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Maya is a comprehensive 3D package and a professional tool. It is highly configurable, versatile, complete and expandable. It can produce jaw dropping results but all this greatness comes at a price. And I am not just talking about money, the biggest investment will be the time you will need to invest to master this program.
The concept behind the interface and work methods in Maya are extremely smart and the better you get with this program the more you start to appreciate the consistency of its design. To be able to use the application you will need to have some basic knowledge of how 3d works on the computer. But once you grasp the basic concepts, the degree of control you get over every aspect of your work is unparalleled by any other 3d package out there.
The tools and features in Maya are innumerable, and it is beyond the scope of this review to describe them all in detail. Therefore I will restrict myself to briefly discus the main categories. You can model with NURBS, polygons and subdivision surfaces. For all modeling methods, a construction history is kept, which afterwards can be altered. If, for example, you make a surface based on two curves, Maya will remember that the surface was constructed based on these two curves. If you change one of these curves later, the program will change the surface accordingly.
From basic object animation to advanced character animation, there is a wealth of tools and options. Every item and detail you create in Maya can be animated. To create an animation for your character you first create a skeleton and link this to the parts of your model. A new feature not found in previous installments allows you to define where the muscles go, how they deform during movement and how they affect the skin.
A wide range of different rendering options is available. You can render to vector formats. Or use mental ray to render photorealistic results using the latest rendering technologies. And if the included render options are not producing the results you are looking for, there is always the option to install one of the many third party render options available, which are specifically aimed at specific users like architects, game developers or web designers.
There are several options to customize tools or write your own. Mel is the embedded scripting language, which allows you to make macros or even write your own tools. If you are a programmer, you can use the c++ api to develop your own tools using your preferred c++ development environment, allowing for even more flexibility and tight integration with your production pipeline.
Maya comes in two versions: the complete package and the unlimited package. Unfortunately, Autodesk did choose not to continue providing the personal learning edition, which the former owner of Maya software, Alias, was providing for years to hobbyists and students for free. The unlimited package has everything the complete one has to offer plus modules for rendering and animating hair and fur, fluid effects, particles, clothes and syncing your animation to other video or film footage. Costing $7000, this package is only available to large studios with very big budgets.
Maya is one of the best 3d animation packages out there . You will not learn to use it overnight but there is a massive library of books and videos available to get you started. Unfortunately with the recent decision of Autodesk not to continue to make a free version for personal use available any more, it is only available for those with a considerable budget. For professionals the complete version is not cheap, but you get what you pay for. The unlimited package is overpriced and unless you are a Hollywood film producer, chances are you can live without the extra modules anyway.
- Very complete
- Extreme control over every aspect of your work
- Consistent interface
- Very customizable
- Premium price for normal customer support
- Discontinued support for the free learning edition