist. The cornerstone of this growth has been a marketing strategy based on user orientation, a solid road map for product development and a constant obsession with customer support service.
Our typical user profile ranges from freelancers to visualization studios and architecture studios. This allows us to have among our clients prominent names from the industry such as Bertrand Benoit, Peter Guthrie or Ronen Bekerman, Visualization studios such as The Boundary, MIR, Neoscape or Beauty & The Bit and the world’s leading architecture studios, Foster & Partners, Zaha Hadid or Sweco.
In addition, in recent years we have seen a resurgence of growth in the use of 3ds Max in the film and gaming industry, and it makes us proud to have our plugins in films as successful as Independence Day Resurgence (Luxx Studios), Rogue One (ILM) or game trailers like Mafia III and Titanfall (Blur Studios). Other major titles include The Absence of Eddy Table (Rune Spaans) and The Jungle Bunch (TAT Productions).
‘Ten Seconds Tips’ is very well maintained and informative. What are your other modes to provide software training?
Along with strong development, and a meticulous support system, training is the backbone of our company. We believe it is essential that our clients have sufficient resources available to answer all their questions about our plugins and learn new skills.
There is a wide offer of information channels on our website to get info about our products:
- Our most popular source of information is the Tutorials section, filtered by plugins and user level, including videos, scenes and models to practice.
- We also have some Case Studies based on actual customer projects.
- To talk to other users, our Forum is the best choice. If you’re a Pro user you can also get help from iToo Software staff here.
- And finally, the detailed documentation about each software at and knowledge base, to solve specific questions.
Besides, we believe that high-quality education for Forest Pack and RailClone is essential in preparing the next generation of artists for the rigours and changing demands of the CG Industry. We’re therefore keen in identifying key education centres and working with them to help implement our plugins into their curricula.
To facilitate this aim, we have developed an Educational Program which offers many advantages to both educational institutions who would like to add our tools to their existing offering, and those willing to become Authorised Training Centers (ATC).
What are your future goals?
At this moment we are focused on the release of Forest Pack 6, there is a beta already available and we expect the stable version to be released in a few weeks. In addition, we are kicking off The3dGarden, an exclusive range of high quality tree and foliage models designed to be fully integrated with Forest Pack.
But at the end, our main goal is to keep on having fun while providing the industry with great software 🙂
Thanks Jaime again for great insights of Forest Pack and RailClone, iToo Software. We wish you best luck with The3DGarden all other future endeavour.
Have a look at the image gallery of production works where Forest Pack and RailClone are used extensively for the perfect look and feel of the environment, rightly aligned with the script demand.