Autodesk's Maya 2010 in Review

Last month Autodesk released Maya 2010 along with the rest of the Media and Entertainment applications. This Maya release is more about integration than new features, so I would say Maya 2010 is evolutionary rather than revolutionary (I can’t say anything about the other apps of the Media and Entertainment department since I haven’t spent too much time with them).

The biggest change in the Maya business model is that Autodesk dropped the Complete version, keeping only Maya Unlimited (which means you get all of the Nucleus modules and “Unlimited-only” features). They have also lowered the price, so now you have one Maya version for less money.

There are not many “new features” in the Maya core application. The first thing you will notice when you install Maya 2010 is the availability of 3 extra applications: Toxik 2010, MatchMover 2010, and Backburner.

Note: Toxik is also called Maya Composite by Autodesk representatives. That’s also how they were calling it when they unveiled it at SIGGRAPH this year. However, I’ll continue using the name Toxik for this review as that’s the name that appears when you launch the application.

Toxik is the well-known node-based compositor that Autodesk released a few years ago as a replacement for Combustion. Autodesk wanted to create a seamless workflow between your 3D application and your compositor. In Maya 2010 you can export a pre-composite into Toxik, so that Toxik will read, import your render passes, and assemble a composite automatically based on a pre-defined template.

 

 

You can also create your own pre-composite templates and use those inside Maya. For example, maybe you only want to use the diffuse, specular, AO and motion vectors pass. You can create your own template based on those passes, and whenever you use that template for your Maya renderers, Toxik will already know how to connect all those passes together.

 

 

MatchMover 2010 is a more than welcome replacement for the outdated Maya Live module (Maya Live had not been updated in years). MatchMover works similar to Boujou, solving your camera around features (tracking points) and then creating a camera path and a point cloud based on the tracking points it created. The tracking points are used to help you place your 3D objects inside your live-action plate.

You can send all this information to Maya and use it to build your scene. The file generated by MatchMover will include that point cloud as well as the live-action plate projected onto a camera imagePlane node, making it easy for you to work on your scene and props (or characters) placement.

 

 

Both of these applications were previously available as stand-alone apps. However, they now come bundled with Maya 2010. As a Maya user, I see this as a big advantage since it saves you from buying a third party compositing software or matchmoving application.

There are artists who will not just rush to use Toxik instead of their compositor of choice, so these bundled applications may not mean much to them.

The third application included in the Maya installer is Backburner. Bascally, Backburner is a network render manager meant to make your life easier when it comes to network rendering.

 

 

If you’ve used Mentalray Satellite before, you know how frustrating it can be to configure and use it for rendering. This is the reason why so many Maya users and facilities use third party network render managers as a replacement to Mentalray Satellite. Now that Backburner is the new render manager things should be different.

I’ve read comments on the Internet stating that Maya 2010 is basically Maya 2009 with bundled applications. The issue here is that Maya 2010 doesn’t include any revolutionary changes compared to Maya 2009.

There’s one minor but welcome addition to the animation layers system. You can now add constraints to an animation layer, which is going to be useful to those who use animation layers. In rendering, Maya can send data to Toxik, and another change is how to start a network render using Backburner.

Maya 2010 includes Mentalray core 3.7.53.5 (Maya 2009 includes version 3.7.1.26). I ran some render test on both versions and the results didn’t show any significant difference (they range from a few seconds to a couple of minutes).

Now that we’re seeing more and more real-time rendering solutions, and since Nvidia owns Mental Images (developers of Mentalray), I hope Mentalray will evolve into a fully featured GPU-accelerated renderer since a lot of technology is moving that way.

Note: on october 8, Mental images introduced Iray, a GPU-accelerated rendering solution. This new technology will be made available on Mentalray core 3.8 at no extra cost to existing customers and OEMs. I am not sure if it will be made available to Maya customers as some sort of update (like a Service Pack), though.

As you can guess, there aren’t any new Nucleus modules in Maya for this release. It is a shame, if you ask me, since Nucleus is such an impressive framework and I’m eagerly waiting for a Nucleus-based hair and fur generator for Maya, especially since Maya Fur hasn’t been updated in quite some time.

I always find myself delivering the bad news to Mac users about a 64bit release of Maya, since Maya 2010 for the Mac is still a 32bit application. If you ask me, I am inclined to think this is in part caused by Apple changing the development language so frequently these last years (although it did take some time for the developers to come up with a native 64bit application on Windows and Linux).

On the other hand, Mac users will still be able to run Toxik and MatchMover, as they are included on all the different platforms.

Autodesk has also released the “Autodesk Suites” of bundled applications. I was sent the Autodesk Maya Entertainment Creation Suite 2010 for review, which includes Maya 2010, Mudbox 2010 and MotionBuilder 2010. There’s also an Entertainment Creation Suite based on 3ds Max, as well as two Real-Time Animation suites (including MotionBuilder 2010 and either Maya 2010 or 3ds Max 2010).

 

 

As I said, Maya 2010 is about integration, so I’d say it’s evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Personally, I find the bundled applications to be more than welcome, but those who focus exclusively on the Maya core software may not find many reasons to upgrade.

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Editor's Note: Be sure to check out all the valuable resources available right here on Renderosity, for all your artistic endeavors, starting with the following related links:


Sergio Aris Rosa [nemirc], is Sr. Staff Writer for the Renderosity Front Page News. Sergio discusses on computer graphics software, animation techniques, and technology. He also hosts interviews with professionals in the animation and cinematography fields. You can follow him on Twitter, and if you want to see what he's up to you can visit his blog.

October 19, 2009

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Member Opinions:
By: nemirc on 10/21/09
I just wanted to share a quick note with you. Today 3DConnexion announced Maya 2010 support for their line of 3D mice. You can read the full press release in the Industry News forum.

By: jhustead on 10/22/09
Thanks for the nice review. It doesn't sound like that much has changed since the 2008 version which I currently own. One thing I do find interesting though is that Maya is now offering MudBox along with their package.

On a separate note I too look forward to the GPU based renders that will take so much work off of the CPU.

-James

By: nemirc on 10/22/09
Hello jhustead, you can check out my Maya 2009 review here: http://www.renderosity.com/news.php?viewStory=14370

I think it will help you see the differences between Maya 2010 and 2008 (which would be pretty much the same differences between 2009 and 2008)

By: Modulok on 10/23/09
Nice review, sergio!


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