Mari to Softimage by Xuan Prada

Recently I was involved in a master class about texturing and shading for animation movies, and as promised I’m posting here the technical way to set-up different UV sets inside Softimage.
Super simple process and really efficent methodology.

  • I’m using this simple asset.
  • These are the UVs of the asset. I’m using different UV sets to increase the quality. In this particular asset you can find four 4k textures for each channel. Color, Specular and Bump.
  • You probably realized that I’m using my own background image in the texture editor. I think that this one is more clear for UV mapping than the default one. If you want you can download the image, convert it to .pic and replace the original one located on C:\Program Files\Autodesk\Softimage 2012\Application\rsrc
  • This is the render tree set-up. Four 4k textures for color, specular and bump. Each four textures are mixed by mix8color node.
  • Once everything is connected, you still need to offset each image node to match the UV ranges.
  • I know that the UV coordinates in Softimage are a bit weird, so find below a nice cart which will be so helpfull for further tasks.
  • Keep in mind that you should turn off wrap U and wrap V for each texture in the UV editor.
  • Really quick render set-up for testing purposes.

Faking SSS in Softimage by Xuan Prada

SSS is a very nice shader which works really great with a good lighting setup, but sometimes  is so expensive shader when you´re using Mental Ray.
Find below a couple of tecniques to deal better with SSS. Just keep in mind that those tricks could improve your render times a bit, but never will reach the same quality than using SSS for itself.

  • I’m using this simple scene, with one key light (left), one fill light (right) and one rim light.
  • A SSS compound is connected to the material surface input, and the SSS_lightmap (you can find that node in the render tree -> user tools) connected to the lightmap input of the SimpleSSS. And then, the Simple SSS lightimap connected to the material lightmap input.
  • Write the output and resolution of your lightmap.
  • Hit a render and check the render time.
  • Disconnect the lightmap.
  • Render again and check the render times as well. We have imprpved the times.
  • If you need to really fake the SSS and render so fast, you can bake the SSS to texture using RenderMap, but keep in mind that the result will be much worst than using SSS. Anyways you can do that for background asset or similar.
  • Now you can use another cheaper shader like blinn, phong or even constant with your baked SSS.
  • As you can see the render is now so fast.

Dealing with normal maps in Softimage by Xuan Prada

Yes I know, working with normal maps in Softimage is a bit weird sometimes, specially if you worked before with 3D Max normal+bump preset.

I’ve been using the same method over the years and suited fine for me, maybe would be useful also for you.
I prefer to generate the normal maps inside Softimage rather than Mudbox or Zbrush, usually works much better according to my tests with different assets.

  • So, you should import in the same scene both geometrys, high and low. Don’t be afraid of high poly meshes, Softimage allows you to import meshes with millions of polygons directly from Mudbox or Zbrush.
  • With both meshes in your scene be sure that they are perfectly aligned.
  • Check the UV mapping of the low resolution mesh.
  • Select the low resolution mesh and open the ultimapper tool.

- The most important options are:

  • Source: You have to click on your high resolution mesh.
  • Path: Where your normal map texture will be placed.
  • Prefix: A prefix for your texture.
  • Type: You can choose between different image formats.
  • Normal in tangent space: The most common normal map type.
  • Resolution: Speaks for itself.
  • Quality: Medium it’s fine. If you choose high the baking time will increase a lot.
  • Distance to surface: Click on Compute button to generate this parameter.
  • Click on generate and Softimage will take some time to generate the normal map.
  • The normal map is ready.
  • Hide your high resolution mesh.
  • Grab one of the MR shaders and drag it to your mesh.

- Use a normal map node connected to the bump map input of the shader.

  • Choose the normal map generated before.
  • Select the correct UVs.
  • Select tangents mode.
  • Uncheck unbiased tangents.
  • Hit a render and you’ll see you normal map in action.
  • Cool. But now one of the most common procedures is combining a normal map with a bump map.
  • I’m using the image above.
  • If you use a bump map generator connected into the bump map input you will have a nice bump map effect.
  • Find below the final render tree combining both maps, normal and bump.
  • The first bump map generator has two inputs, color matte which is a plain white color and the normal map with the options which I already commented before. Be sure to select relative to input normal in the base normal option of the bump map generator.
  • The second bump map generator is your bump texture where you can control the intensity increasing or decreasing the factor value.
  • The vector math vector node allows you to combine both bump map generators.
  • Connect the first bump map generator  to the first input and the second one to the second imput.
  • In the operation option select vector input1 + vector input2.
  • Final render.

Improved dirt maps by Xuan Prada

When we start the task of texturing props, environments or characters, one of the first steps we accomplish after completing the UV Mapping, is baking different texture maps or procedural maps (or any other type) to a later use them as a base point to paint our textures.
Probably the most baked map is the ambient occlusion, to reach a base of dirt in logic areas which we will modify in Photohop, BodyPaint or Mudbox.

In my own experience I think that occlusion bakes are incredibly useful but a little bit boring.
Find below a simple method to create a more funny and live ambient occlusion bakes.

  • Using a costant shader or any other which are not affected by lighting, we mix using mix2colors, blendColors or Mixer.
  • In the channel 1 of the mix we use a map. Can be procedural or bitmap. In this example I’m using a tiled bitmap.
  • In the channel 2 of the mix we use a white color.
  • In the mask of the mix we use an ambient occlusion.

With this method we achieve that the bitmaps or procedural maps get masked by the occlusion, creating dirt on the logical and less exposed areas, but with the variation given by the map.
The keys to reach good results are the configuration of the occlusion and the quality of the maps.

This is the scene that I'm using for this example.

Regular ambient occlusion render.

Ambient occlusion render mixed with bitmap textures.

Dirt shader in Softimage.

Dirt shader in Maya.

Dirt shader in Max part 1/2

Dirt shader in Max part 2/2