Three years after 3D software houses Alias and Wavefront were merged as a subsidiary of Silicon Graphics Inc the company has begun shipping a new animation architecture for developers called Maya which supersedes the two company’s previous digital studio product lines, PowerAnimator and MediaStudio. Maya is supported on SGI’s Irix Unix but is also being ported to Windows NT following SGI’s decision to begin sales of Intel-based NT workstations later this year. Alias/Wavefront says it isn’t waiting for SGI and Microsoft to complete development of their next-generation OpenGL-based Fahrenheit graphics architecture before porting the software but says Maya will support Microsoft’s existing graphics infrastructure such including DirectX. It’s likely to include a different set of functions than the Irix version which is tailored for high-end, compute- intensive developers using SGI’s MIPS RISC boxes. Instead the company will exploit NT’s commodity features and says users have asked it to develop software for performing tasks such as bulk rendering. Maya is claimed to enable developers to build characters with embedded behaviors and high level controls so that animators can interact with them as digital puppets. It includes a new visual effects system and uses a scripting and command language to customize the system. Three modules are available for use with Maya: F/X visual effects; PowerModeler; and Artisan modeling and animation tools plus interface. The company claims Artisan provides the same kind of control and functionality over on-screen digital tools as users would expect from wood and hair brushes. The base Maya package costs $10,000; F/X and PowerModeler are $10,000 and Artisan is $7,500. The company will support PowerAnimator and MediaStudio for one year. Maya becomes the company’s core graphics package.
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