Thursday, May 30, 2013

Five Most Annoying Things About Maya - an Open Letter to Autodesk

Even as Maya 2014 is launched, I know in advance it's not going to fix the things that drive me mad about this piece of software that has become the industry standard for digital animation. There are of course other 3D packages - Blender, 3D Studio Max, Softimage - but Maya is the one the industry most commonly uses. Whether you're in London or LA - Maya is king. Which brings us neatly to the burning issue - why don't Autodesk fix the things that drive everyone crazy about it?

Here is my list of the 5 most annoying things about the software:

1. Why can't you copy and paste curves from one rig to another?

I mean seriously, if Microsoft launched a new version of Word which did not allow you to copy text from one document to another, they would go out of business. But open up a copy of Maya, select your rig, grab all your curves, and paste them onto another, identical rig. What happens? Nothing. Copying and pasting curves is a total pain in the ass. Yes I know there are workarounds, and plugins to make it work better - but why not make it easy? Why should it be a technical challenge to do something so simple?

2. Why doesn't the Trax Editor work?

The Trax Editor is in theory a wonderful tool - it allows you to overlap one piece of animation (a "track") on top of another, and Maya will create the blend between the two. Want to animate a transition from a walk to a trot? Or a trot to a canter? The Trax Editor will do it. Except that it won't. The tool is so buggy that I never dare demo it in front of a group of students - it always goes wrong and I end up looking like a total chump.

3. Why is audio so temperamental in Maya? And why can't you play multiple audio tracks?

Importing audio into Maya is annoying. Maya only really likes wav files and even those it doesn't really like. Importing sound files should be easy, and multiple tracks would be a huge help.

4. Why is attaching and un-attaching objects so tricky?

Attaching and parenting one object to another in Maya is totally annoying. A simple animation exercise like a character picking up a ball and throwing it causes endless pain, especially for students. Again, there are plugins that help, and any studio worth its salt has them, but why not make it easy?

5.  Why does is crash so often?


That said, I don't really mean to complain. Maya is an awesome piece of software, a hugely powerful tool that has transformed the industry. And making it free to students with an educational license has been a huge benefit for teachers and learners.


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