Bring your Maya animations to Blender’s Cycles

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!.

2017-07-16 23_50_54-Autodesk Maya 2017_ D__Dropbox_PSL_Entregas_Animacion_Tarea_039 - no, no puedes_.png

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:

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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…

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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.

2017-07-17 00_25_14-Autodesk Maya 2017_ D__Dropbox_PSL_Entregas_Animacion_Tarea_039 - no, no puedes_.png

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.

2017-07-17 00_34_22-alembic.png

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)

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Go select your file…

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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

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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!

 

 

Extra Groups v1.0 released!

Made by the great Julien Duroure on his quest to improve rigging and animation in Blender he created this add-on a perfect companion for every animator, it’s very similar to the Bone Selection Sets add-on that comes in blender, but 100 times more powerful, fully featured, among some of these, the ability to select, add or subtract selection of groups, has a quick access with the Q key, you can import and export selection groups for when you’re using similar rigs ( i.e: multiple characters rigged with blenrig, or rigify ), you can solo controls, key a group, and even come up with your own setups!

go and check it out!, honestly Julien did a great job with this add-on i’ve been using it for months, and it’s now available via the blendermarket for only $15!

https://blendermarket.com/products/extragroups

Pose Breakdowner – Improvement

Remember one of my first posts abou the Pose Breakdowner, today I’m exited to announce that it has great new features!

Thanks to Joshua Leung, one of the core developers of blender mostly focused on everything related to development for the animation side it, in a couple of days improved the Pose Breakdowner, a whole lot!

So let’s talk about these features.

  1. You can now just breakdown one single transform / property set.2017-03-12 11_03_47-Blender_ [K__Dropbox_PSL_Entregas_Animacion_Tarea_032 - saludo_Saludo_007.blend]

So we have GRS (Grab, Rotate, Scale) independently now if you wish to break them down, let’s say you’re making a breakdown of a hand between two poses and you only want to breakdown the rotation, there ya go hit R and now you’re only touching rotations.

And also, you have B and C, B for interpolating the Bendy Bone’s properties, and C for whatever custom properties are in that Bone.

Pretty great Huh?.-

2.You can also constrain those transforms to one single axis.2017-03-12 11_09_17-Blender_ [K__Dropbox_PSL_Entregas_Animacion_Tarea_032 - saludo_Saludo_007.blend]

Not much more to say around this, but the great thing is you can go all the way from breaking down a full pose to just one axis of one transform of one joint, which in turn aids animators in faster posing

For now to get to use these features you have to download a Daily build from: builder.blender.org or wait for blender 2.79

You can follow the amazingly talented Joshua Leung on twitter and catch up with his latest developments.

Update:

This animation I made for PSL was made with the aid of the new and improved Pose Breakdowner, also many of my classmates are using it already!

Happy pose breakdowning!

Pro Tip: multiple camera switching

Ever wondered how to switch from one camera to an other?, I know I know this is not something often done in hardcore production setups since you want to have each scene in a separate file in order to distribute work across people and many other reasons, but then again if you’re making an animatic, or working on a solo where you have different shots in the same scenario It’s more than useful to be able to just put a few cameras and have them switch between one an other.

Continue reading Pro Tip: multiple camera switching

Pro Tip: Pose Breakdowner

What is it? some might wonder… well first of is a tool only for animators, actually its so “only for animators” that you can only make use of it in pose mode, I wish we could take advantage of it in object mode for animated objects, but for the most part, it’s pose mode where you’ll use it.

It’s a tool that aids ad quickly creating in-betweens by blending two poses on a percentual way, so let’s say you have two key poses

A (0%) :

2016-03-06 21_54_08-Blender_ [K__Dropbox_LOOCH_100Cycles_Cycle_001.blend]

B (100%):

2016-03-06 21_54_14-Blender_ [K__Dropbox_LOOCH_100Cycles_Cycle_001.blend]

the breakdowner can give you 100 possible mixes of this poses so 0 which will be the first one, and 100 which is the B pose, and all in between is a percentage mix of one with the other.

So select any control, or many, or even all of them in pose mode, that already has two poses or key-frames, and step in-between them like in the example:

2016-03-06 21_59_27-Blender_ [K__Dropbox_LOOCH_100Cycles_Cycle_001.blend].png

Now hit Shift+E with your mouse over the 3D view, and you’ll see your mouse turning into two arrows pointing left and right, and also in the header you’ll see “Breakdown:” and some percentage, that’s the mix amount. This tool maps 0% to the left side of your 3d view and 100% to the right side, so you just move the mouse and when you’re happy with the pose that you see in the screen you Left Click and it stays… also you can input the numbers and hit enter and that works too.

Afterwards you can key it, and you got yourself a new breakdown.

 

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This I use quite a lot mostly when I’m in the process of blocking my shot, so I know where i have moving holds and such…

If you come from Maya, this is very similar to the tween machine and also some of the tools of the aTool plugin.

Hope you learned a new way to improve your animation workflow!

Happy Break-downing!

Pro Tip: Reporting Bugs

So this is a must know for every blender user that considers himself a PRO.

Huh?, yes, being a pro is not only creating great work, but acting like a professional, and a professional contributes to the well being of it’s industry… a good way to show your love is to help the blender developers improve blender by reporting bugs, because the sooner you report a bug, the sooner it gets fixed, and that means a better version comes out the next day. Continue reading Pro Tip: Reporting Bugs

Pro Tip: Custom colors for weightpainting

I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a while, and I kept forgetting, until the next time I had to do weight painting, and so this time I just decided to write the post, it’s a bit longer than usual, but it has big rewards.

The problem: ever painted weights?… well if you have, you probably noticed that the visual representation in the view-port is very inaccurate, why?, because when you’re weight painting very often you need to make sure that some vertices have either full influence or no influence at all from a joint, as you can see in this example one could think that at least half of the ear is 100% weighted to the corresponding joint… Continue reading Pro Tip: Custom colors for weightpainting