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March 2010

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Page 45 of 47

A utodesk's rise to dominance in 3D content creation software contin- ues to mirror Adobe's success in 2D graphics. Among their latest releases, the Enter tainment Creation Suite bears resem- blance to Adobe's Creative Suites, except it doesn't offer the bountiful collection of tools one receives from Adobe. Only Mud- box and MotionBuilder are added to a base package of the Maya and 3DS Max Entertain- ment Creation Suites. Maya Entertainment Creation Suite 2010 best epitomizes the notion of a suite, as Maya itself now incorporates Maya Com- posite, also known as Toxik, and adds to the Maya Live tracking component with Match- Mover, formerly from RealViz. Both are standalone programs with the latter also available to 3DS Max users on subscription. MatchMover's inclusion is an industr y game changer. Under RealViz, MatchMover was a highly regarded $4,000 motion track- ing package comparable to Boujou, 3D Equalizer, PF Track or SynthEyes. Known for its manual tracking capabilities, combined with an easy-to-use interface, Maya users now have a more cost-effective, high-end solution than even SynthEyes. Toxik is perhaps the most surprising addi- tion; originally Autodesk's response to node tree compositors Fusion, Shake and Nuke. Now defunct outside of Maya, Toxik's inte- gration with Maya's Render Layer Manager makes it a logical inclusion. It's a convenient system, not only capable of reading render layers, Mental Ray passes and cameras straight from a Maya file, but also from a separately saved precomp file. Precomp scene anchors and instruction templates simplify updates to a composite even with different scene iterations. This co- hesion between Maya and Toxik, makes it a wor thwhile addition to the Maya family. Toxik's seamless collaborative capabilities only bolster this workflow. Maya Unlimited is also no more in 2010. Its plethora of simulation tools, from Fluid Effects to nCloth, are now available in a sin- gular Maya package, along with five addi- tional Mental Ray render nodes and Au- todesk's Backburner batch render system. Otherwise ver y little has changed since Maya 2009. Considering its haphazardly evolved interface, Maya's clutter is cer tainly in need of consolidation and streamlining. I'm a little disappointed this aspect did not receive at least some attention. Likewise with Maya's integration of Mental Ray, the poorest among its Au- todesk peers. Ridiculous six- or seven-digit light intensity ranges persist. Layered shaders don't depict the result of con- nected Mental Ray shaders in hypershade, severely hindering workflow as one may not realize an incorrect link was made in the connection editor until render time. More problematic when similar layered shaders are easily accomplished in a frac- tion of the time using other 3D software. Maya may offer more power and under- the-hood accessibility than its competitors, but a focus on usability has languished. It's a testament to Maya's original design and some brilliantly conceived interface features that manage to glue it all together. M U D B OX Mudbox however doesn't suffer from such interface deficiencies. Rather interface is Mudbox's greatest selling point. This third iteration of Mudbox is also far more efficient in handling complex geometry compared to its first release, bringing it closer to par with its chief 3D sculpting rival ZBrush. What first caught my attention about Mudbox was how easily the mesh resolution could be altered during the sculpting process. Shift D subdivides the geometry and Page Up or Page Down switches between subdivision levels. It's all extremely intuitive, and with Maya's navigation controls and camera book- marks, it's also second nature. Unlike Maya, numerous enhancements grace this latest version, from enhanced in- teroperability between Photoshop, Maya and 3DS Max to an API and increased undo suppor t. My favorite additions include two new brushes, dr y and clone. The for- mer allows painting relative to sculpted de- tails, so for example on a reptile, the tops of scales can be textured while the cracks remain untouched. The clone brush is in- dustr y standard and I was pleasantly sur- prised to see it could sample off reference images, though unfor tunately only when images overlay geometry. M OT I O N B U I L D E R MotionBuilder completes the suite. Its ro- bust character animation toolset allowed me to easily clean up motion capture data and create a librar y of motions. I impor ted an animated 3DS Max biped used on a previsu- alization project and continued animating with greater ease, especially in mixing foot- step-driven animation with other motion. I was then able to merge it back onto a biped in 3DS Max; an impressive unison. F I N A L T H O U G H T S MotionBuilder's standalone pricetag makes the Enter tainment Creation Suite an easy recommendation. Granted, I would like to see the suite expanded to accommodate tools that don't just skew toward character ar tists — Stitcher and ImageModeler per- haps,considering Autodesk's 2008 acquisition of RealViz's numerous technologies. But never before have we seen such an impressive array of visual effects tools in one bundle. 44 Post By OLIVER ZELLER Partner/Creative Director NAU New York V I T A L S T AT S R E V I E W Maya Entertainment Creation Suite 2010 An impressive array of visual effects tools in one bundle. PRODUCT: Autodesk's Maya Entertainment Creation Suite 2010 WEBSITE: PRICE: $4,995 · Toxik now included · Mudbox shines with enhancements · MatchMover's inclusion is a game changer

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