Alias Brings Out Maya 6 at NAB

Alias, a Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) company, has brought out the next version of its award-winning 3D animation and special effects software Maya 6, featuring hundreds of new features and enhancements requested by Maya users from both large and small organizations working in film, broadcast, game development, digital publishing and visualization markets. These developments can be seen at NAB in Alias suite #S111 at the Las Vegas Convention Center where Maya artists will conduct demos hourly.

The intense pace of Maya development continues and Maya 6 is proof of this, says Bob Bennett, gm, product management at Alias. Maya 6 is more flexible for artists and more powerful for developers than any previous release. It is the result of the largest 3D development team in the industry responding directly to customer requests in the many industries Alias serves.

The architecture of Trax non-linear animation has been redone in Maya 6. Motion retargeting and motion redirection capabilities have been added allowing animators a powerful new means to quickly re-purpose animation clips from a motion library on to any character of their choice.

The new Maya Hair toolset features a dynamic curve simulation engine designed to enable long hair to be added to characters. The ability to braid, curl and style hair is integrated with the Maya dynamics engine, allowing for strikingly realistic hair movement with accurate collisions. The Maya Hair dynamic curves represent a major new entity that can be used anywhere NURBS curves are currently used; as well as lending themselves to other hair-like objects such as ropes, chains and wires. This allows such advanced animation effects as dynamic character rigs and surfaces for example, providing dangling tail joint chains, or undulating underwater creatures.

The dynamic curves are an amazing aspect of the new hair system, said Matt Wood, head of 3D graphics for the U.K.-based production facility, 3sixty. On an upcoming ship-focused project we will need to make a lot of ropes tied to masts and such things. When I tried out the dynamic curves feature in Maya 6, the results were amazing, even on the first attempt. I just selected all the curves and made them dynamic that was it.

Maya 6 is now better equipped to add digital clothing to characters and to animate creatures with realistic fur. Visual feedback of Cloth stress, new stitching options, easier manipulation of Cloth Objects based on geometry, plus extensive new caching functionality including the ability to view, edit and blend between multiple caches, speed the creation and manipulation of realistic clothing and cloth effects. Artists using Maya Fur now have the option to render Fur in mental ray for Maya.

Maya 6 boasts a Smooth Proxy tool that is up to 18 times faster; Subdivision Surface proxy manipulations are now up to eight times faster. Outliner and Hypershade display performance are boosted and new tools including a lattice manipulator in the Graph Editor allow dense keyframe data to be easily edited.

Mac users will benefit from the conversion of Maya to a Mach-O application, allowing plug-in developers to use Xcode from the Apple Developer Tools, plus Maya software is rendering 20-50% faster times on the Mac now.

New connectivity with Adobes Photoshop results in a streamlined workflow for using Maya and Photoshop together in a tightly integrated way, resulting in an iterative painting workflow.

The javascript compatible browser allows artists to create and view interactive web pages that can contain Maya Embedded Language (MELÔ) scripts in the form of MEL URLs, providing an easy way to create a customized user interface or to manage assets and scene data.

Alias continues to provide new connections to Maya 6 features with support for the DDS and popular PNG file formats, along with updated support for AutoCAD 2004 DWG files and enhanced support for IGES files.

The new ability to apply deformers to particles brings greater control to the dynamics toolset, while in response to a popular request, Maya Paint Effects has been extended so that it can be used with polygon meshes, enhanced polygon beveling; a new polygon mirror cut option and workflow enhancements for Smooth Proxy.

Maya 6 features enhanced integration with mental ray, including IPR, the ability to render fur and volumetric fluid effects, image-based lighting, blurry reflections and refractions, contour rendering and easy access to native shaders. Version 6 offers four integrated rendering options: Hardware rendering, Vector rendering, mental ray and the native Maya Software renderer.

Alias global customer services team is launching new Maya 6 self-paced Learning Tools and new services for maintenance customers. Two new Learning Tools available to purchase now at www.alias.com, are Learning Maya 6|Foundation and Learning Maya 6|Unlimited Features. These are just two of dozens of Maya 6 Learning Tools that will be released over the next few months.

Upcoming DVDs, books and CDs include Maya Beginners Guides, DISCOVER MAYA|GRAPHICS IN MOTION and LEARNING MAYA 6|MODELING FOR ANIMATION, to name a few.

Maya 6 is available via download on April 26, 2004 for Maya customers with current full annual maintenance agreements. Maya Complete for the Windows, IRIX, Linux and Mac OS X operating systems, is priced at $1,999 and includes modeling, rendering, animation, dynamics, Maya Artisan, Maya Paint Effects, mental ray for Maya and Maya Embedded Language (MEL), an open interface for programming and scripting.

Maya Unlimited for the Windows, IRIX and Linux operating systems, is priced at $6,999 and includes all features in Maya Complete along with Maya Hair, Maya Fluid Effects, Maya Fur, Maya Cloth and Maya Live. Maya will be available to purchase in May 2004 through the Alias network of authorized resellers or online at: www.alias.com.

Version upgrades for Maya Complete are priced at $899 and for Maya Unlimited at $1,249.

Alias develops award-winning software, custom development and training solutions for the film and video, games, Web, interactive media, automotive, industrial design, education and visualization markets. Alias is a wholly-owned independent software company of SGI with headquarters in Toronto and a Custom Development Center in Santa Barbara, California.

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