Maya Entertainment Creation Suite 2010 Review: New Flexibility
Mudbox 2010 is the first version of the software I have had a chance to really use, so while I am not an expert in the software, I was instantly comfortable with it. I have tried other sculpting software but the UI was a huge roadblock for just needing to quickly use it in production. Mudbox was not like that at all due its very clean UI and Maya like view controls I was up and running on it in just a few minutes. Even my 4-year-old wanted to try it and with little help from me was able to sculpt the primitive cow shape in to a pig using my Wacom tablet.
New for this 2010 release is the ability to send texture maps to and from Photoshop in UV space. An artist can export a Mudbox paint layer as a .PSD file to Photoshop and can be re-imported to Mudbox. A small addition I would have liked to see is support for basic image view of .PSD files in the Image Browser tool so you can see what you have exported. The other option is to export from the current view to .PSD and is a powerful and fast way to paint and project textures from the camera on to the mesh. This is a quick way to send out images for concept art paint over and touch-ups as well.
The 2010 version of Mudbox had a large focus on better pipeline integration. Like other Autodesk products, this centered on support for the FBX format for moving files in and out of Mudbox to 3D software. A new Software development kit has been created and as a result a new free plug-in from Wyane Robson was released called Mudwalker. It takes full advantage of these improvements to allow an artist to quickly move, with one button click back and forth between Mudbox and other 3D software. I figured this was a great time to test it out and it worked great. I could quickly move my model between Maya and Mudbox. My first test was to take a model started in Mudbox over to Maya 2010 to throw a few a non-linear deformers and lattices on the mesh to shape it with a bit more control and then send it back to Mudbox for more sculpting. This will make both modelers and character riggers having to setup blendshape targets do a happy dance because it is so fast.
Maya Entertainment Creation Suite 2010 is a great set of software that is worth the price of upgrading, and while on the surface the feature list is not as flashy as it has been, the focus on speed improvements and focus on workflow is a bigger benefit to artists and studios. Being able to animate in MotionBuilder and sculpt in Mudbox in realtime and have Maya as the central hub, tying all the assets together is a really powerful combination. The smaller commercial and vfx and game studios are going to benefit the most from the new tool bundle. Autodesk is taking steps in the right direction to help remove the limitations of tools on the artists and that is great news.
Brad Clark is a character art and technology consultant and co-founder of www.RiggingMentor.com, a new online training school for character technical directors. Find out more at http://www.linkedin.com/in/bclarkcghar.