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XMesh Loader for Maya - User Interface

Introduction

The XMesh Loader implements a sequenceXMesh Maya node which is connected to a Maya Shape node and is transformed by a Maya Transform node. The sequenceXMesh node exposes all XMesh Loader User Interface controls in the Maya Attribute Editor.

Files Panel

The Files Rollout provides the controls related to specifying the source sequences to be loaded.

Render Sequence text field and folder button

  • The Render Sequence field contains the main XMesh sequence to be loaded and rendered by the current Maya renderer. 
  • By default, the same sequence will also be used for viewport display, unless an optional Proxy Sequence is supplied too. 

Automatic Proxy Path checkbox

  • This checkbox is checked by default.
  • If checked, and if a Proxy sequence was saved during the generation of the XMesh data, its path will be resolved automatically - providing the Render Sequence will also populate the Proxy sequence without additional user intervention.
  • When unchecked, the Proxy Sequence text field and folder button will be enabled. 

Proxy Sequence text field and folder button

  • These controls are only available when the Automatic Proxy Path checkbox is unchecked.
  • While the Proxy Sequence is typically generated by the XMesh Saver during the saving of the Render Sequence, you can pick ANY XMesh sequence from disk to use for accelerated viewport display. 
  • This means that if a source mesh is going through many stages of editing and re-caching that do not require the Proxy Sequence to be updated each time, you could save time by generating the Proxy Sequence just once in the beginning, then re-cache the Render Sequence as often as needed while still pointing the XMesh Loader at the initial Proxy sequence. 

The Render and Proxy Sequences are normally used to provide the geometry to the Renderer and the Viewport, respectively. See the Viewport and Render panels for controls that can override this behavior (e.g. using Proxy Sequence for rendering or Render Sequence for Viewport display).

Note that you can pick ANY frame from the file sequence to represent the whole sequence, but if you intend to use the "Single File Only" mode in the Timing > Loading Mode controls, your choice will play a role. In that case, only the exact file name specified in the sequence field will be loaded on every frame.

Timing Panel

The Timing Panel provides all controls related to the mapping of the Maya time to the Sequence's frames including retiming, limiting and offseting of the loading range etc.

Loading Mode drop-down list 

  • Single File Only - the exact file name specified in the Render Sequence or Proxy Sequence will be loaded on every frame, disregarding any time changes. 
  • None - the loading will be turned off completely for both Rendering and Viewport display.
  • Velocity Offset (default) - in this mode, if a sub-frame sample is requested, the XMesh Loader will use the Velocity channel (if present) to offset the vertices over time and produce a deformed mesh with consistent topology based on the closest full frame from the sequence.
  • Velocity Offset, Subframes - this is similar to the Velocity Offset mode, but it will use the closest Subframe sample from the sequence. If no Subframes were saved, it will behave like the Velocity Offset mode.
  • Frame Interpolation - this mode is only applicable if the topology is consistent between frames. The sub-frame positions of the vertices will be interpolated based on the closest two frames surrounding the requested time sample. If the topoligy is changing, no interpolation will be performed.
  • Frame Interpolation, Subframes - same as Frame Interpolation, but it will use the closest two Subframes from the sequence. If no Subframes were saved, it will behave like the Frame Interpolation mode. 

Enable Playback Graph checkbox and Playback Graph value field 

  • Unchecked by default.
  • When checked, the XMesh Loader will use the Playback Graph parameter's animated value to define which XMesh frame from the sequence to load at the current time.
  • If the Playback Graph value is not animated, the XMesh Loader will not advance as the time changes and will load the static frame specified by the Playback Graph.
  • The Frame Offset value will also be added to the Playback Graph value to determine the frame to load, so it is easy to shift the Playback in either direction without moving the keyframes along the time line. 

Frame Offset value field 

  • Defaults to 0 (no offset)
  • Offsets the XMesh sequence by ADDING the offset value to the current Maya scene time or Playback Graph value to determine the frame to be loaded.
  • Positive values offset the animation BACKWARDS, negative values shift the animation FORWARD relative to the scene time.
  • For example, if a sequence was saved from frame 1001 to 1042 but has to be played back from frame 1 to 42, the Offset should be set to 1000. 

Sync Frame Range button, Limit To Custom Range checkbox, Range Start and Range End value field 

  •  These controls allow you to specify a Custom Range (or a Safe Range, if you will) that includes the actually existing frames on disk.
  • By default, the Limit To Custom Range checkbox will be checked and the Range Start and Range End values will be set to the first and last frames of the XMesh sequence picked by the user.
  • Pressing the Sync Frame Range button will reset the two values to the actual first and last frames in the current sequence.
  • If a frame is requested that is outside the Custom Range, the Range Start and End Mode drop-down lists will define the desired behavior.
  • The Range Start and End values can be set to a subset of the actually existing frames to play back only a specific segment of the whole animation regardless of the scene time or Playback Graph time.
  • Setting both values to the same, existing frame will force that file to be reloaded on every scene time frame. 

Range Start Mode and Range End Mode drop-down list 

  • The Range Start and End Mode lists provide two modes - Hold and Blank.
  • When set to Hold First or Hold Last, the frame specified by the respective Range Start or End value will be used in place of any frame requested outside the range.
  • For example, if the Custom Range Start is 1010 and Range End is 1020 but frame 1001 is requested and Range Start Mode is set to Hold, frame 1010 will be loaded for frame 1001 and indeed for any other frame less than 1010. Similarly, if frame 1042 is requested and Range End Mode is set to Hold, frame 1020 will be returned instead. 
  • If the Range Mode is set to Blank instead, the XMesh Loader will produce an empty mesh. This is useful when to geometry should be shown outside of the Custom Range interval. 

Viewport Panel

The Viewport Panel exposes the controls related to the display of the XMesh data in the Maya Viewports.

Viewport Source drop-down list

This list provides two options

  • Render Sequence - the XMesh Loader will use the main Render Sequence for viewport display. 
  • Proxy Sequence - the XMesh Laoder will use the optional alternative Proxy Sequence for viewport display.  

Display drop-down list

 This list provides four options:

  • Mesh - all saved XMesh data will be loaded for viewport display, including smoothing information, material assignments, mapping coordinates and so on.
  • Bounding Box - only the Bounding Box of the saved geometry will be loaded directly from the XMesh XML header file without reading any binary data. This is the fastest possible mode, but it does not provide more than a hint about where the geometry would be.
  • Vertices - only the vertex list will be loaded from the corresponding binary data file. No face data or mapping coordinates will be loaded, resulting in very fast performance and lower CPU load. Optionally, you can use the Percent slider to display a fraction of the vertices.
  • Faces - only the vertex and face lists will be loaded from the corresponding binary data files. No smoothing information, material assignments or mapping coordinates will be loaded, resulting in faster performance than in Mesh mode. Optionally, you can use the Percent slider to display a fraction of the faces. 

Percent slider

  • The Percent slider is only enabled when the Display list is set to Vertices or Faces.
  • The default value is 100%, loading all vertices or faces.
  • When set to a lower value, every Nth vertex or face will be skipped to load only the specified percentage, thus speeding up the display. 

Render Panel

The Render Panel exposes the controls related to the rendering of the XMesh data in the current Maya renderer.

Render Source drop-down list

This list provides two options

  • Render Sequence - the XMesh Loader will use the main Render Sequence for rendering. This is the default mode.
  • Proxy Sequence - the XMesh Laoder will use the optional alternative Proxy Sequence for rendering, if available. 

Extra Attributes Panel

The Extra Attributes Panel is standard for all Maya Nodes. XMesh itself does not expose any Extra Attributes, but you can add your own as needed.