[FAQ] Can I transfer Arnold shaders to another app?


For example, can I transfer Arnold shaders from 3ds Max to Maya? Or from Houdini to Maya?

The answer is no. The Arnold plugins don’t include code for reading shader nodes from an ASS file and creating shader trees inside the host application (eg Maya, Houdini, or Cinema 4D).

You can use ASS files to take shapes and shaders from one app and render them in another app, but those shapes and shaders are never created inside the other app.

An MtoA Standin (aka an Arnold Procedural in HtoA and C4DtoA) references an ASS file, and passes that on to Arnold at render time.

standins

The ASS file contains Arnold nodes (shapes and shaders). Those Arnold nodes are not created inside the 3D application.

Instead, the standin node is translated to an Arnold procedural node, and at render time, that procedural node is expanded, and all the Arnold shapes and shaders are created inside the Arnold scene.

Exporting ASS files to specific locations


For the render -rt 1 command, you can specify the output ASS name in
the defaultArnoldRenderOptions.output_ass_filename attribute. For example:

set PRE_RENDER_MEL="setAttr -type \"string\" 
defaultArnoldRenderOptions.output_ass_filename 
 \"c:/Users/StephenBlair/Documents/test\";"
 
 render -s 6 -e 8 -r arnold -rt 1 -preRender %PRE_RENDER_MEL% 
 C:\projects\Support\scenes\_2016\XSI_deformed_logo.mb 

The scene should have the Frame/Animation ext set to something like
“name.#.ext”. Otherwise, if it is “name.ext” you’ll get filenames like
“example.ass.0004.ass”

output_ass_filename can have environment variables, but you have to be
careful to use forward slashes. For example:

set PRE_RENDER_MEL="setAttr -type \"string\" defaultArnoldRenderOptions.output_ass_filename \"%OUTPUT_ASS_FILENAME%\";" 
set OUTPUT_ASS_FILENAME=C:/Users/StephenBlair/Documents/example 

render -s 6 -e 8 -r arnold -rt 1 -preRender %PRE_RENDER_MEL% C:\projects\Support\scenes\_2016\XSI_deformed_logo.mb

There’s also the arnoldExportASS command, if you want to script the export.

maya -batch -file scene.mb -command "arnoldExportAss 
-f "/home/blairs/Desktop/example.ass" -mask 255 -lightLinks 1 -compressed 
 -shadowLinks 2 -cam sideShape;"

[Arnold] [kick] Enabling tiled EXRs


Suppose you have a load of ASS files that were exported with the Tiled option disabled. How could you re-enable the Tiled option without re-exporting the ASS files?

With the kick -set flag, that’s how:

kick -set display_exr.tiled on

That will set the tiled parameter for all EXR driver nodes in the ASS file.

If you want to set the flag for a specific driver node, you need to know the driver node name.

kick -set defaultArnoldDriver@driver_exr.RGBA.tiled on

That sets tiled for the driver_exr node named defaultArnoldDriver@driver_exr.RGBA.

Portable ASS files with relative paths and the Texture Search Path


You can make your ASS files portable across different platforms by using relative paths and the texture search path. For example, if all textures are specified by relative paths like “textures/noicon.tx”, then you just have to set options.texture_searchpath to specify the location of the textures folder.

For example

kick -set options.texture_searchpath //server/project/ -dp -dw example.ass

Or if the texture search path is set to an environment variable

export ARNOLD_TEXTURE_PATH=//server/project
./kick example.ass

To use relative paths for texture file names in nodes like MayaFile, aiImage, aiPhotometricLight, and aiSkydomeLight, you just need to do the following:

  • Put a relative path in the file name box (for example, in Photometry File box of an aiPhotometricLight node, or the Image Name box of an aiImage node)
  • Set the Texture Search Path (Render Settings > System > Search Paths)
  • Clear the Absolute Texture Paths check box

You can put multiple locations, using either : or ; to separate the paths (Arnold supports both separators on all platforms: OSX, Linux, and Windows)

You can use environment variables by putting the environment variable name in square brackets. For example:

"[ARNOLD_TEXTURE_PATH]:C:/Assets/IES/;C:/maya/projects/Support/sourceimages"

Forward slashes work on all platforms.

MtoA appends the current project’s sourceimages folder to the texture search path.

Creating a polymesh with the Arnold Python api


polymesh
Here’s a snippet that shows how to create a simple four-polygon polymesh node with the Arnold Python API.

n = AiNode( "polymesh" )
AiNodeSetStr( n, "name", "grid" )

nsides = [4, 4, 5, 6]
AiNodeSetArray( n, "nsides", AiArrayConvert(len(nsides), 1, AI_TYPE_UINT, (c_uint*len(nsides))(*nsides) ) )

vidxs = [0, 1, 4, 3, 1, 2, 5, 4, 3, 4, 7, 6, 9, 4, 5, 11, 8, 10, 7]
AiNodeSetArray( n, "vidxs", AiArrayConvert(len(vidxs), 1, AI_TYPE_UINT, (c_uint*len(vidxs))(*vidxs) ) )

nidxs = [0, 1, 2, 3, 1, 4, 5, 2, 3, 2, 6, 7, 8, 2, 5, 9, 10, 11, 6]
AiNodeSetArray( n, "nidxs", AiArrayConvert(len(nidxs), 1, AI_TYPE_UINT, (c_uint*len(nidxs))(*nidxs) ) )

vlist = [-1, 0, -1, -1, 0, 0, -1, 0, 1, -0.197835326, 0, -0.742445886, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0.802164674, 0, -0.742445886, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0, 1, 0.270379633, 0, -1.21302056, 1, 0, 0.508926511, 0.496316135, 0, 1]
AiNodeSetArray( n, "vlist", AiArrayConvert(len(vlist), 1, AI_TYPE_FLOAT, (c_float*len(vlist))(*vlist) ) )

nlist = [0, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0]
AiNodeSetArray( n, "nlist", AiArrayConvert(len(nlist), 1, AI_TYPE_FLOAT, (c_float*len(nlist))(*nlist) ) )

m = AtMatrix( 	1, 0, 0, 0,
		0, 1, 0, 0,
		0, 0, 1, 0,
		0, 0, 0, 1 )

am = AiArrayAllocate(1, 1, AI_TYPE_MATRIX)
AiArraySetMtx( am, 0, m )

AiNodeSetArray( n, "matrix", am  )

AiNodeSetBool( n, "smoothing", True )

AiNodeSetByte(n, "visibility", 255 )

# Assign a shader to the polymesh node
u = AiNode( "utility" )
AiNodeSetStr( u, "name", "aiUtility1" )

AiNodeSetPtr( n, "shader", u )

And here’s the resulting node in the ASS file:

polymesh
{
 name grid
 nsides 4 1 UINT
4 4 5 6
 vidxs 19 1 UINT
  0 1 4 3 1 2 5 4 3 4 7 6 9 4 5 11 8 10 7
 nidxs 19 1 UINT
  0 1 2 3 1 4 5 2 3 2 6 7 8 2 5 9 10 11 6
 vlist 12 1 POINT
  -1 0 -1 -1 0 0 -1 0 1 -0.197835326 0 -0.742445886 0 0 0 0 0 1 0.802164674 0 -0.742445886 1 0 0
  1 0 1 0.270379633 0 -1.21302056 1 0 0.508926511 0.496316135 0 1
 nlist 12 1 VECTOR
  0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0
 smoothing on
 visibility 255
 matrix
 1 0 0 0
 0 1 0 0
 0 0 1 0
 0 0 0 1
 shader "aiUtility1"
}

[Arnold] [Python] Changing Arnold options in Python


The global render settings are stored in the options node, which you can get with AiUniverseGetOptions(). If the universe isn’t active (you are not inside an AiBegin() / AiEnd() block so the scene doesn’t exist yet), AiUniverseGetOptions() returns None.

Once you have the options node, you can load options from an ASS file, or you can update it with the node parameter setters such as AiNodeSetInt(). The way kick, and pykick, work is that they load the ASS file first, with its options, and then update the options node with the values from the command line.

from arnold import *
import os

AiBegin()

AiMsgSetConsoleFlags(AI_LOG_ALL)

# Get the default options
options = AiUniverseGetOptions()

AiLoadPlugins( os.getenv( 'ARNOLD_PLUGIN_PATH' ) )

AiASSLoad("C:/Users/Support/project/scenes/test_640x480.ass", AI_NODE_ALL)

# Render using options loaded from the ASS file
AiRender()

# Change options and render with the changes
AiNodeSetInt(options, 'xres', 320)
AiRender()

# Load options and use them to render
AiASSLoad("C:/Users/Support/project/scenes/test_960x540.ass.gz", AI_NODE_OPTIONS)
AiRender()

AiEnd()

[kick] [ass] reading from stdin


Some customers have reported a problem using a render manager (Muster, Tractor, Deadline) to render jobs with kick, typically via a wrapper script. The problem is that kick tries to read from STDIN instead of loading the specified ASS file. In the log, you’d see this:

00:00:00     0MB         | [ass] reading from stdin ...

A workaround is to add the -nstdin flag (Ignore input from stdin) to the kick command line.