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Autodesk Unveils 2011 Lineup

On the eve of GDC in San Francisco, Autodesk Media & Entertainment announced its latest digital software in a virtual press conference hosted by Maurice Patel, entertainment industry manager, and Rob Hoffmann, senior product marketing manager.

On the eve of GDC in San Francisco, Autodesk Media & Entertainment announced its latest digital software in a virtual press conference hosted by Maurice Patel, entertainment industry manager, and Rob Hoffmann, senior product marketing manager.

The lineup includes:

Maya 2011, which boasts a new user interface based on Nokia Qt, a completely redesigned graphics pipeline, Mac OS X 64-bit availability, Accelerated 3D Editorial, offering a new Camera Sequencer for more powerful visualization, enhanced skinning workflow and improved Maya Composite.

3ds Max 2011, which now contains Slate, a new node-based material editor for easier visualization, Quicksilver hardware renderer, a new multithreaded rendering engine that utilizes both the CPU and GPU, the ability to view numerous texture maps in the viewport more interactively, extended Graphite modeling and Viewport Canvas toolset for 3D and 2D texture painting directly in the viewport and 3ds Max Composite, an HDRI-capable compositor based on Toxik.

Softimage 2011 features a Rendering Sandbox, which automatically hosts external shaders and renderers, ICE Kinematics, which aids creation of advanced rigging elements, Automated Lip-Synching in Face Robot, Rendering enhancements and 100 new ICE Compounds.

Mudbox 2011, which delivers new tools for helping deform and pose models, as well as new image adjustment brushes and blend modes for paint layers, Vector Displacement map extraction, the ability to create higher-quality Turntables and enhanced file transfer with Maya and Adobe Photoshop.

MotionBuilder 2011, offering improved interoperability with Maya 2011 and 3ds Max 2011, it now integrates more smoothly and reliably into production pipelines. Skinning and blendshape deformations are now calculated on the GPU for improved performance. The in-viewport experience is significantly more interactive, and playback is many times faster, further enhancing the software's capabilities as a realtime virtual production system.

Autodesk FBX 2011, which delivers better asset exchange technology and helps facilitate higher-fidelity data exchange between Autodesk software and certain third-party applications. The open format provides new support for additional third-party and proprietary applications. In addition, game developers using Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3 will be able to import FBX files directly into the Unreal Editor. And developers can now use the Python programming language to integrate FBX technology into pipelines not based on C++.

Autodesk HumanIK 4.5 Middleware, which improves ease of use with an artist friendly integration into the Unreal Engine and a Characterization plug-in for creating and validating characters in Maya.

Autodesk Kynapse 7 Middleware, which is easier to use with new pathdata generation, improved tuning and profiling, simplified integration and configuration, as well as off-the-shelf behaviors.

Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites 2011 bundle software at a 35% cost savings, with a choice of either Maya 2011 or 3ds Max 2011, and include MotionBuilder 2011 as well as Mudbox 2011.

In his overview, Hoffmann said, "The [new] user interface for Maya 2011, lets artists really enjoy consistent, enhanced user experience on all supported platforms, whether they're running on Windows, Linux or Mac OS 10. The updated user interface offers a fresh new look as well as dockable UI elements, more flexible editors and a new color chooser and file browser. We've also done a lot of work around accelerating the skinning workflow. The new skinning tools and workflow let artists create better skin characters with much more realistic deformations in less time. These include a dual quaternion option for smooth skinning, interactive volume binding as well as multiple enhancements to the paint skin weights tool… Animators can now quickly and reuse, correct and enhance motion capture and certain other animation data with a non-destructive retargeting workflow, which uses the Autodesk HumanIK libraries. Artists can transfer animation from one character to another and adjust retargeting parameters live to see and edit results without the need to rebake the content."

As for 3ds Max, Hoffmann said it now contains one of the biggest requested features, Slate, "a powerful new node-based material editor… Artists can also create high-fidelity previsualizations and animatics in less time with Quicksilver. It's a new innovative hardware renderer that provides a near production quality results up to 10 times faster than traditional rendering techniques. And this is all being done on common graphics cards. This is a new multi-threaded rendering engine that utilizes both the CPU as well as the GPU in the system. It supports alpha and Z buffer render elements, depth of field, motion blur, dynamic reflections, area, photometric, ambient occlusion and indirect lighting effects along with precision adaptive shadow maps, and the ability to render larger than screen resolutions."

Hoffmann added that Softimage 2011"introduces innovative new rendering and animation tools that help artists create more complex, high-quality characters and effects in less time. The software offers a new advanced shading architecture and editing environment and an innovative rigging paradigm with support for kinematics and ICE…"

Meanwhile, Patel summarized what Autodesk learned from AVATAR and how it is leveraging that experience in moving forward with its new software:"What we're seeing is that the demand for people to interact with the digital product is very, very important -- it's critical… People want to really be able to direct that process whether it's for a game or a movie or a TV program; they want to be hands-on and they want to be involved and immersed in that creative experience. Our strategy is to provide the technology that enables that. That means toolsets that are highly optimized for whether it's creating high-resolution models quickly and interactively through sculpting, whether it's realtime animation or whether it's focusing on middleware for direct integration of our upstream capabilities into the games' engines, we want to really to focus on making that as seamless and transparent for our customers as possible."

Maya 2011 is anticipated to be available in English and Japanese next month. The (SRP) for an Autodesk Maya 2011 stand-alone license is US$3,495. The SRP to upgrade from Maya 2010 stand-alone to Maya 2011 stand-alone is $1,745. Autodesk Subscription is available for purchase simultaneously with the product or upgrade purchase for $595 SRP per year.

3ds Max 2011, likewise, should be available in English next month, and Autodesk expects to announce Autodesk 3ds Max Design 2011 later this month. The Autodesk (SRP) for an Autodesk 3ds Max 2011 stand-alone license is US$3,495.The SRP to upgrade from either 3ds Max 2010 or 3ds Max Design 2010 stand-alone to 3ds Max 2011 stand-alone is $1,745.Autodesk Subscription is available for purchase simultaneously with the product or upgrade purchase for $495 SRP per year.

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