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\
- c:\Program Files\Autodesk\3ds Max ????\mentalimages\shaders_autoload\mentalray\include\