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Friday, September 21, 2007

Using an image sequence as a background in Maya

Alright, let's say you shot some beautiful reference or you found a clip online (or elsewhere) that you really like, how can you use that movie as reference? One way is to have it open on your computer or whatever device you're using, studying the movements and the timing of your character or whatever reference you're looking at.
I like having a quicktime movie open as I work in Maya, so I can step frame through the movie and analyze what's going on.

There is another way which will save you a lot of time (if the reference clip you're using is long) and that is using an image sequence as a background in Maya. That way you can pose out your character right next to the reference movie and step frame through your animation and the movie at the same time.

So let's start with a movie. For this example I chose a clip from "Eastern Promises":

If you have Quicktime Pro (which I recommend, it's cheap), then open up your movie, go to:


- Choose a destination for your image files.

- Under "Export:" (which is probably set to "Movie to QuickTime Movie") choose "Movie to Image Sequence".

- Click on "Options...", then keep the JPEG format (no need for hires images, the lower res, the faster the playback in Maya).

- Under "Frames per second", choose the same as your movie. If you don't know what it is, then open the movie, go to Window>Movie Info. You'll see the frame rate next to "Movie FPS". In my case it's 23.98. So in my export window, I'll choose 24 (because that's the closest one that Quicktime gives me).

- Leave the "Insert space before number" box un-checked.

- Under "Options", I keep it at "Best Depth" and medium quality setting.

- Now you have to name it correctly, otherwise Maya won't be able to read it as an image sequence. I will name it: EPref00 (with two zeros). Why two zeros? Hah, good question. Technically, you should just be able to name it whatever you want to and the export will add a numbered sequence, which Maya reads. But unfortunately, that's not always the case. In my case, the numbered sequence needs to have 4 numbers. And since my movie is 45 frames long, I added two zeros, which gives me EPref0001.jpg, EPref0002.jgp, etc. ending with EPref0045.jpg It won't work with 3 numbers(at least with me). Confused? Get this. If I just name it EPref, I get EPref01, EPref02, etc. Once in Maya, when I select my image sequence (more about that later), with a click on EPref01, it's not working. But if I select EPref10, it works. Anything below 10 won't do. I have no idea why. And since I don't want to spend hours trying to figure that stuff out, I just stick with my 4 numbers and enjoy the day. In case it doesn't work for you, experiment with a different amount of numbers. Or have your animation start with frame 10 (you'll just loose the first 9 frames of your reference movie). Please leave a comment and let me know what works for you!

- Click "Save" and wait until the export is done.

Ok, part one is done. Now open Maya.

Look through your render camera. Then, click on View>Select Camera (or select the camera in your outliner).

With your camera select click "Ctrl+A" in order to bring up the camera's Attribute Editor.

Go to the "Environment" tab and open it if it is closed. Click on "Create", which will change your window to the Image Plane Editor.

Under Image Plane Attributes> Display, choose "looking through camera" and not "in all views". Otherwise you will have your image sequence playing in all cameras, which can slow down your computer.
Next to "Image Name" click on the Folder Icon. Navigate to the folder which contains your image sequence and click on your first image, in my case EPref0001.jpg and then Open.

You will notice a thumbnail of your movie next to "Image Plane Sample". Now, underneath "Image Name" check the box next to "Use Image Sequence". This will change the color of the box next to "Image Number" to purple, activating the Image Sequence Expression. Click Close.

Now you can scrub through the timeline and you'll see how the images update. VoilĂ !


Rodrigo said...

another way to do the tag is to put a dot at the end example: name the images "refvid." with a dot at the end and it'll come out as "refvid.001.jpeg" "refvid.002.jpeg", thats another way maya reads images, as far as i know, as long as it has a dot and a number followed by the type of image example: "refvid.1.iff" you can skip the ceros maya should read it i think. worth a try. ;)

Jean-Denis Haas said...

I tried that before, but quicktime wouldn't let me. I had EPref., but then it saved it out without the dot. Same with other symbols.
If you can use another software that saves out image sequences, give it a shot.

Rodrigo said...

Yea , i just noticed, weird i think it was possible in other early versions of quicktime. for people that don't have quicktime pro , i recommend using "virtual dub" i sometimes use it to save the image sequence ,its free. i also recommend "bulk rename utility" for large file renaming , brilliant program and free as well.

Jean-Denis Haas said...

Thanks fo the tips!

yellow said...

u can use an easy little software called ... sequence911 or seq911. that will name u all the images that are in the same folder in the same sequence.
tkz for the tips

Jean-Denis Haas said...

Do you have a link to that? Is it on highend3d?


Fabio said...

hello... maybe someone can help me, i follow step by sted the tutorial, but when a scrub the timeline... nothing happen...no images updated.. no sequences, no nothing... happy new year...

Jean-Denis Haas said...

You have to play with the naming conventions of the image sequence.

Manuel Escotet said...

Excellent It works perfectly for me. Thanks!