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Autodesk 3D Studio Max 9 and Maya 8 Launch Tour

Wednesday evening, good ole Jim and I went to the Autodesk 3D Studio Max 9 and Maya 8 launch tour presented in Portland. I'm on the Alias/Autodesk email list, so I got the announcement a few weeks ago. Jim has a degree in Computer Animation. I invited him to go with me because I figured he might be interested. The tour relates to the release of the two highest profile 3D animation software packages, now owned by one company, Autodesk. The event was free, so why not go, eh?

I am quite interested in 3D animation (more the modeling and rendering), but my experience is limited to cheaper software like Bryce, Ray Dream Studio, Poser, and Blender 3D. 3D animation seems to me to be a virtually impossible field to break into, so I never considered it as a viable pursuit. In my dreams, however, I would go after it. I dabble with what I can here and there as a hobbyist.

The 2-hour plus presentation was divided into two parts: demonstrations of each of the two new software titles. Both presentations were blindingly fast and not very informative for a dullard like me. I don't have exposure to either Maya or 3D Studio Max, so it was a little over my head. I actually understood most of it, but I guess it didn't interest me greatly because I know I'll never have such an advanced tool. Both titles are priced anywhere from about $2000 to $7000 - pretty ridiculous. They pretty much target the architectural, video game and film industries. The average hobbyist or small business is not going to dabble with such applications (well, legally anyway).

Quite easily, the most impressive part of the demonstration was the hordes of free stuff in the lobby. There were dozens of pizzas, pop, and cookies. Jim and I actually had quite a filling meal from the occasion - all for free! That was quite exciting. Perhaps I'll attend more such free demonstrations!

Seeing the latest and greatest made me realize that Blender 3D, an open source up and coming 3D tool has a long way to go before catching up with the high production tools. In all honesty though, I really don't need an app that has panels with hundreds of confusing controls, like Maya and 3ds Max. I just want a powerful modeling and rendering app. Blender is really coming along. I don't think a talented animator is at all limited in the Blender environment. It has been proven by the release of the open source 3D animation movie, Elephants Dream (whose message I don't understand particularly, nor is it the best executed project I've ever seen, but it's still cool like a long parenthetical statement).

Grass I painted in Maya
Maya Personal Learning Edition was provided for free at the event on a CD. I installed it and played around with the paint effects tool... truly fun, yet a total waste of time. This "Lite" version is based on version 7: a bit old. Most of the cool features demonstrated at the new release event (pizza feed) are not available, and of course it isn't really usable for anything, since it's just a demo version. I don't like anything that holds back: watermarked renderings, limited save and export, etc. I'll stick to my current, cheaper options.

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