Alias has announced new versions of Maya, its 3D modeling and animation software, and MotionBuilder, the animation software Alias acquired from Kaydara. Both products are expected to begin shipping this month.

Maya 7 features a redesigned render layers function, which lets multiple versions of objects, including materials, lights and cameras, post processes like Maya Fur and Paint Effects, be managed in a single scene file. Render layers can be rendered with any renderer integrated with Maya, including the latest mental ray for Maya. this better prepares renders for output to their compositor like Adobe Photoshop or Macromedia Flash.

MotionBuilder's "IK Solver" is now integrated into Maya, to make it easier to rig and pose characters, do paintable Blend Shapes and Wire deformers and more. You can also substitute geometry to allow modelers, animators and technical directors to work on the same character simultaneously and non-destructively.

Maya 7 adds Renderman-compatible variable creasing on subdivided polygon meshes. Many changes have been made to cater to games developers like Edge Loop and Edge Ring tools, UV unfolding, triplanar and multimesh mapping, the inclusion of CgFX and ASHLI plug-ins and more.

A new Toon Shader supports non-realistic rendering styles and lets you control line style, placement and width and view interactive previews in near real-time. Maya Hair can now be transplanted from one character to another, Maya Fur is now integrated with Maya's dynamic curve technology, and Maya Fluid Effects adds a High Detail solve mode to increase the realistic effects it can produce.

Maya Complete 7 costs £1,449, while Maya Unlimited 7 is £4,899.  Upgrade pricing from 6.5 is £659 for Maya Complete and £909 (node-locked) for Maya Unlimited. Both Maya Complete and Unlimited are available for Mac, Linux and Windows. All prices exclude VAT.

MotionBuilder 7

Alias also announced MotionBuilder 7, the latest version of the 3D character animation software it acquired as part of its acquisition of software maker Kaydara.

MotionBuilder 7 adds new character extensions and visual feedback on rigs to give animators better control over the setup of their characters; extensions let you augment the character's control rig when you're using objects like tails, wings and props. You can now pose or key a character simultaneously, along with all attached extensions. And new visual feedback offers cues that highlight keying, manipulation modes and rig selection. New character manipulation enhancements let you sync characters and their controls, as well.

New save and load character animation features let you quickly transfer and repurpose animation clips with any character. MotionBuilder 7 also touts improvements to its workflow and user interface, like a new Save Reminder and incremental versioning support. New constraints to MotionBuilder's save function let you transfer animated character setups between MotionBuilder and Maya, as well.

MotionBuilder Pro 7 adds other functions like Live Device Support for multi-stream motion capture devices (this capability is coming to Mac OS X "pending platform specific third party vendor drivers, according to Alias); data mapping and asset management integration; Python scripting support and the Alias "Open Reality" Software Developers Kit (SDK), that let you create pipeline automation and workflow tools.

The software is scheduled for release this month. Pricing remains unchanged from MotionBuilder 6 - Excluding VAT, Alias MotionBuilder Pro 7 (node-locked) is £2,725 and Alias MotionBuilder Pro 7 (floating) is £3,115. For new Alias MotionBuilder Pro customers, the cost includes a one-year Platinum Membership subscription. Alias MotionBuilder Pro is available in node-lock and floating configurations for Mac and Windows.