Great news, at least some, that came from the Autodesk aquisition of Softimage is that it plans to include CAT in the upcoming 3ds Max version (3ds Max 2010), which I consider being fantastic!
CAT will finally mean a lot of time and effort saved when dealing with character rigging, setup and animation. The layering system is fantastic as is the rig itself. I don’t know how far will Autodesk push the interoperability of the rig and MotionBuilder or Biped for example, but knowing Autodesk, that’ll most likely be up to us, the end users and TDs. I’m planning to base my complete character pipeline around CAT, of course, only under the single condition that CAT works the way it should! and tie everything up to MotionBuilder rigs, possibly Biped (but probably not as I don’t use Biped at all), and other modules and areas of 3ds Max. The next step will be interoperability with Maya, which’ll allow me to utilize Maya’s fantastic cMuscle and nCloth.
I have the tools pre-planned here mostly on paper. The overall pipeline will be revolved around XML and MySQL, as much open source as it gets. So the core, proprietary components that are CAT and other pieces will have to work perfectly in order for me to go into this venture. But the fact that every seat of 3ds Max 2010 will have CAT is a very solid and good foundation. I like this idea, it’ll definitely save me tons of work and time, which is crucial. It’s the one and only new feature I’m actually very excited about.
But, if all fails and Autodesk (again) proves itself incompetent, arogant and stupid, there’s always a fantastic solution from Kees Rijnen as he announced his amazing Puppetshop to be available for commercial use for free! He’s awesome!
In the mean time, get to know CAT and learn it in and out as that’s gonna become the one and primary solution for complex character animation work in the near future. I believe it, you should too!