• Price When Reviewed: 3050 . 3815 . 850

  • Pros: pros: Toxik and Matchmover for comprehensive CG pipeline; stereoscopic workflow; mocap and nParticles in Visor; expression-driven animation layers.

  • Cons: Limited range of new features; Unified suite expensive for entry level users; Toxik needs facelift; more expensive for UK users.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

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Maya is one of the biggest guns in the Autodesk media and entertainment arsenal. It’s used on almost every feature film and most TV series to create visual effects and animation.

Compared to the raft of new additions in Maya 2009, this version might seem rather light in terms of groundbreaking features in the main package itself. What is new is the amalgamation of Maya Unlimited and Maya Complete into one unified product.

This is good news, in that previously many of Maya’s coolest features were reserved for the much more expensive Unlimited version. The downside for entry-level users is that pricing is now around £3,000 for the standalone product (more than the equivalent US dollar price).

This seems steep, until you consider that this buys you an advanced motion-tracking and matchmoving package, an advanced built-in compositing system, and the Backburner network render queue manager, bundled up in a single package.

Also included in the more expensive NLM version are five mental ray for Maya batch rendering nodes. The result is a fairly complete CG pipeline system in your Maya box.

Stereoscopic 3D imaging – the creation of films and other projects that appear 3D when viewed through special glasses – is the hottest topic in film post-production at the moment, so it’s no wonder that Autodesk has updated the support in Maya.

Maya really does makes short work of setting up in stereo – you just take a collection of objects arranged in a suitable layout (such as near, middle and far positions from the viewpoint) and Select Create > Cameras > Stereo Camera. This creates a camera with three fixed heads and opens some more options in the Panels menu.

You can switch between different viewing modes, such as Horizontal Interlace or Anaglyph by selecting the Stereo viewing mode and adjust the attributes of the cameras to fine-tune the stereo effect. For example, you can increase the 3D effect by decreasing the Zero Parallax setting. This moves objects closer to the camera and lets you see more depth.

The stereoscopic effect is most realistic when the Zero Parallax Plane is exactly situated between near and far objects in your scene.