Are you totally sick and tired reading about me gushing over Maya yet? 2 out of my last 3 posts deal with my recent (er, ongoing) transition to this new modeling software and I’m here once again to let you know that still loving every minute of it. Mostly – though I’m not going to lie when I say it can be frustrating at times.
Most of that frustration has come from trying to figure out how I can keep using all of the 3d models I’ve built in FormZ over the years. Before I started using Maya, it scared me to death that all that work I’ve done over the past 8 years might be rendered obsolete by switching 3d platforms. You’ve probably noticed that I reuse a lot of my existing content to create new illustrations for my royalty-free stock image collection, and the thought of not being able to use any of that content anymore was keeping me up at night. Of course I still (and always will) have a licensed copy of FormZ in my creative arsenal, but that’s not the point – I want to do the bulk of my work in Maya from this point forward and reverting back to FormZ to create my stock illustrations is not what I want to be doing.
That said, figuring out how to import .fmz files into Maya has been a high priority for me. Early attempts were not good – Maya doesn’t like smoothed solid geometry very much, and simply exporting generating an OBJ file and then trying to import didn’t work well at all. A lot of geometry ended up getting lost in the translation, and the parts that did make it were often broken beyond repair. I was frustrated, but the optimist in me knew that there had to be a way.
It took me a long time of old-fashioned trial and error to find the best method of exporting solids-based smooth 3d models from FormZ to Maya, and I’m happy to report that I found a workable solution. To show you how that works, let me take you through the steps using my soap box 3d model as an example:
Step 1: Prepare your model for export
In FormZ, open the 3d model you wish to export and delete all the lights, cameras (views), and unused shaders. It’s also smart to delete any geometry that is unrelated to the model you wish to export.
All unnecessary components (lights, views, unused shaders, etc) have been deleted in FormZ. Only the mesh wireframe remains.
Step 2: Export to DXF
Once you’ve deleted all of that unnecessary data, go to File > Export and select DXF. You would think that a more common format like OBJ would work better, but trust me on this – I tried them all and DXF works the best. Give it any name you like and save it anywhere – it doesn’t matter.
Once you press Save, a popup window will appear presenting you with a series of options for exporting to DXF format. The settings I typically use are as follows:
DXF export settings in FormZ
You can choose whatever you prefer for Units, as well as the Grouping Method. It just depends on how you like to work.
Step 3: Import into Maya
Jump over to Maya and go to File > Import and choose your DXF file you just created. I should mention that you can import 3d content into an existing scene if you’d like, but I like to import models into an empty scene so that I can quickly identify and fix any issues that may come up.
Navigate to where you stored your DXF file, select it, then press Import
Step 4: Cleaning up your model within Maya
It will take a few seconds for Maya to process the DXF file (especially if it’s a complex model) so don’t worry if it takes a bit of time. But once it’s finished, you will probably get something that looks like this:
Imported model with reversed normals
That doesn’t look all that great, does it? Yes, it appears that the entire model imported correctly, but there are obviously issues with the some of the geometry. Some parts look ok, but other parts are black. Once again, no need to worry! The problem is that the normals on those surfaces need to be reversed, and it’s an easy thing to fix:
A. Select all of your geometry
All geometry selected
B. Go to Modify > Convert > NURBS to polygons
NURBS surfaces need to be converted to polygons
This is what the resulting mesh should look like.
Resulting polygon mesh after the conversion
Note that you can select how dense you want the polygon mesh to be in the options panel before you actually do the conversion. For the sake of simplicity, I just went with the default settings.
C. Before reversing the normals, we need to delete the old NURBS surfaces.
The best way of doing that is by going to the Show menu and turning off all the geometry EXCEPT for the NURBS surfaces. Once only those surfaces are exposed, select them all and delete (or save them to another layer if you want to keep them).
Using the Show menu to hide all geometry except for the NURBS surfaces
D. Reverse the normals
Once you delete the NURBS surfaces, go back to the Show menu and turn on all the geometry (the way it was before you turned them off). You should be left only with polygons at this point, so you can select all the black pieces individually or all at once and reverse the normals by going to Normals > Reverse.
Reversing the normals
Once that is complete, all of your geometry should look uniform and clean – just like this:
All normals reversed and ready for texturing
Of course every model will be different, but of all the FormZ to Maya file conversions I’ve done so far, the reversed normals issue is the biggest problem. It did take me a while to figure out that I had to convert to polygons first (hey, I’m still a noob) but I’m feeling much better about my archive of FormZ models that will live on for years to come in Maya.