Director 8.5 brought a powerful 3D engine
to the Web. What it didn’t bring was an effective way to create content for that engine. The idea was that the heavyweight 3D tools would produce add-ons that allow you to export their models. These could then be loaded into Director where they could be made into proper interactive worlds.
Alias|Wavefront Maya RTA is just such an add-on. It lets you create 3D Director cast members from almost any model, and include animation with them. It lets you set up interactivity between objects in your scene and the viewer, and lets you add sound events, sensors, and even HTML links all within Maya.
RTA doesn’t directly create finished Shockwave movies ready for the Internet – you still need a copy of Director to pull everything together and create the finished movie. However, the plug-in does export 3D objects and worlds complete with textures and animations. These can be imported straight into Director. It also creates the Lingo code (Directors’ internal programming language) that allows you to create interactivity within the 3D world. After that, the work you do in Director is generally very simple.
Once installed, RTA appears as a menu within Maya. From this, you can pick the Interaction Editor to set up relationships between the viewer and the objects in your scene. The Interaction Editor consists of Actions, Sensors, and Viewers. Each of these can be dragged-&-dropped into an empty workspace where you can quickly plug them together. This forms a flowchart of the the interactions in your production.
For example, you might have a toy train which, when clicked on, will drive around a track. You’d simply set up the animation as normal over a number of frames. Then you’d open the Interaction Editor, create an animation Action for the train object, specifying the number of frames, drop in a touch Sensor, and then plug the two together.
All this makes for a very robust and easy-to-use system. You can create quite complex sequences and animations, and see at a glance how they all fit together. Proximity sensors can be placed to allow events to be triggered by a viewer’s position, and sound Actions can be included. These Actions can
be arranged in 3D space in such a way as to give an impression of a real acoustic environment. What’s more, you can test all this in Maya – you don’t need to keep going back and forth between it and Director.
That said, there are limitations. There’s a lot that you can do in Maya that you can’t do in Director (advanced particle systems, volumetrics, dynamics, character animation – the list goes on). This is hardly Maya’s fault; but hopefully in future versions, Maya’s and Shockwave’s dynamics (the latter provided by Havok) will find some common ground.
The Interaction Editor is really a front end for
a few of Lingo’s possibilities – there’s nothing in it that you can’t do within Director itself if you’re a good programmer. If you are, you’ll benefit from the ability to use sensors set up in Maya to trigger more sophisticated Lingo code you’ve already written.
Working within Maya is much easier, but
the package would benefit from the ability to use variables and calculations, and tools to build greater intelligence and autonomy into 3D objects.