Ever had to animate in other software, but wanted to go back to your comfy blender so you could render in our beloved Cycles?… or maybe you’re a Maya Animator that really doesn’t want to pay for an Arnold licence to get beautiful renders for their reel?… well here is the solution to all your problems.
Well It’s indeed quite easy.
So here we have this animation excercise I animated for an assignment during Pepe-School-Land I animated in Maya, In which I chose the Malcom Rig courtesy of Anim School, rendered in Blender with the Cycles render engine (this same process will also be very similar if not the same when EEVEE is ready for it.)
You like it?, hope you do, if so show the love on vimeo, comments, share, etc…
In any case, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned from this workflow.
To make it clear I used Maya 2017, and Blender 2.79 night build (by the time you get this 2.79 is probably gonna be the standard).
Create your Maya scene, choose your rig, have some fun!.
After hours and hours of touching up your animation, you’ll probably get something better than this, but this example will do for now:
Okay, now to the things you need, there is two main ways to export your animation from Maya to Blender via Alembic, the first one, the easy one, is to export the entire scene to alembic, which many would recommend and for most simpler rigs it will suffice…
Though with more complex rigs like malcom I find it annoying because he has a lot of clothings and hair types hidden for you to be able to customize him a bit, and so by comparison, when I exported this entire scene the alembic file (.abc) would be 700mb wether i would only pick what i needed it would be just 30mb… so a bit of a difference, this also making the second one export much much faster.
So we’ll go to that… select only the mesh objects you need and the camera:
You really don’t want to have to remember exactly what you exported if you need to export again, so go on Create > Sets > Create Quick Select Set…
And hit “Add to shelf”… now you got yourself a button to select all of what you needed to export each time if you need to iterate in the exporting… ( i did it a bunch of times because after rendering you tend to need to come back and fix things ).
So now we’re ready to export.
When you go to export alembic you get a huge window, for the most part you really don’t need to do much besides “Write UV Sets” if you want to use the UV’s that come with the character or that you have worked so hard to make in maya.
after this is set, you’ll get a “whateveryoucalledyourproject.abc” file.
yeah… I exported the ABC for this one more than 25 times, way more… but I stuck with the number 25 because I realised it was easier to replace that same file so I didn’t have to start all over in blender each time… a bit more on that later.
So now, start a new scene in blender, delete everything (most likely), and go to File, import Alembic (.abc)
Go select your file…
Voila it’s all in, camera, character animation and everything, yet blender can’t really recognise mental ray or Arnold materials via alembic but who cares, we’re going for cycles.
So good thing is that you really can just focus on setting up your illumination now, go select the cycles render engine up top
And now you can ready to go and cycle away!, add a few lights, a few materials, and harness the whole power of cycles!
Do you want to know more about how I lit and finished this shot?, let me know and I’ll do a write up on that too!