Forest Church: Sketchup to Maya discussion

I was requested by a charitable group to create a 3D drawing of a small church. This church is located in a somewhat overgrown lot and there are some trees around the church. The church is old and has fallen into disuse and there is also some degree of disrepair. I decided to call it Forest Church. The charitable group wants to try to rehabilitate this church. The charitable group wanted a 3D drawing of the church to use in their presentations and perhaps for use in grant or funding proposals.

I told them, “Sure.” I began this project for them and I decided I would do the origination of the drawing files of the Forest Church using Sketchup Pro 2019. It seemed reasonable to me to also plan that, once the drawings were created and looked OK, then I would also import these Sketchup Pro 2019 drawing files into Autodesk Maya, because a lot of people work in Maya.

I have not had any issues before in doing this type of import but this time the import did not work correctly. It is not clear to me what has happened. I note that Maya is now updated to Maya 2018, and Sketchup Pro is updated to 2019, but this process of ongoing updating of software is very common. The import program that I used, SKP to Maya, had worked just fine for me for awhile. I can only assume that some component of the new Maya and/or Sketchup made something happen that “goofed up” the importation process, at least for me.

The specific import issue that I have includes that the import program seems to load into Maya as a plugin without problems. The import program runs inside Maya when I ask it to, and the process seems to be going along well. I will add that my Sketchup drawing files for this Forest Church are large and complex, because I am trying to make these Skechup Pro 2019 drawing files to depict a church that is complex, engaging, and beautiful. I want people to look at renders created from the Forest Church drawing files and have a feeling of happiness and to become supportive toward attempts to rehabilitate what is now this little abandoned Forest Church.

Because my Sketchup Pro 2019 drawing files for this Forest Church project are so large in Sketchup, they make the importation process for bringing them into Maya to be a time-consuming event. I don’t really mind, because I don’t really have a requirement for speed per se, instead, I want the result to be beautiful and to grab peoples’ attention and (I hope) to make people have concern and support for the Forest Church.

The Forest Church Sketchup section of this project is so complex and creates files so large in Sketchup, that I decided to make the church drawing as a set of drawings. This set of drawings includes that all that is presented is only one wall, or one end of the Forest Church. As I finish these parts, then I combine them into a “big” Sketchup Pro 2019 drawing file that shows the whole Forest Church. In general, though, this “big” version slows down my computer so much that I really just have it to look at it and see how the Forest Church project is flowing along.

Anyway, I now have two walls and one end completed and I “stitched” them together in Sketchup Pro 2019, looked at this file in Sketchup and then went into Maya and asked Maya to import the Sketchup Pro 2019 file. The importation process took 75 minutes and the resulting Maya file was 550 mb in size. Yikes!

I thought, “Well….Ok, I guess it is what it is.”

Then, in Maya, I looked at this newly formed Maya version of the little Forest Church, and……gosh….it was a catastrophe! The import seemed to have properly brought in a lot of areas of the church with no problems, but in other areas of the church the importation had created just “scrambled” architecture with weird geometric pieces, areas of no imported geometry at all (when there should have been geometry there), areas of geometry where there shouldn’t be anything present, and geometric shapes that just weren’t present in the Sketchup drawing file.


I think it’s important to mention that throughout the creative process for this church, I wanted to try to make a structure that was pretty and appealing. I did also want to try to stay near to the photographic images of the church as it stood in its somewhat forlorn state out there in the forest. These were photographic images that I had been given by the church group. I found that a process of creation for me to use was to just create the stone blocks and place them into position using just my intuitive opinion of what looked “about right.” This causes some variability of the positioning and appearance of the stones. Weirdly enough, this seems to make the church look more “real.”

Throughout the process, I would forward samples to the church group to get inputs on colors and textures and alignments of the stones. My thought was, I needed to get these appearance issues settled before creating any more of the church, and they always replied, “Hey, this church looks beautiful.” “Please just keep doing what you are doing.” “And,” they would add, “please, continue on in your capacity as a stonemason and build our church for us.”

I found the architectural complexity of the church, particularly its added items like doors, windows, window finials, arches, etc. presented problems to me because I am not a stone mason and I had to just “figure out” what I thought the original builders and designers were up to. Net effect: I made groups of stones, changed them around, added groups and subgroups, added mirror images of stones using the negative scale function, nested groups, copied and pasted groups, etc., etc.

But this style of creation allowed me to continue to build this church based on this intuition of what I felt seemed like “a nice little Forest Church that anyone could love.” And throughout the church group just said, “Please keep making our church for us.”

When the Maya importation failed so badly, I figured that my “patched up, hurry, hurry, hurry” building style had finally caught up with me. I should note, my church looked just fine in Sketchup, none of the architectural weirdness of the Maya import were in the Sketchup representation. And, of note, when I imported the Sketchup drawing into KeyShot to do some renders, KeyShot seemed perfectly happy and rendered just fine.

But, I felt, “Well, Maya is a pretty heavy duty program, and it is not going to take or allow any ‘junk drawing’ shortcuts.” So I went into the Sketchup drawings and tried to “clean up” as much as I could of groups inside of groups, and empty groups, and sections of the church held inside different layers, etc.

But I just can’t get it fixed. I am now officially stumped.

So, what I did was to make a video of what had happened and I split this video into two videos (Part 01 and Part 02) and uploaded them to my YouTube channel. Part 01 is about 13 minutes long and describes the creation process I used in Sketchup to “create” a stone for the church that I felt happy enough with that I could make copies of this stone and use these copies to “build” the Forest Church in my “stonemason” capacity. Part 02 is about 16 minutes long and it shows what happened when I tried to move the Forest Church Sketchup drawing files into Maya.

I’m hoping someone better trained in this 3D stuff than me (editor’s note: pg has had no training at all in any of these programs, he just opens programs up and runs with them) will be able to show what is going wrong here. In the YouTube videos (Part 01 and Part 02), I make reference to and include in these videos screenshots from some of my Sketchup Pro 2019 files and from some of my Maya files. I felt it would be helpful to include downloadable copies of these Sketchup Pro 2019 and Autodesk Maya 2018 drawing files so that people can watch the YouTube videos, then go to their own computers and open these files and see on their own computers what I am describing. I have placed these downloadable copies of these selected drawing files here on this page where anyone that wants to can download them. I have also placed URL references to the two YouTube explanatory videos that I made about this.

All help appreciated. I am simply stumped. Dr. Gray 🙂

I should note, these drawing files are large. The Sketchup files are 70-120 mb and the Maya files are 80-550 mb. I feel if one has a slow or old computer, one may find that trying to work with these files is going to be more than the computer can handle.

I should also note that I am concerned this is going to wind up being a fairly technical discussion. I am hoping against all hope that somebody will see what the problem is and will reveal that the solution is simple and possible. I feel if this involves highly technical tweaks and programming steps, I most likely will not be able to do technical activities like that. I do discuss this Forest Church project at a much less technical and slower pace on another page at this website, and that page has pictures…!!!

Here’s that Forest Church webpage:

The Forest Church discussion page at the Pistonrobot website

Here are the YouTube links:

Forest Church SKP to Maya Discussion Part 01

Forest Church SKP to Maya Discussion Part 02

Here are the download links for the Sketchup Pro 2019 drawing files:

Download 160mb This is a Sketchup Pro drawing file named: 01f how to create church blocks plus copy paste stuff South Wall from South from 7895 jpg church v22 (345 downloads) Download 73mb This is a Sketchup Pro 2019 Drawing file named: 10 Just the church only Red Door side of the church v306 (359 downloads) Download 45mb This is a Sketchup Pro 2019 drawing file named: 11 for Maya present Red Door side of the church v312 (394 downloads) Download 30mb This is a Sketchup Pro 2019 drawing file named: 12 for maya v319 red door area only v329 (380 downloads)

Here are the download links for the Autodesk Maya 2018 drawing files:

Download 571mb This is an Autodesk Maya 2018 drawing file named: 13 from Sketchup v306 Forest Church as Maya v2 (283 downloads) Download 222mb This is an Autodesk Maya 2018 drawing file named: 14 from Sketchup v312 Forest Church as Maya v3 (332 downloads) Download 90mb This is an Autodesk Maya 2018 drawing file named: 15 for maya from sketchup v319 red door area only v329 (339 downloads) Download 565mb This is an Autodesk Maya 2018 drawing file named: 17c from Sketchup file 16 v356 no terrain no trees no photos from not the steeple end 2nd stuff v319 working on not the steeple end v1 (257 downloads)