Alias|Wavefront announced a major upgrade for 3D-animation application Maya, during Apple CEO Steve Jobs' Macworld Expo keynote speech today.

Maya 4.5, available as Maya 4.5 Unlimited and Maya 4.5 Complete, offers a selection of powerful new tools and technologies for the 3D industry, claims the company. It's also the first time a major simultaneous update has been promised for all supported platforms, including Mac OS X. This version should ship September 30.

Bob Bennett, Alias|Wavefront's general manager of product development, said: “Maya 4.5 contains numerous enhancements that will give our users the ability to create visual effects and animation that were traditionally almost impossible to achieve.”

Effects New technologies in the application include: Fluid Effects, for simulating and rendering atmospheric effects, viscous liquids, pyrotechnics and space effects; and Ocean Shader, which builds a range of open water effects. The last feature also lets users float objects on the ocean's surface, with those objects reacting to water motion.

Fluid Effects lets artists create effects such as clouds, molten lava, cigarette smoke, fire or explosions, claims Alias|Wavefront. The tool will also deform logos and images.

Maya Unlimited users get built-in 2D and 3D problem solvers to speed up their use of this effect, along with a selection of surface texture and rendering controls; and an updateable library of examples and presets.

Meanwhile, Maya Complete users now get advanced modelling features previously restricted to Unlimited, including advanced NURBS tools, better texturing options and improved hierarchical division of surfaces on 3D and 2D objects.

Alongside some enhancements specifically for animators, new tools in Maya Complete include: enhanced snapping tools; a smooth proxy tool for building high-resolution polygonal geometry with a low-res proxy cage. A number of productivity enhancements also feature – annotation options, for example.

For games and Web3D developers, Alias|Wavefront has made the underlying API of Maya 4.5 more accessible than before, so these customers benefit from more flexibility when working on projects.

All platforms (Mac OS X, Windows, IRIX and Linux) using Maya 4.5 share the same file format, so users on different platforms can exchange files for collaborative work.

Maya Unlimited costs $6,999; Maya Complete $1,999. Version upgrades cost $99 and $699 respectively. No UK pricing is available yet.