Mari 4.6 new features
Mari 4.6 is now officially in open beta and with it comes a massive upgrade to the node graph especially for material authoring where we see new collapsible nodes as well as new procedurals and the ability to create smart materials using the newly introduced geo channels technology. This makes it possible to even easier create richer more interesting smart materials utilizing textures such as ambient occlusion and curvature. Speaking of curvature and nodes. There is a new curvature node that makes a pretty decent result without the need of baking or tracing.
Mari 4.6 Geo channels
Everyone familiar with substance knows about smart materials and now we can start to create similar materials utilizing geo bake channels. The geo channels live on the geo entity of the asset. This means we can access the declared texture or bakes in all levels of the node graph not possible with regular node connections that have to use an input-output connection to traverse up or down from a group. I’m looking forward to starting using this technology in my Materials
Node graph updates
One major pain in the first installment of the material system was the nodes in the node graph. I mean sure I like New York’s tall buildings, but I don’t like skyscraper nodes and now we have a way to compact nodes and have a better layout when we auto-layout nodes. Great addition and with some further tweaking it will be great. One tweak I would like to see is a way to layout upstream in the node graph, this would enable us to custom layout nodes and maintain it from a location thus saving the previous custom layout
Here are a few examples of the new node graph changes that was made.
New procedural nodes
Material creation means we will need more sophisticated nodes to build our material and with this release, we now see the first effort of creating new nodes on a long time. We see the addition of math nodes as well as new patterns and a random tile procedural that looks interesting. We also have an expanded toolset to handle normal maps as well as splitting streams into individual components.
Another addition was the new projector nodes that I imagine will open up a range of possibilities in my workflow from adding local detail to Digi double or matte paintings. As the projections are live it will be very interesting to think of the ways I can utilize this new tool into my texturing arsenal. Just a word of advice to Foundry when it comes to nodes. We have to start thinking proceduralism rather than the old fashioned layer way where we have locked down nodes. For procedural workflows to really become powerful the nodes itself have to have input ports for major settings in the nodes. I’m hoping that I see this added in future releases
The open beta now ships with two new vendor shaders, the Vray as well as drumroll, a 3dlight shader. I guess this was a no brainer to add as Foundry now ship 3dlight with katana.
I’m happy to see that a lot of requests I filed to Foundry Support found its way into this release and Material creation was one of those. A way to ingest materials using templates will make it easier to even further customize materials that rely on a more complex shading then some of the scan libraries provide. For example the Renderman shader I use Physical spec parameters and not the Metallic workflow and I hope a templating system will help in the material creation here. I can use Index of refraction as well as extinction coefficient to drive the specular response by building a mini comp driven by the metallic map.
Another feature that was added is a way to customize the material thumbnail on ingested materials as well as override the HDR as well as shader ball swatch to a custom object with whatever geo channels your material needs to function properly. Great news now we just need a better place to actually house the materials as the old shelf is not optimized for a library of any sort. Bigger thumbnails and a way to create categories and search is needed.
The Mari 4.6 is now out in open beta, no excuse not to take it for a spin yourself and be a part to influence the next step in how we texture in Mari. Hope to see you on the beta forum.
Building on this new strong release I would like to see even more polish on the material system. I think a search feature similar to other node graphs have could help find the correct stream and isolate it for the user. Another material related topic would be the short name inputs/ output nodes in a material group. I find it hard to know what is what when you have 60+ inputs all named using four letters, I guess the tooltip on the nodes is a step forward but the first impression is still confusing. Speaking of outputs, I would like material outputs be able to spit out a default color if nothing is connected to it. By having this feature the studios could choose how a materials default connections state would be more easily. And yes while we are at it. New nodes is cool but I feel to really be able to build richer materials the already existing nodes need to support inputs from the node graph, this would make it so much easier to control multiple nodes by one input and is the basis of any advanced procedural workflow. As these are filed with support maybe we see this one of these days Maybe in the next release i hope.
Good job Foundry. Keep it coming!