Autodesk Unveils Maya 2017, Mental Ray is Out, Arnold is In


Siggraph is currently underway, which usually means new releases of our favorite tools. Autodesk announced Maya 2017 and took the wraps off what is new and in store for new and subscription users. Maya 2017 seems to focus on major workflow upgrades, bringing brand new editors, and updates to aging ones.

This release includes major workflow upgrades…

One of the major changes with the latest release is that Mental Ray is no longer included. If you want to use Mental Ray, you need to download it from nvidia. Instead, Maya offers Arnold with the latest release, although there is one caveat.

Arnold is a local version of Arnold for Maya. It only works interactively while you are working in Maya. So while rendering a single frame is possible, or a sequence of frames interactively, Batch rendering will give you a watermark. If you want to batch render, you need to purchase Arnold Batch Render Nodes, from Solid Angle.

Hopefully, this is something that can be cleaned up and made simpler in later releases that show Arnold as the main rendering engine.

That hiccup aside, Maya 2017 offers some great workflow improvements.

Maya 2017 Malleable Workspaces

Maya 2017 brings a new workspace ideology that should replace panel layouts. Workspaces define how your Maya setup looks. You can open, close, move, or dock panels as you see fit. In fact, virtually everything is dock-able in Maya 2017, with changes being automatically saved.

Workspaces offer way more flexibility than panel layouts, and are stored as operate files in your user directory instead of on a scene-by-scene basis.

New Content Browser

So the Visor is useful, but really is it all that it can be? Now there is a new Content Browser in the latest Maya release. It is a modern, one-stop place where you can find scenes, models, animations, and examples. Yes, this replaces the aging Visor.

With the content browser you can easily navigate for files in your Maya projects. This includes local and network directories, and sample libraries. Alloy have to do is drag and drop content into the viewport.

Most commands that previously opened the Visor now open the Content Browser, except for workflows involving the Trax Editor. Sample content from the Visor is available on the Examples tab.

New Time Editor

You probably remember the Trax editor in Maya. Tax was an amazing concept that pushed the premise of non-linear editing of animation as if you were editing video. The Trax editor shows its age at this point, needing certain criteria ahead of time to operate.

Now Maya 2017 has a new Time Editor that should take over where Trax left off. The Time Editor offers a non-destructive clip based, nonlinear editor that can edit animation on a higher level than Trax ever could. Tax required you to create character sets. The Time Editor in Maya 2017 does not, as it works with any attributes and animation curves. It can be characters, cameras, colors, or virtually anything. The Time Editor will allow you to easily edit pre-existing animation. This can include motion capture (even multi-take FBX files,) or keyframe motion, with intuitive controls trim, scale, loop, split, group, crossfade, controls.


Newly Revamped Graph Editor

The graph editor in Maya gets a much needed facelift. It is now much more modern, and way more intuitive for new users, streamlining the animation curve process. Of course, if you prefer, you can bring back the old or what is called the “classic” graph editor, if perhaps you don’t like life change.

The redesigned Graph Editor puts focus on being able to see curves easily. It does this by increasing contrast between the curves and the background and by simplifying the stacked view. The timeline has also been moved to the top of the Graph Editor.

Maya 2017 graph editor



Summing Up

It looks like modernizing old and dusty parts of Maya remains a priority with Autodesk, which is always a good thing. These are only a few of the massive additions in Maya 2017. For a complete list of what is new, and what has changed, you can refer to the Maya 2017 Help Docs.


  1. Chris

    I love the modernization. The modeling toolkit and hyper shade changes were huge in previous releases… And love the new MoGraph tools. But Arnold being included but not INCLUDED is a pretty HUGE hiccup if you ask me. Means you’re stuck with the dreadfully slow Mental Ray or the completely obsolete Maya software renderer. If Arnold were in the $500 range like most other options, I’d be okay, but $800 for node locked and $1200 for floating is a little steep for a CPU renderer, IMO.

    • smbell

      yeah, it’s a really bad decision, especially for freelancers and small studios. Many people have built pipelines around MR and now it’s just totally gone. No background renderer at all is mind-boggling. Arnold is also nowhere near feature complete. They would’ve been better off buying v-ray or something that is actually comparable to the current version of MR. It’s going to cost us close to 30k to get our render farm up and running with 2017.

  2. Colin

    Welcome to Autodesk where they diplomatically tell you that taking something away or out is a good thing. They are so busy atm looking for ways to spin revenues that they keep feeding us this line of BS where they tell us the change is good. Their new product structuring is a great example of this. They no longer sell perpetual licenses or single product licenses and soon buying licenses for suites will be a thing of the past. They tell us how great the pricing for their Desktop Subscriptions are and are much greater deals then buying perpetual licenses. Anyone who does the math will very quickly realize that now not having the ability to buy licenses and having to rent them is far more expensive in the long run. If you bought a license and pay subscription each year its reasonable. Now you will pay more than double each year for a new license under the Desktop Subscription and although you no longer put out a large sum of cash to buy, the amount you would have paid to buy upfront will have been covered within the 1st 3 years of desktop subscription prices. After that you just keep paying the high annual price which I stated earlier is more than double the current annual subscription for perpetual licenses already owned.

    This is just the beginning. They already have canned or removed some high end apps inside suites , Soft Image altogether, Mudbox from the Design Suites a couple of years back. Mental ray from Maya and I’m betting from 3dsmax next year now that 3dsmax ships with their new renderer ART (Autodesk raytracer bla bla bla). In addition Showcase will go next year from the design suites and wont be replaced either. We will now have to use older Show cases or buy their new VRED app. Autodesk have bought out all their Animation graphics competitors and are now setting the stage to make a killing. What they need now is some real completion, but then that’s all gone and they can do what ever they want.

    Autodesk greed far surpassed that of Adobe or Microsoft. These guy charge extremely reasonable rates for annual subscription. Adobe Master collection which used to cost 2500 bucks now costs 50 bucks a month which equates to the same price we paid for an Adobe upgrade, only now we don’t pay the 2500 up front. MS charge 1/3 of the price to buy Office product annual subscriptions of the original purchase price and this is great as it take 3 years of subscription payments to equal the original purchase price of Office, all the while staying up to date. Autodesk on the other hand went double with their new structures. We will see what the future brings

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