Alias|Wavefront will deliver its professional-level 3D animation and effects package, Maya Complete 3 for Mac OS X in the second quarter 2001.

The Mac version of the application will enter the beta testing cycle within the next 30 days, company sources confirmed. The application is being carbonized to run on Mac OS X, and will behave in the same way as on other platforms.

This is big news for the creative Mac community - Maya was the 3D tool of choice in every movie nominated for an Academy Award this year.

Richard Kerris, director of Maya Technologies at Alias|Wavefront, told Macworld: "I want to give credit to our development team, they absolutely embody the spirit of 'let's make this work'." Kerris particularly praised Andrew Pearce, Larry Colopet - who was also responsible for porting Adobe Photoshop from the Mac to the Windows platform - and Ming Mah. Kerris said: "For me it was an honour to represent a team like that."

Huge problem "It's a huge program", he said, "Alias|Wavefromt is bigger than Mac OS X, with over 25 million lines of code."

The application is already firmly established in the movie business, and is increasingly used by games production houses, particlarly those involved in PlayStation 2 (PS2) development. A forthcoming PS2 version of Gran Turismo was built using Maya, Kerris revealed.

Kerris said that the Mac port is aimed at smaller professional design houses. The company received 8,000 emails requesting the port; since announcing the decision to bring its product to the Mac, the company has received over 20,000 messages of support from the Mac community.

Maya supports QuickTime, and "renders to QuickTime very quickly", in its final version, Maya will offer an Aqua-based interface and will cost the same as already charged on other platforms. It currently retails for $7,500 in the US.

Kerris said: "From a technical standpoint, we are a complete solution. The application offers full rendering, modelling, full character-animation and a sophisticated dynamic-physics system."

Physical effects The physics system is customizable, with different environmental rules being applied. These dynamic effects can be applied to all the elements of the 3D image - including wind direction, luminescence, gravity, and object behaviours, which can be customized by project. This also applies to moving elements of the animation, such as trees and plants, with elements such as growth rate being controllable.

Lee H Fraser, application engineer at Alias|Wavefront said: "This is the single most exciting project I have been involved in since I started with the company."

Maya includes an easy-to-comprehend Painting system - brushes can be used to apply colour and hue to the underlying wire-frame terrains of the work in progress. Brushes can also add objects such as trees, clouds or grass to animations. These then behave in the manner specified in the dynamic physics model.

QuickTime movies Images can also be imported from other applications and QuickTime movies can be added to the piece. Maya can take a QuickTime image and use it as a reference model. In this way, a variety of moving objects can be placed within the environment, and all the elemnents of the piece will interact according to the settings made in the physics model.

Files created by the application can be saved and worked on (using Maya) on other platforms. A designer can develop a project on a Mac, save it, and then work on it using Maya on a Windows NT workstation, for example. Maya behaves identically on all platforms, Fraser said.

Since the announcement that Maya was porting to the Mac, a number of third parties have already commenced work developing export plug-ins. Macworld was told to expect Shockwave and Flash export plug-ins soon after Maya's release. This promises to open the doors to a plethora of high-level 3D Web-animations.

Fraser also confirmed that the application is capable of building terrains using data taken from the US Geographic Survey. This means that 3D projects can easily be placed in real geographical locations.

Fraser said: "The beauty of Maya is that it's so powerful and so capable that it will save time and make it possible to experiment and develop ideas without squandering time or money."