Autodesk has announced Maya 2008, the latest iteration of its Academy Award-winning modelling, animation, visual effects and rendering software.

The company says the new version focused on improving creative workflow and will demonstrate the upgrade at Siggraph 2007, which runs this week.

Marc Petit, Autodesk media and entertainment senior vice president said: "With Autodesk Maya 2008, we have placed considerable emphasis on raising the reliability bar higher than ever before. Designed for multi-core workstations, the 2008 release provides artists with an optimized application that includes new creative tools in modeling and animation to help artist meet demands quickly and easily."

The software also offers numerous enhancements over previous versions, for example Autodesk has increased polygon modelling efficiency in Maya. Artists can create, manipulate and deploy polygons to create detailed characters and environments using a newly-streamlined Mesh Smooth workflow.

Additional enhancements include a new Slide Edge feature and improvements to Booleans, Bridge, Bevel and other tools.

The company claims overall performance improvements, particularly on multi-core systems, thought the company has not issued Mac-specific performance figures at this time.

The application also offers a selection of tools for game development, offering support for DirectX HLSL shaders in the Maya viewport, a new hardware shader API and accelerated mental ray texture baking performance.

Maya 2008 also offers improved skinning and rigging toolsets for character animation, including new, non-destructive skin editing capabilities. These enhancements allow animators to explore ideas, manage iterations and get superior results, faster than before.

Autodesk expects to ship Maya 2008 in English next month, for Mac OS X, Linux and Windows systems. US prices are $1,999.for Maya 2008 Complete (Standalone) and $6,999 for Maya 2008 Unlimited (Standalone).

UK pricing hasn't yet been verified. An upgrade path from previous versions is available.