Review: Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite Ultimate 2013
Ultimate Suites or Team of Superheroes?
Last year Autodesk launched the Premium suite that was built around either a Maya or a 3ds Max pipeline and now with the updated Ultimate suite we get both at the same time. I had a large project recently that required using all 3 (MotionBuilder, Maya and 3ds Max) software and having one suite would have been ideal.
Looking at the new Ultimate Suite, since I do use most of the software, I’m almost overwhelmed by the amount of choices on how to get a project done, though it is a nice problem to have. I do want to provide a word of caution. As much as I wish this release was the “best and most stable” ever there are some bugs and problems in the initial release and even with service packs. Some might potentially be show-stopping issues. I will temper this by saying that depending on the software or what type of pipeline you rely on, things could be just fine for you so as always test out your entire pipeline with the latest versions before diving in. Autodesk has become much more responsive about releasing fixes so even if there is a problem now it likely will be remedied soon. Software this large isn't easy to manage and users will always want one more thing or some new feature. For the most part this review will try to stay positive though I can't say I will the entire time.
The Suite does offer smarter hotykeys and a wider range of “send to” functions along with the really cool live linking of Maya and MotionBuilder for streaming animation. This can have big speed benefits for large projects or just a team that wants to leverage the best artist for the job regardless of software or project requirements. You could even send the MotionBuilder output across the network to Maya artist that can do reviews and not even be at the shoot.
Unification of tools like HIK and curve editors that started in the previous versions has been more fully realized in 2013. The HIK and characterization UI have had some large refinements done and interaction between MotionBuilder and Maya really shines and even interaction between 3ds Max, Maya and MotionBuilder has seen a large improvement. Now with the ability to export CAT rigs and have HIK rigs auto created in the other software, for my work that is a huge improvement.
We see once more another open source project and yet another Dynamics solution with the Bullet Physics engine being added to Maya and Softimage, but missing from 3ds Max oddly enough.
Softimage has added some nice looking crowd software called CrowdFX using ICE, allowing for some great control over lots of characters and a fast 1-click send to Maya. Crowd tools like this typically are never as integrated or fast as one would like but I think this changes with CrowdFX. Being created with ICE hopefully means this tool will be able to be easily expanded beyond the defaults. I am not going to cover much more of Softimage but much like the rest of the Autodesk software, it includes faster, more advanced viewports, streamlined and shared fcurve regimenting tools and even some menu name changes to continue the tool unification for animator’s. If you are an Animator, these updates combined with really nice Maya and now 3ds Max interaction and hotkey preferences make it extremely easy to get up to speed and happily animating in hours, not days. My last note on Softimage and a thought after looking over the suite, of the three main software packages Softimage has the most polished feel. With more and more new tools being built or integrated into the ICE system, it seems like it is getting faster and faster with each release and offers a more powerful base to expand upon than its more popular cousins Maya and 3ds Max but that is just a gut feeling.