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Autodesk Debuts Next-Gen Updates Across Key 3D Tools

Updates to Maya, 3ds Max, Bifrost, and Arnold enhance the user experience, optimizing collaboration and data sharing within VFX and animation creative teams.

Autodesk has just debuted updates to Maya, 3ds Max, Bifrost, and Arnold, adding next-gen workflows to help creative teams deliver high-quality VFX and animated content.

“Whether enhancing the user experience, simplifying virtual production workflows, integrating open standards, or empowering artists to manage complex projects, our goal is always to help artists and studios deliver incredible work that pushes the limits of what’s possible,” commented Eric Bourque, VP, Engineering. "Our latest updates to Maya, 3ds Max, Bifrost, and Arnold put robust tools and workflows, and the ability to collaborate and share data more seamlessly, into the hands of creative teams everywhere.”


The update adds more power to Maya’s animation, modeling, and rigging toolset. It includes a new integration with the visual programming environment, Bifrost.

  • Unreal Live Link for Maya: Stream animation data to Unreal in real-time with the Unreal Live Link plug-in, optimized for virtual production and game development.
  • Blue Pencil 2D Drawing Tools: Draw 2D sketches over scenes directly in the viewport in a clean and non-destructive way. Building on Maya’s Grease Pencil tool, this new toolset allows users to sketch poses over time, define motion arcs, mark up shots, and add annotations and comments for review.
  • Cached Playback Improvements: Provides faster scene playback support for the Jiggle deformer and Bullet solver.
  • Animation Performance Updates: The Evaluation Toolkit now includes a new Invisibility evaluation mode and a Reduce Graph Rebuild option for animation workflows. 
  • USD Across Maya’s Toolset: Integrates USD in Bifrost, allowing Maya to be used almost anywhere there’s a USD implementation in the pipeline. Improved support for USD in the Channel Box accelerates the editing process for layout and assembly, while the Attribute Editor makes it easier to distinguish between USD and Maya data. Manipulate large USD data sets faster with point snapping performance in the viewport, edit attributes while preserving changes with a new USD locking feature, isolate ‘select’ to focus on where work is being done in a scene, and visualize materials in the viewport with new MaterialX support.
  • Improved Boolean Workflows: Create and edit Boolean operations in fewer clicks with improvements to the Boolean node and options in the Boolean stack that make it easier to edit meshes live and preview changes in scenes. The Boolean toolset has also expanded with five new operations, providing further flexibility when generating complex shapes.
  • Upgraded Modeling Tools: Retopologize tool enhancements increase efficiency and faster manipulation of mesh compounds, and QuadDraw performance improvements.
  • Rigging Improvements: Rig with greater precision using a new Component Editor normalization option; enhancements to the Solidify, Morph, and Proximity Wrap deformers; improved deformer weight visualization; a new Manage Pins menu for UVPin and ProximityPin nodes which adds support for curves; and improved GPU override support.
  • An Enhanced User Experience: New to Maya? Get up and running faster with new interactive tutorials. Autodesk has also added a tablet API setting for pressure-sensitive pen tablets, Script Editor upgrades, and viewport support for unlimited lights. A faster rendering experience with the latest version of Arnold and updates to the Create VR immersive design tool further round out the release. 

Visit What’s New in Maya and check out the Maya Learning Channel to learn more about the latest updates. 

3ds Max

Updates include new support for glTF, flexible modeling tools, and productivity enhancements that save artist’s time.

  • gITF Support: Publish assets directly to gITF 2.0, the standard 3D format for web and online stores, while maintaining visual quality. New glTF Material Preview opens glTF assets in the viewport to accurately see how they will look when exported to different environments.
  • Retopology Tools 1.2: Process large and complex mesh data faster with a new pre-processing option in the ReForm retopology tools, allowing users to generate high-quality results without preparing meshes with modifiers. Update also makes it possible to propagate existing mesh data, such as Smoothing Groups, UVs, Normals, and Vertex color to the new Retopology mesh output. 
  • New Working Pivot Tools: New tools enhance modeling, animation, and rigging workflows, including tools to adjust the position and orientation of pivots, interactively realign axis orientation, easily add Pivot and Grid Helpers.
  • Autobackup Enhancements: Complete tasks with fewer disruptions via improvements to the Autobackup system and a new Autobackup toolbar in the default UI.
  • Faster Rendering Experience with Arnold: 3ds Max includes the latest version of Arnold, adding tools for handling complex projects, customizing pipelines, and delivering high-quality renders.
  • Occlude Selection Improvements: Generate occluded vertex, edge, or poly component selections faster, even on polygonal dense models of millions of triangles.
  • Smart Extrude: The Edit Poly modifier now includes the partial cut-through Smart Extrude union/subtraction functionality and support for cutting into non-planar quads and n-gons.
  • Unwrap UVW Keyboard Shortcuts: Create and manipulate UV data faster with new keyboard shortcuts in the Unwrap UVW modifier.
  • Compressed Scene File Save Performance: Compressed scene files now save twice as fast as before.
  • Python 3.9: 3ds Max now ships with Python 3.9.7.
  • Per Viewport Filtering Updates: Advanced users now have access to new functions in MAXScript for Per Viewport Filtering and can perform a multi-selection of items in the Per Viewport Filtering dialog.

Visit What’s New in 3ds Max for more information on these updates.


Updates to Bifrost’s procedural toolset enable artists to deliver lifelike VFX in less time. USD is now integrated, and enhancements to the Aero and MPM solvers simplify the creation of complex simulations.

  • Bifrost USD: Pixar’s Universal Scene Description (USD) is now integrated with Bifrost, allowing teams to apply Maya USD functionalities from traditional workflows to Bifrost USD for procedural workflows. Use USD data as inputs, author USD data as outputs, and automate the processing of USD data for next-generation production pipelines.
    • Low-Level Nodes: Almost any USD workflow can now be implemented and automated in Bifrost, as Bifrost’s USD low-level nodes are the USD API.
    • High-Level Compounds: Bifrost USD includes high-level compounds, which are useful for scattering and instancing, and perform common operations such as converting Bifrost data to USD and the reverse.
  • Aero Solver Enhancements: The Aero tool benefits from new field-mapping, scalability, and stability improvements.
  • MPM Solver Improvements: Simulate via enhanced MPM stability and MPM Cloth upgrades. Interpreted auto ports control tearing thresholds, allowing the use of fields or vertex data to mark areas that tear more easily.
  • Color Picker: More interactive controls with a new color picker tool, integrated with Color Management.
  • Slider Multi-Selection: Adjust multiple sliders simultaneously via multi-selection functionality.

Full details are available in the Bifrost release notes and in What’s New in Maya.


New tools for consistent, high-grade denoising, growing USD workflows, and optimized interactive rendering, let artists handle complex projects, customize their pipelines, and render fast.

  • OptiX 7 Denoiser: Render photoreal results on GPU with NVIDIA’s OptiX 7 Denoiser, which supports consistent denoising of multiple AOVs for compositing workflows.
  • Triplanar Shader: Project a texture from all six sides without using a UV map.
  • USD Enhancements: Handle instances more efficiently with improvements in the USD procedural and the Hydra Render Delegate, which now supports environment, background, and ramp shaders with linked colors.
  • Interactivity Improvements: Optimized user experience when interactively rendering a scene, including enhanced imagers and atmosphere shaders on GPU and CPU, and augmented interactive GPU rendering with fixed minimum frame rates when working with more complex scenes.

Visit What’s New in Arnold to learn more about the latest updates.

Newly updated Maya, 3ds Max, and Arnold are now available as standalone subscriptions or with the Autodesk Media & Entertainment Collection. Bifrost is available to download for free as an extension for Maya.

Source: Autodesk

Debbie Diamond Sarto's picture

Debbie Diamond Sarto is news editor at Animation World Network.