Autodesk has announced Maya 2012, the latest version of its 3D modeling, animation, visual effects, rendering and compositing software.

Running in 64-bit mode on Mac OS X 10.6.5, Maya now contains powerful new toolsets for previsualisation and games prototyping and better pipeline integration. The new release also includes single-step workflows to enable users to move 3D data directly between Maya and the latest versions of Autodesk MotionBuilder, Autodesk Mudbox and Autodesk Softimage Interactive Creative Environment (ICE) for better pipeline integration.

“Maya continues to drive creative innovation across the film, games and television industries - from ‘Black Swan’ to ‘EA SPORTS MMA’ and ‘NCIS,’ new creative standards are being set in productions of all kinds,” said Marc Petit, senior vice president, Autodesk Media & Entertainment. “With Maya 2012, we have continued our long-term focus on improving production efficiency as well as real-time creative iteration with enhancements to the Maya viewport addressing new trends in previsualization, virtual moviemaking and games prototyping.”

“The high-fidelity viewport, enhancements to Nucleus and the overall performance improvements, have made Maya 2012 more flexible, powerful and modern,” said Peter Shipkov, technical director, Digital Domain.

Key new features in Maya 2012 include Viewport 2.0 enhancements that offer full-screen effects such as motion blur, depth-of-field and ambient occlusion, component and manipulator displays, batch rendering capabilities and a high-performance API (application programming interface); there's also the ability to create and edit node-based representations of render passes and render the composited output directly using the mental ray renderer.

The Editable Motion Trails feature brings the ability to edit animation directly in the viewport, without the need to switch context to the graph editor, while a sequencer playlist offers a configurable spreadsheet view to reorder clips, edit In and Out points and change camera assignments. It also offers support for multi-track audio and the ability to output multiple shots as a single sequence for easier game cinematic rendering or export to a games engine.

Maya 2012 also includes a library of 80 dynamic, animatable and editable resolution-independent Substance smart textures and filters with a tiny disk space footprint. Textures can also be converted to bitmaps for rendering or baking purposes. It also ships with four new camera rigs from the Craft Director Studio animation tool to create believable, complex camera movements that mimic real-world setups and four pre-rigged models (two cars and two airplanes) to more easily simulate vehicle motion, terrain recognition, previsualisation and in-game cinematics.

Autodesk said that Maya 2012 will be available in English in April 2011. International pricing is to be announced but the suggested retail price (MSRP) in the US for an Autodesk Maya 2012 stand-alone license is $3,495.