The monsters would not look as real without Maya.
The robots in the movie “Transformers,” the spectacular special effects in the latest “Star Trek” movie and the magical creatures in the “Harry Potter” movies all have one thing in common—Maya 3D or Autodesk’s Maya. This high-end, 3-D modeling, animation, visual effects, rendering and compositing software brings TV, movies and games to life.
During the 1980s and ’90s, the three companies leading special effects and 2-D and 3-D modeling were in different countries. California-based Wavefront had Advanced Visualizer, while in France Thomson Digital Image (TDI) owned Explore. In Canada, Alias created animation with Power Animator.
According to design.osu.edu, Maya took source code from all three companies. Wavefront purchased TDI in 1993. That same year, Alias started developing a new animation tool called Maya—Sanskrit for “illusion.” In 1995, Alias and Wavefront merged into one company when Silicon Graphics Incorporated (SGI) bought them both. The merged companies wanted a combined software system for digital content creation. They called the company Alias/Wavefront and focused on creating Maya.
With Hollywood on its mind, Alias/Wavefront spent two years developing Maya. Beta testers for Maya included a who’s who of the film industry—BlueSky/VIFX, Rhonda Graphics, Dream Pictures Studio and Santa Barbara Studios, to name a few. Released in 1998, Maya quickly became the film industry standard, with Industrial Light and Magic buying enough copies for its artists and technical directors to use it extensively, reports design.osu.edu.
Blockbusters such as “Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace,” “The Mummy,” “Shrek,” “Spider-Man” and the “Lord of the Rings” used Maya to create special effects. On March 1, 2003, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented an Oscar for scientific and technical merit to Alias/Wavefront for creating Maya.
In October 2005, the parent company of Alias/Wavefront sold the company to Autodesk, which renamed it Autodesk Maya. Founded in 1982, California-based Autodesk, according to its website, focuses on entertainment, engineering, 2-D and 3-D design, with 2009 revenues of $2.3 billion and 9 million users worldwide.
Until 2009, Maya’s releases included two main versions: a Maya Complete and Maya Unlimited. Maya Complete combines tools for 3-D modeling, animation, and rendering, reports datamat.com. Maya Unlimited includes the tools in Complete and adds tools to create fur, hair, cloth and other effects. Maya 2010 combined the two packages and began selling in August 2009 with a price of $3,495 to $4,095, depending on which platform—Windows, Linux and Mac—you choose.