By Michael Burns | on October 16, 2009
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.
One of the benefits of the unified version of Maya is that the nParticles system is now available to all users. Based on Autodesk’s Nucleus technology, these make creating and tweaking realistic simulations of physical objects a breeze, quickly boosting the realism of your scene and minimizing manual tweaking.
Maya 2010 offers more nParticles presets in the Visor, including interactions such as an egg cracking into a frying pan, a gas flame, jet exhaust trail, nParticle rain, nParticle and fluids interaction, and others that you can manipulate to fit your scene.
It’s a useful learning resource too, as descriptions in the Notes sections of the nParticles Attribute Editor tabs help you better understand how the effects in the example files were achieved.
The highly useful Visor window also features a new set of motion-capture example files. Switching to the Mocap Examples tab lets you import from the list directly onto a rigged character in Maya.
Another addition is an online library of plant models. If you click Help > Download Vegetation, the Autodesk Seek web page launches on your default web browser. This provides a collection of vegetation scene files that you can download for free.
With content from xfrog, this is Autodesk’s answer to the plant-generation might of packages like e-on’s Vue. While it’s not a patch on the more specialised tools, Maya also offers plant brushes to create customised vegetation.
Animation Layers were a new addition for Maya 2009. These allow you to create and blend multiple types of animation onto a model – for example ‘mixing’ a walk with limb twists to create a dance – or create layers to organize new keyframe animation, or to keyframe on top of existing animation without overwriting the original curves.
Maya 2010 allows you to add constraints and expressions to animation layers – so you could use a sine wave to make limb twists move in time with a beat without the need for manual keyframing, for example.
You use the Animation Layer Editor to drill down through the Hypergraph to identify the nodes that control the animation. Then you use the Expression editor to write an expression and connect it to the node you want to drive. It’s a complex process, but once you’ve mastered it you can use expressions to drive sophisticated layered animation.