Autodesk Australia Maya 2008
- New polygon modelling tools; character animation and skinning enhancement; new nCloth capabilities; mental ray 3.6; Windows Vista support; improved hardware rendering
- Fairly steep learning curve, relatively expensive, high system requirements
Those starting from scratch with this complex suite of tools will face a steep learning curve, so a printed manual or learning reference would be a welcome addition for the price. However, the online help does seem more detailed with this version.
Price$ 1,995.00 (AUD)
The latter is another new menu option for working with bound characters, useful when you want to quickly and easily smooth areas of rough or discontinuous skin weighting. You can view the joints of a character's skeleton when carrying out this task by turning on the new Xray joint option in the Paint-Skin-Weights-Tool settings.
Repurposing attributes between bound characters is also possible. The bind pose of the attribute is retained, as it's dependent on the imported geometry. It's also now possible to create multiple bind poses for your skinned characters and bind your characters when their skeletons are not at their default poses.
Maya Unlimited has its own set of new features. New grooming tools include ramp attributes for controlling the shape of individual hair clumps and for tweaking the degree of attraction to the start curve along the length of the hair, for example making a hair stiffer at the follicle than at the tip. It's also possible to render Hair in mental ray Standalone. Fluid Dynamics has been enhanced for use on multi-processor workstations and Fur shadows are now more efficiently rendered in mental ray.
The most interesting features of Unlimited centre around the Nucleus solver. Introduced in Maya 8.5 this is an advanced system for adding dynamic animation to objects and scenes. nCloth is the first implementation of this technology, allowing nCloth duplicates of polygon mesh objects to respond to internal dynamic Nucleus forces such as wind and gravity.
This attribute is extended here with the introduction of controls for wind shadowing and wind noise (turbulence), both of which add non-uniform effects to the simulation. In addition there are now a range of simulation presets which when applied to the nCloth object give it the properties of material like rubber, burlap, or chain mail. After initial setup it's also now easier to edit which vertices of the nCloth are affected by constraints.
The standout features in previous Maya updates have tended to focus on increasing the feature set of Maya Unlimited, so it's good to see a significant investment being made in the features available in the more affordable Maya Complete. The further development of Nucleus is very welcome, however.
There's nothing groundbreaking here on the scale of version 8.5, but this build of Maya undoubtedly has a lot to offer VFX professionals and character animators.
With 3DS Max also owned by Autodesk, the equally full-featured Houdini from Side Effects is likely to be the closest commercial competitor. Houdini Master and Escape versions are both cheaper than the corresponding Maya versions, but they don't offer Mac support nor do they currently specify support for Windows Vista.
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