Best Buy
  • Price: 1449 . 659 . 4899 . 909

  • Company: Alias

  • Pros: Satellite rendering, better Final Gather performance and much improved IPR, all-round performance gains. Better file referencing implementation.

  • Cons: Interface can be slow at times – on OS X you have to restart the program periodically to regain performance.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10 We rate this 9 out of 10

Maya’s improvement continues with this latest release from Alias, though this .5 update is short of radical new features. Most of the boosts are to speed and performance. The most significant feature is the inclusion of Mental Images’ MentalRay 3.4 rendering engine. Alias have continued to refine the integration of MentalRay with Maya, and while it doesn’t quite match the synergy Softimage|XSI has with MentalRay, Alias has done a good job of getting the two programs to work together tightly.

The most exciting new feature in the new MentalRay implementation is Satellite rendering. Not only does this allow you to farm out a batch render to multiple CPUs over a network, it offers parallel processing of any MentalRay rendering you do inside Maya itself. As long as you have network render nodes available, as soon as you do a test render in Maya (including IPR) the load is spread across the network and delivered back to the Render View as if it was a normal local render.

The implementation is seamless. This is not farming out frames to different CPUs, but ‘buckets’ within a frame. Print designers using Maya for huge resolution stills can at last benefit from additional networked CPUs.

 border=0 />The number of CPUs that you can use is limited though, dependent on your license. Maya Complete comes with MentalRay rendering licenses for four local CPUs and two additional networked CPUs, while Maya Unlimited users can render on up to eight additional CPUs. So if you are a Maya Complete user with a few spare PCs or Macs lying about you can call them into service and potentially double your rendering speed.
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Installation and set-up of Satellite is simple. You need to install and run the Maya Satellite service on each networked machine and be able to connect to them from the main machine on which Maya is running. A special configuration file named maya.rayhosts is placed in Maya’s preferences folder with the names (or IP addresses) and port numbers of the render slaves. 
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When you initiate a render, Maya sends a request to the awaiting slaves who churn through the data and pass it back to the master machine. It’s a fantastic addition to the package.
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<b>Data slaves</b>
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More improvements come in the form of speed enhancements to various areas, such as Artisan and 3D painting, and various polygon operations including poly reduction. Soften/Harden polygons is still desperately slow, though, when compared to other 3D programs. Obj importing on Windows and saving of .mb files over a network is now faster. 
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The latter will be especially important to teams collaborating using Maya’s object referencing. This has been enhanced in Maya 6.5. The new system is more robust and less prone to problems when making or loading/unloading edits to complex referenced hierarchies.
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