Maya Software - Part 1 - Overview

Maya is a high-end 3D computer graphics and 3D modeling software package originally developed by Alias Systems Corporation, but now owned by Autodesk as part of the Media and Entertainment division.

Autodesk acquired the software in October 2005 upon purchasing Alias. Maya is used in the film and TV industry, as well as for computer and video games, architectural visualization and design.

In 2003, Maya (then owned by Alias|Wavefront) won an Academy Award "for scientific and technical achievement", citing use "on nearly every feature using 3-D computer-generated images."


Maya is a popular, integrated node-based 3D software suite, evolved from Wavefront Explorer and Alias PowerAnimator using technologies from both. The software is released in two versions: Maya Complete and Maya Unlimited. Maya Personal Learning Edition (PLE) is available at no cost for non-commercial use, although the resulting rendered images are watermarked.

Maya was originally released for the IRIX operating system, and subsequently ported to the Microsoft Windows, Linux and Mac OS X operating systems. IRIX support was discontinued after the release of version 6.5. When Autodesk acquired Alias in October 2005, they continued Maya development. The latest version, 2008 (9.0), was released in September 2007.

An important feature of Maya is its openness to third-party software, which can strip the software completely of its standard appearance and, using only the kernel, can transform it into a highly customized version of the software. This feature in itself made Maya appealing to large studios which tend to write custom code for their productions using the provided software development kit.

A Tcl-like cross-platform scripting language called Maya Embedded Language (MEL) is provided not only as a scripting language, but as means to customize Maya's core functionality (much of the environment and tools are written in the language).

Additionally, user interactions are implemented and recorded as MEL scripting code which users can store on a toolbar, allowing animators to add functionality without experience in C or C++ programming and compilers, though that option is provided with the software development kit. Support for Python scripting was added in version 8.5.

The core of Maya itself is written in C++.

Project files, including all geometry and animation data, are stored as sequences of MEL operations which can be optionally saved as a 'human readable' file (.ma, for Maya ASCII), editable in any text editor outside of the Maya environment which allows for a high level of flexibility when working with external tools.

A marking menu is built into larger menu system called Hotbox that provides instant access to a majority of features in Maya at the press of a key.

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