Sunday, May 4, 2014

New features in Maya 2015

It's that time of the year where Autodesk starts to announce all of the new stuff that's coming with the their next installment of all of their software. Maya has seen some really great changes that I'm excited to play with ranging from modeling and rigging to vfx and rendering. Some of the most exciting features are Bifrost and Viewport 2.0 finally being fully featured with all aspects of Maya!

Hit the jump for a breakdown and the video presentation that Autodesk released which demos all of these great new features.

Geodesic Voxel Binding

This feature is really fascinating. Basically Maya has a new skinning solution similar to its relatively new heat map solution without the constraint of watertight geometry. Basically it breaks down the mesh or collection of meshes when skinning and assigns weights in a more volumetric way. The results are evidently really favorable out the gate; more so than traditional methods. I will definitely be taking advantage of this!

XGen Arbitrary Primitive Generator

So this feature is another really fancy real time catch up to what used to be a long cumbersome process in developing follicle based hair. Basically it's all of the things you love about current gen hair development tools with more bells and whistles and an actual real time visual interface. Rather than needing to render out hair to get feedback on your work, you can now quickly recalculate your changes in the Maya viewport and see an accurate visual representation of your hair without needing to constantly render. It's awesome for iteration! You can also generate geometry to represent your hair in case you want to author cards for games or other real time applications.

Bifrost Procedural Effects Platform

This feature I think was the huge wow moment of the presentation. While Bifrost has been around, this implementation of Bifrost in Maya is really remarkable. I'm generally used to the Realflow to Maya workflow which is very time consuming, even though the results were great. Bifrost is still an independant tool outside of Maya but its output goes straight into Maya. There is no need to add a step to port your cached results back into Maya for rendering or general iteration within the scene. My favorite is that when Bifrost simulates, it does so outside of Maya. You can continue to work in your scene while you wait for the simulation to finish. I am absolutely going to take advantage of this feature! It's really impressive and significantly quicker than the solutions that I would use in the past. Being integrated into Maya also means rendering the simulation will be more straightforward as well since the resources to do so will be easier to follow. Another great side note is that this supports alembic cache so you can create cache files from previously generated geometry and bring it into Maya. This gives you incredible real time performance in the scene. Granted this isn't too different from bringing in cached meshes from Realflow, using alembic is great because you can also bring that same cache to other real time applications as well.


Bullet is another thing that isn't brand spanking new but looks great in Maya right now. With Viewport 2.0 performing really well in Maya 2015, you can see Bullet simulations run faster in the viewport as well as honestly any other geometry based animation. You can now cache all geometry updates to your GPU with Maya Viewport 2.0 which lets character animation and simulation run way faster in real time where it couldn't in the past. I love how stable bullet seems in Maya compared to all of its predecessors. The simulations also look really predictable and it doesn't take much to quickly get the behavior that you're aiming for. Collisions in the simulation also work really well with bullet.

Maya Viewport 2.0 particle support

I do not want this to fly under the radar. I love this feature a lot. So in the past, in order to get visual feedback on particle rendering that used advanced node set ups, you needed to do software renders. Viewport 2.0 is now fully featured which means that it fully supports particle rendering. This is a major leap forward for Maya in my opinion because now I can make all of the cool particle effects that I used to render with software rendering and tune my effects and my sprites in real time. Want to adjust your fractal node to have more detail? Want to add a ramp to filter your effect? You can now adjust the node in real time in your node editor and see the particle sprites update procedurally in real time from your viewport. Again this will still render in a software renderer but now your viewport representation will be way more faithful to the final effect. You can also create giant fog volumes in your scene to simulate atmospheric diffusion in the viewport. You can now adjust your fog and atmosphere without needing to do software renders. Honestly this full featured Viewport 2.0 drop is the biggest news of all for Maya 2015 as it allows Maya to have a solid foundation to implement these phenomenal real time or semi real time features.


So this feature was out for Maya 2014 LT but now it's integrated into Maya 2015 for everyone who didn't grab LT. I wrote a a past post about this feature here

Now you can set up advanced realtime fx shaders in Maya that could potentially be dropped into your game engine using this sophisticated node editor without dealing with the limitations of Maya LT.

If you want to see the video demonstration of all of these great features, here is the Youtube video that was released:

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