Daz to Maya Animation Workflow (a chronicle?)

nillamello

New Member
Oct 11, 2018
6
6
First things first, I'm a graphic designer. I've never worked in 3D professionally, but I know my way around graphic programs.

So, initially I stuck with Daz and got decent enough at posing and all that to start work on what I was going to make into a game. Pretty normal. But I'm sort of a perfectionist... and I wanted to have some animated story elements added in. Just quick 10 or 15 second cutscenes to introduce characters or transitions. I saw that Daz had animation tools, so I went to work on that pretty much right away. My initial attempt actually went really well (I think). You can check out a quick render video below with two different light setups. Obviously I intended to combine them in post, but, well... we'll get to that in a bit.


So yeah, I can find a ton of flaws, but whatever. The biggest problem is that that animation took TWO FUCKING WEEKS. One day to get a fifteen second animation down... simple stuff, just twirling and rising into the air, then she senses something, scowls, and falls to the ground in a power pose. Cool. Then I added dForce for movement. Cool so far, EXCEPT... everything fucking collapsed. The clothes had to be simulated one piece at a time, and not simple sims, but 120 fps 20 collision sims that took 6 hours per piece of clothing or they would stick against something and explode. And I had to do that multiple times until I got the wind and gravity correct. Then came the hair. The fucking hair. The wind and gravity on that sucker was so many iterations that a full week was dedicated JUST to getting it to spin correctly, since it took two hours before I knew that whatever wind node or gravity set I used was either too much or too little. Daz is shit for simulation.

Quick tip: Wind isn't actually wind, it's a push force. If you want to blow wind up from below, you can't put a wind node under your character and expect it to act on the hair, because the wind won't flow around the character like actual wind even if you set it to blow at 500 mph, it will simply push the immovable object and then stop moving. To blow hair up, you need to put nodes at the base of the neck.

So I moved on, and then I came upon the first large story scene (the catalyst of the main events) and I wanted to animate that. Great. Here's a still from that animation for the perverts:

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So I have her writhing around (of course). but she's slipping and sliding all over the damn place. No amount of pinning is even remotely helpful. Then I realized something... Daz is shit for animation, too.

Enter Maya. I have a student license that goes along with my fees for the local community college (where I fence), so why not. Super complicated, but also really rewarding and SO MUCH BETTER AT SIMULATION. Like... I'm simulating a video that I'll post in a few minutes under this sentence, and I've done it six times trying to get the hair physics right since I started writing this post. And it's twice as long as the Daz animations I did and a dozen times more complex.


Anyway, there are some Maya pipeline tools that let you import characters from Daz, but it's not terribly intuitive. I've gone ahead and used a combination of default rigs, imported rigs, and manual facial morphs to get the below test video. This is a playblast video (so a viewport video, essentially), not a full render. So there's no lighting or subsurface skin stuff, just a simple dynamic hair test (so I can decide how much shape retention the model has in the hair). She was imported from Daz (a morphed Girl 8), then further sculpted inside of Maya, and the hair was created with the default xGen hair utilities. I also have a softbody version for dynamic breast and body deformation (I'll be posting another video of that system shortly).

Pros of Maya:
- Animation is super. Human IK controls lock parts of the body in space like magic, and simple movements are a breeze. Tweaking keyed poses is also really simple once you get used to animation curves.
- I'm rendering with Redshift, because my CPU isn't the greatest, but Maya gives you options, unlike Daz. Also, render view is actually useful and refreshes in seconds instead of minutes. Tweaking lighting can be done in realtime.
- Simulation is not even comparable. Dforce cloth is nice for very simple interations, but this is literally right before my eyes. I can change settings during the actual simulation to correct flaws and then cache the full sim into a static animation in less time than even one prelim sim in Daz.

Cons of Maya:
- Learning curve is steep. There are a lot of tutorials around, but you still need to be really savvy and have a lot of free time.
- There are very few baked in assets. You want hair? You make the hair. You want to move the hair onto a different character...? Well... you can make the hair onto a scalp segment, and then parent that scalp onto the bald head of someone else, I guess. The same goes for clothing.... my characters are currently naked for a reason.
- The exception to the above is material shaders, actually... since the simulation aspect of professional software is so strong, materials are available right out of the box, and third parties also supply a vast number of textures and shaders for pretty much anything.

Ultimate thoughts on this after a month of Maya:
If you really want to use the dynamic aspects of dForce but were really really really disappointed with the constraints (like blue jeans falling to the ground in a puddle like they were made of silk), then you may want to look into Maya. There's a plug-in that is sort of mythical that's been posted about every once in a while on the Daz forums that allows Maya to natively read *.duf files... if that ever sees the light of day, then we'll see a lot more people around here posting renders using Arnold, RenderMan, and Redshift. (it's currently in development with the help of the Daz team, so I'm hopeful). Right now, the time commitment keeps it from being actively used in most game pipelines.

If anyone else around here has looked into this for similar purposes, I'd appreciate feedback or helpful tips.
 

Piter Georg

Member
May 4, 2017
28
34
Among Maya and teams that work with Autodesk software not preference for another type of software include DAZ. The reason is that an AutoDesk is multi-faceted and focused on professionals include arts, sculpturing, character animation and game engine also know like Fundamentals. Many years ago I tried to use ready DAZ models and files inside Maya nobody wanted to hear or help. That is normal coz one is the mother of the other. My modest advice is to try or choose which one to work with. Daz Studio has a very good IR rendering engine for photo reality also. If you want something specific you can do it with Maya, 3D MAX, Bledner or Zbrush and finally save to popular readable standard files obj, 3ds, fbx.
 
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mickydoo

Active Member
Game Developer
Jan 5, 2018
260
556
I have pulled DAZ models into both blender and 3ds max, I have played around with Maya in the past but know very little about it. I have found it is not worth the effort in either software. DAZ animation system may be basic and a pain in the ass at first, but it is actually surprising how much you can fudge it and make it look good. Same as rendering, DAZ iray is optimised for DAZ, I have never got a render look any good in max or blender, not that I have tried hard mind you. Blender is fantastic for animation but it has no bone limits by default so you can twist and turn them anywhere, I have read you can set limits but it's typical blender make everything hard shit. Max is easy to set limits but despite using to model for years I have never animated in it with much success, I could work it out easy enough, but the thing I find is nothing ever transfers like it should, and when it does you get excited and then all of sudden it won't again.
 
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RomanHume

Purveyor of Porn
Game Developer
Jan 5, 2018
1,088
3,433
What irony. I just downloaded the trial of Maya around the first of this month to start playing with it. For me the real draws were animation, and the Arnold renderer. I've been studying Maya resources non-stop and I've gotten pretty good with the hypershade. But importing Daz characters....blegh.

First I bought the Daz to Maya script. Turns out, it doesn't completely work yet with 2019. Or at least it didn't with my characters. So I decided my best course of action was to just import the .obj and learn to rig and skin the character myself in Maya.

So I set out to learn rigging. HOLY SHIT IT"S EASY. I had no idea. So now I'm really pumped to use Maya to make a later game. I won't do it immediately because I want to get really good at it first.

This conversation actually just happened on my thread a day or two ago and I kind of laid out my intended educational timeline. I'll recap here for convenience:

My plan roughly is thus. First I plan to tackle and master zBrush. I want to use zBrush to enhance my existing models and update all of the hair assets to fibermesh so that I am free from these static, stiff, unlife-like facsimiles of hair. It can be used on my Daz models and can be used to enhance and improve models in Maya. So that's a no brainer. So there is immediate and long term application.

Next I intend to master Substance Painter/Designer. This too will be good for immediate Daz application as well as long term Maya work. I so frequently use Adobe Bridge to tweak and update the Daz materials I'm currently using that being able to create surfaces from scratch is a huge benefit.

After that I think I want to learn the ins and outs of Marvellous Designer and free myself up from using the same old stiff, static clothes that are available in the online stores. Being able to outfit my characters according to their own personal style is a huge draw to me and having that freedom of design just opens up a whole world of possibilities. Also Daz and Maya compatible.

Ideally, as I'm working on mastering all of those tools, I'll be steadily building up my Maya skills at the same time to the point that they can be implemented in time for the next game.

Very much a long term goal. But thought out in a way that there can be immediate application of the acquired skills. I won't get any of this done tomorrow. But in two or three years, totally possible. Total creative liberty. That's what I'm striving for.
Talking around with others, I really thought I was alone in this concept. But if there are others out there with similar ideas, I'd love to share resources, ideas, tutorials, etc. Anything to make this niche market of games even better than they are.

Cheers mate and best of luck!
 

RomanHume

Purveyor of Porn
Game Developer
Jan 5, 2018
1,088
3,433
Among Maya and teams that work with Autodesk software not preference for another type of software include DAZ. The reason is that an AutoDesk is multi-faceted and focused on professionals include arts, sculpturing, character animation and game engine also know like Fundamentals. Many years ago I tried to use ready DAZ models and files inside Maya nobody wanted to hear or help. That is normal coz one is the mother of the other. My modest advice is to try or choose which one to work with. Daz Studio has a very good IR rendering engine for photo reality also. If you want something specific you can do it with Maya, 3D MAX, Bledner or Zbrush and finally save to popular readable standard files obj, 3ds, fbx.
My goal is to build a pipeline where I just take the base polygon mesh of a daz model (because let's face it, there are some very beautiful Daz models out there) and do my own rigging and surfacing in Maya. It'll cut out the modelling step which doesn't intimidate me, but when assembling a cast of several dozen characters could become quite time consuming.

Plus I could always create one or two custom characters to supplement the cast of Daz characters if need be.

Once I get a little better at Maya, I'll be interested to see if, with the semi-uniformity of the G8 models, I can just duplicate the rigs from one character to the next and just alter the scale and weights. Right now it's just a thought experiment, but I'll be interested to test it out.
 

Piter Georg

Member
May 4, 2017
28
34
I fully understand and support you. This is understandable for people who can not model and creating characters, DAZ have complete. Check first polygons and rigs for better results inside MAYA coz DAZ and Maya it's have different multiplication character system. I have also problems with MAYA 2009 and normal polygon after export to the game engine. The tests are time consuming and tips do not help something.
New versions require a lot of hardware resources based workstation impossible for small studio and business.​
 

nillamello

New Member
Oct 11, 2018
6
6
I found that nothing from the Daz store works correctly in maya 2019... But everything is a charm in 2018. I've taken to doing all of the imports and shader conversion in 18 and then just opening the new file in 19 and moving on from there. Animation caching in the most recent release is a game changer.

So, the Genesis8 for Maya plug-in is gold for people looking for full Daz functions in Maya (but not fully supported in Maya 2019). Not only does it import the fully weighted character with a working body rig (joint limitations are still manually input... Unfortunately... But I'm personally working on a more stylized project, so I'm not terribly inconvenienced by unlimited motion), and also includes body correction morphs for all of the joints. But best of all, it imports custom morphs from Daz. That includes facial expressions. So if you don't want to sculpt 100 blend shapes for expressions, then that saves a ton of time. And if you'd prefer to rig the face manually, all of the rigging bones are still there for you.
 
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EdoG

Member
May 4, 2017
22
33
I found that nothing from the Daz store works correctly in maya 2019... But everything is a charm in 2018. I've taken to doing all of the imports and shader conversion in 18 and then just opening the new file in 19 and moving on from there. Animation caching in the most recent release is a game changer...

<snip>
Quote from the :
Maya 2019 currently seems to have a bug when importing FBX files where the Shape Editor is not populated with the blend shapes. Morphs exported from Daz Studio should still be usable via the Channel Box and/or Attribute editor.