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Alias Opens SIGGRAPH With Big Maya 7 & MotionBuilder 7 Releases

Alias has lots to demonstrate and talk about at its SIGGRAPH 2005 booth #1312 at the Los Angeles Convention Center with the release of its Maya 7 and MotionBuilder 7 software packages.

Maya 7 builds upon the architecture and performance enhancements in Maya 6.5 with new and improved tools for fast, realistic character animation, streamlined modeling and texturing, stunning visual effects and increased productivity. It also incorporates Pixar's patented technology.

With the powerful new product features and the enhanced benefits of Maya Platinum Membership, including extended hotline access and improved response times, 3D professionals working in film, games, broadcast, digital publishing and design visualization are set to achieve more with the latest edition of this award-winning software.

"Maya 7 reflects our resolve to give artists the power to create groundbreaking computer graphics that tell better stories, enhance interactive experiences, and enable people to more accurately visualize products and designs," said Jill Ramsay, senior product manager for Maya. "We involved Maya users earlier and more extensively than ever before in our development process; the features and enhancements in this release have been guided by extensive feedback from leading studios and individuals worldwide. This is a must-have release."

A customer-driven feature of Maya 7 is a complete re-architecture of the Maya render layers functionality, so that multiple versions of objects, including materials, lights and cameras, as well as post processes such as Maya Fur and Maya Paint Effects, can now be managed in a single scene file.

"We have been an Alias customer for the past 13 years and in our opinion, Maya 7 is the biggest release we have ever seen," said Jonathan Brosseau, cto for Alpha Vision. "In the architectural visualization field, the 3D scenes tend to be very large and cumbersome, and we were truly blown away by the power and flexibility of the new Maya 7 render layer systems. Not only can we set specific attributes per layers on objects, shaders and lights, but we can also choose whatever renderer is required by a specific layer, all this within the same Maya scene. This makes it more convenient for us to use the power and continued integration of mental ray for Maya. Maya 7 is truly in another league."

Render layers can be rendered with any renderer integrated in Maya, streamlining the rendering process, as well as preparing renders for optimal output to the artists' compositor of choice, or to Adobe Photoshop or Macromedia Flash.

Maya 7 now also allows modelers, animators and technical directors to work on the same character simultaneously in a non-destructive way that maximizes productivity.

Maya 7 now incorporates Pixar technologies such as RenderMan and Pixar Subdivision Surface Patents. "We are very pleased to see Maya 7 using Pixar's patented technology, said Dana Batali, director of RenderMan product development at Pixar Animation Studios. This is very convenient for compatibility between Maya and our in-house tools, as well as a tremendous benefit for the many members of the Maya community who use Pixar's RenderMan, MTOR" and RenderMan for Maya products."

Games developers will find enhancements for their use, including Edge Loop and Edge Ring tools, UV unfolding, tri-planar and multi-mesh mapping, together with the inclusion of CgFX and ASHLI plug-ins, which allow hardware shaders for next-generation consoles to be previewed within Maya. Maya 7s new Surface Sampler utilizes normal mapping and other data transfer methods between models of differing resolutions.

"The surface sampler in Maya 7 is a major tool for us in generating next-gen console assets and the results have been outstanding," said Simon Kirk, technical artist at Eurocom, a U.K.-based game developer. "Not only is it handling our next-gen console requirements for high-quality normal maps, it is a great tool for baking textures back to low poly current-gen assets. Rock solid, fast and easy to use: who can ask for more?"

Alias' principal scientist Duncan Brinsmead, has developed an incredibly powerful new Toon Shader, leveraging Maya's Paint Effects to support a wide range of non-photorealistic rendering styles; it affords extensive control over line style, placement and width, and features interactive previews in near real-time of even the most complex scenes. In Maya Unlimited, Maya Hair can now be transplanted from one character to another, Maya Fur is now integrated with Maya's dynamic curve technology and Maya Fluid Effects benefits from a new High Detail solve mode for dramatically increased realism.

Maya 7 releases this month and pricing remains unchanged from Maya 6.5 - Maya Complete 7 is $1,999 and Maya Unlimited 7 is $6,999. Upgrade pricing from 6.5 is $899 for Maya Complete and $1,249 for Maya Unlimited. Both Maya Complete and Unlimited are available on the Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

MotionBuilder 7 software has newly extended character animation capabilities, improved interoperability with popular 3D packages and productivity enhancements for artists needing to rapidly produce high-volumes of quality animated content.

The new features of Alias MotionBuilder 7 complement the software's core technologies, including a realtime architecture; non-linear, non-destructive animation layering; and Story Timeline performance environment. "MotionBuilder 7 provides animators with the best character performance tools and motion editing functionality bar none," said Shai Hinitz, senior product manager for Alias MotionBuilder, mental ray and Maya. "With this release, we've continued our commitment to innovations in productivity and connectivity with the most popular 3D applications. MotionBuilder customers who also integrate our middleware solution Alias HumanIK into their pipeline, have the unique advantage of being able to create animation performances that are precisely matched in-game."

New character extensions and visual feedback on rigs give animators greater control over their character setups, as they are able to simultaneously pose or key a character as well as all attached extensions seamlessly. Visual feedback on the control rig allows animators to focus on the character in the viewer rather than checking controls on the side. In addition, there are a number of new character manipulation enhancements that ensure synchronization between characters and their controls.

"With character extensions and a host of other features, MotionBuilder 7 not only answers the call, but adds solutions to issues I didn't know I would have," says Gavan Knowlton, lead animator at GlyphX Games.

Alias MotionBuilder 7 now save and load character animation features that let animators rapidly transfer, repurpose and reuse animation clips with any character. It also has improved workflow and UI features, such as save reminder and incremental versioning streamline the animation process and minimize user downtime.

MotionBuilder's native file format, Alias FBX, allows for interoperability between 3D content creation applications, making it a complementary solution that can enhance any existing 3D production pipeline.

It also has advanced productivity capabilities, including Live Device Support for multi-stream motion capture devices, data mapping and asset management integration. Additional extensibility and customization tools include a realtime animation trigger system, Python scripting capabilities and the Alias Open Reality SDK allowing the creation of pipeline automation and workflow tools that streamline repetitive, time-consuming tasks.

"MotionBuilder and Maya have become important tools in our animation pipeline," said Stephen White, co-president of Naughty Dog. "We are very excited to see continued investment in MotionBuilder and look forward to even greater compatibility between these two excellent products."

Alias MotionBuilder 7 is available this month and pricing remains unchanged from MotionBuilder 6 - Alias MotionBuilder Pro 7 (node-locked) is $4,195 and Alias MotionBuilder Pro 7 (floating) is $4,795. For new Alias MotionBuilder Pro customers, the cost includes a one-year Platinum Membership subscription. Alias MotionBuilder Pro is available in node-lock and floating configurations for the Windows and Mac OS X platforms.

Alias ( develops software for the film and video, games, web, interactive media, industrial design, automotive, architecture and visualization markets. Alias is headquartered in Toronto with a custom development center in Santa Barbara with offices worldwide.