File formats/3D Objects/Maya

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Overview of Maya ascii format

The content below was originally here[1] and has been recovered as the Jan. 2015 version from Internet Archive - Wayback Machine[2]

Maya scene files define the geometry, lighting, animation, rendering, and other properties of a scene.

Maya scenes can be saved as binary or ASCII files. A Maya ASCII file can be easily edited.

If you have written a script using Maya's MEL programming language, you are already familiar with the Maya ASCII file format. A Maya ASCII file uses a tiny subset of the MEL language—in fact, of the hundreds of commands available in MEL, only eleven are used:*

  • file
  • requires
  • createNode
  • setAttr
  • addAttr
  • parent
  • connectAttr
  • disconnectAttr
  • select
  • currentUnit
  • fileInfo

These MEL commands are the only MEL commands that can be safely used in a Maya ASCII file.

If you are not familiar with MEL, you may want to look at the MEL documentation before continuing. See MEL Overview in the MEL and Expressions book for details.

A statement in MEL consists of a keyword, followed by a series of options and arguments, and ends in a semicolon. A statement can span any number of lines in the file.

  • A keyword is always the first word in a statement.
  • An option provides more specific information to the statement.
  • An argument further defines each option.

For the examples in this chapter, the following typefaces designate the keywords, options, and arguments:

Keywords and options are in bold-face type, such as bump or -s. The option is always preceded by a dash.

Arguments are in non-bold italic, such as u or file.txb. The names of the arguments are arbitrary labels. In your files, use the actual value or string.

A more extensive description of the Maya ascii format

This content was originally here[3] but it is no longer available.

You can see an archived version from Internet Archive - Wayback Machine[4]

Jmol support

Jmol can export to mayaAscii format (.ma files). Specifically, Jmol version 14.31.29 (Jan. 2021) exports as version 8.5 of Maya scenes.

Related tools

Molecular Maya eases the generation of molecular 3D models for Maya. It is a free plugin for Autodesk Maya that lets users import, model and animate molecular structures.