Animal Logic has announced the open source release of its USDMaya plugin (known as “AL_USDMaya”). The plugin enables powerful and efficient authoring and editing of 3D graphics data using Pixar’s Universal Scene Description (USD) in Autodesk Maya.
AL_USDMaya builds upon Pixar’s USD technology, which was released as open source in 2016 (see https://graphics.pixar.com/usd/docs/Open-Source-Release.html for more details). USD supports the interchange of 3D graphics data through various Digital Content Creation (DCC) tools, providing an effective and scalable solution for the complex workflows of CG film and game industry studios.
When Pixar confirmed early last year that it would open source USD, Animal Logic became an early adopter of the technology and decided to use it as the backbone of its new Animation Pipeline. As Maya is used extensively in the Animal Logic pipeline, it was important to have a sophisticated integration of USD into Maya. During this time, Animal Logic was developing its own common scene description format based on technology from its in-house Renderer, Glimpse and since then, the AL_USDMaya plugin has been in development within Animal Logic’s Research & Development (R&D) team.
The goal of the plugin is to leverage the strengths of both Maya and USD and use each one to represent the data that it is most suited to. Animal Logic uses AL_USDMaya to allow native Maya entities such as complex Maya Rigs loaded as references, and other assets not easily represented in USD, to be embedded in USD scenes and imported into Maya in their native form. The plugin maintains a “live” connection between the USD and Maya scene, and can respond to various events, keeping the Maya and USD scenes in sync. This affords a dynamic user experience that allows artists to swap in and out different representations of objects in their scene, including Rigs for geometry caches and different levels of detail. Additionally, heavyweight scene elements such as sets and crowds can be represented in OpenGL in the Maya viewport, and manipulated either with USD or Maya tools and UI components.
AL_USDMaya complements Pixar’s USD Maya plugin, and both can operate side by side.
“Pixar is very excited by the release of Animal Logic’s USDMaya plugin”, said Sebastian Grassia, Lead Engineer for the USD project. “This plugin offers the deepest-yet integration of USD editing into a third-party DCC, and provides well-considered layout and animation workflows that are beyond the scope of Pixar’s Maya plugins. Animal Logic’s decision to open-source the plugin is also wonderful validation of the spirit in which USD itself was open-sourced.”
Chris Vienneau, Senior Director, Autodesk said, “Autodesk is fully committed to making Maya the best authoring tool for USD based pipelines and are extremely excited that Animal Logic has made their USDMaya plugin available through open source. We are looking forward to working closely with Animal Logic, Pixar and other industry partners to make a tight USD and Maya integration a reality.”
Prior to the open source release, a number of studios and vendors including Pixar, Autodesk, Luma Pictures and MPC assisted in evaluating the plugin, which is currently in use on Peter Rabbit, the Hybrid CG/Live-Action feature film currently in production at Animal Logic.
The source code is available via: https://github.com/AnimalLogic/AL_USDMaya