Daz to Maya Workflow (and apparently Dev Log now)

nillamello

Member
Oct 11, 2018
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Update edit: Been a few months, so I figured I'd put some updated visuals in the first post. Below is an animation in progress. I'm rendering a version without hair clipping right now, but this is my most recent output... 150 frames looped, each frame is roughly 5 minutes of render time on my 4-core comp (cpu-based render engine), so I'll set it to go overnight and it should be finished. Obviously, production and process is in the thread posts.


Original posts starts below.


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.
 
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Piter Georg

Member
May 4, 2017
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36
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
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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
1,148
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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
1,148
3,991
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
33
36
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

Member
Oct 11, 2018
45
39
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

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May 4, 2017
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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.
 

rodneyeatme

Well-Known Member
Jul 19, 2017
671
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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.
2018? Seriously? Is that why everything comes in fine except for the face rigging for me? Son of a..

Of interest, a dude/group is currently alpha/beta testing a Maya DSON plugin. Googling "dex maya daz" should give some interesting reading material. The face rigging I was lamenting above basically put my Maya play time on hold until that dex plugin gets released.
 

nillamello

Member
Oct 11, 2018
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39
2018? Seriously? Is that why everything comes in fine except for the face rigging for me? Son of a..

Of interest, a dude/group is currently alpha/beta testing a Maya DSON plugin. Googling "dex maya daz" should give some interesting reading material. The face rigging I was lamenting above basically put my Maya play time on hold until that dex plugin gets released.
Even in 2018, face rigging is still manual. The bones are connected with the correct weight, but Maya doesn't have any way to transfer that info into an actual rig. The face deformer workaround is pretty much the only thing I can figure out... it meant reimporting a character with the proper deformers loaded already, but transfering the body animations worked out fine, so it wasn't a huge loss.

On a side note, I've been messing around with dynamic deformations and soft bodies. I've gotten a pretty good butt deformer working.

And if you've ever wanted to see an ass devour a polygon block, you can actually reverse this deformer to create a hellscape.

 
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nillamello

Member
Oct 11, 2018
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Another quick update. Getting better at hair, I think. This is a character test with the hair being used as clothes for a goddess-type character. The hair guides are locked around the legs, but dynamic everywhere else. (And I have yet to address clipping... I'm only planning to use her for a short animation with the rest being stills, so I'll probably just ham-fist the clipping problem so it works in my specific animation and then tweak the hair a little for each shot.)

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The overall time taken on the hair was clocked at 45 minutes for the initial shaping, 30 minutes to get the crotch looking right, and about an hour to finalize the shaders. I'm still working on the dynamics, so that may take another few hours... but it's a huge step in the right direction compared to the two days my first shitty haircut took me last month.
 
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rodneyeatme

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Jul 19, 2017
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No collision modifiers for Xgen right out of the box? It has been a long time since I peeked at hair, but I was sure it was super-easy.
 

nillamello

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Oct 11, 2018
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There are, yeah, but they don't effect individual strands, just the guides. With highly currated hair, it's pretty easy to keep it inside the guides, but once you add outliers and movement, the tweaking can get pretty extensive (especially if you're doing a physically impossible hairstyle like this one). So most hair styles work well with collisions, but this particular one is too... voluminous? I guess would be the proper term. There's too much mush allowed between the guides in order to get the open spaces for normal collision thicknesses to be of much use.

Edit:
I ran a quick test render of a different character's hair to test the specular shades and I thought it looked decent, so I'm adding it here.

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nillamello

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Oct 11, 2018
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Correcting myself, the collision modifier does effect individual strands when you actually unmute it. It's not really a natural look, but it's good enough for this. Attached a test for a beauty render. I've since modified the lighting, but I'm not going to be doing another one in this quality for a bit so I figured I may as well post it.

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nillamello

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Oct 11, 2018
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Finally running render passes now. I've split the throne room into two passes (diffusion heavy for the furniture and specular/SSS heavy for the character). Bellow is an aborted 4k test for the throne with the character visibility off. Cool thing about all this pro stuff is that even with the character turned off, you can retain all of the shadows and reflections cast by the character on the other layers (note the hair shadows on the cushion of the throne). Each frame of each layer is rendering at 1080p and takes roughly 15 minutes and this animation is 130 frames (the still images for the primary game render at 1440p). If I had a better computer that would be considerably faster, but alas I'm working on four year old hardware.

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And here's the layers for the park scene that I mentioned in the first post. Environment is the base layer, then the statue and clothing , then the characters and their hair rounds it out with the third layer. This test image is just the first two, one of my lighting attempts (not final, but I didn't bother to save most of the process images, so this will have to do for now).

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I've since corrected the leaves, added grass primitives, and put in some additional uplights on the statue.
 
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nillamello

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Oct 11, 2018
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This is a bump/displacement map test for an elderly character. Some of it looks good (areas at the outside of the eyes, for example), but I'm going to need to rework the nose, forehead, and cheeks. This is a low-poly model, so you can ignore the angles on the nose.

Close up:
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Full face:
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nillamello

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Oct 11, 2018
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Messing with cat ears. This is a younger version of a romantic target for early game storytelling. I'm... not sure what happened to the clothing textures... I'll have to fiddle with the file some more at a later date. I think the paths got mixed up when I was cleaning the folders last night.

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nillamello

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Oct 11, 2018
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I didn't like the ears I pulled in from Daz, so I modeled my own. The original ones were just too thick for the SSS to make it through.... and my cats told me that they looked nothing like actual animal ears.

New ears:
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nillamello

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Oct 11, 2018
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I'm finally relatively happy with the hair on the ears and tail. There's a bit of a trade off for compute on this character because I've got an old processor (i7 circa 2014), so I needed to lower the poly count on the ears and tail geometry, but that made the hair less dense, which meant I had to populate it in layers to get the feeling I was looking for. Right now, I've got no plans for moving images with this particular character, but the older version is going to be one of the main females for the first good bit of production, so I've done some simple simulation runs on this character for hair movement. I've found that it's actually pretty cost effective and still looks really neat to only have the long accent hairs animated, leaving the base hairs static. The light still reflects off of them as the base geometry moves, so you can't tell that the medium length hair doesn't actually move on it's own. If you look at the tail in this render, you'll see that the white halo is around the accent hairs (they're a different color), and they stand out visually, but they're actually quite sparse and pretty light computationally.

My only issues would be that the base hair layer on the tail is a bit too thick (the red), so I'll be loosening that up, and I'm going to likely lower the sub-surface on the actual physical tail geometry... it's shining through more than I want. Thankfully, the ears and tail can transfer over to the older character model with relative ease, and the head hairstyle will be different anyway, so most of my effort on this is a net-positive.

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