The Maya Project Directory Structure

Update: Additional information on the Data folder.

When you create a new Maya project and hit the “use defaults” button, several folders are created. Each of these folders has a specific purpose, but they aren’t detailed in the help files, nor could I find much about them in the usual online fora. So here they are, with my evaluations of what they’re for:

  • 3dPaintTextures:  If you use the 3d Paint tool in your texturing process, this folder will contain subfolders for each scene in which you have used 3d Paint. Within those folders are the texture files created by the tool.
  • assets: I’m not sure how it works, but I assume it has something to do with the Assets system. It is associated with “Templates.”
  • clips: No idea.
  • DAE_FBX: Maya will store exported dae_fbx files for exchanging data with other software here. I think this is a Collada format in a fbx wrapper.
  • data: Fluid and nParticle caches will show up here, with a folder for each scene with a cache.
  • DXF_FBX: Maya will store exported dxf_fbx files for exchanging data with other software here. I am almost certain that this is for exchanging with AutoCAD.
  • fbx: Standard fbx import and export files will go into this folder. These are the files you could open with, for instance, Nuke, so long as they are formatted correctly. Autodesk publishes an fbx converter to assure that your fbx files are of a standard format.
  • image: I honestly don’t know about this one. I haven’t yet seen anything go into it, nor has Maya ever defaulted to asking for something from it.
  • images: Most raster images exported from Maya will go into this directory. This includes UV layouts and renders. If you render in layers, each layer will get its own subdirectory. Likewise, each render pass will get its own subdirectory under the appropriate layer unless you direct Maya to do otherwise.
  • mel: This is where Maya will look for imported MEL scripts.
  • mentalRay: I’m not really sure what this folder is for. A good deal of MR data goes elsewhere, so I have no idea what this one is for.
  • particles: Particle disk caches, but not nParticle caches, will go into this directory. I’m sure there are other particle-related files that will go in here, as well, but I haven’t yet encountered them.
  • renderData: This is a very important folder, with four subdirectories, two of which I have never used. Depth and iprImages are a mystery to me. I have my suspicions about them, but I haven’t tested them yet. The Shaders folder is for any shader networks that you import or export from the Hypershade. Mentalray has four additional subfolders: FinalgMap contains frozen final gather maps, which serve to speed up renders using Final Gather. LightMap contains baked light information, including Ambient Occlusion, which can be very useful both for texturing and for speeding final renders if you choose to bake your AO. ShadowMap stores shadow depth maps.
  • renderScenes: Another folder whose purpose I do not know.
  • scene: This is one of three folders most people should be familiar with. All of your scene files will be stored here.
  • sound: I have never attempted to add sound inside Maya, but I assume that this is where you’d store your audio clips.
  • sourceimages: The third of the most well used folders in your project directory, the sourceimages folder is where Maya will look for texture maps of all kinds, including image planes.
  • textures: I am not sure what this folder is for, since your texture maps are all in the sourceimages directory, and procedural textures that are baked out to files go into the images folder.

So that’s everything I know about the project folder structure at this time. All clarifications and additions are welcome, and I’ll be sure to add a credit to anyone who helps to fill out the rest of this information. Just leave a comment!

Web admin for the Christian Gamers Guild and co-host of the Geek @ Arms podcast. Bryan primarily runs character-driven narrativist RPGs such as Primetime Adventures and Tales From the Loop.

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