Student tips: File referencing

November 14, 2018

 

Hey!
Something I have found can help streamline many projects is a tool called file referencing. To quickly state what it is try to think of it as a good alternative to importing scenes. First, lets discuss the basics of the two systems!

Importing: the basics
Importing is the most basic form of transferring one scene into another and it has it's pros and cons.It is much more stable than referencing and because of this alone is favoured by a lot of students.
However, importing has its' fair share of cons too. The main issue is that it forces you to have much stricter schedule and therefore - in my opinion - limits the artists because of this. There is also the issue of file size/load times, because importing a file stored a copy of it within the scene your file sizes increase very rapidly.

Referencing: The basics
Referencing is the most popular alternative to importing an it has some great benefits.
1) It allows several parts of the pipeline to be active all at once. This frees up the artists to spend more time on their part and results in the final product getting more polish, is that ever a bad thing?
2) It also allows you to fix anything that you have accidentally broken by using the "List reference edits" feature in Maya. We'll discuss this in more detail later on!
3) The last positive I'm gonna mention is file sizes. When you're using a referencing pipeline each Maya file only stores the changes made to the referenced file which means a final animation scene could be a matter of kilobytes rather than 100's of megabytes. This comes in pretty handy when you only have a small hard drive for university like I did.


Tips for reliability
Quick note to make on referencing is that if it is used properly it can be very reliable. However, if you do not use stable file naming and object naming there may be errors when loading a scene. In simple, only reference "published" files where possible or at least make sure there will be no name changes and you'll be fine :) 

How do I create a reference?
To load a referenced file into your scene all you have to do is go in to "file - create reference" and find your file you want to bring in :)
You can now do anything you wish with this reference in your scene, you can also check the "file - reference editor" to comit your changes back into the original file or import the reference fully into the scene with your changes (As well as many other things

 

 


List reference edits
This is the secret weapon of Maya referencing which I don't see getting mentioned too much on the internet.
So what does it do?
Well as we know from earlier when you reference something into Maya you are not storing the object (asset) in your scene, because of that maya needs to store your changes made so that you don't lose all your progress every time you close your scene. This list of changes can be found in file - reference editor - (select reference - right click) - file - list reference edits. It is arranged by action type so it is easy to find accidental deletes of rig controls or assigning of materials. Learn to read this interface and you can salvage the most broken of scenes!
 

 

Thats it!
If you want to learn more about how referencing works, check the link below:
https://knowledge.autodesk.com/support/maya/learn-explore/caas/CloudHelp/cloudhelp/2015/ENU/Maya/files/GUID-685DE9F6-0C38-46C2-A20B-63BCD17DE492-htm.html

 

Your feedback is appreciated!
This "student tips" series is intended to be a very simple introduction to things you can consider for your pipeline rather than a full "how to".  That said, if you want more info/examples in these tutorials feel free to contact me! (I'd recommend doing research from other places on the internet first though)

 

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