I've been playing around with Maya 2013 for a bit, especially with Alembic caching. I really love how fast and reliable it seems to be, but there is a small problem when I try to use it in my existing pipeline.
I want the animators to be able to reference a character into their scene, animate it, and then export each character into its own Alembic file. This hasn't been a problem so far; I wrote some quick tools to do this automatically for each character. Importing the caches back into the scene is no big deal, though of course the objects lose their materials and render layer assignments.
What I tried doing was to create a "cache" version of the character that had the materials and render layers pre-applied. I created this by exporting a dummy Alembic cache of the character in bind pose, then importing that cache, then applying all the materials and deleting the original character.
The goal with that method was to be able to then reference in the character, and just switch the file path that the AlembicNode is looking for. The shape names are exactly the same, the only thing that's changing is the path that I'm looking for. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to work when referencing is involved. Once I reload the reference (updating the Alembic path doesn't seem to actually change where Maya is looking without reloading), material assignments get jumbled (not randomly; the material mismatch always seems to be the same for each object), as well as the coordinates of a few of the objects being messed up, almost like a double transformation. I verified that this only happens when referencing; if I import this "cache" character and then manually change the AlembicNode's file path, it works normally (though I have to re-open the scene in order to do this).
Interestingly enough, when I import one of these Alembic caches into Houdini, the same weird transformation problems happen there, too. Some objects just aren't in the right place at all.
Does anyone have any input on this? I've gotten this exact sort of pipeline to work just fine with Maya's default geometry caches, but geocaches are incredibly slow compared to Alembic.