Foundry ships Mari 4.6
Foundry has released Mari 4.6, the latest update to its 3D texture painting software.
The release extends Mari’s new procedural material system, adding a system of Geo-Channels for geometry-based maps, adds new V-Ray and 3Delight shaders, and overhauls workflow in Mari’s node graph.
New Geo-Channels system functions like Smart Masks
Mari 4.6 extends the new procedural material system introduced in Mari 4.5, intended for roughing out the look of an asset, or creating simpler final-quality shading set-ups.
One key change is a new system of Geo-Channels: slots for storing texture maps baked from mesh geometry, like ambient occlusion and curvature maps.
Geo-Channels can be embedded into material presets to generate effects like edge wear and surface dirt, in a similar way to using Smart Materials in Substance Painter.
Mari’s own Bake Point node can be set to output to multiple Geo-Channels, making it possible to generate geometry maps from a Mari node graph and sync them across an entire project, even within nested groups.
More node types for authoring procedural materials
The release also adds a number of new node types for creating procedural materials, including new camera projection nodes for placing decals onto models, or for use in photogrammetry workflows.
There are also new nodes for generating fractal patterns like marble and Voronoi effects or man-made patterns like bricks and weave structures; and a range of new mathematical operators.
In addition, the Material Ingest Tool, intended to streamline the process of importing sets of PBR texture maps and creating materials from them, has been updated.
New features include the option to use custom material templates; and to display results in a table when searching for texture sets, showing which of the constituent texture maps have been found.
MPC lead texture artist and Mari beta tester Peter Aversten has posted a good analysis of the impact that the new features will have on materials workflows, which you can read on his website.
New V-Ray and 3Delight shaders for more accurate look dev
Mari 4.6 also introduces two new renderer-specific shaders, V-Ray’s VRayMtl and the 3Delight Principled shader, to complement the Arnold Standard Surface Shader added in version 4.5.
All are intended to enable Mari to more accurately represent the way that materials will look in a final render, reducing the need to round-trip assets between software during look development.
Pixar also shipped its own RenderMan shader earlier this year.
Updated: This story originally stated that an equivalent Redshift shader is in development.
Foundry has now contacted us to say that while “Redshift are supportive of working with us on integrating their shader … it’s not a priority for the immediate future”.
Less ‘deranged’ auto-layout system in the node graph
The release also improves workflow in Mari’s node graph, rationalising what product manager Rory Woodford memorably describes in this Siggraph 2019 talk as the “previously deranged auto node layout logic”.
Nodes should now be laid out with a more conventional evenly spaced left-to-right flow, and all nodes can now be partially or fully collapsed, helping to reduce visual clutter in the node graph.
Mac version of Mari 4.x still in development
One thing that Mari 4.6 does not have is a Mac edition: something common to all of the 4.x releases, due to difficulties updating to the Qt5 interface libraries used in the Windows and Linux versions.
Speaking to CG Channel just before Siggraph earlier this year, Foundry described macOS as a “niche” in its user base, but confirmed that a release was still planned, despite the near-two-year gap since Mari 4.0.
The Mac edition will be based on OpenGL, rather than Apple’s own Metal graphics API.
Pricing and availability
Mari 4.6 available for Windows 7+ and CentOS/RHEL 6+ Linux. Both node-locked and floating licences cost $2,068. Rental starts at $59/month or $599/year.