CoreCG, a New Zealand-based R&D company for the CG industry, has released MentalCore – a cross-platform plug-in designed to help artists work better with Autodesk Maya and Nvidia's mental ray rendering engine.

MentalCore was developed by supervising technical director Corey Frew at Auckland-based Oktobor Animation which is an animation studio for Nickelodeon series including the only-mildly irritating The Penguins of Madagascar. The company says that the release follows two years of extensive use at Oktobor Animation, and a year of beta testing by film, television and game companies.

MentalCore supports Maya 2011 and Maya 2012. It's features include a Render Globals Interface for quick access to all global settings and render passes; a node-based render pass system that eases linking to objects, materials and light; and a shader library  that lets users create desired looks with new material, texture and utility shaders.

Users can review render passes in the renderview without the memory overhead of rendering all other passes in one go; and there is support for ambient occlusion transparency. The Python API is designed to make it easy to integrate MentalCore into any pipeline.

"You can tell a great deal of time and thought went into MentalCore; it's a reliable product, with a great price tag, that can save studios both time and money," says Dominic Alderson, 3D supervisor and lead technical director at The Mill in London. "The ability to work across multiple scenes and carry your render setup with MentalCore makes life a breeze. I no longer have to build render layers over and over again or use custom scripts. It provides me with a better option for generating a clean, fast render pass system - allowing me to spend more time on creative development and less time fixing technicalities."

MentalCore costs US$189 (£120) for a node-locked licence, or a floating license for $199 (£127).