How to properly work with linked files?

Sorry if this is posted in the wrong forum - feel free to move it if that’s the case!


I’m revisiting Blender after many years apart, done a few smaller projects to get to know the basics again etc. But now I want to tackle a larger project, and coming from the vfx industry (mainly using Maya) I know the importance of working in a structured manner, as non-destructively as possible, and, whereas possble, set it up so that actions ripple through different aspects.

I’ve found that one method is by using linked files (similar to Mayas reference system), i.e modify an assets source file and all other files that have that asset in them gets the change. But I can’t really find any information about how to properly work with this system besides the basic workflow, meaning create an asset -> link it (or many of it) into an environment. Seems reasonable, but what if you wan’t to split it up further?

Let me give you an example of my ideal workflow:

1 - Model the asset in the modelling.blend file
2 - Link the model into the lookdev/material.blend file and add materials/textures etc.
3 - Link the model into the rig.blend file for rigging.
4 - Link in the rig file into the environment scene for animation.
5 - Cache/bake out out the animation.
6 - Link in the cached animation into the lighting scene, and then link in lookdev/material.blend (in this case only the materials/textures) which would automatically hook up to the correct alembics (based on naming I guess)

This way each step would not get gradually heavier as the scene accumulates more and more objects. It would also allow me to have other objects in the, lets say modelling scene (like reference images or temp objects) that is useful to have, but only there, if the model would have to be changed later on.
So would this be possible? In that case how? Meaning what would one link per step (all the individual objects or is a collection enough?) When to use “make proxy”? Because the only information I’ve found so far are examples of an entire asset that is all done is being linked in, and I can’t imagine that an asset has to stay in that one scene all the way through the project, right? Even though it’s just me and my personal project, I just assume that bigger productions would have to split up the workload so that the rigger and lookdev artist doesn’t just have to wait around for the modeller to finish his/hers modelling notes :slight_smile:

I’m also aware that “my ideal” workflow might not be possible, but any tips on getting closer towards something more split up, and away from working destructively/with unnecessarily heavy scenes are appreciated!

Thanks in advance!

Sorry this is an incomplete answer but have a look at andys talk at the blenderconference about the workflow on the production pipeline in spring.
I think he explains nicely how they linked files around

Blender have big problem. This problem are that people are not aware of this problems, they even do not want to hear about problem.
Imagine that you when your scene become too cluttered simply open new Blender and there model some part. Optionally you can make very rough blockout, just cube with proper dimensions and import in new- empty scene. When you finish modeling of part you simply import this in your project ( which are all time open ). Even if you model in center of world, with just one click you can position your new model in appropriate place. Not to mention that you can jump between projects in one click. Advanced users can make Xref so any change will be updated in project.
This and many other “little” stuff are real hero of the day. But why to do stuff in simple, easy, logic, intuitive way, when there is Blender way :nerd_face:
Ah and there is also layer system… So your scene can have visible in outliner only collection in which you work. In layer tab you can very easy set up visibility in outliner/ viewport, are this stuff locked, will this be rendered, disable modifiers, etc. Blender can do something like that… almost… but in very messy, complicated, x#wewrtt Blender way.

Yeah I watched that presentation before, it’s a really good one that provides lots of information regarding pipeline work and an overall look behind the scenes. But unfortunately it, like many others, stay at the “link the asset into the environment” level, which is reasonable consider the amount of information he had to share in just 40 minutes.
But who knows, maybe they did an entire character from start to finish in a single .blend file, and for someone like me, that might just be the way to go too. But if blender is designed to work that way it feels like it would be a major bottle neck if studios would want to scale up their blender usage as it prevents artists from working simultaneously.

I dunno I just want to find out the proper way of working (yes I know there are almost always multiple ways of doing the same thing) but I’m just overall curious about how blender is intended to work at a larger scale and not just for single image renders or one shot animations, and there isn’t much information about it (atleast that I can find but maybe I’m using the wrong term when searching) out there.

Not sure what you’re complaining about. Doesn’t sound like your’e describing anything Blender can’t do. And a few of those things I only know the Blender way of doing them because I couldn’t find or figure out the Maya or Modo way of doing them.

I’m not complaining about anything that Blender can or can’t do, simply because I don’t know what Blender can or can’t do in regards to this subject, That’s what I’m trying to learn. I’m sure there are ways for people working simultaneously/splitting up work in one way or another. But I don’t know if it requires custom scripted tools or if there are ways straight out of the box, because I haven’t found much information about this topic. And if it is as you say, that it can do what I’ve described then that’s fantastic.

But how?

Is it possible for example to link in the modelling into the lookdev scene but still have control over the UV’s in the lookdev scene? And in that case is there some setting that needs to be changed when linking/making a proxy or something? Is it possible to link in an animated cache from one scene/cache file and materials from another .blend and have them automatically hook up or do you still need to apply them one by one again? If not then it might be better to approach it in a different way.

It is information like this that I haven’t been able to find, which is why I’m asking about it here, so if someone knows something about this then I would be very thankful if you would share, and I’d be more than happy to listen to what you have to say. Even a link to a youtube video or a blogg post somewhere would be very appreciated.

If you have experience in working with linked file how do you do it? Do you split up an asset or create it (model/materials/rig etc.) in the same file and then link that into the environment/animation scene? If yes do you notice any performance hit for having all the components in the scene? And do you perhaps have any tips on how to deal with that? In Maya for example there is the option to turn off references (or links) that you currently don’t need in order to speed up the scene, maybe there is something similar in Blender?

Lots of questions and I don’t expect anyone to answer to all of them, but I’d love to hear some tips or how other people are working with linked files :slight_smile:

Like I say, people are nor aware of issues :grin:
And to cut this now. I don’t “complain”… sigh.
Blender can’t go further if users react like this. I want to Blender be better. I’m sick of this “Blender can do this or this, Blender can do everything, blah, blah”. First Blender ( like every other software ), can’t do everything. Second, often workflow is slow, complicated, illogical. Fresh example, today I wanted to array some bolts along spline… after searching YT I find way to avoid deformation. Overcomplicated mess, and after all I don’t get desired result. Maybe because tutorial is for older Blender ( I guess 2.8 ).
In C4D this is literally 2 clicks… but I don’t want to waste time with export - import for every Blender mess, so I duplicate objects manually.
PS. for C4D you don’t need YT, all is logic, intuitive, you try first time, struggle one min. and start using tool.

This is all personal bias. There are many things in Blender I find illogical and inconsistent. There are several million things you can do in C4D in 4 clicks that are IMPOSSIBLE to do in any other program without hiring a professional programmer to make a special case plugin for you. There are a few things in Blender that I feel are perfectly logical within the mind of someone who has been using blender for a while and understand how that way of doing it has a relationship to a way of doing something else in another area of Blender. Blender cares more about consistency between its many different feature areas and less about consistency with other programs. Most other programs also are like this. Maya usually does not care how things are done in C4D. Max usually doesn’t care how things are done in Maya. Modo usually doesn’t care how things are done in Max.

Nobody can look at maya or max or modo or c4d or blender for the first time and find it intuitive. Anyone with enough familiarity with C4D can ask a question about C4D and get a 5 word answer and immediately visualize what they need to do based on their prior understanding of C4D. It is the same with Blender.

If you are not familar, it is good to spend time with training resources, it does not matter which program we are talking about.

No amount of Blender sculpting and Mudbox sculpting and SculptGL sculpting will prepare you for the bad parts of Zbrush’s user interface.

No amount of Zbrush experience will prepare you for the bad parts of Blender’s sculpting user interface.

@thinsoldier @alekba Guys, please keep a support topic about linked files… about linked files. Thanks!