Design Visualization

Autodesk Maya 8.5 Unlimited (First Look Review)

30 Jun, 2007 By: Ron LaFon

Extraordinarily capable design and animation application boasts evolutionary changes.

Maya is an extraordinarily capable design and animation application that has been used for a wide array of professional-level still images, renderings and animations and to produce some of the remarkable effects in many popular movies.

With a product that has the depth and complexity of Maya Unlimited, a First Look review such as this one can only touch upon some of the highlights of what's new in this latest version. That said, Maya 8.5 boasts a number of evolutionary changes that improve workflow and development productivity, as well as new capabilities for character animation.

This release includes Maya Nucleus technology, which is a unified simulation framework that allows artists to create elements that interact—in a 3D animation—with other dynamic objects such as fluids, cloth or rigid bodies. The first module of Maya Nucleus is Maya nCloth. Maya nCloth enables cloth-on-cloth simulations that offer realistic movement. An air-pressure model lets users create an inflatable object with both internal and external pressure.

 Autodesk Maya 8.5 Unlimited
Autodesk Maya 8.5 Unlimited

The popular open-source Python scripting language is incorporated in Maya 8.5 to allow facility-specific custom script developing and plug-in prototyping that extends and automates Maya production pipelines. Python scripting does not replace MEL, Maya's native scripting language, but instead augments it. Although Python has the same deep level of integration with Maya that MEL has, it further enhances the creative control gained with Maya Nucleus, allowing developers new opportunities to manipulate, custom-ize and automate the software.

With Maya nCloth, the first module based on the Maya Nucleus solver, artists can quickly direct and control a range of simulations, including cloth and inflatable materials, in entirely new ways.
With Maya nCloth, the first module based on the Maya Nucleus solver, artists can quickly direct and control a range of simulations, including cloth and inflatable materials, in entirely new ways.

More physically accurate realizations of outdoor scenes are easier with Maya 8.5's new physical sun and physical sky shaders, which let users create photorealistic skies based on the position of the sun using the mental-ray rendering engine. New architectural and design shaders also are included for creating architecture-specific effects.

Autodesk Maya is available for a wide variety of platforms, including 32- and 64-bit Windows XP, 32-bit Mac OS X running on Intel-based Macintosh computers and PowerPC platforms and 32- and 64-bit Linux. I examined the 32-bit version of Auto-desk Maya 8.5 Unlimited running under Microsoft Windows XP. System requirements vary, depending upon the platform used, so for a more complete listing of system requirements, visit the Autodesk Web site at

Pricing for Maya 8.5 Unlimited is $6,999, with upgrades from Maya 8 Unlimited available for $1,249. Maya Complete is available for $1,999, with upgrades from Maya Complete 8 available for $899. Maya Unlimited has all the features of Maya Complete and adds professional-level tools such as Maya Fluid Effects, Maya nCloth, Maya Hair, Maya Fur and Maya Live.

Maya Unlimited is a powerful tool with great depth. Maya 8.5 offers artists enhanced creative control, enabling faster completion of complex animations and simulations. There's a good reason—actually a number of good reasons—why Maya is recognized as one of the top applications by professional users. Highly Recommended.

Ron LaFon, a contributing editor for Cadalyst, is a writer, editor and a computer graphics and electronic publishing specialist from Atlanta, Georgia. He is a principal at 3Bear Productions in Atlanta.

About the Author: Ron LaFon

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