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Learn how to round trip easily and save loads of time

Last updated: December 2018

What you will get from this page: pointers on efficient round-tripping of your geometry between Autodesk applications and Unity. Topics covered include Scripted Importers; Timeline integration and animations; the Exporter for lights and cameras, and Node name remapping.

Based on an exclusive partnership with Autodesk, Unity’s been providing big workflow improvements for artists via the FBX Importer and Exporter. We picked out some of the latest enhancements that allow users to round-trip geometry using artist-friendly interfaces, and merge changes back with non-destructive workflows.

The Importer & Exporter

The Unity FBX Importer, which is built into Unity, provides support for:

  • Hierarchies
  • Materials
  • Textures
  • Stingray PBS shaders
  • Cameras
  • Animation and animated custom properties (when present in the FBX file)

Available on the Asset Store, the FBX Exporter package makes it smooth and easy to send geometry and animation from Unity 2017.3 or later, to any application that supports FBX, and back again with minimal effort.

FBX Exporter package

The Exporter provides support for:

  • GameObject hierarchies
  • Materials
  • Textures
  • Cameras
  • Lights
  • Skinned Meshes
  • Animation

The Exporter enables Autodesk tools to be aware of your Unity project and the location of your Assets folder. By doing this, it enables you to round trip very easily and save loads of time. You can do all your setup and grey-boxing, then very quickly export things to digital content creation tools (DCC), such as Maya or 3ds Max, have the artists finalize the content, and safely merge your changes back into those Assets to continue your work in Unity.

Scripted importers

The original FBX SDK was in an unmodifiable C++ black box. With scripted importers you can write custom asset importers in C#, for file formats not natively imported, which gives you a powerful means of manipulating content coming into Unity.

Scripted importers

Example from the docs: the Inspector window of an Asset imported by the Scripted Importer


Via the Inspector, the Presets feature allows you to define a set of workflows or imports for presets, for loading content into the engine. You can adjust import settings by clicking the button, creating a preset and then clicking this as a default preset, and every model of that file type gets loaded. For example, you can set up light presets to apply to lights, or tweak how you want to load in animations. You can also drag presets into scenes to create content.

Crouch Importer

To specify default settings with the Inspector window, select a Preset in the Project window, and in the Inspector window, click Set as Preset.

You can also specify default settings with the Preset Manager.

Preset Manager

In this example, CrouchImporter is being selected as the default for imported models

The Recorder

The Recorder, which is available on the Asset Store, gives you an interface in Unity to capture video and animation data during gameplay and then records it to various media formats.

The latest version of the Recorder includes a dedicated recorder window and support for:

  • Timeline-triggerable recording sessions
  • Image sequences: JPG, PNG, GIF, OpenEXR
  • Video files: WebM, H.264 (Windows only)
  • Animation clips
  • 360 degree images/video capture (from 2018.1 and later)

There’s also an API for the Recorder, the GameObjectRecorder, which you can tell to record a given component from a root object.


Timeline integration and animations

The Exporter and powerful tools such as Timeline, Cinemachine, ProBuilder and the aforementioned Recorder, completely change the workflow of creating cutscenes and trailers.

For example, you can block out animations in Timeline, use the Recorder to bake the animations down into an animation clip, and then use the Exporter to export the baked animations out to your DCC tools. Or, alternately, block out your animations in Timeline and export the entire timeline to FBX. This will include everything bound to that timeline in a single FBX, that can then be imported into the DCC tools. Once everything is fine-tuned, you then bring it all back into Unity for final setup.

Exporter for lights and cameras

The Exporter enables you to bring across your light types, including animated properties such as intensity, spot angle and color. The built-in Importer will load all of these light properties natively, and the Exporter allows you to extend this behaviour, so you can roundtrip the assets back to the DCC tools

Supported camera parameters include: field of view, projecting type, aspect ratio, focal length near and far planes.

Node name remapping

When roundtripping, very often assets will be edited and renamed, potentially changing their very nature. Now Unity will make sure that modifications made to the FBX by an external application can be remapped to the original with no loss of information.

Again, we encourage you to check out Mike’s talk. Around the 15:10 mark, he plays a demo that takes you through many of the workflows highlighted here, from creating a rigged character in Maya, exporting it out to Unity, setting up some animation, and finally, bringing it back into Maya for fine-tuning.

Round-tripping in action: behind the scenes of Adam


The first Adam film debuted at GDC 2016. A little over a year later, Oats Studio, headed up by brothers Neil and Mike Blomkamp, started working on the second and third installments, Adam: The Mirror and Adam: Episode 3, respectively. They knew they had considerable technical challenges ahead of them if they were to realize their first-ever CG film “in engine.” They used some of the methods covered here and in Mike’s talk, such as photogrammetry. Find out how they did it with this Adam reading list:

The evolution of Alembic support in Unity

Facial mocap and cloth simulation in Adam

Keeping the Adam films on track with Timeline

More resources

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