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Alias|Wavefront today announced that entertainment company Digital Anvil is using the company's Maya(TM) 3D modeling and animation software for the upcoming movie, Wing Commander. The Maya technology is being used to create 260 computer-generated effects, equaling an entire outer-space environment. Digital Anvil chose Maya for the project because it was the best available software in terms of productivity and the quality of the final rendered images, according to facility producer, Eric Alba.

Wing Commander is a live-action drama directed by Digital Anvil CEO and founder Chris Roberts, who created the highly popular Wing Commander computer game series. The movie, which combines state-of-the-art, sci-fi visual effects with elements of a classic World War II film, is based on story-lines, characters and other creative elements from the first four games in the Wing Commander series. Production designer Peter Lamont, who received an Academy Award for his art direction work on James Cameron's Titanic, has created a retro-future world for the Wing Commander movie that includes extraordinary spaceships, the hangar deck of an intergalactic spacecraft carrier, and a number of other immersive alien and confederate environments.

Digital Anvil fully expects Lamont's work on Wing Commander to be of the same award-winning quality as what he did for Titanic. "Judging from the astounding visuals that he has created for Wing Commander, Lamont's Titanic Oscar may only be his first," said Marten Davies, president of Digital Anvil. Digital Anvil is using Maya to ensure that the world Lamont envisions is as stunning in the final product as it is in concept. "The images rendered in Maya are absolutely beautiful," said Alba. "They are the most realistic we have ever seen."

Digital Anvil has hired a team of accomplished professionals, formerly of award-winning companies such as Boss Films, Rhythm & Hues and Digital Domain, to bring Lamont's vision to the screen, entirely in 3D and entirely using Maya. This esteemed team of sequence supervisors includes Chris Olivia, Steve Cummings, Eric Tablada, Mike McNeil, and Mark Lambert. Artists started building preproduction models last fall, when the company participated in Alias/Wavefront's extensive beta testing program for the new software. Alba said, "Committing to a 1.0 release of a program in any capacity can be a risk, and for a feature film, where time is money, it could be suicidal. But we had beta tested Maya and knew it was the best out there. We've had great support from Alias|Wavefront, and the first release of Maya has performed exceptionally well. There is no question that Maya is the best way to go for this movie."

High Productivity Required

Digital Anvil has a relatively small group of 20 artists working on this huge project, so maximizing productivity is vital. Maya was designed to boost productivity, through its user interface, the integration of its tools, and the ease with which it can be customized. Digital Anvil is taking advantage of all of these features to meet the release date for Wing Commander.

The Maya user interface lets the artists work in whatever way they are most comfortable. Explained Chris Olivia, visual effects artist at Digital Anvil, "We have a lot of people who are working together for the first time, and everyone has his own way of doing things. Maya's interface is flexible enough for all of us." Artists who have used other modeling and animation programs appreciate the intuitive nature of the Maya interface, according to Olivia. "It takes fewer steps to produce something in Maya, and it's easier to move around in it quickly, thanks to things like user-configurable Marking Menus," he said.

Maya's unmatched integration is another feature of the software that enhances productivity. All the tools the artists need are available within Maya-modeling, animation, lighting, and particle generation. No time is wasted moving data between programs. "Maya is built for people like us who are doing visual effects," said Olivia. "It has everything we need and everything is easily accessible."

Digital Anvil has taken advantage of the ability to customize Maya to simplify recurrent tasks, such as having missiles fire from different space ships. Using the Maya scripting and command language, MEL (Maya Embedded Language), Digital Anvil created a script that causes a window to appear on the screen when an artist wants to launch a missile. After he enters a few parameters, Maya automatically creates the animation sequence that causes a missile to fire. Scripts such as this contribute to productivity by freeing artists from repetitive tasks.

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