Image Courtesy of Amaru Zeas

The most powerful Maya yet

By - - Maya
176 mins
Last modification: 24 Mar, 2021


Your Maya toolset just got a whole lot bigger.

USD is seamlessly integrated, allowing you to load and edit large data sets fast and work directly with data using native tools. Maya’s animation, rigging, and modeling toolsets see big updates to help you work faster and with more precision, and the latest version of Arnold brings more speed and flexibility to your rendering workflows.

Sit back, grab a coffee (or tea), and get caught up on Maya’s latest updates.



 USD seamlessly integrated

Pixar’s open-source Universal Scene Description (USD) has been making its way into VFX pipelines as a way to interchange 3D data across several digital content creation tools. Now in Maya, not only can you load and edit massive data sets at lightning speed, but you can also work directly with the data using Maya's native tools. We’ve also added robust referencing functionality, non-destructive data editing workflows, and support for complex variants.

Load and edit massive data sets at lightning speed
One of the many benefits of USD in Maya is the raw speed at which you can bring in massive data sets. Load multiple gigabytes of data into Maya in a matter of seconds.

Seamlessly import and export USD data
A new round-trip import and export workflow lets you take USD data and import it as native Maya data, or take native Maya data and export it as USD data, allowing you to rely on USD as a simple, high-speed format for transferring data between Maya scenes or other applications that support USD.

Preview USD scene structure
Get a lightweight preview of USD scene structure with a new USD Hierarchy View Window. This can be used to see the contents of a USD file, as well as set the state of the scene, including variants, before import.


Support for in-memory USD stages
A USD stage is an in-memory container of the composed USD scenegraph. The new mayaUsdProxyShape node enables native Maya workflows directly on USD stages. This means you can now work directly with USD data in common Maya editors like the Viewport, Outliner, Attribute Editor, Manipulators, Snapping, and more! 

An Outliner experience tailored to USD
New features in the Outliner make it quick and easy to identify and work with USD data in the Outliner alongside standard Maya objects.

  • Data Branch Colors allow you to distinguish between Maya and non-native USD data in the Outliner
  • Unique USD icons and badges help recognize Prim data types and Composition Arcs. 
  • Right-click contextual menus provide easy access to common Prim-based operations.

New USD Layer Editor
The new USD Layer Editor allows you to intuitively create, view, and manage a USD Stage’s complex LayerStack.

Open-source and customizable
In addition to shipping with Maya out-of-the-box, the Maya USD plugin is available as an open-source project for you to customize as you need. Visit the USD for Maya project on GitHub to learn more.


Python 3

Python 3 being used for dog animation

Image courtesy of Antony Ward

Python 3 is the new default for Maya on all platforms (Windows, Linux and Mac OS). On Windows and Linux, Maya can still be started in Python 2 mode either by setting an environment variable or with a command line flag.

OpenColorIO v2 integration

Your Maya experience just got more colorful with OpenColorIO v2 now integrated! OCIO v2 is a complete color management solution used by post-production and visual effects to ensure colors are accurately depicted on screens. New scenes created in Maya’s update are based on new default settings for color management that follow the industry-standard Academy Color Encoding System (ACES).

 Learn more about our involvement with OpenColorIO here.




Powerful animation tools

Get animating faster with a new Ghosting Editor that allows you to quickly see animation spacing over time, making it easier to pinpoint where edits need to be made and how poses work together in animations. A number of improvements to the Time Editor, including support for cached playback, and new filters in the Graph Editor, simplify animation workflows and save you time.  

New Ghosting Editor
Ghosting now takes full advantage of Cached Playback, displaying the information already stored in the cache. The new Ghosting Editor lets you create images that echo their animations, so you can visualize movement and manage how and what parts of your characters you would like to visualize in the Viewport.

Cached Playback support for simulations and dynamics
Speed and performance of simulation and dynamics caching is also improved, allowing you to stay in flow and iterate your work in real-time at final frame quality.

Female animated in Cached Playback Time Editor

Cached Playback support in the Time Editor
The Time Editor now fully supports Cached Playback allowing you to work and hit play without needing to playblast. When loading a scene with Time Editor clips, Cached Playback is no longer automatically disabled. 

Additive Animation Clips in the Time Editor
You can now set clips to be additive, so you can mix two clips together seamlessly. For example, a clip of an arm waving can be blended with a clip of someone walking, even as the animation moves forward in space. If a clip is set to ‘additive’, it will be evaluated relative to its first frame of animation and added on top of the underlying clip animation.

Graph Editor Improvements
We’ve also added several improvements to the Graph Editor, bringing you a smoother animation experience. A new Peak Removal filter makes it quick and easy to clean up unwanted spikes and peaks in animation curves and the new Smooth (Gaussian) filter gives you more control over the range and width of blur effects. The Preserve Tangent Type option, formerly only available for the Insert Keys tool in the Graph Editor, is now also available in the Add Keys tool, helping to reduce the amount of time needed to craft curve shapes.

Character in Graph Editor tool

Modern rigging workflows

Face rigged in Maya

New procedural, topology-independent rigging workflows introduce modern methods for defining membership and weighting, as well as seamlessly sharing data between geometry and deformers. Building on Maya’s already extensive deformation toolset, we’ve also added powerful new Solidify and Morph deformers.

Component Tags
Component Tags allow geometry to store named sets of components directly on a shape node. These sets can then be passed to and used by other nodes. Component Tags give you cleaner and more efficient deformer graphs by significantly reducing the number of nodes and connections required for deformation.

Deformer Falloffs
Deformer falloffs provide a new method for defining deformation weighting. Unlike traditional deformer weighting, once defined, falloffs can be shared and reused in a topologically independent way. You can take advantage of deformer falloffs with many of the most commonly used deformers, including Skin Cluster, Cluster, BlendShape, Proximity Wrap, Tension, Lattice, Wire, Delta Mush, and all nonlinear deformers.

Solidify Deformer
In conjunction with Component Tags, the new Solidify deformer enables you to create areas of geometry that appear more solid when deformed. For example, this new technique can be used to define rigid parts of a character (such as spikes or claws) that should be preserved when the character is being deformed by a skeleton. 

Morph Deformer
With the new Morph deformer, you can seamlessly blend from one shape to another. Using the component lookup feature, it is now possible to morph a shape using only a subset of its components. This provides a modern alternative to the BlendShape deformer with benefits that include GPU acceleration and topology independence.

Always Draw on Top attribute
When the new Always Draw on Top attribute is enabled on a Curve shape node, the curve will be visible in the Viewport even when occluded by other objects in the scene. This is particularly useful for control rigs. Curves that are used as rig control objects can now be displayed in the Viewport on top of other objects, improving visibility of the rig.

Skin Binding using Proximity Wrap
You can now use the Proximity Wrap deformer instead of the classic Skin Cluster node when binding a mesh to a skeleton. Unlike the legacy Skin Cluster node, Proximity Wrap allows you to drive geometry with joints in a topologically independent way.


Community-inspired modeling updates

Car being modeled

A number of additions to Maya’s modeling toolset bring you more control over models. Procedurally generate geometry and adjust attributes such as profile shape and size with the Sweep Mesh tool. Several user-requested updates have also been made to improve your overall modeling experience.

Game Vertex Count plugin
A new Game Vertex Count plugin creates a game-centric alternative to Maya’s standard Poly Count Heads Up Display (HUD). Using this plugin, you can now more accurately estimate how assets in Maya impact in-game vertex count budgets before exporting them to game engines. This feature also includes targeted settings for Unity and Unreal.

Created being modeled in MayaImage courtesy of Antony Ward

Create VR for Maya
Create VR is an immersive conceptual design tool that allows you to start the creative process directly in 3D. Using simple curve and surface tools, you can explore form and shape while being fully immersed in virtual reality alongside your art. Sketches and models can then be easily exported to Maya for final realization.

Note: Create VR does not come out-of-the-box with Maya. To access Create VR, you need to download it from the App Store and install it separately. Once installed, Create VR can be loaded via Maya's Plugin Manager and launched in the Maya UI. 

User-requested updates
You spoke, we listened. We’ve added a slew of modeling workflow improvements directly based on your feedback, including pivot enhancements, better extrude thickness, faster lasso selection, match, translation, and scaling enhancements, and performance improvements to give you precise control over scene transforms.

Fast and flexible rendering with Arnold 6.2

Maya also includes Arnold’s new post-processing nodes including the Light Mixer and Bloom for better control of lighting effects, as well as tools for automatic denoising after each render. With many GPU Improvements including shadow linking and faster start-up, you can now render scenes more efficiently and with added support for shadow linking. We’ve also collaborated with a number of studios to bring improvements to USD support in Arnold including new support for physical camera parameters, search paths, autobump visibility, per-face material assignments, and reading stages from the shared stage cache via the cache id parameter.

OpenColorIO v2 is now integrated in Arnold. You can now take advantage of OpenColorIO v2’s native implementation of ACES (Academy Color Encoding System) and processing improvements right in the Arnold renderer.

Read more on the latest Arnold updates in the blog post.

An improved first experience

Finally, we’ve made several UI improvements to get you creating quicker and with more control.

Smoother startup
The user experience when launching Maya is now faster and more modern.

  • Startup time has been significantly reduced, so you can get to work in Maya much more quickly.
  • An improved splash screen includes a descriptive progress bar, letting you know where Maya is in the startup process. By popular request, the splash now also displays as soon as Maya is started and no longer steals focus from other active windows.
  • The Maya UI is now only displayed and maximized when idle and ready.
  • You can now hide the Output window unless it is specifically needed.

Startup preferences
When launching a new version of Maya for the first time, you can now choose which preferences you would like to copy from a previous version of Maya, including hotkeys, shelves, workspaces, scripts, marking menus, and colors.

Incredibly detailed simulations with Bifrost for Maya

In case you missed it, a big update to Bifrost was released on December 8, 2020, marking a major milestone for visual programming in Bifrost for Maya. With a focus on bringing richer, procedural workflows to more areas of the pipeline, this update added powerful scattering, instancing, volumetrics, and FX capabilities to Bifrost. 

Usability improvements also made the visual programming environment easier to navigate.

Get more information on these Bifrost updates from the AREA blog post.


Take a look back at how far we've come since Maya 2016


Visit the Bifrost hub for the latest news, tutorials, and forum discussions.

To get your hands on all these awesome new features, be sure to update to Maya 2022. If you’re not yet a subscriber, check out our 30-day free trial of Maya.

Missed our webinar? Watch this behind-the-scenes look at the latest USD, animation, and modeling updates in Maya with special guests from Industrial Light & Magic and Luma Pictures.


Published In
  • Maya
  • Film & VFX
  • Games
1 Comment
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| 6 days ago
Awesome how you keep on developing Maya in a cool way. Cheers.