Maya Entertainment Creation Suite 2010 Review: New Flexibility
When Autodesk started gobbling up all the major 3D applications, waves of worry washed through the community of artists using those applications. Thankfully, the fears have been unfounded and instead of killing off products and making one new supper application, they improved the tools to work together better than ever through FBX file exchange, and continue to improve the core tools with great new features. The new Maya Entertainment Creation Suite 2010 options allow for flexibility in tool choice and workflow for artists and delivering less work for IT and accounting when it comes to licensing and installation.
Maya Entertainment Creation Suite 2010 gets you Maya, MotionBuilder and Mudbox all under one license and at a cheaper price (SRP of $4,995), which is a big deal for the smaller vfx and gaming studios. Most of the studios I have worked with had Max or Maya installed but also eventually needed to add MotionBuilder and Mudbox. Trying to get extra budget and IT time, in the middle of a project, for software was a barrier that has been removed with these new suites.
For Maya 2010, the biggest news is that it is no longer comes in two versions, Complete and Unlimited. Now all users have access to the amazing Nucleus tools nCloth, nParticles and Fluids, Hair and Fur. For users with Maya Unlimited already, this is not at all exciting, but for those users they added powerful Maya Composite HDR and Autodesk MatchMover software (replacing Maya Live) and five additional licenses of mental ray with Autodesk Backburner network render queue manager. Backburner previously shipped with 3ds Max and, while not perfect, it was great when having to quickly setup network renders since it was all ready installed on all the computers. Prior to Maya 2010, users were required to install third party rendering management software for this basic functionality so I am very happy to see this included.
Game studios might not have seen much value in the Maya Unlimited features with past versions, but having access to the Hair and nCloth tools for the character rigging and animation dept is a plus. They can be used to drive skeleton joint chains for really nice simulation of all kinds of things from capes to flags to antenna, tails, ropes and more, helping save on animation time and allowing for more visual detail for game and cinematic animations. Another new upgrade for animation layers is the ability to create constraints and expressions in to an animation layer. This allows for greater flexibility in both rigging and animation when dealing with character props or complex constraint switching setups and they can now be simplified with layer weight animation.
A note on this: it can be a little confusing to add the constraint because it is done through the constraint-option box and not by just adding the constraint node to the layer, it was not totally obvious the first time I tried it. Also, make sure to read the limitations for constraints on layers, as there are a few issues that still need to be resolved with exporting and adding additional targets.