NAB NEWS: Alias Busts Out Maya 6

Alias, a Silicon Graphics Inc. company, today announced Maya 6, the next version of its award-winning 3D animation and special effects software. The release is packed with literally hundreds of new features and enhancements requested by Maya users from both large and small companies working in film, broadcast, game development, digital publishing and visualization markets.

Chief among the new features are the new tools within Trax non-linear animation–the licensing of character animation technologies from House of Moves has already paid off in spades–allowing for new retargeting and redirection features that will definitely make animators lives easier. The retargeting feature allows for the application of movement data to different skeletons, so if you have a model of a human and a model of a dog you can apply the human motion to the motion of a dog in a few clicks.

Character animators can tap into the new Maya Hair toolset, featuring a dynamic curve simulation engine designed to enable long hair to be added to characters. The ability to braid, curl and style hair is integrated with the Maya dynamics engine, allowing for realistic hair movement with accurate collisions. In addition, the Maya Hair dynamic curves can be used anywhere NURBS curves are currently employed and lend themselves to other hair-like objects such as ropes, chains and wires.

Modeling improvements include the ability to produce a crackless polygon mesh from multi-surface NURBS, enhanced polygon beveling, a new polygon mirror cut option and workflow enhancements for Smooth Proxy. Also, a new Soft Modification tool and deformer allows users to move, scale and rotate a selection with customizable curve-based falloff.

According to Alias, Maya 6 is better equipped to add digital clothing to characters and to animate creatures with realistic fur. Artists using Maya Fur now have the option to render fur in mental ray for Maya, allowing them to take advantage of the integrated mental ray 3.3 renderer and to achieve effects involving reflections, refractions, global illumination and caustics.

New connectivity with Adobe Photoshop results in a streamlined workflow for using Maya and Photoshop together, and Windows, Linux and Mac OS X platform users can now take advantage of a new embedded web browser within the Maya panel.

Alias’ global customer services team is launching new Maya 6 self-paced Learning Tools and new services for maintenance customers. Learning Maya 6 | Foundation and Learning Maya 6 | Unlimited Features, available to purchase now at www.alias.com, are just two of dozens of Maya 6 Learning Tools that will be released over the next few months. Among the new maintenance services is an "Ask Alias" service that provides quick answers to technical questions using an online question and answer service.

One beta tester, The Mill 3D supervisor Rob van der Bragt, explained that Alias had indeed truly listened to its client base in order to develop this new release. It is so full of his (and his peers’) own input that Bragt spoke for not only himself but the industry when he said, “I officially request that you change the name to Rob’s version. I feel like it’s mine.”

Maya 6 is available via download on April 26, 2004, for Maya customers with full annual maintenance agreements. Maya Complete for the Windows, IRIX, Linux and Mac OS X operating systems is priced at $1,999 and includes modeling, rendering, animation, dynamics, Maya Artisan, Maya Paint Effects, mental ray for Maya and Maya Embedded Language (MEL), an open interface for programming and scripting. Maya Unlimited for the Windows, IRIX and Linux operating systems is priced at $6,999 and includes all features in Maya Complete along with Maya Hair, Maya Fluid Effects, Maya Fur, Maya Cloth and Maya Live. Maya 6 will be available for purchase in May 2004 through the Alias network of authorized resellers or online at www.alias.com. Version upgrades for Maya Complete are priced at $899 and for Maya Unlimited at $1,249.

Animation Magazine Online spoke with Alias president Doug Walker about the recent announcement that Accel-KKR will acquire Alias from SGI. Walker comments, "It was definitely a complex process because one of our main concerns was making sure SGI shareholders would receive maximum value. Our second goal was to make sure we partnered with a company that believed in our vision. So we looked at companies that might be strategic investors, like another hardware company, and we looked at financial investors. Accel-KKR is a financial investor that really believes 3D is going to be ubiquitious." According to Walker the process of coming to a deal that met everyone’s needs took nine months.