Maya 8.5

PLAYING WITH FIRE

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Realistic computer-animated movie scenes have been around for years, but hair, water, and fire are still difficult for 3D programs to handle. The new Maya 8.5 stands above the crowd.

Hair waving in the breeze, a fluttering cloak, flickering flames – computer-generated images are not what come to mind first when you see realistic scenes like these. But professional 3D rendering and animation programs such as Maya, Photorealistic RenderMan, and 3ds Max are now more than capable of generating a realistic-looking blaze, simulating malleable materials such as cloth or rubber, or automatically calculating the behavior of fluids. Autodesk Maya 8.5 was released mid-January, with the Complete version at an asking price of US$ 1,999, and the Unlimited version setting buyers back US$ 6,999.

Many of the special effects that distinguish Maya from the free 3D program Blender, such as hair and cloth simulations, are available in the Maya Unlimited version only. The price of the Maya software restricts its use to professionals, which makes it all the more interesting to discover to what extent an open source application can keep up with the major players.

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