A new Unreal Live Link for Maya plugin makes it easier than ever to stream data from Maya to Unreal in real-time. Whether you’re working between the two tools in a virtual production environment or building your next game, you can now work on character assets in Maya and see previews of your work reflected immediately in Unreal, as you make changes.
Partnering with Epic Games to accelerate creative workflows
Originally developed by Epic Games, Live Link is essentially made up of two pieces – a Maya plugin and an Unreal plugin. Working in tandem, the two plugins allow you to stream data seamlessly from Maya to Unreal. Autodesk® has partnered with Epic Games to push the Maya portion of this workflow forward, extending the functionality to better meet the needs of artists and studios today.
The past year-and-a-half has seen a sharp increase in demand for all types of content – from TV series and movies consumed on popular streaming platforms to immersive games played from the comfort of home. Increased demand comes hand-in-hand with the need for artists and studios to move faster to meet rising expectations and turn around more content, in less time.
The pandemic brought on a major shift in how virtual production was adopted by the industry – going from an emerging production technique used on a few innovative projects to a must-have for many productions worldwide looking to reduce on-site staff and accelerate post pipelines. As performance capture technology becomes more affordable and real-time game engines like Unreal continue to improve in image quality, virtual production is becoming accessible to a broader range of production budgets.
Autodesk helped pioneer virtual production with Joe Letteri and Lightstorm Entertainment on Avatar, and we’re now partnering with Epic Games to continue along that path, building more robust workflows between our creative tools and Unreal, starting with Maya.
For artists working in games, a more fluid, in-context experience while working with Maya and Unreal equates to more iterations and the ability to quickly validate decisions on character behaviour. And, it doesn’t end there – more efficient workflows between the two tools also benefits creative teams focused on previsualization and final frames for linear shot-based workflows.
How the Unreal Live Link for Maya plugin works
To use the Unreal Live Link for Maya plugin, you must first set up a link between a Maya asset (the source) and Unreal asset (the target). With this update, we’ve hugely simplified and streamlined the installer experience for creating that connection, so you can get up-and-running in a matter of minutes. For step-by-step instructions on getting set up, read the Unreal Live Link for Maya AKN article.
Once setup, you can animate, keyframe, or modify keyframes. As you make changes to characters to refine motion – for example, dragging manipulators for the control rig or using features like the editable motion trails – the changes will update automatically on the target animation in Unreal. You can continue to iterate in Maya, using all of its powerful animation tools, and see your character update in-context and in real-time in Unreal.
Compatible Maya features
With this update, we’ve included support for a number of important features in Maya:
NEW: The user experience has been streamlined, making it easier to connect the two tools and make changes.
NEW: Scene timecode is now streamed to Unreal, allowing play head synchronization between Maya and Unreal.
NEW: Blend shapes are now supported, enabling artists to make changes to characters like facial expressions and lip syncs and see them in-context in Unreal.
Camera attributes including transforms, angle of view, focal length, film gate, camera aperture, film aspect ratio, depth of field, focus distance, and fStop are supported.
Lighting adjustments including color, intensity, cone angle, and penumbra angle work are supported.
Joint transforms can be streamed to Unreal.
For customers using older versions of Maya, we’ve also added back version support, enabling the Unreal Live Link for Maya plugin to be used with Maya 2018 through 2022.