SAN FRANCISCO — Autodesk (autodesk.com) has rolled out Maya 2020.4, which includes the biggest update to the Bifrost visual programming environment to date. The release also integrates the latest version of Arnold, bringing artists a faster, more creatively engaging rendering experience, as well as updates to the Motion Library and Substance plug-ins.
Users can now drag and drop Maya curves directly into Bifrost graphs, where they are converted into Bifrost strands and can be used to build curve-based assets and tools. Artists can now view Bifrost graphs as either DG or DAG nodes, that are visible in the outliner. DAG nodes are the new default for Bifrost graphs in Maya.
Using fields nodes, artists can now define custom fields to act as dynamic influences on particles cloth, or aerodynamic simulations without having to go inside FX compounds to edit them. Higher-level scattering and instancing compounds have been added to the Bifrost toolkit, including a blue noise scattering node and integration with the new fields system.
Volume tools now support fully adaptive conversions between meshes and volumes, merging adaptive volumes, and converting between fields and volumes. Users can now produce more accurate collisions and self-collisions with an updated Material Point Method (MPM) solver.
The Aero solver gains significant performance enhancements, as well as increased capacity for detail refinement and artifact reduction, and new features like texture advection. The ability to instantly terminate computation allows users to quickly escape out of slow running simulations by hitting the ESC key.
Maya 2020.4 also provides a faster, more engaging rendering experience with Arnold 6.1. Users can now adjust image exposure, color correction, white balance, tone mapping and vignetting using new post-processing nodes called ‘imagers’.
A new priority system for overlapping transparent objects enables artists to create scenes with more physically-accurate reflections and refraction of rays. This allows for more realistic renders of scenes such as glass containers with liquid contents and bubbles or ice cubes.
The GPU renderer can now partially load textures, providing big savings on both memory consumption and rendering time. Support for light linking and additional light AOV groups, and enhanced OSL JIT compilation performance have also been added.
Several plug-in updates have also been made. The native Motion Library plug-in includes enhanced character previews with new orbit and zoom functions and a smoother initialization experience. And an updated Substance plug-in adds Substance Engine 8.0.3 compatibility, Standard Surface support and improved interoperability with Maya and other Substance programs.
“Artists are being challenged to create ever-more complex visuals, whether for film, TV, or games,” explains Ben Fischler, industry strategy manager at Autodesk. “Maya 2020.4 was designed with artists in mind, offering major updates to Bifrost for Maya and Arnold to help them tackle increasingly complex work while pushing their creative limits. Creating detailed simulations for smoke, fire, snow, explosions and more, or procedurally generated environments, has historically required a high level of expertise, but with the latest updates to Bifrost in Maya 2020.4, artists of all skill levels can take their first steps in visual programming, building powerful simulations and custom tools.”