Exporting character animations from DAZ Studio for use in Marvelous Designer is a trifle complicated. In this article I will explain what works for me.
I’m using an animation created in DAZ Studio 4.7 using Michael 6, a Genesis 2 character. I will then create some clothing in Marvelous Designer 4.5, drape and animate it, and eventually export it back to DAZ Studio for rendering.
Here’s how to do it in principle:
- bake aniMate blocks into DAZ Studio timeline
- export OBJ file of your first animation frame
- export the whole animation as MDD cache
- import OBJ into Marvelous Designer
- import MDD cache in Marvelous Designer
- drape and animate cloth
I’ve explained the whole process step by step in this video:
Exporting from DAZ Studio
Although there are several export options at our disposal, the only one that works reliably and without any nasty surprises is an MDD Cache Sequence. This functionality is provided by the aniMate plugin, however the full version is required for the export to work. You can purchase aniMate here:
Make sure you have a keyframe animation to export. If you’ve created an animation from aniBlocks (using aniMate), make sure to bake them to the DAZ Studio timeline first. You can do this by right-clicking somewhere inside the empty space in the aniMate timeline and choose “Bake to Studio Keyframes”.
When you’re ready to export your animation, head over to File – Export and select MDD by aniMate2 from the file types menu.
MDD itself does not contain any geometry. It only describes how the vertices of an existing 3D object move from one frame to the next. For another app to make use of the MDD data, we also need an OBJ file that describes the geometry.
Move to the first frame of your animation, then select File – Export again. This time choose WaveFront Object (OBJ) from the list of file types. Make sure it has the same name as the MDD file.
An export dialogue will open. Accept the defaults, choosing the DAZ Studio preset at the top (equivalent to Scale = 100%).
Exporting from DAZ Studio via FBX and Collada
Alternatively you can export the animation as FBX file. The problem with this approach is that none of the smoothing modifiers are exported which are applied to each pose of the Genesis and Genesis 2 characters. It means that the geometry looks slightly different in the FBX file than it does when DAZ Studio displays it.
You can see the effect by moving the timeline to a different position. Just before you lift that finger off the mouse (or trackpad), you’ll see the Genesis figure change slightly. These rather important changes will be part of the MDD sequence, but are sadly not contained in the FBX sequence – at least not according to my observations.
The garment animation will therefore not line up perfectly when we bring it back from Marvelous Designer, leading to nasty poke-through effects. Not pretty!
Collada is another option to export, but I’ve had no luck importing it into Marvelous Designer 4.5. Marcus Wilm had good success with Marvelous Designer 2 – he describes his process in this forum thread.
The most recent version of Marvelous Designer (or DAZ Studio) appears to have bug and leads to an error message upon import. It’s something to try again in the future perhaps. Therefore I cannot comment on the geometry behaviour of the Collada export.
Importing into Marvelous Designer
In Marvelous Designer, head over to File – Import – OBJ to replace the default avatar with your own. Typically this is a T-Pose to make the initial draping and cloth fitting easier. Choose the OBJ file you’ve exported earlier.
Pay close attention to the scale in the following import dialogue. It needs to match the scale with which we’ve exported the OBJ: in our case that was 1 unit = 1cm, as defined by the DAZ Studio preset. Accept all other defaults and make sure none of the axis are inverted.
Now load the animation using File – Import MDD Cache (Standard). Another import dialogue appears. Your avatar should be selected by default in the list.
Choose the DAZ Studio scale again and – this is very important – invert the Z axis. Otherwise your avatar will turn around 180 degrees when you start the animation for the first time. This is only necessary when you import the MDD file, not when you import the OBJ file.
Draping your garment
Create your garment and fit it to your liking on the T-Pose, then switch from Simulation into Animation mode (there’s a button at the top right corner for that).
Notice a blue bar in your timeline at the bottom. This is your MDD animation. Hit the play button to see your avatar move, while the garment remains in the initial position.
Switch the Simulation Quality from Normal to Complete for more accurate draping results.
Park the playhead on the first frame of the animation and head over to Animation – Record in the main menu. Marvelous Designer needs to drape the garment for every frame of the animation and will record each pose.
This takes a moment or two, during which you’ll see your avatar and your garment move together. You’ll also see a red bar gradually appear in the timeline, representing your garment animation.
You can now play the animation more fluently, very neat for preview purposes.
In my next article I’ll show you how to export the garment animation from Marvelous Designer and how to import it into DAZ Studio for rendering.
Catch this episode on my 3D Podcast: