Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite Ultimate 2013

All of Your 3D and Animation Needs in One Package

Hot on the trail of 2012, Autodesk has released its latest updates with the Entertainment Creation Suite Ultimate 2013. I know, an upgrade every year seems crazy but the demands for amazing visual effects and more capabilities have the engineers coming up with refinements, as well as new features, to keep up with the industry. That's a good and bad thing, as its difficult to justify upgrading, and sometimes the bugs aren't always worked out on release; however, there are some great new features that we need to take a look at, so let's jump right in.

First, let's take a look at the package itself. In the Ultimate Suite, you pretty much have every tool needed for your animation station arsenal. It includes Maya, 3ds Max, Softimage, MotionBuilder, Mudbox, and Sketchbook. Wow, that's a killer package of tools to have! These tools also have a lot of interoperability that allows them to work together easily and efficiently. This is going to be a quick hit of the new features for the three main pieces (Maya, 3ds Max, and MotionBuilder), as we only have a limited amount of space, so ready, aim, fire!

Autodesk Maya
Maya is the king when it comes to cinematic and visual effects. It has been used in countless productions such as Lost, Avatar, and the Twilight series, to name a few. Some of the notable new features that make this an intriguing update are Maya nHair, ATOM Animation Transfer, and Bullet Physics.

Maya nHair allows you to produce more realistic hair and interacts bidirectionally with both Maya nCloth and Maya nParticles. ATOM Animation Transfer gives you the ability to transfer animation between characters via the new ATOM offline file format. ATOM natively supports keyframes, constraints, animation layers, and Set Driven Keys.

The new Bullet Physics allows you to use the high-performance open source AMD Bullet Physics engine to simulate both soft and rigid bodies in a single system. Other new features include Heat Map Skinning, Trax Clip Matching, a new Node Editor, and Viewport 2 enhancements.

Autodesk 3ds Max
Max continues to be one of my favorite tools for modeling and rendering. One of the coolest additions included with 3ds Max 2013 is the new Autodesk Animation Store (powered by Mixamo). It's like having your own personal motion capture library with built-in retarget and adjustment ability where you can purchase hundreds of motion clips for your biped or CAT characters. The cool thing is you can preview the motion clips on your characters in your scene and make adjustments prior to purchasing them. Once you buy them, you can download the file, or the plug-in updates your open scene with the motion.

Some of other notable updates and improvements in 3ds Max are Tabbed Layouts, support for HumanIK for round-trip workflows between Maya and MotionBuilder, improved particle performance, and MassFx, which includes a new mCloth module for creating tearable fabric.

Autodesk MotionBuilder
MotionBuilder got an extra boost this year, as well, but a lot of that comes from the shared tools that were improved across the suite. The cool features and updates include a customizable Character UI and better contrast, as well as an easier-to-read UI feedback and interoperability between Maya and MotionBuilder.

Once again, there's not enough space on one page to really explore the vast new features of the Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite Ultimate 2013. Each product in the suite offers great tools and updates, but the real power of the Suite lies in the ability to use all the various applications together through the shared edit interface. The new features are another great step forward for Autodesk, and you definitely owe it to yourself to check it out, as it's more than worth the upgrade.

Company: Autodesk, Inc.
Price: $8,395
Rating: 4.5
Hot:  Interoperability; nHair; ATOM; Animation Store
Not:  Price; buggy patches