Tuesday, July 30th, 2019 Posted by Jim Thacker

Autodesk unveils Maya 2019.2 and Bifrost for Maya

Autodesk has unveiled Maya 2019.2, a major update to the 3D animation software, introducing Bifrost for Maya, a new plugin that adds a node-based visual programming system for multiphysics simulations.

The plugin is also compatible with Maya 2018.x and Maya 2019.1.

Other new features in the release, which was announced at Siggraph 2019, and which is due to ship today, include a new Substance plugin and improvements to the Render Setup and Light Editor.

Bifrost for Maya: a new visual programming system for multiphysics simulations
The headline feature in Maya 2019.2 is Bifrost for Maya, an expanded version of Maya’s existing liquid simulation toolset, which has now been renamed Bifrost Fluids.

The update – which was previewed by Autodesk through a series of enigmatic Twitter videos – turns Bifrost into a complete visual programming environment for simulations.

The toolset’s new Graph Editor handles “scattering, instancing, deformation, volume processing, dynamic simulation, material assignments, file IO, and even … low-level math nodes – without switching contexts”.

New solvers for fire, smoke, cloth and granular fluids like sand and snow
In addition, the update adds a new set of solvers, including physically-based solvers for combustion and aerodynamics, and a Material Point Method (MPM) solver for granular materials.

The combustion solver “performs computational chemistry and thermodynamics” to mimic the behaviour of fire in the real world, automatically generating smoke and water vapour.

It comes with presets for real-world fuels, including methane and butane.

For smoke simulations, users can “set up adaptivity to automatically add or remove detail depending on characteristics like velocity, turbulence, and smoke density”.

In addition, Bifrost for Maya adds an MPM solver based on the one used by Disney for Frozen.

It was developed by Jixie Effects, whose founders include UCLA researcher Andrew Teran, one of the authors of the paper on which Walt Disney Animation Studios’s orignal solver was based.

Jixie Effects’s implementation extends the original work on MPM from snow simulation to encompass other granular materials like sand, plus cloth and thin-shell materials, and fibres like hair and grass.

Native support in Arnold, plus Alembic, OpenVDB or Field3D export to other DCC tools
Bifrost for Maya also introduces a new particle system, which can be used to drive gaseous fluid simulations; and supports the conversion of data between points, meshes and volumes.

Instancing is described as “rendering-friendly” and “tightly integrated” with both Maya’s Viewport 2.0 display and the Arnold renderer, which gains native support for Bifrost for Maya in Arnold 5.4.

Users can also export simulation data to other DCC applications as Alembic geometry caches, as OpenVDB or Field3D volumes, or as OpenVDB point sets.

Also new in Maya 2019.2: updated Substance plugin, improvements to Render Setup and the Light Editor
Other new features in Maya 2019.2 include Substance in Maya 2.0, Adobe’s new integration for editing procedural materials in the Substance .sbsar format inside Maya.

We covered the plugin when it shipped earlier this month, so check out our original story for more details.

The update also adds new features to Maya’s Render Setup system, including the option to override attributes on each position marker on a ramp texture, as shown in the video above.

It is also now possible to export light groups as a JSON file and reuse them in other Maya scenes.

Changes to Render Setup and Light Editor nodes are also now captured by Maya’s autosave system. You can find a full list of changes via the link below.

Pricing and availability
Maya 2019.2 is available for Windows 7+, RHEL or CentOS 7.3 or 7.5 Linux and Mac OS X 10.11+ on a rental-only basis, with subscriptions costing $195/month or $1,545/year.

Bifrost for Maya is available for Maya 2018.0 and above running on Windows, Linux and macOS. It is compatible with Arnold 3.2.2 and above.

A standard licence of Maya comes with three Bifrost Engine licences, used to run Bifrost for Maya in standalone mode on separate machines; an ECP Collection license provides 15 Bifrost Engine licenses.

At the time of posting, the online documentation for Maya LT, the cut-down edition of Maya for games artists, still showed the latest release as Maya LT 2019.1.

Read a full list of new features in Maya 2019.2 in the online release notes

Read more about Bifrost for Maya on Autodesk’s blog