Maya Entertainment Creation Suite 2010 Review: New Flexibility
MotionBuilder 2010 has had some major improvements in this version, too, and having been part of the Alpha and Beta team for this version, it is exciting to see it finely released. I am very pleased with the updates, especially the enhanced physics and rag doll solvers. They now offer much more control over the solving of the rag doll. The match animation setting in the rag doll controls now lets you adjust how much you want to blend the physics and the existing animation for creating effects like making a flat walk motion adjust for terrain. More of the physics effects are now able to be animated, giving control over when the solver turns on for the characters for better events. The other new addition to physics in this release is the new physical joints, allowing artists to create chains, pony tails and the new joints even can be combined in to creating working car suspensions.
Meanwhile, the Pose tool allows for any object to have a pose stored for it now, not just characters. This was a big complaint in the past and thankfully has been fixed. Because they work for any object, now you do have to make sure of what you have selected when saving poses, compared to earlier versions that automatically set a pose for the active character. The other update is thumbnails: pose snapshots of the view to store with the pose allowing users to quickly see the pose without having to apply it. Note that if you want to save the poses out to share among your files, you need to tell MotionBuilder 2010 to "embed media" or the images will not save. While the pose tool is very powerful I hope in the future we get to have an extrenal referenced pose library instead of having it embedded right in the working file.
Rounding out the new features are the Custom key groups that allow animators to group any property of any object together so when one object gets a keyframe all the other objects do as well. If you have used Maya Character sets before, the new custom keying groups work like the good parts of them with none of the problems character sets cause. The other really great thing is that finally the Story tool has been sped up allowing for faster playback and larger non-linear edits without slowing the MotionBuilder realtime feedback to a crawl.
Of note to the technical artists and programmers, the python scripting in MotionBuilder has been improved with more access to the api functionality, improvements to the built in script editor and lots of good example scripts. While it is still not as robust as Maya, when it comes to script writing it has finely become accessible for artists that have scripted before and not just the programmers.
MotionBuilder can still be confusing for new users, but I believe the learning curve is getting shorter, thanks in part to increased effort from Autodesk to generate support content on their AREA website (http://area.autodesk.com), including new tutorials and more activity in the user forums. MotionBuilder is a very powerful and often under-utilized tool, but with more installed seats with the 2010 Suite, I hope to see the user community grow as the Maya one has.