Shading with RIS in RenderMan

Taught by Christos Obretenov

Course Number:
Software Version:
Original Run Date:
January 2015 
6 hours 48 minutes 
We dive into all the goodies Pixar RenderMan's RIS package has to offer: the new layered LM Shading system, new Pattern nodes including procedural texturing, scripting with SE Expressions, OSL, custom presets, and much more! We’ll be focusing our work in Maya/RenderManStudio as well as touching on more advanced topics with RenderMan ProServer.

Christos Obretenov has worked in a variety of roles, designing and developing shading software for Walt Disney's The Wild feature film, followed by shading and lighting for Superman Returns, Spider-Man 3, Beowulf, Christmas Carol, and Mars Needs Moms feature films.
Shading with RIS in RenderMan
Watch our overview of the course

Class Listing

Class 1

Overview of course. We cover background as well as overview for the course to get a big-picture understanding of where we will be going with Shading in RIS: the new LM Shader System, Pattern nodes, SE Expressions, and much more!

Class 2

LM Shader System: Part1. A conceptual explanation of the way this new layering & shading system works in RIS mode, as well as our 1st simple example with PxrLMMixer & PxrLMLayer in a RenderMan Studio session.

Class 3

In Part2 of our look at LM Shading, we jump into the functionality and differences of the "Clearcoat" lobe in the LMLayer node. The Clearcoat supports a really useful "thickness" functionality, that works in conjunction with Transmission color, as well as Specular color. We look at this concept and its application and how those 3 parameters work together, as well as comparing the Clearcoat lobe to the Specular lobe in LMLayer.

Class 4

In Part3 of our look at LM Shading, we take a look at the new LMGlass material in RIS, and its functionality in doing accurate colored glass shadowing. Having some photo reference images of our goal, we start off with a backgrounder in colored glass shadowing and examine the techniques available to us in Reyes mode with RMSGlass, the very different results we get there and the pros & cons. We then use the same scene on RIS PxrGlass and LMGlass, and see how the "thin" shadow feature in LMGlass can be very useful, and compare it to the PathTracer "Allow Caustics" rendering mode with our colored glass as well as the bi-directional VCM. We then change up the light source from an HDR Lightmap to an arealight to show how the colored glass shadows behave differently in different lighting environments, and having all these tools at our disposal allows the artist flexibility and creativity in the render result depending on their specific lighting scenario and shadowing methods.

Class 5

Patterns: Part1. We start off with patterns by exploring the geometry node "PxrTangentField". This is a very useful Pattern node for creating anisotropic materials when plugged into the Shading Tangent (Tn) in the Advanced Specular or Advanced Clearcoat of our LMLayer, or in the Shading Tangent of the LMMetal material. There are a number of ways to input a pattern into the PxrTangent Field, including a small tile-able vector map, procedural noise, or blended ramps: we explore all these methods in 3 different scene files and unique applications of PxrTangentField.

Class 6

We move onto a very powerful Pattern node: PxrSeExpr. SE Expressions are a scriptable pattern generator, a scripting language created by Disney and made Open Source. It's great to have this node inside of RenderMan and we start off with some basic expressions of colored voronoi noise, see how we can visualize it quickly, and connect it into a bump normal slot on our LMMetal material, demonstrating the flexibility of this powerful tool. We'll build on this further with SE Expressions, getting more complex expressions and layering them into our shading network.

Class 7

More SE Expressions, branching out into some vector dot products using functions such as dotprod(), smoothstep(), abs(), clamp() in a useful utility that is great for rendering cloth, as well as two-tone car paint! We step through each line of our SE Expression to get a firm understanding, while applying it to a few different scene files under different rendering contexts.

Class 8

Continuing on Se Expressions, we bring up our voronoi fractal example and show how animating it has the objects "swimming" through the noise, as mentioned in a previous class: we solve this by transforming our seed point for the pattern into object space, and showing how it "sticks" nicely in the animation. We then move onto combining these handy fractal patterns with textures, to see the real power of Se Expressions in procedurally exposing texture patterns based on a fractal: the best of both worlds!

Class 9

We go behind the scenes and show how to save our presets from our SE Expressions code, so we don't have to cut/paste from an external text editor all the time, and more importantly so we can share entire libraries of presets with others. This gives us easy access right in the material node to access all our saved SE Expressions with one click, as well as any other preset settings such as an entire physically based materials library all in the PxrDisney material. We show where RenderMan looks for these preset folders for each material inside our Maya preferences directory. Finally we write a really handy python script that loops through every node of a certain type in our scene, and writes out individual preset .mel files for each one: this is a handy automation tool and then you can easily install & share your preset library.

Class 10

We go back into the LM shading system by creating a substrate material (Subsurface, or diffuse/glass/metal) and building on top of it via LMLayer and LMMixer nodes: we touched on this earlier with some issues and there have been updates in RenderMan to make this functionality work properly, and we demonstrate this now functioning layered shading network. Once we've built up this layered network, we bring in another layer of complexity and creativity by adding our SE Expr procedural & texture noise patterns to drive the Layer Mask of each layer: this is bringing together a number of different topics we covered throughout the course! With this knowledge and toolkit at our disposal, the artist can now get very creative with complex shading networks to create materials such as rust on metal, paint on glass, dirt and scratches on any base substrate … the creativity is limitless!