Maya2LW Pipeline | Ten years in a cell …

Maya2LW[2], screenshots of both applications

I started a collaboration with the animator Tim Linklater (who is running the excellent website
I was in a desperate need of good animated characters and this guy had a lot of stunning animated stuff that deserved to be lighted & rendered, so we decided to join our forces. He sent me some of his pieces of work done in Maya, but I almost never worked with Maya. I had to solutions :

  1. Learn lighting & rendering in Maya
  2. Test the infamous Maya To Lightwave pipeline

I choose #2. I found 3 existing software solutions regarding this specific pipeline, then tried one :

  • Point Oven, an amazing cross-software baking system by Mark Wilson. It supports Max, Maya, Messiah, LW, XSI and even A:M to a certain extent
  • The Beaver Project, a Maya <-> LW pipeline used on many productions
  • Maya2LW[2], an open-source project. I took this one because it’s free and was recent enough to run with Maya6/7 & LW 7/8

Using Maya2LW[2] is very simple :

  • From Maya exporting datas goes into two steps :
    1. Save the mesh in Alias|Wavefront format (.obj) so that LW will be able to load them. There is no particular issue there, except if you have to export NURBS. Maya2Lw doesn’t handle NURBS, nor does LW. The solution should be to convert NURBS to Polygons, but it didn’t work for me so far
    2. Bake & export the animations. Maya2LW export ‘almost MDD compatible’ files, that just need to be converted to MDD format in order to be understood by LW. I had no problem here, except I had to select the relevant nodes in Maya, it can sometimes be tricky to find the right item.
  • Back to LW, I did it manually ’cause I couldn’t get the scripts working properly (version mismatch). It is rather straightforward, though :
    1. When imported, the .obj files sometimes comes without material/surface assigned. That’s a necessary step to reassign surfaces, so that you will be able to see your meshes in the layout. In this precise case, I had to refine the mesh a bit to comply the LW limits : no n-gons subdivision
    2. Apply MDD : I converted all the mesh transformations from Maya to LW with the MDD format, despite it is generally dedicated to mesh deformations (blendshapes, skinning …). LW uses the Motion Designer displacement plug-in to apply MDD files to any mesh. The settings are straightforward :

Maya2LW[2], MDD plug-in

Conclusion (so far) :

I’ve got roughly the same mesh & deformations in LW as in Maya. Roughly : it seems there are some slight differences regarding the animations, and the bug lost its eyeballs, guess why, they were in NURBS.
Got’ to find a workarround 🙂