Maya unravelled

Suzzanne Rebello outlines what's new in Maya 2010.
Analysis, Content production
Analysis, Content production
Autodesk has unified Maya Unlimited and Maya Complete in the 2010 vesion.
Autodesk has unified Maya Unlimited and Maya Complete in the 2010 vesion.
Analysis, Content production
2010 gives users access to the Maya Nucleus unified simulation framework and the first two fully integrated Nucleus simulation modules as well as Flui
2010 gives users access to the Maya Nucleus unified simulation framework and the first two fully integrated Nucleus simulation modules as well as Flui
Analysis, Content production
Suzanne Rebello
Suzanne Rebello

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3D artist Suzzanne Rebello takes us through some of the key features of Maya 2010, which combines some of the best of other apps acquired by Autodesk in recent years

When Autodesk brought Alias’ Maya and Softimage’s XSI, there was some talk about the company integrating its existing 3ds Max and the newly acquired software applications into one gigantic software. People even started calling it “Maxsima” or “Xsima”.

Fortunately, Autodesk has taken some good features out of each of the apps and shared them with each other to enrich users’ experience. At the same time, it has retained the uniqueness of each application to keep each of the individual software loyalists happy. In essence, though there has been an exchange of features between Max and Maya, the basic user interface and functionalities remain unchanged, and that is a relief.

In case of Maya 2010, Autodesk has unified the two titles, Maya Unlimited and Maya Complete. This has been received well, because it now has made some of the more advanced professional tools available to all users at a lower price thus encouraging commercial usage. The new users and learners might have to use their PLE (Personal Learning Edition) version for starters.

What’s New: Essentially, this version includes only a few new features and most of them are post production or rendering related. This includes some great camera tracking and rendering tools.

An overview of the new features

Toxik 2010: One special feature is Toxik 2010, the high performance compositor. Toxik which was Autodesk’s standalone application is now referred to as Maya Composite. It allows the artist to work interactively with visual media, regardless of bit-depth or image size. It also give the ability to export render passes as a pre-comp files from Maya, then generate and pre-visualise compositions in Maya Composite. Furthermore, it provides support for stereoscopic content creation and can import geometry using the FBX file format.

MatchMover 2010 - Professional camera tracking: Maya has always had Live which was quite widely used for matchmoving. The 2010 release has a MatchMover software that provides a much more advanced toolset for tracking, thus replacing the Maya Live module. You can extract accurate 3D camera and motion data from video and film sequences and then insert CG elements seamlessly into a scene using Autodesk MatchMover software.

A separate window allows you to track a sequence manually or automatically. When the process is completed, the MatchMover provides a series of tracked points as lines. These can be further simplified or tweaked and then exported to Maya as groups all placed under a few locators which can be accessed in the outliner.

MatchMover 2010 allows users to better map 3D imagery onto a scene, such as adding a 3D images to a 2D video. It can also generate a set of tracking points on an image to create a camera path as the video moves. This allows 3D objects to blend in seamlessly with a 2D video.

It’s fast and straightforward to use. Besides, there’s also a motion-capture module that allows the end user to capture data from a non-rigid bodies, such as humans, or cloth objects. Stereoscopic 3D imaging – With Stereoscopic being the next big thing for film post-production, Autodesk has updated its support in Maya.

You can take a collection of objects arranged in a suitable layout (such as near, middle and far positions from the viewpoint) and Select Create > Cameras > Stereo Camera, creating a camera with three fixed heads.

You can switch between different viewing modes, such as Horizontal Interlace or Anaglyph by selecting the Stereo viewing mode and adjusting the attributes of the cameras to fine-tune the stereo effect.

For example, you can increase the 3D effect by decreasing the Zero Parallax setting. This moves objects closer to the camera and lets you see more depth. The stereoscopic effect is most realistic when the Zero Parallax Plane is exactly situated between near and far objects in your scene. We have tested this extensively and it works beautifully.

Advanced simulation tools: 2010 has finally given access to the innovative Maya Nucleus unified simulation framework and the first two fully integrated Nucleus simulation modules (Maya nCloth and Maya nParticles) as well as Maya Fluid Effects, Maya Hair, and Maya Fur.

One of the benefits of the unified version of Maya is that the nParticles system is now available to all users. Based on Autodesk’s Nucleus technology, these make creating and tweaking realistic simulations of physical objects a breeze, quickly boosting the realism of your scene and minimising manual tweaking.

Maya 2010 offers more nParticles presets in the Visor, including interactions such as an egg cracking into a frying pan, a gas flame, jet exhaust trail, nParticle rain, nParticle and fluids interaction, and others that you can manipulate to fit your scene.

The descriptions in the Notes sections of the nParticles Attribute Editor tabs help you better understand how the effects in the example files were achieved.

Animation: In addition to the animation Layers, in which you could do several things such as create and blend multiple types of animation onto a model. eg: an animation of a walk with another of a jump – or create layers to organise new keyframe animation, or to keyframe on top of existing animation without overwriting the original curves, Maya 2010 now allows the end user to add constraints and expressions to animation layers.

Besides this, one can also use the Animation Layer Editor to drill down through the Hypergraph to identify the nodes that control the animation. Then you use the Expression editor to write an expression and connect it to the node you want to drive. You can use expressions to drive sophisticated layered animation.

The Visor window also features a new set of motion-capture example files. Switching to the Mocap Examples tab lets you import from the list directly onto a rigged character in Maya.

Export: Newly added support for the Autodesk FBX software file transfer technology helps make it possible for artists to transfer 3D scenes built in 3ds Max, Maya, and Softimage into Mudbox with greater portability and more data retained than was previously possible using the .OBJ file format.

This means greater productivity as artists no longer have to redo as much work.

Rendering Power

With five additional Mental ray for Batch rendering, you can now use a network of computers to render your sequences faster. The Backburner network render queue manager is also included with Maya 2010, to help manage the process.

The 2010 release has new image renderings, new filters, new texture maps, and several other updates.

There are also some improvements to existing tools. In addition, there is the new non-photorealistic render that makes your 3D objects look like drawings — an interesting effect to apply to an image.

I am a huge fan of Maya Paint on 3d so I particularly liked the new functionality where I can now use mirroring when doing texture painting. This saves a great deal of time and I can then use it to add more detailing.

Autodesk Digital Entertainment Creation Suite: This includes Autodesk MotionBuilder 2010 and Mudbox 2010. MotionBuilder 2010 is aimed at users of motion capture and 3D character animation. It specialises in rendering character movement and interaction with other objects. The new version adds several new features, including increased performance to the animation engine, and the ability for users to define their own keying groups.

The Ragdoll animation mixing feature allows the user to create character thresholds. This is very useful in simulating animation on varied surfaces. There are also improvements made to the Dynamic Joints system which allow for more realistic and fluid movement. Add dynamic joints into a character’s hair or tails and you will get a satisfactory flow of secondaries.

The New Pose Controls allow a user to record poses for any object in a given scene, which can then be reused for animations.

Mudbox 2010 focuses primarily on modelling objects and is comparable to moulding a character from clay.

This feature is similar to what ZBrush from Pixologic offers. It is a highly-advanced digital sculpting software that allows artists to mould 3D objects from digital clay, paint them in 3D, and add textures and effects to create photorealistic characters and objects.

OS REQUIREMENTS

* The 32-bit version of Maya 2010 will be supported on the Windows Vista Business (SP1), Windows XP Professional (SP2) and Apple Mac OS X 10.5.7 operating systems.
* The 64-bit version of Maya 2010 will be supported on the Windows Vista Business (SP1), Windows XP x64 Edition (SP2), Red Hat Enterprise Linux (5.3 WS) and Fedora 8 operating systems

Price

Price: Approx $4000.
The Suites provide artists and production facilities with access to a more complete range of creative tools at more than 35% cost savings, compared to purchasing each product individually. The new Maya Entertainment Creation Suite 2010 options allow for flexibility in tool choice and workflow for artists. It offers a complete CG pipeline system and is very cost effective for small to medium sized studios.

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