Autodesk has announced Autodesk Maya 2011, the latest version of its 3D animation software.

The new version features a new user interface, 3D editorial capability, and an enhanced skinning workflow. It runs on Intel Macs with OS X 10.6.2 or higher.

"Maya continues to help artists set new standards in entertainment with credits such as Avatar and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves," said Stig Gruman, Autodesk vice president of digital entertainment. "The 2011 release is a key milestone for Maya. With a new customizable UI and a new graphics architecture, Maya strengthens its position as a foundation for modern film and game pipelines. The innovative 3D editorial timeline helps communicate and validate the creative vision behind a project and enables previsualization and virtual moviemaking workflows for users."

Key new features include:

Redesigned user interface. Maya 2011 has a new look and feel that the company says is simpler to customize, featuring dockable elements and improved editors.

High performance core. The program features a redesigned graphics pipeline to deliver better performance for complex scenes and to improve the quality of the viewport feedback.

64-bit availability. Mac OS X users can access considerably more memory to handle larger and more complex scenes with the new 64-bit capability.

Accelerated 3D editorial. The software's new Camera Sequencer adds powerful multicamera editorial capabilities to facilitate pre-visualization and virtual moviemaking production with a Maya timeline.

Enhanced skinning workflow. Creating believable characters is easier with a new, dual quaternion option for smooth skinning, interactive volume binding, enhancements to the Paint Skin Weights tool, deformer weight mirroring, and surface falloff mode for the Wrap deformer.

Improved Maya composite. A new Vector Paint feature in Maya Composite improves its paint and rotoscoping capabilities. Now, animatable and trackable paint strokes can be used to paint colors and reveal or clone data across a sequence or on a per-frame basis.

From March 11-13, 2010, the Virtual GDC event on the AREA community site will feature Maya 2011 product demonstrations and customer presentations live from the Autodesk Game Developers Conference booth.

More information is also available on AREA blogs: Cory Mogk's Mayalicious, Steven Roselle's My Oh Maya!, and Duncan Brinsmead's Duncan's Corner. Videos of the new features are available on the Autodesk You Tube channel.

Maya 2011 will be available in English and Japanese in April 2010. A standalone license is $3,495, with an upgrade price of $1,745 from the 2010 version. Autodesk Subscription is available with the product or upgrade purchase for $595 per year. International pricing may vary.

The program will also be available as part of the Autodesk Maya Entertainment Creation Suite 2011. The Suite offers customers Maya 2011 with Autodesk Mudbox 2011 and Autodesk MotionBuilder 2011 software.