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Maya 2015 - what to expect!


By Jahirul Amin

Web: http://www.autodesk.com (will open in new window)

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Date Added: 20th March 2014

Coming to UVs next, let's be honest, it's never been a barrel of laughs unwrapping characters in Maya. Luckily, the latest iteration of Maya has integrated Polygonal Design's new UV-unfold plug-in and supports UV tiling with multiple load methods, which makes it more compatible with packages such as MARI, Mudbox and ZBrush. You can even view the results of multiple UV tiles through one file, rather than having to blend multiple files together.

204_tid_Maya2015_OpenSubDiv_Support.jpg
 
With Open Subdiv, modelers can take full advantage of the technology used by companies such as Pixar

Viewport 2.0

Moving on to Viewport 2.0, taking advantage of the GPU, this will now be the default viewer in Maya and is fully equipped to view both particles and paint-effects. Mix this with Open Subdiv and the Ubershader, and you should now be able to get a very clear idea of what the final rendered image or the game asset will look like thanks to Viewport 2.0. The node-based Ubershader also allows you to compile out the code, ready to plug directly into a game engine. And with ShaderFX, the process of shader creation should be a doddle and more artist-friendly.


204_tid_Substance.jpg
 
Substances are multi-output and dynamic. The one file allows you to get diffuse, normal, AO, spec,
etc in one hit, and all are viewable in the Maya viewport

VFX

So now we come to the effects side of things, and I think we'll have to start with Bifröst. This new fluid simulation tool is the result of 2 to 3 years' development work by the original Naiad team and Autodesk.

The high-quality liquid authoring tool has been built from the core of Maya, but the technology itself has been created in a manner that allows it to be portable or even stand-alone. The coming together of Naiad technology and the visual programming language of ICE from Softimage form the user interface for Bifröst. The node-based graph allows both technical and artistic souls to get up and running very fast.

"The simulation solver for Bifröst is also a clever little thing in that it focuses its resources on the complex regions of the simulation rather than the
areas with little going on"


The development team has been focusing on pushing the GPU to allow for faster interaction with the fluids, and overall results demonstrate that it is twice as fast as Naiad. Over 6-million particles can be viewed in Viewport 2.0, you can render direct to mental ray or mesh out the simulation to other render engines, and you can also run multiple solvers in the background.

204_tid_Bifrost-screen-shot.jpg
 
The introduction of Bifröst should allow for a wider range of dynamic effects than ever before

The simulation solver for Bifröst is also a clever little thing in that it focuses its resources on the complex regions of the simulation rather than the areas with little going on. Thus you can reduce the number of extra simulations needed for a shot.

Let's take an example of a shot with a dolphin leaping out of calm water and jumping back in. In the past 2 simulations would have been combined to create the scene: a background simulation of water and a foreground simulation of a dolphin jumping. With Bifröst you could handle this with one simulation by letting the adaptive nature of Bifröst figure out where it needs to do its magic. I think it's safe to say, this will be a very welcome addition to Maya and the further development of Bifröst will be worth keeping an eye out for.

204_tid_Maya2015_Ptex_Support_MentalRay.jpg
 
With better support for Ptex in mental ray, you could start waving goodbye to the days of UVs

Sticking with the effects, further improvements have been made to the XGen Arbitary Primitive Generator. Developed by Disney and used on animated films such as Bolt, Tangled and Toy Story 3, the technology was first introduced in the Extension release of Maya 2014. This tool allows for the easy creation of hair, fur, feathers, plant life and more.

Styling and grooming is handled very intuitively and as you are dealing with instanced data, the results are very fast and the interaction is very snappy. In this latest iteration of XGen, the UI has been refined to make it more artist-friendly and it now plugs into Maya's Nucleus solver to create more interesting and elaborate effects.

204_tid_Maya2015_UV_Unfold3D.jpg
 
Just in case you did need to UV unwrap your characters, the new Unfold3D algorithm should make life easier

Lastly, we come to Bullet. This is now the rigid body solver in Maya and the updated UI should make it clearer for the user to figure out what is happening. Bullet is also accelerated by Open CL, allowing the user to create, view and edit simulations faster than ever before.


"Overall, this version looks and feels more complete, it's like it's been given a huge facelift, but still has the ability to smile"


The overall picture

So, could this be a release to look out for? From what I saw, I'd say very much so. This finally feels like a release of Maya that is moving in a more innovative direction. There is more happening in this release than a few additional tools here and there. It seems that a lot more thought has gone into this version, with an emphasis on trying to bring back some of the processes you may have gone to additional packages to perform.

204_tid_Unfold3D.jpg
 
The Unfold3D doing its magic: highlighting areas of compression and stretching

UV unwrapping is a prime example of this, as is creating hair in Maya. Therefore, transferring assets from one package to another will be less frequent, as will having to learn different interfaces or how to navigate in multiple packages. Overall, this version looks and feels more complete, it's like it's been given a huge facelift, but still has the ability to smile.

Related links

Maya overview
Maya extension
Ideas for Maya forum
Small Annoying Things to Fix in Maya forum
Check out FX Guide's feature on Bifrost
Watch this video on Geodesic Voxel Binding for Production Character Meshes

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