Beauty isn't only Skin Deep: combining fast SSS with mia_material (A&D)

UPDATE 2008-06-27: The file is now updated to support also support displacement in a new 'SSS Fast Skin+ (w. Disp)' material

UPDATE 2011-02-04: This is now updated with correct paths for 2011 versions

The image on the right is by Jonas Thörnqvist, an increadibly talented 3d Artist, and it is created using the mental ray skin shader.

Seeing some recent work from Jonas reminded me that I made some promises back in the day in this blog about tips on how to combine the "fast SSS skin" shader with the nice glossy reflective capabilities of the mia_material (i.e. "Arch&Design" in 3ds Max speak).

The trick w. the skin shader is that it uses light mapping. So the "material" that uses it must connect both a "surface shader" (the one which creates the actual shading) and a "lightmapping shader" (which is what pre-bakes the irradiance to scatter).

This is a tad tricky to do manually, and for this reason the skin shader is supplied as what is called in mental ray parlance a "material phenomenon". Well, suffice to say... it does all the magic for you! You don't need to think.

However, in some applications (notably Maya) this is different, and the skin shader comes shipped as a separate light mapping node and shader node, and there are scripts set up to combine them. Similarily for XSI, there exists a "split" solution already.

But the poor Max users are left behind. Like tears in the rain.

This is because a "material phenomenon" can't easily be combined with other things... coz it's a "whole complete package". And due to the peculiar requirements of the skin shader, it will not work if it is a "child" of some other material (like a Blend material in 3ds Max, or similar). So it's a wee bit hard to do from the UI.

However, what is not hard to do, is to actually write a different Phenomenon! As a matter of fact it is so simple, that I thought people would hop about doing exactly that left right and center. And indeed, Jonas, mentioned above, done exactly that. Which is why his renders are so cool.

It so happens I've had a modified version of the skin phenomena cluttering my harddisk for some time now... I just havn't gotten around to posting it before.

So, without further ado, here it is. It's experimental. It's unofficial. It's unsupported. If it makes your computer explode, so be it. Don't say I didn't warn you. Making no promises it even works. Etc.

Take the file skinplus.mi and save in your 3ds Max mental ray shader include autoload directory, i.e. it's generally something like:

For 3ds Max versions 2010 or earlier:
  • c:\Program Files\Autodesk\3ds Max ????\mentalray\shaders_autoload\include\
For 3ds Max versions 2011 or later:
  • c:\Program Files\Autodesk\3ds Max ????\mentalimages\shaders_autoload\mentalray\include\
Just put the file there, start Max, and you'll have a new "SSS Fast Skin+" and a "SSS Fast Skin+ (w. Disp)" among your materials. From there on it should be fairly self-explanatory. I hope. Have fun. /Z
Jonas "Incredible Hulk"


awakening said...

can i use this for maya?thanks :D

Master Zap said...

*This* phenomena? Not sure it it works in Maya as is.

But you don't really *need* it for Maya. In Maya, you can
- Use a mia_material_x
- Put your current SSS surface shader int' it's "additional_color" input
- turn off the SSS shaders speculars, reflections and unscattered diffuse

Et voila!

Same thing, pretty much.


Harry Bardak said...

Hi masterZap.

I am taking the occasion to jump on this. A&D shader to conserve energy and not emit more light than you receive which great.

I was wondering if it was the case with fast skin shader and if not does this setup respect that ? It looks like that the fast SSS is piped in the diffuse of A&D



mahi said...

"But the poor Max users are left behind. Like tears in the rain." Come on master zap, tell us how you really feel about 3D max.

Prasad said...

great blog..unlucky me i missed it this long...count me as regular visitor now onwards..

geoffDuncan said...

as said above - great blog :) Thanks for sharing!!

Learning loads about mental ray ... cheers!

a_luv said...
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MaNdRaK said...

Thx for the maya tip, master Zap!

Nick said...

Hey Zap thanks for the awesome shader. One quick question though, is there a way to get a displacement slot somewhere in there? I'm not code savvy at all, I can more or less plug things into their proper slots in the Mat Editor and thats about it. Any help would be appreciated!

Joey_Blancs said...

This works great in Maya 8.5 with mia_material thanks Master Zap!

joe said...

Zap thanks for posting this up...I'm sure it just didn't have time to make it into the release.

We all know you love MAX!

This shader works great!!!!

joe said...

Hmmm...ever get around to the displacement issue?

Can't figure out how to use this one with displacement

Kathleen said...

Thanks a million for posting this. It looks awesome "straight out of the box" with a daylight system :)

Master Zap said...

I updated it with displacement now, for all those of you who asked. Just re-download skinplus.mi and use the new "with displacement" version.


Dogway said...

Hey Zaps, nice one.
Ive been struggling with mia and misss for some time on (through mixlayer).
Does this work with Maya 2008? I added it, and can se the node and its parameters, but cant assign to any object.

madmanmark said...

I cant seem to make this work in max...

I downloaded the SSS Fast Skin+, Then I made a Blend and put the fast SSS+ in the Material 1 slot and a standard material in Material 2 slot then used a standard B&W .TGA for the mask, but the SSS material isnt doing its thing... am I doing something wrong?

GeckoKid said...

hello master zap, i'm a 3ds user and i'd like to create a simple leaf texture that lets light goes through just like it would in real life... i don't really want to model the leaf shape, is there a way to use an opacity map to the SSS map? thanks!

Mohammad.Modarres said...

hi dear master zap,i download this amazing shader and use it,thanks for sharing ,but i have a problem,since i working on character i prefer to use uv regions,i have 4 uv region for my character,but when i want use skin+with multi sub the displacement doesn't work,i check one one of jonas scene(troll from gnomonology),he use composite map instead of multi/sub-object,but it dont work too,please help me thanks

Lokendra Singh Shekhawat said...

thank u very much.......... really thankfull to u

furbit said...

very cool,
works great for Maya, but I had to add the lightmap to the mia_shadingengine or the sss didn't show up.

Thanks for another great tip.

Dustin Brown said...

I'm curious, what is the difference between your two shader and the Fast Skin and Fast Skin+Displacement that are included in 3ds max 2009? I just recently discovered this blog post, so I'm wondering if, perhaps, you made these shaders for max 2008, and Autodesk included them as part of 2009. Thanks.

Harris said...

Great shader. But It appears as if the strength of the normal map is at the default 30%, like when you apply a normal bump in default shader. I usually turn this up too 100% to get normal maps to show correctly at full strength. Is this a problem with the shader? Is there a way to turn up the strength of the normal map. It renders as if the normal is only at 30% full strength.

Harris said...

I should mention I am rendering out the shader on game res models. Lower poly. So im soley relying on the normal map for all the details.
I cant get MR to display normal maps with SSS in any shader correctly.

Chad said...

Ive installed and assigned the shader and still black Mr A&D Elements. Any ideas?


johnfreefly said...
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Hasan said...

hi Master Zap

Thanks for sharing this shader. It works like a charm. I also tried your tips for maya but i just cant seem to get it working. Any other pointers

RafaPolit said...

Thank you very much for this... incredibly helpful Download!!!
It would have been great a little insight on to how to create phenomena (a bit of coding hints) alongside, but that's just before doing reading on the subject, I'm pretty sure that if you say it is simple, it is.

Again, thanks for this remarkable (and desperately needed) addon!


Maris said...

Hello! Thanks for shader. It's realy good. But i have a problem with runnig it on 3ds max 2011. After instaling shader presents in material editor but at the render mental ray does not see objects with it.

Toke J. said...

are there any news on getting a 2011 compatible version of this shader?

Louis Boka said...

To make it work in max 2011 you must

Put the file in :

C:\Program Files\Autodesk\3ds Max 2011\mentalimages\shaders_autoload\mentalray\include

By default the Screen (Soft compositing) will be activated and it will render black. You just need to disable it. It's located at the bottom of the shader settings.

Maris said...

Thanks for the answer Louis. But unfortunately it doesn't work :(

c17 said...

how to render sss passes?

Anshul Dabral said...

During rendering im getting a error message in 3ds max 2012
PHEN 0.17 error: Internal Error: Misss_call Shader: unexpected state-> type case
is this shader incompatible with 3ds max 2012?

daniel dulitzky said...

same here , i also get an error on max 2011

Jassen Post said...

Hi Zap, please. ther is a new shader like the SSS + for 3ds max 2012. An updated version please

geopard said...

Hi, master Zap. Thus is really cool shader, but i have a problem with it. Mental ray always crashes when I try to render it with transparent shadow maps. Maybe you know how to fix it?

Gourish.P.N said...

hello master zap, is there any way i can use mental ray's multi pass rendering system for misss_fast_skin_maya shader.? This is serious.. Pls help...

Unknown said...

Hi Zap!!
first of all i would like to thank you for the all the greate articles you write that are incredibly detailed and well done!!
I have a huge problem that i can't "bury" yet..
(3ds max 2014_mentalray)
i have a 3mm thick box with an SSS fast on it (trying to simulate CORIAN)above a really high intensity light (spot....but doesn't change at all with any other type); when i'm rendering "normal" on the box i can se the light coming through "the corian" making a really nice colored spot (like in a real life) but the magic goes away changing the camera angle from around 90° to 20° that makes this effect disappear and i can't see ANY light source
PLEASE....help me to figure where the problem is and how to solw it!!thank you so much and HAPPY NEW YEAR
Filippo (some samples)


sathyam shonkho said...
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Derrick Nau said...

I am using 3ds Max 2014 and I am also experience the error:

"internal error: misss_call_shader: unexpected state->type case.."

however, I only get this when I try to render using backburner over a network

i do have the shader installed correctly, and it looks great when just rendered in a scene using the preview window.

nw316 said...

Thanks, Zap! I'm a real novice with 3D, I used to use 3DS Max 2005 and repurchased in 2011 but alas, no time... I was wondering if you had a tut or resource for how to use your great mental ray shader with models that already have UVW maps, i.e. imported from Poser.


Sidra Khan said...

you are the best author Thanks for tips
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