Monday, July 29th, 2019 Posted by Jim Thacker

Do these videos show new simulation features in Maya?

Updated 31 July 2019: The videos show Maya 2019.2’s Bifrost for Maya toolset. Find more details here.

Autodesk has posted a series of enigmatic videos of physics simulations on its Maya Twitter account.

The videos, which have been appearing at the rate of one a day since 15 July, and none of which shows a software interface, all end with a black screen with the numbers ‘7.31.19’.

Replies from users speculating about what the videos show range from new native features in Maya to an updated Houdini Engine plugin or the acquisition of an external tools developer.

A range of simulation types, from fire and smoke to snow, earth and cloth
The videos – 15 at the time of posting – show a range of physics simulations, including gaseous fluids, granular fluids and cloth.

The majority show smoke and fire, including rising fireballs, plumes of smoke, and smoke rings and vortices, of the kind generated by third-party tools like FumeFX and Phoenix FD.

Some videos show smoke being driven by what looks like turbulent noise and motion-capture data.

The simulations also seem to respond to other physics properties: two show what looks like flaming liquids burning off the surface of a glass tube (above), or dropping from a stylised creature.

A third shows flames dropping down inside a glass container, then spreading out over the floor and walls, changing colour as they do.

Other videos show particulate fluids, including a leopard walking through snow, leaving tracks behind it, and earth tipping down a slope, fragmenting as it goes.

There is also two videos of cloth simulations, and one of lights travelling in circular paths through a forest, which some users have speculated demonstates viewport performance rather than simulation features.

A teaser for Autodesk’s Siggraph demo of a modular FX framework in Bifrost?
Of the theories advanced so far, the most popular is that the videos show upcoming features in Maya itself, although whether that’s Maya 2019.2, Maya 2020, or just a general technology preview, is open to debate.

The fact that Autodesk has posted so many videos suggests a major update, although it’s only six months since it shipped Maya 2019, the last numbered annual release.

One clue may be the company’s Siggraph schedule: the videos have been released in the run up to Siggraph 2019, and the date shown at the end of them coincides with the show.

At Siggraph, the firm is running two sessions on Bifröst, Maya’s fluid simulation framework.

The one on 31 July co-hosted by its co-creator Marcus Nordenstam, and Eloi Andaluz Fullà, effects artist at Scanline VFX, and co-owner of Effective-TDs, developers of standalone granular fluid solver Storm.

The description of the session describes it as showing a “portable visual programming framework … for creating modular FX setups” with implications for “geometry, instancing, deformation and other applications”.

Whether any of those facts have any bearing on what is shown in the teaser videos remains to be seen on 31 July – assuming, of course, that the numbers do represent a date.

Updated 31 July: The videos show Bifrost for Maya, a new visual programming environment for physics simulations available in Maya 2019.2 and as a plugin for Maya 2018.0+.

As well as a new graph editor for authoring simulations, it introduces new combustion, aerodynamics and Material Point Method (MPM) solvers. You can find more details here.

System requirements 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. Subscriptions cost $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.

See all of the teaser videos for yourself on Autodesk’s official Maya Twitter account