[Arnold] Loading plugins when you edit ASS files

If you’re using the Arnold API to update ASS files (for example, to change paths), you need to load all the plugins (aka shaders) that are referenced by the ASS file. Otherwise, the unknown nodes are skipped on load, and therefore won’t be in any ASS file you write.

For example, if you set ARNOLD_PLUGIN_PATH to point to the locations of the MtoA shaders and any custom shaders you use, then you could do something like this:

from arnold import *
import os

AiLoadPlugins( os.getenv( 'ARNOLD_PLUGIN_PATH' ) )
AiASSLoad("original.1001.ass", AI_NODE_ALL)

# Do your edits here

AiASSWrite("edited.1001.ass", AI_NODE_ALL, False)

Changing ASS files with the Arnold Python API

If you want to change something in existing ASS files, don’t write an ad-hoc script or your own parser for the ASS file. Use the Arnold API. The Arnold API includes a set of Python bindings, so you can fairly quickly whip up a script to do whatever it is you need to do 🙂

For example, we recently discovered (and fixed) an issue where exported ASS files were missing procedural nodes. SItoA exports hair data in chunks (one chunk for every 200K hairs), but the exported ASS had just one procedural for the first chunk (chunk 0), but there should be one procedural for each chunk.

Here’s what the procedural for chunk 0 on frame 5 looks like. The missing procedurals would be for bin files like Hair.chunk.1.5.bin, Hair.chunk.2.5.bin, and so on.

 name Hair.SItoA.5000
 dso "sitoa_curves_proc.dll"
 data "//Projects/Support/Arnold_Scenes/Hair.chunk.0.5.bin"
 load_at_init on

So, for my first dive into the Arnold API, I put together a basic little script to add the missing procedurals. To do this, I had to learn how to:

  • Read and write ASS files
  • Iterate over nodes and find a specific type of node
  • Get parameter values from a node
  • Create new nodes
from arnold import *
import glob

ass_file = "Hair_Archive.ass"

AiASSLoad(ass_file, AI_NODE_ALL)

# Iterate over all shape nodes, which includes procedural nodes
iter = AiUniverseGetNodeIterator(AI_NODE_SHAPE);
while not AiNodeIteratorFinished(iter):
	node = AiNodeIteratorGetNext(iter)
	#print AiNodeGetName( node )

	# Is the node a procedural?	
	if AiNodeIs( node, "procedural" ):
		data = AiNodeGetStr( node, "data" )
		name = AiNodeGetStr( node, "name" )
		# Find all other chunk.<chunk-number>.<frame>.bin files
		chunks = glob.glob( data.replace( 'chunk.0', 'chunk.*' ) )

		# Add procedural nodes for chunks 1,2,3...
		for i in range(1,len(chunks)):
			n = AiNode("procedural");
			AiNodeSetStr(n, "name", "%s.%s" % (name, i) )
			AiNodeSetStr(n, "dso", "sitoa_curves_proc.dll")
			AiNodeSetStr(n, "data", data.replace( 'chunk.0', 'chunk.%s' % i ) )
			AiNodeSetBool(n, "load_at_init", True)


AiASSWrite(ass_file, AI_NODE_ALL, False)