Swordfish is a motion design agency based in San Francisco. We specialize in motion design and production for all sorts of marketing and user experience projects. Autodesk approached us recently to produce a project using their new motion graphics tool kit in Maya. I personally have been working with Maya for over 15 years, and it was quite a challenge because we're normally not used to doing those type of projects in Maya. Maya is really good for technical directors who can write their own tools or write their own processes, but Motion Graphic, the workflow is different. It's a high frequency, high number of iterations, more of artists feeling out what they're looking for. Well, in the grand scheme of things, I've only been using it for about 10 or 12 years, and I know some of the other people here have been using it much longer.

When I first heard that there was a motion graphics tool set within Maya I was super excited because we've always been going to other applications for that sort of work. We try to use the right tools for the job. The motion graphics tool set in Maya is new and we were really ready to try it out. We broke it down into what types of projects do people typically do with motion graphics in CG. And we created mood boards out of that. So we looked at things like heads-up displays, HUDs. We looked at tracers. We looked at connectors. We looked at organic animations, arrays, all of these different types of cloners that people use.

And we found beautiful references. We set out with the typical CG tools that we use to make motion graphics. And we created our own designs. I designed the establishing shot for the piece, and I did the futuristic HUD elements and rendered that, obviously, in Maya, and then normally we would have gone to a different application to apply that motion graphics that's sort of floating around in that environment, but now you can do that within Maya.

I forked the design into my own vision using camera angles and shadow depth of field and photo reel renders to get these beautiful final shots that utilize both the photo reel renders along with the motion graphics. For the club shot, I used the new curve wrap tool. Then with a few settings I changed and made it into a Reaper node, which allows me to clone different objects. And I use an offset to make the separation between the enclosed and the different objects that I have driving that simulation. We're really happy with the speed of the MASH tools, the ability to see things in real time and viewport 2.0 helped us visualize the lighting, the animation, and by the time we got to final rendering we already had a pretty good idea of what it was going to look like.

Another thing Autodesk just integrated into this release was the new exporter for After Effects, and that's actually one of the things I'm most excited about. Just select everything you need to export, you hit export, and you hit import in After Effects, and it's there, done. It's no longer extra effort. The new eye brush shade and new look depth is being improved quite a bit. Now you get a very quick feedback between using different materials and textures and you have the new shader board that you can actually see how the reflections are going to react, how the textures are going to react to light. This process has been really eye-opening to us.

One of the big advantages that Maya has is the freelance talent pool that we can bring in. It's just going to be used more and more as we move forward. What Autodesk is doing right now is just great, integrating all these different tools in one unified package. Being able to keep it all within just the one platform, it saves a tremendous amount of time. It's really nice to see Autodesk moving Maya into a more artist-friendly way, that creative talent can produce complex animations without having to script. The most interesting thing that I think is going to happen is we're going to see a different look come out of motion graphics.

I've always been a big fan of Autodesk. They've created great products. And over the years, they never cease to amaze me on how they actually listen to the customer and provide us with the tools that we need to do the job.