today announced that it will make available
Mental Ray for Maya
— a plug-in rendering engine designed for its 3D graphics and animation package Maya — with Maya Complete and Maya Unlimited products starting with version 4.5. Mental Ray was $3,995 on its own. To better understand the impact of this announcement, MacCentral recently spoke with Maya Product Manager Shai Hinitz.
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This announcement extends across all platforms that Maya is available for, including the Mac, but it’s important to note that Mental Ray 1.5 isn’t yet available for the Mac. Hinitz told MacCentral that Mental Ray should be released “mid-winter,” and will be available as a free download for Maya 4.5 users from Alias Wavefront’s Web site once it’s done.
Hinitz explained that about 75 percent of Alias|Wavefront’s customers depend on Maya’s built-in renderer. Given the popularity of the Maya renderer, why bother with Mental Ray at all? Hinitz explained that Alias|Wavefront would have to make “significant investment” to attain some of Mental Ray’s capabilities. Mental Ray’s advanced capabilities make it a natural fit for the software, by providing more advanced lighting and photo-realistic rendering options than Maya has already.
“Maya users will continue to work the same way,” explained Hinitz. “What Mental Ray changes is the actual way that the bits turn into an image. That exposes maya users to some of Mental Ray’s features, as well as very advanced task management and memory management, and the ability to use standalone Mental Ray licenses to speed up an interactive Mental Ray for Maya session.”
Among its other capabilities, Mental Ray exploits parallel processing clusters and multiprocessor machines. Mental Ray’s developer, Mental Images, makes Mental Ray for several 3D graphics packages, including Softimage|3D, Houdini 5 and others. Hinitz said that this will be the first time that a GUI-based version of Mental Ray is available for the Macintosh, however.
Because it’s a plug-in, Mental Ray doesn’t have to be used, according to Hinitz. Maya users can continue to utilize Maya’s built in rendering engine for tasks better suited to it.
With version parity attained through the 4.5 release, Hinitz said, “the Mac community doubly benefits from Maya 4.5’s release, and this is one more reason. This is a great value for Maya customers.”