Blender Noob here - Question Material Node vs. Texture Node

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Blender Noob here - Question Material Node vs. Texture Node

Post by jettatore » Sat Sep 08, 2012 4:11 am

Hi, I come from a strong background in Softimage (also some max and maya). And I'm a bit puzzled, put off, yet intrigued by blenders implementation of a nodal based texturing and material system.

Here is my main misunderstanding, or perhaps suggestion...

Why are texture nodes and material nodes, separated out into two awkwardly distinct sections?

I will freely admit I'm a blender noob, with only a few hours of experience with it's nodal system, however at first glance coming from other packages, it seems unintuitive or possibly mis-implemented (or maybe even superior and I'm just an idiot).

Either way, in something like Softimage, when you go into the nodal editor for shaders, it's very simple. All texturing and shading gets done in the same node window. Some nodes that are specific to a certain input/output value are not compatible with other nodes and refuse to link, colors help show what is compatible with what, and intermediary nodes are automatically added if a connection is possible with a simple conversion. If you double click on any node, a texture, a shader, a mixer, a math operator, etc., it brings up a properties ppg where you can see the nodes internals, edit it's properties and so on. Inside this properties ppg you can see in a non-nodal fashion any numerical values and next to them a little connection/mapping box that allows you to connect textures or vector math, etc. to any input in an old-school fashion without worrying about nodes, however behind the scenes, the nodes for the operation you just performed are automatically created and connected, so everything is 100% consistent.

I'm not suggesting Blender has it wrong, or completely wrong, but coming from a simple yet robust system that simply worked great, I'm running into a lot of "huh, what the heck is this" situations? I'm still getting used to it and my 2nd session was more comfortable than my 1st and my 3rd more comfortable than my 2nd, but really I'm asking for some input and suggestion how to best use blender material/texture nodes, and also to see if my initial impressions are off base, again for all I know, with more experience, the Blender implementation is vastly superior, so I certainly don't want to suggest breaking good existing functionality.

You can watch someone work with Soft's Material nodes on youtube to help support my written descriptions so that we understand each other best.

I do appreciate all input on usage, links to good Blender material tutorials, etc. (I seem to be breaking things by starting out using only Materials with nodes, and having some textures, and then later using textures as nodes or a 2nd object who turned an existing texture into a node while the first had it without node turned on, or starting a material with some textures without texture node on and then not being able to enable texture nodes on for all textures on that material......) It's a bit confusing... I'm used to nodes being turned on all the time, and just being automatically handled in the background if you simply want to work in a traditional menu, but they are always there.

Anyways, I want to just learn it and use it as it is. Get on open source software, away from the overprice commercial stuff, and help the software develop with suggestions.

Input, thoughts, links, suggestions, corrections appreciate -thanks a lot.

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Post by jettatore » Sun Oct 14, 2012 8:57 pm

I'm bumping this. I waited a long time for a response but nothing, it's slipped into page 3 and I'm hoping for one last shot at a discussion about this.

I feel it's important that all of Blender's tools eventually find themselves on par with top of the line commercial software and this is an important area where it appears to me there is some severe dis-organization.

If I had to guess, switching from non-nodal to nodal and maintaining compatibility between both was a big problem in development that lead to some odd implementation. All said, can anyone give me a good reason why it's better to have texture nodes in a separate section vs. material nodes.

Also the amount of inputs that you can connect via nodes seems limited. If anyone is developing this section of Blender, I would strongly suggest doing a quick study of Softimage to see this sort of thing done really well.

It would seem to me that a well fleshed out conversation about this will lead to further development and refinement and hopefully get Blender to the point where it is the best of the best in this area and every other area.

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Post by stiv » Tue Oct 16, 2012 7:23 am

Why are texture nodes and material nodes, separated out into two awkwardly distinct sections?
First off, the node systems for textures and compositing are fairly new features and as such, are still undergoing development and evolution.

Second, and more importantly, Blender treats Materials and Textures as separate things. An Object has a list of Materials, a Material can have a set of Textures. Some software lumps all that into 'shaders'. (disclaimer: I have zero experience with Softimage) Given that Materials and Textures are separate entities, the easiest path to 'nodify' them involves keeping that distinction. Given Blender's underlying data structures, I would not expect to see that change - but then again, there may come time for another Great Refactoring like the 2.5x event handling.

As an aside, these differences in metaphors are what makes writing import/export scripts interesting (or what makes Collada such a nightmare). It is easy to translate Red from one application to another, but the idea of a Shader or Material or Texture may not have an exact counterpart.

You can make the argument that life would be simpler if all applications worked exactly alike - same UI, same underlying metaphors, but I rather like the idea of an application ecosystem where different apps explore different ways of doing things. As in a real ecosystem, some of them may fail and become extinct, but it is good to explore the possibilities - to search thru the solution space, if you will.

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