Blender - Softimage Mod Theme

Blender Softimage Theme (Softimage MOD Theme)

Posted on Posted in Blog

I recently started a Blender theme for Softimage users and the Softimage community as well as the Blender community, have been very supportive. I can only imagine how frustrating is to board a new software like Blender without help on it´s natural workflow, you can easily get lost in the interface, specially if you have to memorize an average of 100 shortcuts to make things run smoothly.

I´m creating this post with the aim to collect uniform feedback so we could agree on a better development for the Blender Softimage Theme (Softimage MOD theme). I didn´t want to name it otherwise considering Softimage MOD tool is still available from CNET (and yes, you can still use that one in 2017 with the exception of export restrictions and render). Softimage MOD tools on VALVE still has a healthy keyword seach on google and up to date can be associated with Blender´s Softimage MOD theme. In a social´s era, that is what we need to keep the hashtag #LongLiveSoftimage running.

There are two angles I want to present to you and this will better define our goals and aims:

The first model

Softimage MOD theme can be used with any version of Blender with native shortcut keys and it has an enhanced performance with the mouse interaction, elements and settings.
This approach has modified certain shortcut keys to avoid conflicts with Blender´s native shortcuts and functions, and has created new ones as alternatives to invoke special functions and menus. This is 80% cosmetics (colors, panels) and 20% modded keys and interaction.

Advantages: We can keep up with all versions of Blenders and this is quicker to develop and improve. Simply apply the theme, setup the keylayout, run your scene and you´re basically ready to start on Blender.

Disadvantages: I´m doing a lot of guessowork in the source code, and I´m reaching far deep into the Blender community to ask for stuff that should and could be improved. Blender 2.8 will bring new API and stuff that 2.79 is deprecating. We are not ready for newshortcut keys or alternative GUI calls. 🙁

The second model

Softimage MOD theme could be directly implemented into Blender to run as part of a distribution. This would require a dedicated GIT branch and some powerful approvals from the up floor (a.k.a the Blender Insititute). And the reason for that approval is because modded copies of Blender from “bad” people were being sold in certain countries as “new software” (2012-2015)  and they even trained people to cash in on those modded Blender version. That´s bad ethics. Deep and sad stuff. We don´t want that.

What we want is to add functionality to the code, implementing good workflow practices like we are accostumed on Softimage. People really needs to know that SI was a very friendly and intuitive program at the time. But now Pie menus, sculpting tools, alternative external input devices and data have grown over time so we want to take advantage on Blender´s core code with the speed and friendliness of Softimage. Core key functions will be overwritten and basically we would identify the software strenghts on each of it´s layouts immediately upon opening Blender.

Advantages: We can re-develop stuff from the ground up. The api in Blender is well documented and up to date. A dedicated GIT is needed and programmers could dig and KNOW what they are doing once we consolidate a team to do that. Basically we can re-write some of the source code to enhance Blender.

Disadvantages: Finding solid C++ programers to do this stuff for the love of art. Even if this gets funded through a Patreon account (most likely we would need to collect money monthly with goals) chances are that the more people in the programming crew the more this project could delay months until a stable install. Version 2,8 is just around the corner and new libraries (graphical and processor ones) will be implemented and all the effort would get lost or deprecated in branch 2.79.

Conclusions: Let´s start the debate! Please comment below on what is the best alternative to have an alternative open source software capable of Realtime viewport options, PBR native shaders and (soon enough) 2D animation tools for production ready. Thank you very much.



Softimage vs Blender
Please consider many of these workflows are already a standard as of 2017.


Finally here´s a quick demo on how this is working at the moment (poster pic is for a NPR contest here):


2017/11/2 – The only way you can “run” code is through a .py addon to create a “menu” or (T) list operator. You can then right click over it and assign it a keyboardshortcut. So far F(x) function keys and 0-9 on the main keyboards seem to do no damage to general Blender workflow. This is how you invoke custom code from a shortcut key.
2017/11/2 – Layers are invoked through numbers 1-0. I will remove this to special invoke several needed commands, including direct access to editing mesh since XCZ keys are RNAW. Link
2017/10/21-31 – I got involved on the process on how Blender´s UI takes decisitions to develop things for the next version: Mailing list, tasks, githubs, basically to know the ins and outs of why certain obtuse UIX design is happening.
2017/10/14 – Tackled the icon.svg set. Added code for Trex primitive and other necessary icons for UI.
2017/10/13 – Application template installed! Now you will choose XSI MOD theme from Splash screen (default behavior on Blender 2.8!)
2017/10/6 – Redesign UI icons.
2017/10/2-5 – Reset shortcut keys. “X” is binded in too many parameters internally to be rewired. Transform shortcuts reverted to Blender´s default.(A.k.a: Blender works that way, RNA-wired: RNAW).
2017/9/30 – Shader tree and nodes colors made to match XSI theme.
2017/9/27 – First test package for addon implemented. Keys, Layouts, Splash interaction works.
2017/9/21 – Softimage MOD splash screen added.
2017/9/20 – Testing cascading menus
2017/9/19 – Camera lens correspond to that of XSI
2017/9/18 – Shortcut layout X-C // V cannot be mapped.


10 thoughts on “Blender Softimage Theme (Softimage MOD Theme)

  1. It seems that having programmers implementing soft ui / ergonomy would be the way to go to provide a more cohesive user experience.
    Is there any link to download the Current theme?

    1. At the moment we only got superficial workflow going on with the UI. I got 2 programmers who are “looking” at the code
      right now. We have not decided to go onwards with this, since Blender 2.8 will revamp the entire UI.
      It is not possible to download the theme (yet). Stay tuned on this post in a couple of days. Subscribe to my site so
      you´ll get notified when it will be available. Cheers.

    2. Hi Roger, not yet as I am still coding stuff. Solving really basic stuff that no one understands why Blender behaves such and such manner. Making progress here on the *log* daily. Stay tuned!

    3. We definetly need to implement it on the main branch. But first test trials and beta testing with no experienced people (first timers) are giving excellent motivating results. Stayed tuned. We are near to release pre-final addon.

  2. I’m a long time blender user , I like the theme you’re doing, it very clean.
    If you do a fork of blender , you may need to maintain it for every new version of blender. As with the 2.49/2.5 switch with all the UI recode, it as taken a lot of version to get to the full 2.5 specs. I suspect it will be kind of the same with 2.8, it will take time a and a few versions to unleash the full 2.8 project targets.
    Every new version you’ll have to adapt your changes to stay up to date with current version of blender.

    I found that a bit sad because all the energy you’ll be investing in will be a bit lost . maybe you should consider joining actual blender UI team and work together to improve blender based on your experience. Not to make it look like XSI but to make something new, there is a lot of stuff to improve they just lack of people to do it.

    I know it’s a bit hard to change from one software to another, blender isn’t perfect but many choice follow an idea, don’t you think you’ll loose the big picture in the design by changing too much of it ?

    What about doing some tutorial series that can help adapt XSI user to blender ?

    just my 2 cents !

    1. I totally agree with you with helping UI changes and make tutos on how to make the best out of it. ATM there´s a lot going on my side of the field, but editing and voicing it´s at top priority on the development of the theme. I continually post picture progress and it´s definetly a huge time saver (commands re-arranged correctly). Cycles still kills my joy from time to time (too slow).
      Thank you for your feedback.

  3. I agree with Sozap. Adding Softimage sticky-key functionality to the base Blender development chain would be a HUGE upgrade -and then update some of the existing tools / interfaces just to bring them up to par in the areas that are lacking. For example, it still takes extra key/mouse presses (even with best practices) just to split an edgeloop in Blender (for example) and go right back into vertice editing for example when compared to Softimage. In software, because of sticky keys, you could be in any mode hold down the ] key cut a loop with one mouse click, and when you let go of ] you were back in the previous mode. That was a big part of the power of Soft, combined with hotkeys working as expected across different parts of the package and an overall well organized UI and more powerful tools (aka Softimages deformers are simply better than Blenders). No one except Houdini has anything as good as ICE and ICE is just easier to use than Houdini, bar none.

    If you are going to do this, people are going to have to learn Blender anyways, it would be better to just make Blender default better. I could add a laundry list of detailed examples if you are interested in doing the actual work.

    Knowing where blender’s weaknesses are vs. Softimage, it would be easier to just improve them than try to clone Softimage in Blender. But I am interested in helping you out / keeping a dialogue if that is useful for you. -best regards.

  4. Hi There
    I just found your topic on si-community. What a heavenly idea!
    I am XSI veteran with 18y+ experience. Killing XSI by autodesk was like chopping of my hands. I tried more packages, but in the end I was unable to find any of them which is so straightforward, simple, but robust, so well thought, logical.. Comparing anything to XSI results in confusion, and bitching about autodesk. Maya is unbelievable crap which can crash without even touching anything. They even tried to implement middle mouse click to repeat commands – no success. They are able to f*ck even such simple thing.
    Anyway. My biggest STOP for blender was redshift absence. But this was half year ago. Now I decided to give it a try. Looking at insanely growing community and tutorials availability, forced me to think, that this could be my weapon of choice. Recent Autodesk pricing changes just approved my point.
    So I started to mess around blender. You all know it – as soon as you touch some other tool than XSI, instantly you start to compare. We are all cursed by XSI. This means – all of us can see bottlenecks, and unnecessary workflow steps on other tools.
    The same is with blender.
    These are my initial notes:
    – The biggest issue on my list – switching from object mode to edit mode is OBSOLETE and UNNECESSARY. Absence of direct shortcuts to select objects (space), edges (E), points (T), and polygons (Y), is total workflow killer.
    – Selecting multiple objects and edit all at once – this is a must. Blender is unable to do it.
    – Temporal pivot with ALT key
    – Snapping with CTRL key
    – sticky keys!
    – viewport navigation like XSI

    Node editor looks great – because it functions like XSI :-).

    In my opinion, the most crucial things are objects manipulation /editing, and viewport navigation. If nothing more, just those things can make life with Blender easier.
    Of course, there is much more, like context menus, viewport shading, quick subdivision with +/-, selection (it is pure genius in XSI – as soon as you enter polygons/points/edges, there is no need to press “B” or something to start selecting.)

    Well, in the end replicating whole XSI behaviour in blender would be a dream… But I know you need to start somewhere. And I would suggest to start with things I mentioned above.
    I am not coder, so, possibly, I will be of no help for you. But I would very gladly doing testing, and reviewing for you.

    Again, if this will become true and functional, this would be the best thing for Blender which could happen.



    1. Thank you for your kind word. I have been documented every step I took on mimicking XSI into blender as much as it can. And people with no previous experience on BLENDER definetly could come into blender using XSIMOD theme and START WORKING. That has been my pivot point to apply for official certification to become a Blender trainer. I´ll let you know.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *