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Best way to interact from Maya to Houdini for consistent character effects?

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Group of friends and I are starting a small project, and while we're doing all rigging/animation in Maya, some characters rely on effects that would be much more easily achieved in Houdini. These are generally quite basic, and we're looking to minimise the amount of shot-specific work to be done - I'll ideally write the effect once, and use it over the whole show.

Once I have an abc or fbx export, what is the best way of reading that in Houdini to the maximum level of detail? For example, one character has panels of LEDs that form screens, which in turn display depth maps calculated from each LED's normal - there are about four hundred separate LEDs, so ideally I would have a locator for each one, with X facing out the normal, bake out character anim as fbx, import into Houdini and just instance a setup across each locator - I don't know how to do that. Others require things like sparks between contacts, thrusters, etc. How is it best to achieve this? Via Metadata? Naming convention? Custom attributes on locators?

The other approach is to use HDA in Maya, which I know nothing about - ideally would like to keep the two separate, if nothing other than to make look dev easier.

Let me know your ideas. Thanks!

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Alembic is the usual standard here for getting geometry across, unless you need the skeletal data (most likely you don't). For this LED bank example, you could extract the mesh that the LEDs sit on and use Extract Transform to get a null that you could then transform your LED grid with.

 

If you're rendering your effects in Houdini, you can just use the Alembic geo as holdouts and you're good to go. Getting effects assets out of Houdini and into Maya can be a real trick depending on the type of data, so aim to render in Houdini if at all possible.

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