Alias announced today that its Maya software was the chief 3D animation technology and the only non-proprietary animation solution used to complete key characters and scenes in Star Wars: Episode IIIRevenge of the Sith. The 3D modeling and animation package was employed by Industrial Light & Magic’s animators to bring to the screen such fully digital characters as Yoda and the villainous General Grievous.
Sith contains 2,151 vfx shots, constitution roughly 90 minutes of digital animation. ILMs chief technology officer, Cliff Plumer, comments “One of ILM’s big breakthroughs with this movie is the level to which the digital characters engage the audience. The way they emote and interact with the live-action actors, often in epic battle scenes, is completely convincing.”
While Maya has been used at ILM for a number of years, it became the heart of a revamped pipeline for this latest Star Wars Installment. "The time we invested in integrating the software with our proprietary tools soon paid off,” notes Plumer. “Our animators found they could achieve their desired results very quickly with Maya: those results have allowed us to take digital characters, such as Yoda, to new heights.”
In addition to Yoda (173 shots) and General Grievous (84 shots), Maya aided in the creation of digital stunt doubles for Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker), Ian McDiarmid (Supreme Chancellor Palpatine) and Christopher Lee (Count Dooku).
One factor that influenced ILM to make the move to Maya was the software’s customizability. “We have a lot of animators here at ILM, most of whom have a specialty,” explains Shawn Kelly, one of 45 animators using Maya at the peak of production. “Using MEL [Maya Embedded Language] to customize Maya’s user interface, our technical directors were able to very quickly streamline our tasks. This let me concentrate on the performance of my characters, without having to think about the tools I was using.”
The Maya modeling and animation software earned Alias|Wavefront a Scientific and Technical Academy Award in 2003. The package is used heavily in the production of both live-action and animated feature films, as well as TV and video games. For more information, go to www.alias.com.