R20 Node Materials: first impressions / discussion / questions



Just started playing around with my r20 Prime and dived right into the Node Materials. In general I am really happy with the system. There are many nodes that will give you so much control. But there are some bigger issues that cause a lot of head scratching on my side. So I thought we could use this thread for questions and discussion.

  1. Enforcing the reflectance workflow[/i]
    If I am not missing something, you can use it only with the reflectance workflow. No old school faked-but-clean illumination models any more. :banghead:
    I begged for years for a nodal system, then came the frightening reflectance overhaul, which I did not only dislike for the clunky workflow, but mainly for the noisy results. And now there is a great nodal system, but only usable with those noisy reflectance models? Am I missing something? What is wrong with Oren Nayar or Lambert if it does the job? Now I have to up the anti-aliasing for the simplest renderings? Or are there any tricks that I don’t know because I succesfully ignored the reflectance channel since its introduction?
  2. No help support[/i]
    No context menu in the node editor has the Show Help… link which is availbale everywhere else. Manual search in the help did only lead to one page (Window menu: Node Editor). Is that really the whole help?

3. Context only for the whole material?
I really like the uv / context support in the system. Does anyone know if also the context of nodes used in the graph can be set? At the moment it seems to me as if only the context for the whole material can be set.

4. Not all known shaders
While some shaders of the old system seem to have equivalents in the new system, many others are missing. I did not check everything but notable is for example the proximal shader. Now I do not think that all are strictly necessary, but that one saved my ass so often in the past… Maybe there are other ways to achieve something like that now? Unfortunately, there is also no equivalent to Lumas :smiley:

I hope someone can shed some light on these issues.



I’m using the demo and can’t add much. The English language help for the node stuff apparently isn’t finished yet. The German language version is here -




  1. in your project preferences there is a checkbox “use color channel for node materials”, this might help.
    But I’m really not shure why this options exitst, it’s very confusing for me.

  2. In the german version help is complete, other forum members say enlish is on its way.


Hi Anthony,

Thx for the link! Didn’t know about the online help :rolleyes:
Will have to check later at home, but it seems this is much more information than the one integrated in the software.


Hi Volker,

Thx, will try it out this evening.
Using the online help I found some answers:

3.) The help mentions that the context can be set at various places and that for most nodes a new input connector can be created somehow. Will check that this evening.

4.) Regarding proximal: it seems like the scene object node can replace proximal.


The context can be set or changed for parts of the setup. Different to the other information the context flow is from right to left, so when you change the context at any point everything to the left is using it. An exception is the local context, where provided, this only changes the context for that specific node and does not propagate the change to the left.

Proximal and other shaders are missing because they rely on scene information that is not available in the new material system at this time. This is a limitation that we want to rectify over time. As you found out you can substitute some functions though.


By the way, Parallax offset has disappeared from the bump map ?


Thanks for this thread, I was having some questions and observations about the new material system myself too.

I really like the possibilities of the node-based system. Mainly the reuse of maps/noises in different parts of the shader is a great addition.

I was hoping for a tri-planar projection possibility with the new node system. I haven’t been able to figure that out yet. The uv-reprojection nodes seem to change the existing UVs, and not really make new UV’s. Am I missing something?
Having said that, I love the fact that you can distort the UV with effects and maps now. It was technically already possible with the distortion shader, but this makes so much more sense to me.

I am a bit disappointing in the preview of the material. On my computer it takes about 10 seconds to generate a noisy preview. In online videos I counted not much less than 4 seconds! I was playing around with the plastic material, trying to figure out what the dirt and structure sliders do. But I can’t see what is happening at all with the slow, noisy preview.
I can appreciate that the preview now has a floor and a better light-setup. The (non-node) material editor still has a responsive preview, even with a pbr-material. It’s also noisy, though.

as ChristianS also said: No old school faked-but-clean illumination models any more. I hope the old material system stays.


Triplanar projection is included as an asset node. You can convert or open it and dissect it.


1.) Regarding old school shading models: “use color channel for node materials” in project preferences does not really help, also it is not documented yet in the online help.
But I just found a hack, I guess. You can plug the Diffuse Shading output of the Light node (info group) into the Emission port of your material and get old school shading, it seems to me. But you have no control over the model inside. No idea what that does, but it takes all light sources into account, also renders spots correctly from what I can see. So this seems to be close to Lumas in some way…
But this is no nice workflow. So I guess someone will have to write a BSDF node plugin for that (great, it is 2018 and I am hoping for a Phong/Blinn/Lambert/Oren-Nayar plugin :slight_smile: )

2.) The online help is also not complete (see above); there is also no help for the tri-planar projection yet, for example

3.) The whole context-stuff is just great. Using the scatter node you can do very cool things. I remember I used a plugin for this kind of stuff in the past (by M. Welter if I remember correctly). That one node alone is a cool feature on its own.

4.) Regarding proximal: the scene object node is only a partial replacement for proximal; it seems to compute only the distance to the object center/position. Something similar to the “Use vertices” / “Use Edges” options is missing…

Other observations:

  • First I was confused by the port colors and shapes (filled, empty, with point), but once you read the documentation it is intuitive. But I do not get the blue colored ports: this category mixes many different data types (string, context, object…) that cannot be converted in many cases.

  • There seems to be no quick copy operation like CTRL+LMB

  • The commander that pops up on pressing c is great

  • On creation the nodes do not display all ports -> always check “Add input >” in the context menu


I’m sure that there are a few people who are looking for workarounds with PBR - as not everything needs to be physically accurate. When I have a bit of time I’ll post a setup which might suit some people - keen to learn and create a little preset - which is another awesome feature of nodes.

The top render took a third 30% longer and is noisy -

The bottom image uses
Lightnode in emission - (fake ambient lighting by lowering strength in a layer)
Fresnel (blue)
Masked Fresnel (orange) - masked by the light node
Layer nodes
Roughness set really high for spec effect.

  • OOPS - I see how that checkbox works now. Seems like the way to go.


at first I was disapointed too, because I really do not like the render speed of reflectance based materials.
But this checkbox in the project settings seems to do its job for me (at least after testing ist 30 min :))
switched on it renderes everything that is diffuse like if it was in the color channel not in the reflectance. therefor the render speeds up , has less grain, but of course lacks all the diffuse reflections.

its a bit like “render like old material system”

hopefully it’ll stand up to further testing.


Ok, I’ll need to look at this again. Yesterday at least it didn’t seem to work for me. Thx for the heads-up.
Still, it would be much better to either have an altenative material node with old school shading, or a BDSF node to plugin into the existing material. But maybe that comes later. Hopefully that magic checkbox is the solution to NwoN (Nodes without Noise) at least for now.


Hi Christian, you can find the following information in the german help that comes with the R20 demo.

Farbkanal für Node-Material verwenden

Die Option Farbkanal für Node-Material verwenden in den “Projekt-Voreinstellungen” verändert die Berechnung von diffusen BSDF-Ebenen in Node-Materialien derart, dass deren Farbe so berechnet wird, wie es bei “Farbe”-Kanälen im Standard-Material der Fall ist.

Die diffuse Oberflächenschattierung von Node-Materialien wird dadurch unabhängig von der Helligkeit umliegender Oberflächen und auch von der Eigenschaft “Abstrahlung”, die mit den leuchtenden Eigenschaften der anderen Materialsysteme identisch ist. Das Verhalten der Node-Materialien wird dadurch vergleichbar zu einem Standard-Material berechnet. Dementsprechend zeigt dann auch die Nutzung von “Global Illumination” wieder die bekannte Wirkung auf die diffuse Schattierung. Die “Abstrahlung”-Eigenschaft von Node-Materialien kann weiterhin für die Erzeugung von Licht unter der Global Illumination-Berechnung verwendet werden.

Oder anders formuliert: durch Optionsaktivierung tauschen Sie physikalische korrekte Berechnung (längere Renderzeit) gegen physikalisch unkorrekte Berechnung (kürzere Renderzeit).

Zudem kann auch die Option für Hintergrund-Compositing in einem “Render”-Tag erst dann auf ein Node-Material wirken, wenn Farbkanal für Node-Material verwenden aktiviert wurde.

I wonder if it’s possible to rebuild existing materials via the node editor and achive a result that is 99% identical.

When I try something simple such as using a noise for displacement, the result I get from node editor looks vastly different from the result I get from the material editor. Plus there is a seam.
I tried to match the settings for noise and displacement as good as possible. The result on the left side is from the material editor, the right side is from the node editor.

What am I missing? Do I have to use the projection node?


Alright, the “Displacement Map” node did the trick. :sweat_smile:


the nodes look impressive. a huge amount of new stuff in there. looks like compossitting in c4d is around the corner. basic keyer, glow and a lot of color stuff is already in it.

i would prefer the color chanel checkbox in the material node, not in the project settings.


If I want to add a gradation of color - say blue at 100 feet to red at 0 feet, world. What asset do I use? I have been digging but don’t see it. I have a little bit of time so I might as well start learning Nodes based materials. I have seen Mash and Greyscales videos. Any other good breakdowns out there? Thanks!!


As with the old system, you would use a gradinat for that. However, the node equivalent has no option to set the coordinate system und would be defined in UV space per default. But that’s where the context nodes come into play: create a Projection node (context group), set its Coordinate system to World or object and connect its context output to the context input of the gradient. Unfortunately, the options to define placement of the gradient in 3D via th eprojection node are not as good as with the old gradient with its start and end vectors. Instaed, you have to play around with the transformations in the Projection node.
Furthermore, there are no types anymore (linear, radial…), this has also to be done using context alone, I think. Looks like someone will have to build an asset that does all this similar to the old gradient.


Regarding that use color channel for node material-checkbox: it works. However the preview in the node editor stays noisy, That’s why I didn’t notice on my first quick test.


ah ha… ok will dig in that direction!! Thank you. I know I can just do it the old way but I get the feeling I better learn some of this stuff now, so I appreciate it. Cheers, D