MacOSX Week: Maya Technologies & TheOrphanage Interviews

Some software companies might find a new OS a daunting thing to develop for. Not Alias |Wavefront. This leading developer of 3D animation software, recently released
the new OSX version of their flagship product, Maya. For a company that wasn’t a player in the MacOS world, this is pretty significant vote of confidence in Apple’s new OS. OSNews spoke with Andrew Pearce, the Director of Maya Technologies at Alias|Wavefront and with TheOrphanage‘s Kevin Baille (Visual Effects Artist).

1. Andrew, can you describe Maya for

Andrew Pearce:It’s exceedingly powerful 3D animation and visual effects
Maya is like a graphical OS. And it’s been called that by a lot of people. It’s
fully configurable,
you can get right down modify the way it operates. Users can write their own
shell scripts and
alter what parts of the UI are exposed and so on. It’s very flexible and very

2. Is Maya for OSX your first product for the Mac?

Andrew Pearce: It’s our first full-fledged product on Mac. Previously we
had launched
Sketch for Mac. But that may have been too early. We have also built the PaintEffects plugin for AfterEffects.

3. Why did A | W decided to develop for OSX and not earlier?

Andrew Pearce: We have a lot of customers interested in the Mac platform.
But with
Mac OS9 and earlier Mac operating systems it wasn’t feasible. It was a
non-standard OS and
there was no memory protection. These were things that Mac wasn’t offering, and
Maya uses a
lot of memory. Maya makes a lot of memory addressing assumptions. It can eat up
all the two
Gigs it has access to. Old MacOS was very restrictive in what it allowed an
application to take
over. With OSX, Maya can work the way it was designed to.

We’ve been interested in the Mac platform for a while because that’s where
professionals are. You could say that it was a real convergence of timing and
demand: the UNIX
underpinnings in OSX and our customers’ demonstrated desire to use Maya on Mac

4. How long did it take develop this new

Andrew Pearce: We were developing for a little over a year. We received
OSX in early
April or May last year. And we released a week before 10.1 was released.

5. And what was the initial reaction to
with OSX?

Andrew Pearce: It was an interesting process. I’d have to say that our
experience was
non-standard or isn’t a typical example for those planning on working with OSX.
For most of
2000 we were developing on top of a rapidly changing OS. It was pretty exciting.
But, Apple
was really impressive in their responsiveness. They were very quick to answer
all of our needs
and issues.

6. What sort of needs were you facing?

Andrew Pearce: Things like correcting problems with the developing OS.
And proper
information as well focusing on OpenGL. They applied a lot of rigor to making
OpenGL work.

Apple went to great lengths to make a world class OS and I think they succeeded.
We were able
to validate it’s functions or say “Yes, this is working very well.”

7. So, otherwise it was smooth transition
to a
new platform?

Andrew Pearce: Well we were porting from our standard code base of Maya
compiles on Irix, Linux and WindowsNT. There were millions of lines of UI
code. So building
for Cocoa was impossible, so it had to be Carbon.

We had the basic core of Maya working on OSX very early. After that it was a
matter of
conforming to the API and the Interface, which were both going through constant
changes and
development. With the release of 10.0 earlier this year it became stable and
locked down so
things became a lot smoother. It was easier to hit a target that was

It was necessary to start when we did, but it also would have been nice to work
with a stable OS
the whole time.

8 And the initial response around the
office to the
new product?

Andrew Pearce: We really like the Mac. We thought Maya looked great when
it was
finally finished. Apple is known for its user interface, they make it gorgeous
and easy to use.

9. What kind of community response has
been to Maya for OSX?

Andrew Pearce: The interest has been incredible. We’re already receiving
a lot of
feedback from customers and incorporating suggested changes into an update that
will be
coming out soon.

We’ve sold single seat licenses to some shops that are obviously already Mac
shops and they are
looking to incorporate advanced 3D into their work flow. And we’ve sold groups
of licenses to
larger shops that seem to have special teams devoted to work on Macs / OSX or
are evaluating a
possible switch to the Mac platform.

10. Now that you’ve used it, how do you
feel about OSX?

Andrew Pearce: OSX has got the brilliant UI and Unix underneath. That’s
pretty much
perfect for us. OSX is like Maya, it is visually oriented and computing

11. What do you think are the standout
of OSX?

Andrew Pearce: I think the standout is the integration with QuickTime. So
we integrated
it with our playback mechanism. Now our customers can output right to DVD or
whatever. A
customer can buy a Mac put it on their desk and you have an instant production
studio all you
need is a recording device for frame storage.

12. Would you recommend OSX to other

Andrew Pearce: I think it’s a fabulous platform. If I were to start
developing right now I
would want to start Mac OSX. But strategically I might have to develop for
multiple OS in order
to try and hit volume markets. OSX has the added comfort that it is a proven
standard. We’ve
been really happy with Apple. Maya has been highlighted in several keynotes. And
we didn’t
have a “special” relationship with Apple, but they were very good to work with,
very available.

13. And what are Maya’s plans now that you
this done?

Andrew Pearce:The OSX version is 3.5, while out other versions are up to
4. We’re
working on version 3.51 and we want to get that out soon to resolve issues with
version 10.1.
We’re also working to synchronize all the versions of Maya. We decided to go
with 3.5 because
it was stable. Otherwise, we plan to start showing the new Maya for OSX at trade
fairs and

For a real world example of how Maya and OSX are working OSNews spoke to Kevin Baille a
Visual Effects Artist from The Orphanage
. As a full service video production company, The Orphanage, qualifies as a high octane computing environment.

1. What’s the history of The Orphanage?

Kevin Baille: Basically three former ILM employees figured that it was time for them to start a new venture that was
their own thing. So that they could be creative on their own products.

2. What’s the work process for a visual artist?

Kevin Baille: The Orphanage is a creative haven. Here the artist does everything on shot. It’s not a production line mentality where an artist is restricted to one function and then passes the product on to the next person. Here the artist will do animation, rendering, and composition. It’s very well rounded.

3. How is the company organized?

Kevin Baille: We have round 15 to 20 employees. Our model has three main divisions.
The Visual Effects team will generate special effects for feature films and television. The Services Divisions offers technical services to customers. For example, video to
film conversion. Making sure that something that a customer has produced on video translates perfectly to 24
frame-per-second film stock. And the Production side offers complete film and video production services. We can write, produce and shoot commercials, music videos
and short films in-house.

4.What’s the technical heritage of The

Kevin Baille: Most of the staff comes from the “rebel unit” at ILM. This group had been
assigned to do all of their production with off the shelf software and non proprietary hardware.

We were completely Mac based until recently. And that’s because some of the extremely high-end video cards don’t have Mac drivers yet. Really, as soon as those graphics cards come out on a Mac, that’s what we’re waiting for.

We also have a small render farm of eight G4s. We’d love Apple to come out with a specific
rack mount machine for this task.

5. All Mac applications and no Maya?

Kevin Baille: We were the first beta testers of Maya on OSX. We had never really laid hands on Maya before. Other companies may have spent years creating their
pipeline and had been using Maya on NT or Irix. We’d never really had experience with Maya before this. We didn’t have a PC pipeline that it would fit in.

6. What were your first impressions?

Kevin Baille: Our initial worry was – it’s been on Irix and NT for so long would it offer
anything particularly Mac. But Alias | Wavefront did it wonderfully. Maya has all sorts of
features Mac specific features, especially the full QuickTime integration.

The workflow on a Mac is it’s strong point and OSX easily makes it better. There are probably a
lot of production houses waiting for Maya to come out on OSX to try it.

Maya fits into a another specifically Mac experience, the Apple Cinema Display. You get a lot of
screen real estate.

7. What was the talk around the office?

Kevin Baille: As soon as it was announced, people’s immediate reaction was “That’s awesome.” Everybody was excited by it, just like with the announcement of OSX. Stuff like QT integration isn’t available on a PC.

8. And working with OSX full time?

Kevin Baille: OSX offers a lot. It’s a Unix based high-end with excellent 3D software apps, like Maya. You have all the scripting ability to control your environment
and the option of a terminal and it’s all within a Mac Interface, so that’s great.

9. Maya on OSX fit your needs?

Kevin Baille: The guys at Alias | Wavefront did a great job and were super responsive. We’ve had nothing but good experiences with them and their company. Everybody’s really psyched about using Maya. Sometimes you might go back to
using some old program for some reason, and you can’t believe you’d ever want to go back to using full time. You can’t wait to get back to Maya.

Maya was a really welcome change.


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