View Full Version : BASIC intro to materials??

08 August 2004, 01:03 PM
Just aquired Foundation 4.0, and I'm getting on OK (I think) so far. However, finding mapping/texturing tricky - come from using 3ds Max, with a very visual and logical Material Editor. Is there anything that shows you right from scratch??

08 August 2004, 01:11 PM
Read and use the tutorials ... I use max too , and it's one of the parts that is really really different. But the tutorials that come with XSI really help.

08 August 2004, 04:34 PM
After you get used to the rendertree I'm sure you'll love. Imagine you have a very very complex material in max I mean you have several parameters ( i.e. reflection ) driven by a falloff map and each of the 2 colors of your falloff are procedurals, lets say a noise for example, and each of the 2 colors of your noise are driven by a gradient or any other map, and your main material is a multilayer (blend, composite, or whatever) after you finish a very very complex maze like material if you want to change a specific parameter it is really a pain.... since you have to open each slot to get inside and then open the next and you go like a laberinth in there so to find what you want to change can be tedious or tricky. In the render tree you allways have every node at your sight without all that searching. That's a great thing I love from xsi ( I am a 3dsmax user as well). The best thing to do is to go through the tutorials as antero suggests, check or even the softimage site they ass well have some tuts there. Read the manual and if you have specific questions on how to do something here or in xsibase you will find LOTS of max and ex-max users so you will get fast answers. Don't know why but xsi forums and users tend to be friendlier than other forums in my experience.

12 December 2004, 11:51 PM
OK, so it means that XSI HAS falloff materials? - like max does, I mean.

12 December 2004, 01:16 AM
OK, so it means that XSI HAS falloff materials? - like max does, I mean.
Oh yes !!
You can use an incidence node by itself, or plug it into a gradient mixer for even more control.
Or if you don't want an incidence/fressnel falloff you can plug the gradient mixer into many other things, such as having colours falloff dependent on bump heights.

12 December 2004, 01:24 AM
Just aquired Foundation 4.0, and I'm getting on OK (I think) so far. However, finding mapping/texturing tricky - come from using 3ds Max, with a very visual and logical Material Editor. Is there anything that shows you right from scratch??

Funny enough as a long time LW user I always found MAX's material editor mind boggelling, although after a couple years it's begining to make a bit more sense :D

I know XSI's render tree can seem very techy at first, but now I find it very straight forward with a lot of instant appreciation of what's happening, although I'm far from knowing what all the different types of nodes do.

I know I've mentioned it a few times (I should be on commission by now :D ), but for the real basics up to mixing different node types, you cant go wrong with the render tree video tutorial from

12 December 2004, 08:37 AM
Don't know why but xsi forums and users tend to be friendlier than other forums in my experience.
I have noticed this also, I don't think this is the only reason but maybe a large factor is
that xsi users are pretty much satisfied with the program itself. Ok, somebody may not like
one specific way xsi does something but then there is som much more fantastic stuff so you never feel dissappointet in the program.

12 December 2004, 01:24 PM
I too am new to XSI, coming from Maya, and had my difficult time in just looking at the RenderTree.

My advice is to take the "principles of XSI" dvd from the box and watch thoroughly the Kim Aldiss series on the rendertree workings. They're pretty exaustive and explaining to get you started with the marvels (yeah, I just love it!) of the rendertree.

Plus, another thing I'm finding really useful is the Material Editor.


12 December 2004, 04:48 PM
I just started with XSI. To start with textures, I used the tutorial "Texturing Techniques in XSI" on the Softimage site. It's a series of video tutorials. You can get them by going HERE ( and scrolling down toward the bottom(Under educational videos) - you'll see "Texturing Techniques in XSI" in the video list. After that, I felt pretty confident in the basics and then spent hours experimenting. Now I'm constantly trying to think of new combinations and techniques to use in the render tree. It's funny - the rendertree can be as simple or complex as you'd like to make it - which is a GREAT thing.

12 December 2004, 01:55 AM
i can see that there a few people scratching their heads with render tree in xsi...and i'm one of them..i come from 3ds max and lightwave and i'm finding that render tree is really starting to turn me off xsi altogether...i watch things like how to add a bump map and a procedual bump map in xsi on the 160 small video's that come on a separate dvd and i just can't get how come it's so long winded to what in max or lightave is a couple of button pushes..

it just seems counter intuative..and wiol in fact put stacks of people off the app if they saw such videos before buying it. i missing something here or is render tree created by/for people in white coats?

to me...if i were to invent how to use a render tree and wanted to add a map to the bump channel i'd click on that input ad it would give me [list for me] what i could choose...such as either a bitmap loader or a procedual texture or add a pre mixer before that to mix two maps before if came in the bump channel...

as an analogy it seems that if a were a builder..not only do i lay briacks to build a house but i also have to make my bricks as well...and it gets quite messy in the tree view and will confuse rather than help people in creating materials...

is there an alternative way that actually helps you make materials or are there preset shaders with bump maps already applied that we can just swap out some stuff rather than always having to build everything from a blank canvas?

i hope this is not "the future" for material editing in all 3d apps...i just hate to techy rather than artist look to this.

....maybe a script is out that can mimic either a max material editor or a lightwave editior...well i can hope!

12 December 2004, 02:01 AM
To be honest, I guess that it's not for you. I picked it right up and now find it superior to every other shading tool I have used, but then I like spinach. If after a reasonable amount of effort and time, you find that you can't do it, don't like it, or don't want to do it... then maybe it's a tool that doesn't fit you.

I think that you just need to get deeper into it, because it is very flexible and fast to use, for me. Best of luck.

12 December 2004, 02:23 AM
the thing i'd like to hear back is confirmation that the video tutorial is correct/wrong ..this one..... (

the tutor take around 20 mins to make a render tree that can use a procedual bump map

is that right?..or is he taking a long route around..surely there must be a simpler way to add such a simple need as a bump there no drag n drop for net view or what ever that will build this set of node connections for a bump map?...or a lib to load?

in max or lw it really does take about 5 do this yet he spent about 15-20 mins creating and linking nodes and altering setting within those node to make a bump map "work"...if i were to think that "this is the way"...i'd need to take extensive notes on what connected to what and in what order and probably draw/screen grab the nodes for reference as well...

so are you saying that "with time" it will become second nature and really fast or am i missing a quick method to do such a simple task as an example [add a procedule bump map]

i teach 3ds max, lightwave, combustion, silo etc at college and many students are looking into buying xsi currently...i bought it a few months back and just stumbled over the bump map video above and instantly thought that either somethig was "wrong" or there's a huge learning curve to get over with this node based editing which can look incredibly messy and complicated to a new user or students who are used to max / lw...

i'm thinking more for my students rather than myself..i'll get what i can out of xsi but this seems a big stumbling block so far.

enlighten me!

12 December 2004, 02:45 AM
Well procedural bumps have always been a bit of a difficulty... it's two implementations that didn't always play nicely with each other. There have been a hand full of other ways to do it (with some searching at XSIbase) you should be able to see examples... and there have been some improvements on the addon front... the Dark Tree simbiont that was recently released and the addition of the BA_Shaders (see XSIbase Resources Section) to the tool have really added a great deal of functionality to procedural bump-works...

I wish that this particular feature had been built better from square one... but then again I can never remember "needing" to use a procedural bump, since painting maps actually gives the only control that I have been pleased with... and since they are just grayscale maps, they are very easy to deal with.

12 December 2004, 03:05 AM
ahh...okay so would it be fair to say that i've hilighted the "exception" rather than the "rule"
so that proceldual bumps are "problematic" but most other things a pretty fast and a breeze to create/edit with the render tree node based editor?

i don't want to scare off potential users of xsi but i also need to inform them just what they will be in for when/if they buy xsi seeing as it's so cheap...

one note: the texture label tutorial where the tutor adds three bitmaps to a can...i'd probably just have a single map with an alpha that cut out the three areas...i see his point though in that he shows you how to cascade mixer nodes to add extra channels..

this node stuff is going to take a while to get my head round...i find xsi so far a love/hate app!..some things are incredible..really stunning and other things are quite quirky and difficult to master...time will tell!

thanks for your input.

12 December 2004, 03:26 AM
Yeah... the app is not perfect... how I wish it was!

There are areas where XSI is going to be more complicated than another app, and there are areas where it makes another app look plain silly. I won't give examples, but I certainly have my own opinions.

The proc-bump issue is like the texture streching at vertices on those wierd LW sub-d like thingys... been a while and can't remember the name in LW. (patches?)

I could have seen that as a major hangup, but there are ways to compensate and you just have to learn it. I think that students will benefit from learning the node-based workflow in the long run, since so much of this industry is becoming more node-centric and procedural (houdini, shake, etc...). Getting comfortable in the methodology of node-based systems is certainly not the easiest task, but it certainly isn't rocket science... it's just something that will click (if you're predispositioned I guess).

Hope you get it down... we'll try to help if you follow the wise words of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy... Don't Panic!

Not that you did, but many do. :D

12 December 2004, 03:54 AM
Actually I think that you guys misunderstand bump mapping in XSI all together. What XSI lacks in ease of use it more than makes up for in flexibility. Sure you can pluck down a map in the bump channel in Max or lightwave and have yourself a bump map, but you can't (as far as I know) have each texture you have on an object create a bump and add or subtract from each one to create some pretty spiffy stuff ( say a rusted metal shader, or an eye shader) all from one rendertree. Try doing that in max i don't think so. I think that bump-mapping isn't as easy to use because you have different stages in which the bumps can be calculated, yuo have the texture level ( usually the enable bump flag in the cloud texture or something, however it is also the slowest solution due to some crazy mental ray jargon which I'm going to let some pro tell you), You have the illumination model bump (value usually found if you expand the phong blinn etc shader node, this works much like the bump you guys are used to but its far from a simple place bump here solution, though it can be once you figure out the method - hint: has to do with the bump generator node) , and then you have the material node level which works very similarly to the illumination method ( also has the same speed and effect which is by far way quicker than the texture method though not as easy to use as you have to specifically use the rendertree to use the bumpmap as apposed to togglng a flag)

12 December 2004, 07:36 AM
... in xsi on the 160 small video's that come on a separate dvd ...
Oh my God, now that's completely sold me. I knew XSI came with tutorials but... wow.

12 December 2004, 11:02 AM
Hello cresshead,

bottom point is that, in general, using bumpmaps in XSI is a more dificult concept to grasp than in LW.
That's partly due to the node based architecture and the level of access that you're given in XSI's render tree. As others have mentioned this added complexity also allows for some interesting experimentation and added flexibility that you'd be in a nightmare if trying to get the same effects from the LW texture editor. It's a trade gain power and flexibility but with that comes a greater learning curve.
Recommended reading, besides the XSI Production DVDs that go in great detail on this matter, is this link on XSIBase:;action=display;threadid=1023

Also note that this "issue" just exists on procedural bump mapping...using texture maps as bumps is a no-issue.
You could also try to use XSI's texture layer system instead of solely the rendertree as it makes certain tasks easier.

12 December 2004, 04:18 PM
thanks for that link!;action=display;threadid=1023

i've forwarded it to my students...

12 December 2004, 10:51 PM
There's a more recent one on XSIbase as well - see if a search can bring that up. I know coolcab was posting some tests that might help your understanding too.

Oh, and check out the darktree symbiont thread... ooo.;action=display;threadid=15579;start=0#msg102455

CGTalk Moderation
01 January 2006, 01:00 AM
This thread has been automatically closed as it remained inactive for 12 months. If you wish to continue the discussion, please create a new thread in the appropriate forum.