• 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.

  • 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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You can now work with multiple layers of animation. This allows any attribute to be animated on a separate layer, leading to a non-destructive workflow where layers can be blended, merged, grouped, nested in hierarchies and reordered to offer complex, multi-faceted animation. This is a major strength of MotionBuilder, which makes you wonder about its future as a separate product line.

For now, though, Maya can animate in a non-linear fashion, combining imported motion-capture data or retargeted animation cycles with hand-keyframed sequences, use the mute, solo and weight functions on individual layers to vary the output and experiment with multiple ‘takes’ of animation using a single scene.

You can also bake animation from layers, just as you can with other keyframe animation. Character rigging has been improved by the enhanced muscle and skin-deformation tools of Maya Muscle. This wasn’t loaded by default, but a trip to the plug-in manager provided us with a new menu. New features include realistic skin motion and behaviours such as wrinkling, jiggle and deformer-based collisions.

Maya nParticles is the second module built on the Nucleus simulation framework, able to simulate effects ranging from liquids, clouds and smoke to spray and dust. nParticles allow you to quickly apply liquid simulations, such as realistic pouring water and sloshing fluids in containers. You can also use constraints that make particles slide down a surface and apply particle interaction effects, such as marbles stretching and then splitting the material of a cloth bag.

Commonly used nParticles – such as water, balls and thick cloud – have presets and are already loaded with dynamic and rendering settings.Another shortcut, the Fill Object with Particles command, requires a single click to perform this task. nParticles shares a new Stickiness attribute with nCloth, allowing you to adjust the tendency of a nCloth object to stick to other Nucleus objects (including passive objects) when they collide.

An example could be nParticle mud splashing on to an nCloth coat and staying there.