Maya Entertainment Creation Suite 2011 Review: Killer Productivity
The 2011 version of Mudbox was not left behind in this update, getting powerful new texture brushes, posing and skeleton tools along with Hotkeys or Maya, 3ds Max and Softimage users to speed up ease of use. Also some review tools have been added allowing for quick turntable animations and high resolution screen recording for both sharing techniques and providing video feedback.
The new bone and posing tools that are going to be great for collaboration between character modelers and rigging. A low-res mesh can have a skeleton added and skinned up, then handed off to Mudbox and detailed out, allowing the modeler to test the mesh as it deforms and hopeful catch issues early on before final rigging has been done and animation begun.
For those that still want a bit more streamlined version or are using a mix of older software, the Mudwalker plug-in is still available from http://www.mudboxhub.com/
One of the exciting features for 2011 is vector displacement for creating images to use as stamps and stencils, allowing not only up and down values but also curves and bends like horns and other cool twisted shapes. This lets modelers create libraries of images that can recreate complex shapes on to new models as if you had sculpted them out of the surface from scratch.
While these new vector displacement maps are really cool, they can't be used outside of Mudbox2011 for rendering by default. Enter Wayne Robson again and his amazing and free Vector displacement shader for mental ray. You can download the shader at http://www.psychocore.com/. There is a version for whatever application you have running mental ray like Maya, Max or Softimage.
Maya Entertainment Creation Suite 2011 is a great set of software that is hard to beat when bundled together like this. While not all the tools are perfect yet, the amount of features and improvements are worth the upgrade. Just for the time saved in sending files between the software will cover the cost. As more and more features are shared between the Autodesk software, using the right tool for the job becomes almost transparent and just about all artists know how important being in the creative flow is. Now you can stay there while jumping almost seamlessly between software and working faster than ever.
Brad Clark teaches the art and science of character rigging and is a mentor and co-founder at www.RiggingDojo.com.