Autodesk Maya 2016 has been out for a while now and I got to test drive it as part of my daily routine these past few months. This article covers some of my favorite feature highlights for theMaya 2016 release. There were a lot of changes, features and tweaks between Autodesk Maya 2015 and the new Autodesk Maya 2016. It was a major upgrade!
For those not already familiar, what is Autodesk Maya? In Autodesk's own words:
"Comprehensive 3D animation software. MayaÂ® 3D animation, modeling, simulation, and rendering software offers artists a comprehensive creative toolset. These tools provide a starting point to realize your vision in modeling, animation, lighting, and VFX."
Basically, Autodesk Maya is an application hub for 3D digital content creation. Whether you're making a high resolution 3D hero character for a multi-million dollar effects shot while working at Industrial Light & Magic, or an animated company logo, Maya is involved. Skilled artists withAutodesk Maya can model, animate, sculpt, light, render, simulate particles, rigid bodies, fluids, fur, hair, forests, do extensive scripting and automation and more. Autodesk Maya is not only a powerful tool, it also has a large, supportive community.
A new GUI Look
The most immediately noticeable feature in Autodesk Maya 2016 is the interface looks different. There's all the familiar tools and menus present, plus a few new ones, but they're clad in a newer subtle icon theme. Icons also appear beside their respective menu items in the drop-down menus and marking menus. Furthermore, there is now better support for Maya to work on high resolution displays.
Maya 2016 sports a new look and feel. Some menus have been combined and or renamed.
OpenSubdiv is an open source library originally written by Pixar to implement Catmull-Clark subdivision meshes. Last year with Autodesk Maya 2015 this became the default smoothing algorithm. OpenSubdiv is superior than the previous algorithms for several reasons, namely in that it is GPU accelerated. You can also interactively view certain types of displacements. This is all old news, as support for OpenSubdiv was added in Autodesk Maya 2015 but this year we got another big update...
Maya 2016 features OpenSubdiv real time, locally adaptive tessellation. You can enable this per object, or globally.
New in Autodesk Maya 2016, is real time locally adaptive OpenSubdiv tessellation. With this enabled, a mesh will dynamically adjust its tessellation based on camera angle and distance. This gives you automatic level of detail on a per face/vertex basis that is fully GPU accelerated and all you had to do is enable it. This will work on appropriate hardware supporting DirectX11or OpenGL 4. If you don't have a GPU that supports these APIs OpenSubdiv will fall back on its default non-locally adaptive behavior.
What does all this mean?
It means Autodesk Maya 2016 gives you real time, in viewport, high fidelity perfectly smoothmeshes no matter how close you get to your model. Due to the GPU acceleration, you get this with almost no performance penalty. OpenSubdiv adaptive tessellation works with viewport 2.0, as well as Maya's legacy default viewport renderer. However to actually see the dynamically updating tessellation in a wireframe-on-shaded fashion, you'll have to use the default quality viewport.
Don't be confused: Adaptive tessellation occurs and works in viewport 2.0 just fine, it's just you can't see the wireframe-on-shaded edges being used for the hardware render mesh. You can still see the wireframe of your object as you model, and the perfectly smooth mesh, it's just not theactual wireframe of the render mesh the GPU dynamically tessellating. So unless you're trying to make the following screenshot, this is totally a non-issue.
Maya 2016 features OpenSubdiv real time adaptive subdivision. You can enable this per object, or globally. You can only see the adaptive tessellation wireframe-on-shaded when using the legacy default viewport renderer.
Now, the down side is that OpenSubdiv adaptive tessellation is a real time only feature. It works beautifully when rendering in hardware through viewport 2.0, or even interactively during yourAutodesk Maya 2016 session, but once you render with something like Mental Ray theOpenSubdiv adaptive tessellation is ignored. For software rendering, you'll have to rely on the tessellation controls you already know and love. Mental Ray users of course could make use of the traditional Mental Ray approximation nodes if locally adaptive behavior was required.
For working interactively in Autodesk Maya 2016 - it's amazing! You get infinite resolution essentially free. The best part is that it's a perfectly smooth interpolation as it subdivides. There's no blocky popping as you would have with a naive algorithm or more traditional mesh swapping LODs. Finally, it works correctly with your textures just like it should. Truly awesome feature!
Hotkey editor overhauled
Autodesk Maya 2016 features a completely new hotkey editor. It's definitely an improvement! My only complaint is that I would have loved to have been able to right-click, or double-click the on-screen-keyboard to assigned or to modify things. At present, the on-screen keyboard just shows you that a particular key combination is assigned and what it is, but it doesn't let you directly edit it.
Instead, you edit hotkeys by navigating the list on the left to assign functionality to a hotkey combination. This is easy but I just expected it to work differently. On the plus side, you can now quickly create, change, revert, import and export entire hotkey sets. A useful feature indeed.
The hotkey editor has been completely overhauled.
Hypershade sees several updates including its own mini attribute editor and greatly improved shader previews. You'll also notice the graphed nodes have been updated. They are now displayed just like in the Node Editor from Autodesk Maya 2015. This means you get the ability to press hotkeys 1, 2, 3 with a node tile selected to show its attribute quick connect slots.
Hypershade has seen quite a few changes. I especially liked the built-in mini-attribute editor and the node tiles being drawn with attribute quick connect slots.
New Evaluation Manager
There's now the ability to select from 3 different dependency graph evaluation modes. Basically, under-the-hood in Autodesk Maya is a dependency graph (DG). It's this giant web of nodes and their connections that define the entire Maya scene internally. This graph keeps track of stuff like which nodes are dirty and therefore need re-computed, which nodes are in a valid state, etc. This is all low-level stuff the typical end-user never interacts with. For a typical user things just work.
Now, with the release of Autodesk Maya 2016, things just work - but even faster. You can now choose to have the dependency graph evaluated on a single core, in parallel across all compute cores, and even take advantage of the GPU for things like standard mesh deformers when using Viewport 2.0. While not perfect for every scene, and in some cases a little buggy, for most scenes I tested the new parallel execution worked nicely.
Why is this big news? On modern mutli-core systems this can make Maya process the scene graph much faster. For animators, this is even bigger news, as they will benefit from significantly faster in-viewport interactive playback speeds as well as performance improvements when animating and manipulating a complex rig. This is especially the case when dealing with multiple characters in a single scene as the rigs can often be evaluated independently of one another.
Couple this with the new performance profiler and it's a win-win.
Autodesk Maya 2016 is a huge and welcomed upgrade that touched on nearly every aspect of Maya. There was everything from the new BifrÃ¶st foam feature to the new Evaluation Manager, to the new Delta Mush deformer, the ability to export directly to Unity, color management, major animation evaluation performance improvements and probably a hundred other tweaks, features, API changes, etc. This article covered only a tiny fraction of new features. One could literally write a book on the new features alone. Users can read more at: