Class 2 - Week 5 - Working with Reference in Maya

So what's so great about having your reference in Maya as you animate,
you may ask? The most useful thing about it for me is that instead of
having to play the reference in quicktime then switch to Maya to compare,
it allows me to scrub through my animation and see in real time how it's

As you'll be needing two programs to accomplish this, I'll be splitting
this tip into two sections, Quicktime and Maya. Let's begin!


The first step will be to export your reference into an image sequence
that we can import into Maya. There are quite a few programs that will
do this but I'll be sticking to Quicktime for this tip.

Open up the reference in Quicktime, then go to the Export settings(File > Export)
Set the export type to "Movie to Image Sequence" and select Options, where you'll
choose which format the images will convert to. I personally prefer PNG as they have
a higher quality but JPEG works just as well.

Next, set the "Frames per second" to match the frame rate of the video.
If you exported the reference using AM's video standardization, then it
should already be at 24fps (which will play very well in Maya as it should
be set to 24fps as well). If not, keep in mind that your camera probably shot
the video at a different fps, most likely 29.97. If you're unsure what the fps
of your video is, a quick way to find out is to go to "Window > Movie Inspector"
in Quicktime. A window will come up with all the info you need for your shot.

Once all that's done, just select a folder to store all the images
and hit the Save button.


Now it's time to bring everything together in Maya! To start with,
create a new camera by going to "Create > Cameras > Camera"

With your new camera selected, open up the attribute editor
(Ctrl + a or Command + a if you're using a Mac), scroll down to
the "Environment" section and hit the Create button beside Image Plane.

You've now got an empty image plane attached to your camera.
Time to add the images!

Open up the attribute editor for the image plane. (If it's not already active,
you can get there by selecting the camera, opening the attribute editor and
selecting the imagePlane1 tab.)

Set Display to "looking through camera",the display mode to RGB
and make sure "Use Image Sequence" is checked.

This will keep the image plane from appearing in any of the other viewports,blocking your view.

Next, browse for the exported image files by clicking the folder icon
to the right of "Image Name". You'll want to choose the first image of
the sequence created by Quicktime.

You should now have video reference in the viewport that will play along
with the animation. Also notice that wherever the camera is moved,
the reference will follow along.

But what's this you say? The reference is taking up the entire screen?
To fix this, go back to the imagePlane1 tab in the attribute editor
and scroll down to the Placement section. The attributes we'll be using
are "Size" and "Offset".
For the size attribute, there are two numbers you can change
but changing the first one is all that's needed.
As for the offset, the first box controls left / right movement
while the second box controls up / down.
Just set the reference in a corner that's out of the way and you're ready to go!

This is all great, but now we're faced with a new problem. Once we've
animated our shot and are ready to playblast, the reference is getting
in the way and needs to be hidden. Luckily, there is a simple solution.
In the viewport, go to "Show" and uncheck Cameras. Now your all ready to

For a video demonstration of all that I've covered, check out Joel Finney's
awesome tutorial.
Also, check the other tutorials he's created and if you find them useful,
be sure to thank him on his workspace.

Just remember that this is a workflow tip. Make sure you don't end up rotoscoping
your reference as that will lead to a lifeless animation.

I hope that was helpful and if you have any ideas or comments about out tips,
we'd love to hear them. Or if you want any more help with image planes,
just send us a PM or comment.