Software review: Maya Subscription Advantage Pack
This update to Maya 2012 adds new key features and claims to smooth data interchange, but are the additions novelties that could be obtained without a subscription? Florian Koebisch investigates…
Windows / Mac / Linux
- Alembic point caching
- Bullet physics
- New Node Editor
Autodesk has released the Maya 2012 Subscription Advantage Pack (SAP), which is a free update to Maya 2012 available to subscription customers only. This year’s SAP consists of three elements: Alembic, Bullet and a new Node Editor.
Alembic 1.0 was officially released at Siggraph 2011 and is an open-source data management framework, initially developed by Sony and ILM. (For more information on the framework, go to www.code.google.com/p/alembic.)
Alembic caches 3D animation as point cloud data, facilitating data exchange in a pipeline. Alembic can be used not only as a data exchange format, but also as an alternative cache format for particle or animation data inside Maya.
The implementation feels stable, and I was able to cache, import and export a variety of data without any problems. Although still a young technology, Alembic is becoming more important to the industry: there’s a need for a highly efficient (in terms of memory and disk space consumption) and reliable open-source data format to exchange data.
Boundaries between 3D and 2D departments are blurring with modern compositing systems and their strong 3D capabilities. Many 3D departments now use more than one piece of software on their projects, and interchanging animation data is often problematic; this is where Alembic can make things easier.
The Bullet plug-in is also based on open-source software (www.bulletphysics.org/wordpress), so Maya users without access to the SAP can look for alternatives such as the free Dynamica plug-in (available at www.code.google.com/p/dynamica). Bullet has OpenCL support. In the tests I ran, it felt very fast and stable, so it’s a good alternative to Maya’s original Rigid Body Dynamics Solver – or to nCloth, which is a great cloth system but not a real solution for rigid bodies.
Bullet and Alembic in action: the Bullet simulation of the collapsing structure was cached via Alembic
Unfortunately, there’s little or no documentation for Bullet in Maya Help – there was supposed to be an external help file in the Maya Program folder, but that was missing. It’s a mystery why Autodesk didn’t provide more detailed documentation on a complex bit of software like Bullet in Maya’s Help files.
The new Node Editor reminds you how nodes are connected and linked in Softimage, providing a more clearly laid out overview of the scene graph than any of Maya’s other editors. You get a better visual representation of the node’s connections and on what attributes to connect in a given scenario than ever before, offering new, more efficient and intuitive workflows. I would have been even happier if Autodesk had adapted the way nodes and connections are displayed in the Node Editor to the Hypershade and Hypergraph editors, but it missed that chance and the Node Editor is just one more in Maya’s cluttered UI.
The 2012 SAP provides features that are nice to have, but not much more. Alembic and Bullet are based on widely known open-source projects, so you can have these in Maya without the SAP. However, the Node Editor is a step forward, and it would be good to see that technology implemented in Maya’s other editors in future versions.
- Alembic support
- Good ideas for UI
- Simple Bullet RBDs
- Sloppy implementation
- Too much on top of old foundation
The Maya 2012 SAP is nice to have, but most of the novelties are items everyone could get without a subscription
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Florian Koebisch is a freelance TX TD. He’s mainly involved in commercials, as well as various German feature film productions and high-end industrial visualisation projects
Find out more about Maya at www.autodesk.co.uk
on Sunday, January 15th, 2012 at 5:23 pm under Applications, Reviews.
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Tags: Alembic, Autodesk, Bullet physics, Bullet plug-in, Maya 2012, open-source projects