Alias has announced the next version of Maya, its 3D animation, modelling and rendering software. Maya 6 is packed with hundreds of new features and enhancements requested by Maya users, according to Alias.

Alias claims that the latest version includes advances in character creation and enhanced character animation capabilities, enhanced scene management and workflow improvements and better integration with other applications. For those wanting an independent low-down on Maya 6, Digit 74, on sale on 29 April in the UK, has an exclusive first review.

Character animation

Trax non-linear animation has been re-architected in Maya 6 and motion retargeting and motion redirection capabilities have been added allowing animators to re-purpose animation clips from a motion library.

A new Maya Hair toolset, featuring a dynamic curve simulation engine designed to enable long hair to be added to characters, has also been added. The Maya Hair dynamic curves represent a new entity that can be used anywhere NURBS curves are currently used.

Alias also claims that improvements in Maya Cloth streamline the process of creating character clothing; Maya Fur can now be rendered in mental ray for Maya, allowing reflections, refractions, global illumination and caustics to be applied.

Scene management and performance

To handle increasing levels of complexity, Alias claims to have made advances in performance and scene management. The company claims that the Smooth Proxy tool is up to 18 times faster and Subdivision Surface proxy manipulations are up to eight times faster.

For scene management, new file referencing, scene segmentation and shader organization features make it easier to handle larger data sets, according to Alias.

Improved integration

Alias claims to have added Adobe Photoshop integration - PSD files can be both read into Maya and written out from Maya, with automatically created connections to Layer Sets in Photoshop facilitating an iterative painting workflow. DDS and PNG file formats are both now supported in Maya 6 and full bi-directional support for Alias StudioTools and OpenFlight is also provided.

An embedded Web browser is now found in the Maya panel to allow artists to create and view interactive web pages containing Maya Embedded Language scripts in order to create a customized user interface or to manage assets and scene data.

Maya 6 is available for download from April 26 for Maya customers with current full annual maintenance agreements. Maya 6 will be available to purchase from May, priced at £1,499 plus VAT for Maya Complete or £4,899 plus VAT for Maya Unlimited. Version upgrades for Maya Complete are priced at £650 plus VAT and for Maya Unlimited at £900 plus VAT.