REVIEW DECEMBER 5, 2000
Alias|Wavefront Maya Paint Effects

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The controls
At first glance, you might think that even with 200 brushes, this set is a bit limited. It's just 200 objects, and that's that, kind of like 3D clip art. But this isn't the case at all.

Maya Paint Effects includes an almost shocking amount of control over virtually every conceivable parameter, from colors to texture maps to spacing to various types of tube creation. This is where the strength of this plugin manifests itself. You can make flowers sprout from a field of grass or wings grow out the back of a horse or whatever else you can imagine, then customize the look and behavior of your art. Powerful stuff.

Now, I'm not going to get into every control available. You can see them in the picture on the left. But you really won't be able to appreciate the power of this plugin until you've had a chance to play with it yourself.

The Write-on plugin
To this point I've dealt exclusively with the PFX Stroke plugin. But Paint Effects also includes a filter called PFX Write-on. PFX Write-on allows you to apply motion to strokes to achieve the effect of "Writing on" the canvas.

You can create a motion path for the PFX Write-on effect by cutting and pasting any motion path into the Position property of the PFX Write-on effect. Or you can create a Bezier curve or mask on the layer to follow the motion path. You just select the curve, copy it and paste the points into the Position property of the effect in the Time Layout window. The points act as keyframes. Reposition the points to fit your animation. This method can produce a smooth motion path, as you can adjust the curve before pasting it into the effect.

You can also set position points for the effect using the Position crosshairs in the Effect Controls window. Click in the Layer window to place the position and set a keyframe for the position in the Time Layout window.

The bottom line
I was excited about Maya Paint Effects before I ever got my hands on it. After I had a chance to play with it myself, I was just amazed, and you will be too. You can use it to create painterly effects, scenery or even just to make your own stock footage for later use.

Of course, not everything can be all positive. The one big drawback of Paint Effects is its render time. It really depends on the particular brush, step spacing, scale and other factors, but render time for a single effect can be anywhere from five seconds per frame to a few minutes per frame—and that's with simple curves. I tested this plugin on a G4 400. Those of you with higher-end machines will, of course, see better results. Rendering is entirely CPU-based.

Memory doesn't seem to be an issue with Paint Effects. I never ran low on memory, even with five or six effects going on at once, with just a 120 MB partition assigned to After Effects.

Maya Paint Effects is available as an online download for Mac or Windows NT. (I'm not sure whether a box package is available.) Documentation is in HTML and PDF format, but you won't need it. This is an intuitive set of plugins. The cost, at $499, is a bit steep, but I think you'll find it's worth it.

Our recommendation: Strong Buy.

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