View Full Version : Blender to Maya - workflow transition. Your experience?

08-Jul-06, 13:42
First off all - I want to say that this thread will
not be another Blender VS Maya thread - and I don't want that!

I'm a Die-hard Blender user as most of you know, and probably will
always remain so, but sometimes you got to use other applications
when your employer demands that you do, and here's where my
questions about workflow and the transaction from Blender to Maya
to you...

I've been hired by a huge well known company to do 3d for them
as a part of a big team of 3d artists. How could I refuse? ;)
I'm looking forward to it as a kid to christmas, but Maya is not Blender
so I hope that there are more of you Maya users in here that use
Blender at home (or at work if they allow that) that could give away
some real life-saver tips on how I could survive the first days.

On a short leash...
I got hired friday, and my first day at work starts on Monday,
I've been told that I get Maya training and it wasn't an issue since
they only looked at my artwork for qualifications - not the application I use.

Yes..thats 2 days to surface Maya Learning Edition before I get thrown
to the hounds. Help... :eek:

So I turn to you - my fellow Blenderhead friends - hoping that you
have some real good "pointers" that I should get on my fingers before
I start?

Yesterday I spent 10 hours plugging the Maya basics videos and learning
how to move around the viewports easily, and do some basic editing
and extruding of polygon objects.

Unknown grounds...

One thing that struck me thought using Maya is a feverish search
for stuff I know from Blender. One of the things I'm totally dependent on
is the "extrude" command. Maya have such a command...but it's not
assigned to any shortkeys (according to the manual) so I have to
enter the SPACE-key menu (or top menu) and yet another sub menu
(Edit polygons) menu just to extrude a face.

The smart thing was that I could in YET another submenu select the number of
extrusions I want to do in one go...but that one has to be reset for the next
extrusion again (very cumbersome imho.)

But with Blender we do these things in ONE go...and even just by drawing
with the mouse, and everything is controllable on the go without all these
time-consuming menues.

Is Maya really that clumsy or is it just me with "newbie woes"? Tips here
for a smarter workflow in Maya - desperately wanted.

Another thing that almost made me pull hairs out where the inherent
lack of a subdivision modifier (I guess that comes to play under the
subdivision modeling mode later on?)

I remember from the old "3dstudio Max days" before Blender that modifiers
where dependent on topology and if you had various material coordinates
as a modifier or anything that would influence the editable mesh...could
entirely destroy the mesh integrity ...

...this also seem to hold true for Maya. Maya seem to have
a sort of history-based topology where you can go back to whatever
action you "applied" to the object or object groups you're currently working
with. This seem very advantageous right? Well... as soon as I tried changing
my mind about the numbers of extrusion, even with the slightest change
like...moving or rotating the frontmost face...would "mess up" the whole
topology. Pretty much like I remember from the 3dstudio max days...

What's the genuine advantage about history topology based mesh editing
if you rarely can go back and change anything anyway? Hints and good
tricks (or references to real good tutorials) would be nice here.

Butterflies in my stomach:

I hope you guys will help me out here, I'm still stuck to Blender
but I need a lot of good helpful tips from you guys to make the
transition smoother.

thanks in advance.

08-Jul-06, 14:55
welcome to the world of pros ;)


extrusion, it is true that you ave to work yourself through menues, but in contrast to blender when you go to the model layout you can and already have modeling shortcut icons, like for example extrude point, edge, and face. when you need more features you can than go to the extrude menu.
you can also leave that open and just hit apply and note extrude. that will keep the window open.

that is the same for all other mesh tools, animation tools etc. you can per drag and drop customise that tool palette.


Maya has REAL subdivs. Blenders subdives are great because they allow you crease edges etc. in fine steps. However the strong point of mayas subdivs is that you can selectivly subdiv a face, without subdividing the compet mesh. similar to blenders new sculpt tool you can jump forward and backwards between the levels. but in addition you can still modify the mesh, extrude faces etc. Mayas subdiv is face based and object based. That is the big bonus of having NGONS.

However fine edges will require additional geometry in Maya and you cannot apply the poly to subdiv converter when you base mesh is not QUADS.

I never had any issue with the history. well most times i also work with nurbs in maya because they rock. can you send me the file in which you experienced that probem you mentioned?


well the advantage are many, but you have to keep one thing in mind.
removing information which might interfer with you action performed
is nerver a good idea.


you craete a sphere subdiv: 20 * 20.

that you select one face and extrude it.

later yu decide to reduce the subdiv of the sphere to 4.

the chances are high that when that extrusion was close to the pole caps that the face which had the extrusion performed on will be removed and thus that part of the histroy cannot be rebuild.

however when yu put the sphere back to 20 the extrusion is back.

and here it comes:

when you add another subdivision it will only add the new faces, WITHOUT affecting the extrusion. your face will just be at a different spot on your sphere when you add subdivisions.

i think this exampe shows you the pro of a TRUE history which can be edited. of course do you need to be carefull when you edit elements in the beginning of the history that they will not interfer with steps later in the history. otherwise you are always on the green side.

that also is true when you work with nurbs. imagine you trim and later decide the hole you trimmed is to small. no big deal. you will go into the history select the circle which you projected change the size and than AUTOMATICLY the trimmed hole will be changed plus everstep you did with it, filet or extrusion will be changed as well.

for me the construction histroy with polys isnt that important, but with nurbs it is a blessing. in nubrs you work less with faces but with patches. so you do not need to worry about any mesh geometry because it just doesnt excist. all actions with poly are based on face, edge or vertex. with nurbs they are all pure math calculations on rectangular nurbs patches.

ask more in case you need some more information about maya.

i work with blender and maya/mental ray a lot.


08-Jul-06, 15:17
Hey Cekuhnen!

Thank you very much for that information,
some very useful insights on Maya there. :)

I'll give it yet another go tomorrow.
On Monday my stomach have a full Jungle-Stampede.

08-Jul-06, 15:27
as i mentioned i love Mayas nurbs, because it is so powerfull.

however the only thing i love about maya is the NGONS.

the modeling worflow in Maya with Polys is in my opinion not as fast as in Blender. Often i model in Blender save it as OBJ and import it into Maya WITHOUT any dataloss!!! You could even unwrap in Blender and take that over into Maya!

Maya's shading network just beats. With Mental Ray it is amazingly powerfull.

08-Jul-06, 15:31
Another real advantage of a construction history lies in animation. with a construction history you can really easy animate all sorts of growing stuff. there are of course much more uses for it.


08-Jul-06, 15:40
the modeling worflow in Maya with Polys is in my opinion not as fast as in Blender. Often i model in Blender save it as OBJ and import it into Maya WITHOUT any dataloss!!! You could even unwrap in Blender and take that over into Maya!

I can imagine that - My initial plan was to "bring Blender along" and just model
the stuff they need in Blender and export it to Maya and deal with it from there
but I asked - and they explicitly told me that no outside software where accepted
and I will receive Maya training, no other software where allowed

My guess is that since this is a big company, they have security
measures that doesn't allow for anything else than what has been approved by
their inhouse computer staff.

@bobtronic - Yeah - that makes sense.

08-Jul-06, 15:44
that's not the true point. it is a question of management.
imagine everybody comes with their own software.

it makes sense that they prefer you working ONLY in Maya
because that will not only guarenty the workflow but also
helps with solving problems which might occure!

the animation history is great but also can significantly slow
down the screen refresh.


08-Jul-06, 15:47
Well - as I said - it's a guess, it means "I don't know" ;)

But what you say makes even more sense.

08-Jul-06, 16:15
Hey, to any Maya guys, how does Blender Internal and yafray compare to mentalRay?

08-Jul-06, 16:24
never read the engine vs engine threads?

well Blender is in deed fast when using Scanline.
Mental Ray is a bit slower, however Mental Ray outpust by far better results. Blenders lack of a decent AA is also in my view a reason for its speed. Mental Rays AA seetings are great producing very fine details which Blender cannot reach.

Well Yafray has a better AA than blender, however in terms of shader quality and render output quality Mental Ray is what it is, an industrie standart. Blender and Yafray are great for home jobs. They do not only offer the quality but also the complete tool set MR offers.

Plus Maya and Mental Ray are 1:1 integrated and that is a big plus point for the workflow!

08-Jul-06, 18:16
regarding the subdiv in Maya i forgot to mention the following things:

first Mayas subivs are ALWAYS smooth. that is a big advantage compared to blenders. MentalRay renders the pixels directly without converting the subdiv to tries. however texturing the subdiv is a pain.

but moreover similar to the upcoming sculptool does Maya have a well working smooth function. It is called smooth proxy. this is basicaly a simple smooth command, with the construction history turned on you can either edit the original low poly mesh cage but you cannot edit the smoothed internal mesh object a litle bit, or better you should not because the smooth command only works once.

09-Jul-06, 05:34
you can and already have modeling shortcut icons

Yeah I ended up making a whole set of tool icons for the most common actions but it's still not as fast as a hotkey. I didn't take the time to set up hotkeys because there are so many actions but you probably should if you are to use Maya all the time.

However the strong point of mayas subdivs is that you can selectivly subdiv a face, without subdividing the compet mesh. similar to blenders new sculpt tool you can jump forward and backwards between the levels. but in addition you can still modify the mesh, extrude faces etc. Mayas subdiv is face based and object based. That is the big bonus of having NGONS.

I hated the face-based subdivs. I was like delete the vertex dammit. OK, delete the edge then dammit. OK, delete the face then. It's a pain in the ass for me having to deal solely with faces all the time. Also there is no subdiv modifier. You have polygon objects and subdiv objects. The subdiv objects can have a poly proxy similar to Blender's way but it's nowhere near as intuitive. Blender does it like Modo which is much better IMO.

I never had any issue with the history. well most times i also work with nurbs in maya because they rock.

Just remember to delete history before animating or it sets keys for all the history objects too. It's like flattening layers in Photoshop. As for Nurbs, they're definitely better in Maya than in Blender but if you use the Maya internal renderer, you still have to set manual tessellation options. Automatic doesn't always work right. Mental Ray has micropolygon rendering so you don't have to worry about that.

The other thing I don't like about NURBs is that NURBs cubes for example are in fact 6 NURBs planes. Move one face slightly out and you get a crack in the model. You don't have to worry about UV projection but I've heard it's harder to avoid stretching.

I also miss the fact maya doesn't have a 3D cursor. I use that all the time in Blender. I do prefer that you can animate the object center though - you can probably do it in Blender using script links, which is how I did it in Maya anyway but Maya lets you select the object center as though it were an empty. I think Blender ought to do that. For feet it's handly because you animate the center of rotation to be at the toe for when the character has his foot behind and at the heel for when it's in front. This helps prevent floor intersection.

Maya has proper grouping so it's easy to copy hierarchies but Blender is getting this.

Beware of Maya's rotations. I think it's still susceptible to gimbal lock and is really annoying if you get it 'cos joints just flip when they reach a certain angle and it's hard to get out of:


Blender uses Quaternions instead of Euler angle rotations so you don't get the problem.

Maya has rotate plane solvers for doing things like arms and legs so that's a bit easier.

Maya uses the tranform widget for everything. I hate that thing because I find it so slow compared to hotleys but I guess it's a personal preference. Maya uses the turntable vew too, which I use in Blender now as I think it's much easier.

Maya's buffered spotlights don't need to have clipping ranges set and the camera isn't limited to a 0.1 clipping range yay. Oh God (aka Ton), I wish Blender had this. That and spacebar to make the window fullscreen.

Maya's big strength is the shaders but be careful as I think some things don't work with Mental Ray. I don't think it's a big problem but some things are like the Blender/yafray deal. I think for example MR only supports tiff images as texture maps. I can't remember though and it's probably changed since Maya 5.

The paint tools are nice because you can just brush in a whole field of flowers and they render incredibly quickly. As cekhunen mentioned, you will notice the better render quality. It's just so much easier to make nicer output in Maya than Blender.

One thing to note is that you can't take files from the Personal edition and open them on the full edition so don't go nuts at home making something spectacular because you won't be able to use it.

In the full version, try and get in the habit of using Maya Ascii format. If you get a read error in a file, it is much easier to debug. Sometimes it can be as simple as changing the Maya version in the header.

And last but not least, congratulations on the job ;).

09-Jul-06, 08:29
Beware of Maya's rotations. I think it's still susceptible to gimbal lock and is really annoying if you get it 'cos joints just flip when they reach a certain angle and it's hard to get out of:

Maya has rotate plane solvers for doing things like arms and legs so that's a bit easier.

Important stuff! Good to know.

In the full version, try and get in the habit of using Maya Ascii format. If you get a read error in a file, it is much easier to debug. Sometimes it can be as simple as changing the Maya version in the header.

Good stuff! Thanks for the additional tip, they will sure come in handy.

And last but not least, congratulations on the job ;).

Hehe, thanks - it IS however just for a few weeks to begin with because
they don't employ people anymore afaik, they just hire for a week at
a time because of the workload, but it COULD be the ticket inside.

Now armed with all these Maya tip + some sneak exercise ahead...

09-Jul-06, 08:56
what sort of stuff will you be doing? depending on if its modelling/animating/td/lighting i can probably give a few specific tips.

check out the maya wiki, some handy quick tips there too.


09-Jul-06, 09:28

Thank you for the link - it has been bookmarked :)

About the assignment: I have NO CLUE, it's totally secret. I've been sent out
from a company that assigned me for the OTHER company. Hence
the butterflies ... ;)

09-Jul-06, 12:31
I'm currently a bit stuck on an issue that bothers me beyond belief..

Anyone know how to extrude connected faces in Maya?
Every time I multiselect a bunch of faces - they get extruded separately.

Can't I just extrude let say...4 faces as one big face like in Blender and 3dstudio max? Surely I'm not supposed to remove dual vertices each time?

09-Jul-06, 14:16
Mayas subdiv are different but produce byfar better results in less time.

Blenders edge creasing doesnt work that great either. depending on the topology you can create some very bad results as well.
you just need to learn how to use maya.

i cannot agree that you have to be carefull with mental ray. yes it still prefers tiff, but that doesnt mean that maya network shaders do not work sometimes with mental ray. mental ray actually offers more than maya can render.

JoOngle you have to go to polygon > tool optoin > keep faces together.

Blenders limitation in terms of functionality here also shows the good part of it, Blender is easy to master. Maya is much harder because it is so much more complex/powerfull. Sometimes I have to say that the way how tools are setup are stupid. They should at least include the keep faces together option in the extrude menue!

However as with blender all tools are accessible through the hold space bar. select few faces, press and hold space, click edit polygon, select extrude comman (not window), and you will see that in the construction history the extrude function is added. you can than select keep faces together there and perform than the extrusion.

The problem with Maya is that it has many ways to do one and the same job. But at the same time this true object orientated approach also is Mayas key point for beeing so flexible.

09-Jul-06, 14:38
yep, its the best and worst feature of maya; there's always more than one way of doing things.

if you're modelling, the new smooth proxy stuff in maya 7 is quite nice. its influenced by a popular melscript called connect-poly-tools. Not perfect, lots of little broken bits, but still useful. ctrl-' will enable it, then pageup/pagedown will switch subdiv levels, ' by itself will toggle between the cage and the subdiv, and while you have the cage selected, ctrl-' again will delete the smooth proxy. sometimes. :)

general UI tips; tear off menu's if you get into a certain type of work (ie tear off the edit polys menu while you're modelling), and send a menu to the shelf by clicking it while holding ctrl+shift.

probably most important are ways to avoid maya getting unstable or crashing. my list so far is:

-avoid using spacebar to minimise/maximise windows under linux or osx, gets unstable
-avoid the hotbox in general, its slow, and starts to get maya crashy
-ipr gets maya unstable
-3dtexturepaint leaves errant folder nodes everywhere unless you cleanup after it, make sure you do this
-there's others, i'm sure the other maya ops will tell you tomorrow.. . :)

09-Jul-06, 14:44
Excellent answer Cekuhnen! Thanks.

@Seamonkey, how do I tear off the "extrude face" menu and make it appear on my custom bar did you say? Ctrl + lmb doesnt work for me, only
on icons. (if so - is there a icon for extrude?)

btw: do you guys know how to "edgeloop-cut" in Maya, if so - how?
I seem to be able to loop-select...but the CUT tool only cuts straight it

*Edit* nevermind ...funnily ...looking forr that Keep together option I accidentally stumbled onto
the interactive loopcut (which is mindblowingly good - Split egde ring tool)

09-Jul-06, 14:53

note that its different under linux/osx, something to do with conflicts with linux window managers, and osx I think uses apple+shift instead.

btw, you working for ghost?

09-Jul-06, 14:59
@Seamonkey - Thanks again - that worked like a charm.

@Cekuhnen - I'm beginning to see what you mean by powerful, the control one can have over ...everything is really HUGE.

09-Jul-06, 15:06

also you can click that small box icon in the menue instead of selecting the word of the command. for example extrude has such a small box next to the name extrude face!

I never had issues with the IPR. man do il ove that one. Blenders preview renderer is such a dream. I love that they made scrip cycles so it only refreshes shader information instead of geometry but in contrast to Maya you can move the cam and that gest updated as well. thats is so usefull for shader creating. big thangs to the coders for that.

however maya can crash when you DO NOT CLEAN UP the IPR FOLDER.
yes maya basicaly exports the scene for the IPR and after some time you can collect more than few MBs of data.

09-Jul-06, 15:12
btw, you working for ghost?

No - not yet, who knows - in the future maybe, if they want me that is?


Cleaning up that IPR folder - got it! Thanks for the tip.

(going to hit the sack now.... better be early and ready for the long journey ahead tomorrow)
Thanks everyone for your help during this weekend, it has made it possible for me
to put some of the routines back in control so I'm somewhat prepared to model stuff
right from the start. Thanks ;)


10-Jul-06, 02:15
I guess you will learn them soon enough, but maybe handy to know.

F8 toggle edit object mode
F9 edit mode with vertex edit (no toggle)
F10 edit mode with edge edit (no toggle)
F11 edit mode with face edit (no toggle)
(and no F12 is not render :) )

F3 Modeling Buttons mode.

Set Polygons > Tool options > [x] Keep faces together if you want single verteces extruded out of a single vertex.

On selected face ctrl-RMB gives a selection wheel.
shift-RMB gives an tool wheel (extrude etc).
W,E,R stands for M,R,S and Q is selection pointer
4,5,6,7 shading modes. (The blender Z's)
And ... g repeats last action. (spacebar -> recent commands gives a nice list)

10-Jul-06, 12:49

Cool, thanks for the tip! Sure come in handy

My first day on the job:

ARGH! It was a rendermonkey assignment. My agent was even
more surprised than me because he explained it would be
a designer/modeling position.

...when all it was - was sitting there and splitting render-layers
ALL DAY...all week! And that I travel 7 hours each day to do...

Oh well...live and learn.

10-Jul-06, 15:23
be happy, better start slow that to fast!

for a newby maya can be quite a monster!

10-Jul-06, 15:48
My agent

Lol, you have an agent? Does he work on a commission basis or do you have to pay him a regular fee? Also, does he find you much work?

was sitting there and splitting render-layers ALL DAY...all week! And that I travel 7 hours each day to do...

To be honest, one way or another you are going to end up doing a repetitive task and no matter if it's modelling, animating or whatever, you will likely hate it at times.

Sometimes it's better starting with the jobs with less responsibility. You don't want to be the guy that 10-20 people rely on to get a job done and find you can't deliver. I've been there and it kinda sucks.

If it pays ok and gets you in the door then it's a start. Nonetheless, there are very few jobs I'd spend 7 hours daily travelling to do. Do you sleep on the journey? When are you supposed to get any time to yourself?

Nah, I'd either move closer or ditch the job, assuming you haven't done so already. The most you should be prepared to travel to a job in a day is 2 hours return.

Can't you set up your own business and network? I found some local guys where I live and the amount of contacts I get access to is amazing. I never even thought there were so many companies locally - some international, who pay lots of money for doing pretty basic stuff like programming websites and things. I'm getting into all sorts of things from film to flash animation to website design. 3D has to go on the backburner sometimes unfortunately but you just have to go where the money is and hope you have the free time to keep doing what you like.

The important thing is contacts (no doubt why you have an agent) and it's weird because even though the people I work beside don't really deal with any 3D stuff, their clients are often interested in it. So rather than think about whether or not a job allows you to do what you like, think about whether or not it will allow you to do it indirectly. Kind of like how you might make friends with an ugly chick just to sleep with her much more attractive friend ;).

10-Jul-06, 19:14
Here's my 2 cents. This is reeeaaally basic stuff that I'm sure there going to teach you, but just in case they don't:

Hold down the space bar to bring up the "hot bar". Basically this puts menus with all the commands available to you next to your cursor. For me this is faster than using icons on the side of the screen (or even worse, the menu at the top of the screen). Still not as fast as pure hotkeys, but better than nothing.

The "g" key is your best friend. Pressing g repeats the last command. I've found this to be very useful for modelling.

Goodluck! I found that picking up Maya was pretty easy after learning Blender, and I'm sure you will too. One thing that still gets me is when I go into blender mode while working in maya. Its pretty entertaining for anyone who happens to be watching at the time, but embarrasing for me :o

Laughing cheese
10-Jul-06, 23:50

Try 3DBuzz.com (http://www.3dbuzz.com).

They have a lot of GREAT FREE video tutorials, and their video training is awesome!!

Many of their "VTMs" are free, though some require you to be a member sponser, which is only $35 a month.

In your case, I would get the first Maya VTMs, then it would probably be good for you to be a member sponsor, so you can download the other two Maya training issues.

Good luck :P

(BTW: Go to the upper navigation bar and click "Video Training" and follow the links :))

11-Jul-06, 12:13
@Cekuhnen, Yes - agree, and after all - a job is a job.

@osxrules - Well - sort of an agent, because these days
companies prefer to hire extra hands during high-stress periods
to get jobs done on time, so there are lots of companies recruiting
"reserves" that they can have in their archives to offer their clients
and I got hired by such a company, but only for a week for now.
It was sort of a "test" week - If I performed well for their client
I'd probably be hired for other clients or the same client later on.

As for moving - the client I work for is so big that they own their
own apartments everywhere so next time they'll give me a room
for a small fee - if they should decide for me to return for more
jobs. This of course - is ideal.

As for setting up my own business, I've thought about that but
found it to be too much work for too little pay. Several of my
Friends in Denmark (Pretty good artists!) have been freelancing
for many years - and the first thing they did was run for a
position in ANY company the first chance they got - simply
because freelancing is a nightmare. 60 % paperwork is killing
the creativity - and all for a measly amount of "barely enough
to make a living" penny. Heh...even the taxation authorities
of this country advised me to get "hired" on projects instead
and get an ordinary project salary rather than start my own
company, it simply doesn't pay!

@Sketchy - Thanks for the tip (and yes...you're right about that, pretty
much run around the basics already - but there's room for lots of more
stuff to learn) But after the assignment - I'm straight back to Blender,
A lot of people there where totally amazed of how far Blender has come.
(And yes - right again....I too go into Blender mode...and press G to move
an object instead of the maya shortkeys for translations.

Oh...and Maya isn't that hard...or any other 3d program if you've
done 3d for many years, it's just a matter of finding the tools you're
used to - adapt - and learn some more. Nothing more - really.
It only took me a few hours on Monday and the job I was set to do
got pretty routine back after...it require me to load scenes, select
objects, group them, layer them, render their shading features into
separate layers, saving and naming and numbering these. This
takes quite a lot of fiddling around in Maya because you have to
find out how these objects are related to each other and separate
them properly. Adjust material properties, separate material qualities
changing the render-environment, check-on-resolution schematics
to keep everything on printed standards,
Quite a lot of work, especially the "forever-process"
of naming them by object, type and number. Both new layers and file names.

@Laughing Cheese - yeah - Already did that last weekend, I spent
every day (friday, Saturday, Sunday) Plugging video-tutorials and
reading tutorials. Fairly easy, but time consuming as I still think Blender
has a faster modeling workflow (way faster).

(PS: Maya people talk a lot about wings)

11-Jul-06, 15:32
hey the outliner will help you a lot with finding objects and understanding their relationships!

11-Jul-06, 15:44
Yep, thats the one I use. (To multiselect objects like specular lamps) to export them for use in special scenes etc. Also to multiselect object-parts that form bigger objects etc.