Wednesday , March 3 2021
This update adds valuable features and makes Maya a much more usable and user-friendly workspace for simulation, visual effects, and rendering.

New Software Spotlight: Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites 2016 Ultimate, Part II – Maya and Mudbox

Autodesk has released the 2016 editions of its Entertainment Creation Suites offering artists and production facilities access to a powerful range of creative toolsets. Two suites have been released: With Standard, you choose either Autodesk Maya or Autodesk 3ds Max, and also get Autodesk MotionBuilder and Autodesk Mudbox. With the Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites 2016 Ultimate suite, you get Maya and 3ds Max, the other products in the standard edition, and Autodesk Softimage. In Part I I looked at 3ds Max. Here in Part II, I will look at this release of Maya and Mudbox.


Autodesk Maya 2016

Autodesk Maya is a 3D animation and 3D modeling software application used for simulation, visual effects, and rendering in TV, movies, and gaming. It’s integrated node-based software for 3D digital animation and visual effects. Using Maya, you can create and edit 3D models in a variety of modeling formats and animate your models using a whole host of animation tools. Maya also lets you render your animated 3D scenes to achieve photorealistic imagery and animated visual effects. Complete system requirements are listed at the Autodesk site.

So what is new with Maya 2016?

Dynamics and Effects

• Adaptive foam in Bifrost – gives you the ability to add bubbles, foam, and froth to your liquid simulations. This means you can add more realism into your scenes by creating stormy seas, beaches with foam and whitecaps, and other things to make your liquids look more realistic. These details can be fine-tuned to meet your needs. For wide shots, you can have the look be consistent across the scene; for close-ups the effect can be adjusted for that camera.


• XGen – is now faster and easier to use. With the new presets, you will be able to quickly share looks between meshes, since the XGen library contains the presets from Maya Fur along with XGen descriptions. You now have a great starting point as well as a good learning tool for seeing how these are put together. It can also assist you in building XGen descriptions. The new guide-sculpting brush gives you width control on splines to create leaves, feathers, scales, and other custom shapes. Then you can save your custom descriptions and build up your own library, rather than having to build from scratch every time.

• Guided simulation in Bifrost – lets you use a full-depth, low-resolution simulation to guide a high-resolution simulation on the liquid surface. By restricting the area to the surface, you reduce the amount of mesh that needs to be rendered. This will speed up your processing considerably. The min-sim-depth control contributes to the look and feel of your simulation. The smaller the setting the more it adheres to the guide. The higher the value the more chaos is added, giving bigger waves and other movement.

• Adaptive Aero solver in Bifrost – provides the ability to create atmospheric effects. By using Aero, you will get greater accuracy and higher detail than you would just using Maya Fluid Effects. It also allows you to get a better-looking sim on the render particles. By adjusting the attributes on the render particles, you can extract more information giving you a better render.

3D Animation

• Parallel rig evaluation – will increase the speed of character rig playback and manipulation. Just about all artists will benefit from this feature. You can efficiently evaluate your scene using all the resources your computer has via CPU and GPU. By taking advantage of these resources and the full use of multiple threads, you gain an enormous increase in productivity.


• Delta Mush deformer – guides the final result so that it is closer to the original geometry. It does this through paint-free skinning, smoothing of course simulation, and shot post corrections.

3D Modeling

• 3D Type – allows you to get really creative with your text by creating flying logos, more interesting title sequences, and other effects that you can use to brand your designs. This version provides a lot of tools to give you total control over the lines of text and spacing of text, and even the ability to manipulate single letters as you see fit. This includes working with multi-lines, deforming type, and complete control over bevel and extrusion profiles.

• Improved vector graphics workflow – means you can import or copy and paste SVG files into Maya. This in turn allows you to work with vector-based 2D applications such as Adobe Illustrator. Once inside you have a great deal of control when working with extruding, bevels, animating, scaling, deforming, and much more.

• New sculpting toolset – lets you shape and sculpt models in a more intuitive and artistic way. These are high-quality brush-based tools that allow you to work on top of your base shapes. You now have more detail and resolution than you did before and they provide Volume and Surface falloff, stamp images, sculpting UVs, and support for vector displacement stamps. Since these are just deltas the file sizes remain very small and the IO is very fast.



• Enhanced game engine workflows – now you can move much more easily from Maya to game engines, etc., such as Unity, Unreal, and Autodesk Stingray. Better yet, with Live Linking between Maya and Stingray, updates are done dynamically and appear instantly.

3D Rendering and Imaging

• Additional look development shading nodes – provide the ability to create sophisticated looks easily via the Hypershade. Here you can use the utility nodes to add more detail to a texture map.

• Enhanced look development workflow – has made building and editing materials in the Hypershade much more intuitive and user-friendly. Now with a revamped interface and a simpler workflow, the rebuilt node editor makes it easy to connect, work, and arrange shading components. The menu structure has been reorganized based on tasks, and the icons have been color coded based on the types of operations that they perform. You can also customize your UI to work in the way that suits you best.

• Color Management – now lets you preserve creative intent throughout lighting and rendering workflows. You can use the simple linear workflow from out of the box, or create the system you need through customization.

Autodesk Mudbox 2016

Mudbox is a brush-based 3D sculpting and painting application built to address the needs of digital sculptors and texture artists. Mudbox was first used to help in the 2005 Peter Jackson remake of King Kong. It was created to accelerate the design and sculpting processes. Its primary use is for high resolution digital sculpting, texture painting, and displacement and normal map creation. It can also be used as a design tool.


Mudbox gives digital modelers the ability to manipulate digital surfaces in an organic way, either imported from existing files or generated using one of the basic sculpt templates provided. Completed models can be exported from Mudbox to be lit and rendered in other 3D applications.

So what is new with Mudbox 2016?

3D Sculpt and Paint

• Better brushed-based workflows – mean that when working with low resolution, low bit-depth polygons and textures you have more capabilities.

• Sculpting Falloff options – two new falloff modes go along with the standard Hybrid mode. Volume Falloff mode provides you more control by using the center point as reference to affect the area.

• Relax Brush – new for 2016, it averages the vertices on the surface without affecting the original shape. This means you can even out spaces between vertices with little change to the mesh. When using another tool from the Sculpt Tools tray, you can temporally activate it so it can be used interactively amongst the set of tools.


• Grab Brush – now has a new Twist feature that allows you to twist all of the vertices within the sculpting brush falloff radius clockwise or counterclockwise. With this you can create swirled objects. Twist ears, swirl ice cream, or tweak the mouth of a character.

Overall, while not as significant as 3ds Max, Maya has the real updates between these two products. The new look and feel is really nice. It makes Maya a much more usable and user-friendly workspace. The changes to the Bifrost effects are really nice, adding a lot more realism to your scenes.

The new Delta Mush deformer is welcome, especially since it lets you smooth arbitrary deformations without smoothing out the details in your model. The sculpting toolset brings Mudbox-styled tools into Maya, and the Presets workflow with Xgen provides you a lot of flexibility in your generation.

With Mudbox, there are a few new features for the brushes, but that’s about it. When you take the Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites 2016 Ultimate as a whole though, there is quite a lot to look forward to as an upgrade, and if you are looking to start with the suite as a new purchase, I would have to say I highly recommend this version.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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