By Michael Burns | on December 15, 2008
Price When Reviewed: 1750 . 775 . 4350 . 1575
Pros: Animation layers; nParticles and enhancements to nCloth; Soft Selection and other modelling enhancements; improved UV workflow.
Cons: Nucleus, Fluid Effects and so on only available in the much pricier Unlimited version; no 64-bit Mac version.
Maya celebrates its tenth anniversary with the 2009 release, an event marked by enhancements across the board. Although some of these have popped up in other Autodesk tools before now.
For example, Maya’s modelling toolset gains true Soft Selection (below), a technique found in 3DS Max and Mudbox that allows you to sculpt smoothly by manipulating weighted selections of a mesh. Once the selection is created with the mouse (Select, Move, Rotate or Scale tool) and keyboard shortcuts (B), it can be moved, scaled and rotated.
Colour feedback indicates the size of the area affected and a much smoother transformation than normal is possible. The fall-off area of the effect (the strength and coverage of the selection’s influence) can be increased or decreased by holding B and the left and right mouse button, while the shape can be modified through the use of the Falloff curve.
It’s also possible to set the fall-off to affect multiple objects at the same time (setting it to have a global basis) such as deforming a row of teeth to match a jawline. By pressing ‘ on the keyboard and simultaneously dragging a component, you can also invoke a Tweak mode allowing you to quickly move components under the mouse regardless of whether you are currently using the Select tool, Move tool, Rotate tool or Scale tool. Soft selection also works well when used with symmetrical modelling – another key feature of Mudbox.
Modelling has been strengthened by the ability to merge two vertices on the same mesh together using the new Merge Vertex tool. Edge, face and vertex loop selection has been improved to let you select by double-clicking a single edge, or double-clicking an adjoining face or vertex respectively. Maya’s Move, Scale and Rotate tools now support reflection in world and object space, allowing you to work on two sides of a symmetrical model at the same time.
There are useful settings for softness, and you can preserve the seam to avoid moving components off the centre axis. When used in conjunction with Soft Selection, the model doesn’t need to be symmetrical for you to edit it reflectively. Also new is a much-needed option to preserve UVs when using the Rotate, Move or Scale tools, so you can transform components of a mesh without warping its texture. Other UV enhancements include the Smooth
UV tool, which can be used to relax or unfold an entire UV shell into the UV space. You can then use the same tool to fix small imperfections in the shell.