Review: Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite Ultimate 2013
A number of enhancements to the HumanIK feature set help animators more easily take advantage of its powerful bipedal character rigging and animation tools: the ability to map and retarget HumanIK animation to and from a custom rigged character; a unified character context for increased usability; character views that can be customized to fit specific requirements; continuous rig alignment during manipulation and playback; and greater control over Roll Bone influences.
- ATOM – Finally Maya gets a proper animation management tool for exporting and managing animation including constraints, layers and curves. Maya has long needed a supported built-in tool for this and should replace the users default downloading of dkanim script.
- More nDynamics improvements with nHair will help out more complex character simulations since it will play nice with nCloth and nParticles.
- Heat Map skinning isn't new to 3d software but it is long overdue for Maya and will speed up the starting point for skinning characters. What I really like is that it supports the existing skin cluster features of limiting the number of max influxes, making it useable for game characters.
TIP: Setting the falloff of the heat map to something greater than 0.5 it should bind if you get an error in the first pass. A recommended value around 0.68 or so which gives better results to start with but your mileage may vary.
- Trax got an improvement for matching up separate clips of animation with some borrowed MotionBuilder story tool-like options but compared with Softimage and MotionBuilder and even 3ds Max the NLA tools in Maya are still limited. I hope that in the near future Trax becomes more like the Animation layer system and is a more seamless part of Maya.
Problems and cruft are still in here with a few gotchas including:
- Weight hammer crashes after using the new Heat Map skinning and defaults that don't seem to be helpful that plague otherwise very nice skinning tools.
- Users of the 2012 featured updates like DMM, Craft Director Studio and Nvidia’s PhysX plugins will find a frustrating issue as the plugins are not included in the installation. The PhysX plugin has been updated and released but you will have to download it from Nvidia.
- HIK has some bugs that still will cause problems for new users trying to get up to speed along with FBX file format problems that are all too much to go into here. Make sure you read the release notes for these tools so you are aware of the limitations. Some of these should be fixed in the next Service Pack Release.
- Forwards file compatibility has been removed to optimize performance of the file load time on scenes that have large dense data but it is already causing problems for artists so make sure you don't save over or create something in Maya 2013 that needs to be used on 2012.
MotionBuilder seems to have gotten extra love this year but a good deal of that comes from the shared tools that were improved across the suite. This isn't a bad thing but I am slightly disappointed that the actual motion capture side of the software like the Actor solver hasn't been touched when there are some much better ways to solve motion capture data these days. Anyone doing virtual production with it though will be very happy with the large number of improvements here. Let’s hope they spend the same amount of time improving the editing side of the software next time as they did for virtual cinema this year.