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Introducing Vortex Studio 2018c

I’m proud to announce the third Vortex Studio release of the year, Vortex Studio 2018c. It’s an unusually large release, bursting at the seams with upgrades and new features. We’ve done some significant work to our earthwork systems, built a powerful new parallel-processing solver, made upgrades to cables and vehicle systems, improved overall user experience, and much more.

Here are just a few of the highlights that we know our users will be excited to hear about:

Improvements to Real-time Soil Simulations

We’ve done a lot of work on upgrading the earthwork systems in this release, making a more realistic soil, in terms of both dynamics and graphics.


  • For soil particles, we’ve introduced a new cohesion model—one that is the first of its kind in the market. We now use a water-bridge representation to model the suction effects between interacting particles, for more realistic piling of cohesive soils like loam or clay. Buckets fill up naturally and more realistically, and wet soil piles form to proper repose angles.
  • The soil particle solver uses a single-precision floating-point format for both particle properties and time integration. This improves the solver performance due to improved cache locality and enables the use of single precision vector extension intrinsics, leading to even greater speed augmentations. In turn, more particles can be used for better simulation quality and visuals.
  • Graphically, earthworks are getting a new look with improved soil volume rendering, or Screen-Space Mesh (SSM). It is now possible to insert a noise overlay to reproduce rougher soil textures, and adjustable parameters allow tuning of the blur effects of the soil surface.
  • The rendering of the soil surface can now be shifted to make individual soil rock models more visible, which allows visualization of a wider variety of soil types. These changes provide more realism and make the soil visuals easier to tune for the right balance of performance and appearance.
  • Last but not least, the diggable zone of the earthwork systems now overlaps better with the surrounding terrain, providing cleaner visual transitions.

Powerful Dynamics Upgrades

On the dynamics side, Vortex Studio introduces a new parallel solver (patent pending) that allows calculations to be distributed across computing cores for increased real-time simulation performance. In particular, this will power significant performance increases in dynamically complex systems featuring many rigid bodies.

This is coupled with a new Solver Group extension that allows users to break up dynamics simulations into sub-groups (partitions), which is necessary to take full advantage of the parallel solver.

Vortex Studio 2018c

To make simulation optimization and debugging much more straightforward, two new tools have been introduced. The Partition Display, found in the Debug display menu, highlights the partitions in the 3D view while simulating, and indicates which rigid bodies are solved together. A new Solver Analytics panel shows how much time/effort the computer is spending on each constraint, for easier optimization of models.

Enhanced Vehicle and Cable Models

From a mechanical perspective, CM Labs worked hard to enhance both vehicle and cable systems in Vortex Studio 2018c.

Vortex Studio 2018c

The vehicle tire model has been updated to the Pacejka 2002 tire model, allowing for better simulation of hard ground-wheel interactions.

As well, to allow fine tuning to the individual wheel level, each wheel’s inertia can be set independently of geometry, allowing for more accurate simulation based on actual laboratory data or specific scenarios such as flat tires or damage to individual wheels.

As well, cables and hooks can now break with a snap-back or “whiplash” effect when under high tension. The energy is released quickly, making the broken cable or sling fly around in an unpredictable direction. Parameters exist to further tune the snap-back, allowing focused scenarios where the broken cable will fly toward a desired direction (or target!) and with a given strength.

This feature is mostly intended to simulate faults or defect in a cable or rigging — key for those involved in training for safety.

Technology Preview: PBR lighting model

We are proud to present our new Physically Based Rendering (PBR) lighting model. This matches the technology used in cutting-edge gaming engines, which uses Image Based Lighting (IBL) to capture light produced by the environment. This leads to highly realistic visuals, including reflections and indirect lighting.

The PBR feature is fully backward compatible. You can have both PBR-based and traditional specular-based graphics materials in the same scene, so no need to update existing 3D models (unless you want them to look much better and benefit from PBR). We can’t wait to hear your feedback on this one!

Vortex Studio 2018c

Note: This is a technology preview only. This is certainly a usable feature, but we’re working on adding the components required for a full PBR pipeline (dynamic IBL with local light probes, etc.).

Vortex Studio Setup

Last but certainly not least, the deployment, setup and updating of Vortex Studio has also been revised and simplified. We now provide a new stand-alone installation application called Vortex Setup for faster, simpler installation, and version updating. It includes a step-by-step installation wizard that allows users to select which software packages and libraries they wish to install.

Vortex Setup also allows simultaneous installation of Vortex Studio on multiple computers at once. This is a major time saver, especially with elaborate simulator set-ups consisting of dozens of computers.

As usual, there are many other minor improvements scattered throughout Vortex Studio 2018c to make designing more manageable and your simulations better. Refer to the release notes here to discover them all.

You can download Vortex Studio 2018c right now. If you have an active maintenance and support contract, upgrade for free –download the new Vortex Setup installer through your online account page.

Also, don’t forget to post your questions, feedback, or ideas on our Community forum!