Remapping paths at render time!

New with Arnold 6.0.4 is path mapping.

All you have to do is create a json file that looks something like this:

         "windows": { "S:/": "\\server\projects\" },
         "mac": { "S:/": "/Volumes/projects/"},
         "linux": {"S:/": "/mnt/projects/"}

and then set ARNOLD_PATHMAP to point to the json path mapping file

Read more about path mapping here…


[MAXtoA] Setting up an Object ID AOV

Here’s how to use the 3ds Max object ids for a simple Object ID AOV.

And here’s the material (aka shader tree) that writes the AOV. Use a text editor to save this as Arnold Scene Source (.ass) file, and then import it into 3ds Max (like I did in the video).

An ASS file is a plain-text file.

### exported: Thu May 21 07:53:19 2020
### from:     Arnold [991b08e9] windows icc-17.0.2 oiio-2.2.1 osl-1.11.0 vdb-4.0.0 clm- rlm-12.4.2 optix-6.7.0 2020/04/17 09:11:12
### host app: MAXtoA (2021) 3ds Max 23.0.915.2021 

 name /Write_Object_ID_AOV
 aov_input /gBufID_Switch
 aov_name "object_id"
 declare nodeName constant STRING
 nodeName "Material #43"

 name /gBufID_Switch
 index /gBufID
 input1 1 0 0 1
 input2 0 1 0 1
 input3 0 0 1 1

 name /gBufID
 attribute "gBufID"

Updating procedural file paths with string_replace

This is actually pretty cool…you can use an operator to update file paths before an ASS file or ABC file is loaded, then use another operator to touch the geometry loaded by that procedural.

For example, suppose at render time you want to replace with You can easily do that with a string replace operator:

  • *.(@node==’alembic’) selects all Alembic procedural nodes
  • Match matches any file name that ends with “”
  • Replace replaces “” with “.abc”

And that all happens before the abc file is loaded.

We can see this in the Arnold log (Debug verbosity). First the string replace operator is applied; then after the abc file is loaded, a set parameter operator is applied to the nodes loaded from the abc file.

| initializing 16 nodes …
| [operators] init op: 'aiStringReplace1'
| [operators] cook op: 'aiStringReplace1' | node: '/aiStandIn/aiStandInShape'
| [proc] /aiStandIn/aiStandInShape: loaded 1 nodes (1 objects, 0 shaders)
| [operators] init op: 'TRex:tRexShape_aiSetParameter1'
| [operators] cook op: 'TRex:tRexShape_aiSetParameter1' | node: '/TRex:tRex/TRex:tRexShape'

Auto-instancing in Arnold 6.0.2

Controllable auto-instancing on ASS procedurals: You can now disable the default automatic instantiation of procedurals pointing at the same ASS file with the auto_instancing parameter on each procedural or by the procedural_auto_instancing option. This workaround is sometimes useful when overriding procedural parameters with operators.

Arnold 6.0.2 release notes

So, what’s all that mean?

It means that if you load the same ass file many times, Arnold will load the ass file just one time, and then automatically create instances of that. For example, if I load an ass file three times, I will get two instances.

In previous versions, this was known as the procedural cache, and it was a global option. Now it’s called auto_instancing and you can set it on each procedural node (aka aiStandin in Maya).

In general, you want auto instancing, because instancing is more efficient than loading the same ass file over and over. But if you’re using operators to apply different looks to the same procedural, you need to turn off auto instancing. Otherwise all the procedurals will have the same look (because they all be instances of the same one procedural).

For example, with auto instancing on, I get this, even though I’ve assigned different looks to each procedural (standin):

Everything has the same look with auto instancing on

I can also tell from the Arnold log that I’m getting instances. Note that 2 are reused

| ---------------------------------------------------------
| ass file cache           
|   unique (loaded from disk)              1 (33.33%) 
|   reused (found in cache)                2 (66.67%) 
|   total referenced .ass files            3 (100.00%) 
| ---------------------------------------------------------

If I turn off auto instancing (in the procedural parameters)

then I get three different looks

In the Arnold log, that looks like this (0 reused means 0 instances)

| ---------------------------------------------------------
| ass file cache
| unique (loaded from disk) 1 (100.00%)
| reused (found in cache) 0 (0.00%)
| total referenced .ass files 1 (100.00%)
| ---------------------------------------------------------

Updating texture paths with the string_replace operator

Arnold 6.0.2 includes a new string_replace that lets you do find and replace on string parameters.

For example, I got an ass procedural file from a user, but I didn’t get the textures. Normally I would just enable ignore textures, but this time I used string_replace to replace all textures with my trusty-old-Softimage noicon pic.

string_replace operator in MtoA (Maya)
  • Selection selects all Arnold image nodes. So this string replace operation applies to all string parameters of the image node (which includes name, uvset, color_space as well as filename).
  • Match is a regular expression that matches anything that looks like C:/project/sourceimages/example.tx or X:/temp/test/example.tx
    • [A-Z] matches any drive letter from A to Z
    • .* matches any string of characters
    • Note that match is a regular expression, so you cannot use glob wildcards like this: C:\sourceimages\*.tx (because * is not any string of characters, it is zero or more occurrences of the previous character)
    • \.tx matches a period followed by “tx”. The period has to be escaped with a backslash because ‘.’ matches any single character
    • Note that this match expression won’t handle something like example.txtra.tx
  • Replace is the string that replaces anything matched by the Match expression.

How to use wireframe shader for alpha

You can use the wireframe shader to drive the opacity of a standard_surface.

The wireframe shader itself doesn’t support opacity, and neither do the flat, utility, and ambient_occlusion shaders. They are all color shaders (RGB). In Arnold, only shaders that return closures can support opacity.

In the more general case, where the opacity isn’t coming from the same shader, you can use the emission for the color:

Couldn’t register Arnold renderer in Maya PIT file (error while parsing .pit file)

For Arnold itself, you can ignore that message. Unless you have an Arnold license.

Couldn't register Arnold renderer in Maya PIT file (error while parsing
.pit file). Please contact

For Maya, that message is a symptom of a problem with your Maya install: the Maya installation is not creating all the required files on your system.

If you finish the install (you can install without MtoA if you want), and then try to start Maya and nothing happens, then the ProductInformation.pit file is missing or corrupt.

The Maya install should create this file:


If there is any problem with that file, Maya (and any other Autodesk software) will not start.
Arnold will still render, but it won’t be able to use any Arnold license.

If that file does exist on your system, delete it.
Then remove all Autodesk software, and install Maya again (without MtoA)

You can install MtoA later (go to to get the latest MtoA).

If you still have problems with the Maya installation, log on to your Autodesk account to contact the Autodesk support team, or go to the Install and Licensing Autodesk forum at