I need to seamlessly integrate some live video footage with 3D
animations of flowers blowing, falling and landing on key points
in my video. What's the best way to get the video images into Maya
to position the 3D elements accordingly? Would it be to create a
plane the exact video size and fit it to bounding box? This is my
first idea, but am wondering if there might be better/easier ways.
BTW, in the past I have tried "importing" images, but they don't seem to go/appear anywhere in the Maya scene. Hence, the plane idea. Am I missing something?
First, you'll want to convert your video into an image sequence. Tga format is good.
Then in Maya select your camera attributes and expand the Environment section. Hit "Create" by where it says Image Plane.
The attributes for the image plane will come up. Click the icon next to the blank space next to where it says Image Name. Select the first frame of your sequence and hit "Open".
For your image plane you'll want to set some attributes. Just below where you set what image to use is "Use Image Sequence". Toggle that on. Next, in the Placement area below click on "Fit to Resolution Gate. So long as you have set the output resolution in the Render Globals to be the same as your image sequence it will match exactly.
You may need to adjust other settings for your particular needs but that's basically all you have to do. If the image plane is too close and appearing in front of things in your scene you can push it back (while maintaining its fit to the resolution gate) by setting the depth attribute.
For your final render I'd suggest turning off the image plane and rendering your scene with an alpha channel. Then composite the 3D images onto the video with whatever compositing software you like. You'll have more options and better control over things that way.