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NEWS • Sep. 19, 2001
First Look: Maya Ships for the Mac
OS X version receives more preorders than any other Maya release

by David Nagel
Executive Producer

It's been long-anticipated, highly hyped and even, at one point, in doubt of a delivery date. But today Alias|Wavefront started shipping Maya for Mac OS X. Maya is Alias|Wavefront's flagship 3D modeling, animation and rendering package widely used in the entertainment industry and generally regarded as one of the top packages for desktop 3D. This is the first release for the Macintosh, and, according to Mark Sylvester, ambassador for Alias|Wavefront, Maya for OS X has received more preorders than any other release of the program.

I and other reviewers had a chance to visit with Alias|Wavefront this week in their Santa Barbara office for training in the program and for discussing what Maya means for the Mac platform. I'll bring you a formal review in the future once I've had much more time to work in the program. But here are some preliminary findings.

The version shipping for the Mac is Maya Complete 3.5. Other platforms are currently on version 4.0. However, what the Mac platform does have is a solid build that probably would not have been possible for some time, if the company had decided to release a version for Mac that's on par with other platforms.

While a single day of training is certainly not enough to familiarize anybody with any software package, especially one as complex as Maya, it did provide a good indication of the program's functionality and stability. First the stability.

Mac OS X itself is the most stable operating system Apple has released to date. I've reported before that I have yet to crash the system since I installed the package on its first day of release. Nevertheless, individual programs can and do crash, though with significantly less frequency than before. In nine hours of training on nine new G4s, there wasn't a single crash in the bunch. There were a couple OpenGL glitches when switching between workspaces in Maya, but nothing more than an occasional screen redraw delay, and certainly nothing fatal. As Mac OS X 10.1 itself will be receiving some OpenGL tweaks to improve performance and stability, it's not difficult to presume that Maya will benefit from these tweaks. (I'll bring you an update when I install 10.1 on my systems.)

In terms of functionality, the Mac version seems to have everything the Windows and Irix versions had, and then some, although the company only advertises the "core functionality" as being the same across platforms. For those working on multiple platforms, Alias|Wavefront has even maintained the Control key's functionality, though Mac users can also use the Command key. The program also retains its innovative, if not unique, menu system, where both commands and options for commands can be accessed from the same menu line.

All the rest is there: the modeling tools, shelves, the layout tools, marquee menus, soft body dynamics, etc. If you use 3.5 on another platform, you will feel right at home on the Mac version.

Nevertheless, Maya for OS X has a uniquely Macintosh quality to it, taking advantage of the OS X aqua interface. This is a change for Alias|Wavefront, which had previously taken the position that an OS GUI should not intrude upon their software's look and feel.

According to Sylvester, this is intentional. He said his company didn't want Maya to be just a port to the Macintosh but to be in and of the Macintosh. Aside from the interface itself, Maya Complete for OS X has a few other unique features for Mac users, including a hot key for maximizing the interface (hiding menus), support for QuickTime and tear-off menus in the hot box.

What is not unique for the Mac is the price point, which remains consistent across all platforms at $7,500. The company's special promotion is also still in effect through the end of the year, which entitles users to maintenance and free upgrades for 12 months from the time of purchase.

We'll bring you more information in the coming weeks and months, including a complete review of the product and techniques from professional animators. For more information now, visit http://www.aliaswavefront.com. For ordering information, visit

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