Alias|Wavefront has announced Maya 5. It features new rendering and workflow features that expand the industry-standard application’s creative possibilities.

Maya is an Academy Award-winning 3D animation and effects solution, being used in many box-office hits, including Spiderman (right) and Lord of the Rings (below). The company first ported the product to Mac OS X in 2001 – a move that helped open up new markets in professional video-and-movie making for Apple. This release improves Maya’s support for OS X.

Maya 5 has been fine-tuned and streamlined to increase productivity, the company says. It introduces new tools, data-transfer enhancements and a new Hardware Renderer feature, built to harness the power of the NVidia GeForce4 Ti graphics card that’s available as an option in some G4 Power Macs. This is a move designed to both generate preview images speedily and final output at broadcast quality. Hardware Renderer supports background and batch rendering using the GPU.

Additional rendering and workflow features include a new Vector Renderer that can convert 3D content into 2D graphics, including hidden-line and cartoon-style views. These files can be output to Flash MX, Illustrator and GoLive, offering new publishing possibilities for print illustrators and Web designers.

The company has also worked on making the rendering user-interface consistent across the application’s rendering add-ons – Maya Software Renderer, Vector Renderer and Mental Ray, which reaches version 3.2 in Maya 5. It has been optimized using network-rendering and memory-management features, as well as by QuickTime and high-definition output.

Into the light Alias|Wavefront has added the capacity to convert shadows and lights into file textures – used in cinematographic-quality games.

The company has fine-tuned Maya’s productivity, with the application now offering enhanced character-animation tools for better control and more flexibility. Improvements have been made in the application’s creative toolset. Paint Effects can now be drawn as – or converted into – polygons for greater editing and output flexibility. Maya’s texture support has also been enhanced: Fur now offers Matted, Wet and Dirty options. Maya’s cutting-edge Fluid Effects capabilities have also been extended.

Maya’s export options now include support for Flash, AutoCAD file formats (DWG, DXF), Illustrator, EPS (Encapsulated PostScript), Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), Initial Graphics Exchange Specification (IGES), OpenFlightVR files, StudioTools, and the 3D Java OBJ format.

An OS X plug-in wizard has been added to the developer’s kit, as well as a feature that lets third-party developers build OS X plug-ins for Maya 5.

Alias is unable to confirm final UK pricing. However, it appears likely that it will remain in line with existing prices. Maya Complete (which supports Mac OS X) currently costs £1,449 (ex. VAT). MW