Review: Autodesk Maya 2011
Video editors, particularly those on the Mac, have a new camera sequencer and a 64-bit OS, to play with inside Maya
3D Editing with the Camera Sequencer
Hoping to better integrate the film and video editing process, the new Camera Sequencer in Maya 2011 improves productivity from storyboards to finished animation. It’s built like a video editor with a UI and tools that will remind you of standard editing packages. Though the main purpose of the new Camera Sequencer is to manage camera shots in Maya, it includes familiar video editing tools that let you import EDLs, along with all associated assets such as audio and timing, to more precisely manage framing, composition and timing. When finished, you can use Playblast to preview the animated sequence.
Maya’s new Camera Sequencer promises to boost the
video editing process by letting you import EDLs
from Final Cut or After Effects into Maya and
used to compose, frame and time camera shots.
Improved Character Animation
For those whose unenviable job is rigging characters for animation, Maya 2011 delivers welcomed help with new rigging tools, improved paint weighting, and integration with HumanIK. The new interactive skin binding tool quickly sets initial weights by adjusting handles on a volume manipulator that in turn adjusts bone influences. Once you finish initial weighting, you can now easily make refinements with the improved paint-weighting tools. And to prevent mesh kinks and twists in even the best rig Maya has a new dual quaternion skinning option that reduces unwanted artefacts.
Autodesk’s HumanIK solver, now integrated in Maya 2011, improves productivity by making it possible to repurpose existing character animation data. With the HumanIK solver you can transfer animation data, like motion capture information, from one character to another regardless of skeleton hierarchy, size and proportion differences. Once transferred the animation data can be edited non-destructively via animation layers and previewed.
Dynamics, another of Maya’s strong suites, has also been greatly improved. Maya Fluid Effects ships with new attributes like Self Attraction and Repulsion to reproduce fluid behaviors with high fidelity. And to improve performance the new Auto Resize option preserves memory by adjusting a simulation’s container as needed. Also new and notable are a slew of fluids lighting tools. For instance, new Shadow Diffusion manages light scattering and shadows, Light Type produces internal illumination and Light Brightness and Color control the intensity and hue of internal lighting.
Autodesk’s Nucleus Technology, the revolutionary technology introduced with nCloth in Maya 8.5 and nParticles in Maya 2009, has been updated in this release. You can now get your nParticles to emit fluids, creating a trail of smoke, for instance. The technology also has a few wonderful new attributes like per-particle rotations, collision ramps, surface tension and viscosity properties, which make it possible to create ultra-realistic fluids simulations. nCloth got a bit of a makeover, too, and now includes such tools as collide strength, a new Bend solver, and a Rest Length Scale tool to set cloth properties.
Other noteworthy improvements in Maya 2011 include improved assets management, new Paint Effects options, an enhanced UI based on the Qt framework shared by other Autodesk applications, better display of heavy scenes (many models and textures), advanced rendering options, including color management and support for HDR images in the Render view (as seen in the above image), and better integration with Mudbox. Overall, it’s a robust app that will make animating-and editing-in 3D that much easier.
Studio/monthly contributor Mike de la Flor creates medical and scientific illustrations and animations for a range of clients, including the University of Texas Medical School and Baylor College of Medicine. He is also the author of several how-to books and the recently released Digital Sculpting with Mudbox: Essential Tools and Techniques for Artists.