3Ds Animation Didnt Save In File Location Where To Find Working With the Slate Material Editor in 3DS Max 2011

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Working With the Slate Material Editor in 3DS Max 2011

3DS Max 2011 has been around for a while and one of its new features was the updated interface for the material editor – Slate. This is a move towards a node-based system; something that many other software (Maya, XSI, Blender, Shake, Fusion, Nuke etc) have used for a while and a method that is generally considered to be efficient and intuitive…but is it?

Well, the old material editor in Max had a few issues – having to reset material locations if you go over 24 mats always annoyed me, and the way you had to click through everything to get to the “deep” settings for complex materials. One big thing she had in her favor was familiarity; I’d been using it for about 10 years, so despite its quirks, I knew what I was doing with it … and then the Slate came along.

I have to say I found it a bit of a struggle at first, the very different look and feel to everything was quite off-putting and my first reaction was that it didn’t add anything productive to your workflow. After a day or so of persistence though I started to see the benefits and haven’t looked back – and what makes it so good? As I said, I found it a bit complicated to get to grips with at first (and a number of colleagues still can’t see the point of moving away from the old system) so I thought I’d go over some of the things I’ve picked up and some of the features main from my point of view:

Work area.

The first issue with the old material editor (now called ‘compact material editor’) about running out of matte spaces is now gone as the workspace where you have to place your materials is large. Using the newly available space, it is now possible to create hundreds of mattresses in the same place; although in terms of organization that can get confusing. To combat confusion with complex scenes, you have the option of creating new workspaces to keep things organized, these just sit on top as tabs that you can move around.

Custom layout.

The layout of Slate when I first opened it was not at all to my liking, but fortunately if you click on any of the standard windows and drag them around you will see some highlighted positions, drag the selected window to the position that you like and jump in there. One feature I really like is the option to add a custom material group that you can drag all your most used items into, this saves a lot of time as choosing from the standard drop down menus you start with can be a bit overwhelming. oddly enough, having a custom set to choose from is much easier.

Everything at a glance.

This addresses my previous comment about handling complex materials, the new node-based view means you can immediately see what your material configuration is. No clicking through channel after channel of mats and undercarriages to find out what’s going on, it’s all just there for you to see. Another benefit of this is that if you use the same map in multiple places, you can simply drag the wire from it to several places/materials at the same time – it’s basically the same thing as instantiation, but it’s a much more accurate way to do it.

Additional benefits.

There are also some other really useful little things on Slate; the option to load all the scene materials into the workspace at once is useful, as are the node/child layout options (the option to reorder everything vertically can be very useful if things start to get a bit complicated), the navigator and search functionality integrated directly into the Material Map Browser window. I really like the way matlibs work now though, just click on the arrow to the left of the search bar and select ‘open material library’, select one and it will open over your custom array and you can drag the mats into the area of work; when you’re done, just right-click the lib and close it. You can also open the scenes as matlib by changing the “Files of type” in the “Open” window – this is very useful as you can have quick access to previously used mats without having to add them to a custom library.

Conqueror of Space.

One thing with the Slate is that it takes up a lot of screen space, it’s nice to use with a dual monitor setup (it really needs a whole screen in my opinion), working on one screen is certainly possible, but it’s a bit cramped and I found myself constantly having to resize and move the window around to see what was going on… the “compact” title for the old material editor really fits!

Personally, I think Slate is a huge improvement over the old material editor and, as my first experience of a node-based system, I’ve found it really efficient and intuitive. I’d say it’s a great addition to Max, hopefully development will continue and new features will be added to improve the material creation workflow even further.

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