Autodesk has launched version 8.5 of its Maya 3D modelling, animation and rendering software. As well as running natively on both Intel- and PowerPC-based Macs (as a Universal Binary), the updated version introduces the Maya Nucleus unified simulation framework and adds support for Python scripting.

Maya Nucleus combines the various physical simulation engines within Maya into a framework where they can realistically interact with each other, according to Autodesk. Fluids, cloth and rigid bodies will react and move to pressure exerted on each other, with acces to built-in systems such as an air-pressure model that allows any geometry to create an inflatable object with internal and external pressure.

Maya 8.5 includes the first module of Maya Nucleus, Maya nCloth. This offers control over cloth, plastic, metal and other materials -- allowing believable cloth-on-cloth simulations with complex cloth collisions, such as a cape over a jacket, can be created more easily, according to Autodesk.

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Python scripting allows 3D artists familiar with the open-source programming language -- as used by other applications including NewTek LightWave -- to create scripts and plug-ins for Maya, without having to learn the suite

“Having Python support available in Autodesk Maya means we can leverage many of our existing tools directly within Maya," says Anders Langlands, R&D lead at The Moving Picture Company (MPC) and Maya 8.5 beta tester, commented. "Rather than having to write glue code to bind Maya to our pipeline. This allows us to develop new node and command plug-ins in a fraction of the time it would normally take using other solutions.”

Upgrading to Maya 8.5 from version 8 -- which was released back in August -- costs £599 for the standalone version of Maya Complete and £729 for the network version. Upgrades to Maya Unlimited 8.5 from version 8 costs £849 (standalone) or £999 (network).

Full standalone/network versions of Maya 8.5 cost £1,449/£2,179 for Maya Complete and £4,899/£5,899 for Maya Unlimited.