Alias|Wavefront has begun shipping Maya 4, the latest release of the companys industry leading 3D animation and visual effects software suite. The new release boasts numerous enhancements and optimizations designed to improve the programs overall ease-of-use and efficiency, with particular focus on rendering, character animation, brush and paint tools and games related functionality. The new release includes enhanced functionality and usability in several key areas. Focused improvements have been made throughout Maya to upgrade the UI and streamline the production workflow. For example, users can now manage their workspace with one mouse click using the customizable panel layouts and toolbar controls. The new lasso select, snapping and alignment tool makes object placement much faster. Quick access to the expanded Maya Paint Effects brushes and the new shader library gives users a quick, efficient method of launching into production. According to the company, rendering improvements include selective use of the Intel Optimizing Compiler, resulting in an average performance gain of between 5% and 10% on Pentium III platforms. For ray tracing, subdivision surfaces and particles in heavier scenes, improvements average 15%. On the Pentium 4, the average performance gain for rendering increases to 15-20%. Enhancements to bump mapping, texture filtering and tessellation provide notable advances in image quality. Render passes have also been expanded for improved compositing integration. New enhancements in the Trax non-linear motion editing technology include time warping, character merging, drag and drop and character set editing. New character animation features include easy FK/IK switching, quaternion-based IK, motion trails and ghosting along with a powerful new Jiggle Deformer which automatically creates secondary "character fat/muscle wobble" animation without dynamics. The Maya Paint Effects technology has been streamlined and enhanced with multi-processor support for painting and rendering, new auto-paint functionality for filling large areas with ease, and 35 new preset brushes to complement the existing 400. Maya 4 introduces a completely new architecture that no longer depends on hardware overlays, thereby allowing users to choose from a broader selection of graphics cards. This new architecture also allows for attribute and 3D painting of subdivision surfaces, world-space reflection and image-based brush profiles. The program now includes significant enhancements for game developers, in areas such as polygon texture mapping and editing. Web 3D developers can use the Maya Shockwave 3D Exporter in addition to a number of Web plug-ins from third party development partners. Maya 4 ships immediately for the IRIX and Windows NT platforms; a Linux early access version will be available in July 2001. For more information visit www.aliaswavefront.com.