This blog describes my journey exploring storytelling - words, images and the sensations they generate. The lot, basically.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Mari 3.0 - Unboxing

I am a texture artist. I work in film. That means for 80% of my work Mari is my home. Despite being very well aware that Mari is a commercial product developed and sold for financial gain by The Foundry, I still have very strong and warm feelings for Mari. Some software you are forced by circumstances to use at great frustration. Mari is not like that. Mari is home.

Since Mari 3.0 was announced and later released last year I have been eager to take the next full release for a spin in a real production setting.

Unboxing videos are all the rage (39,000,000 ones and counting on YouTube!). Personally I find them pointless, but taking Mari 3.0 for my first drive, I just couldn't help myself. Finally here was an unboxing I had been looking forward to. I am busy working hard, on what will doubtlessly be 2017 biggest summer blockbuster, but throughout the day I noted down my impressions in shorthand scrawl.

(Before any of this, I of course archived all my Mari 2.6 projects one last time)

I type mari& in my shell... and... an electric blue Mari logo greets me on the loading screen - I immediately dislike it, simply because that black and yellow logo has meant home for 4+ years.

Fearing the worst, I am happy to note that Mari 3.0 immediately accepts my custom layout of palettes across two monitors. I could rearrange my layout in my sleep, but I appreciate the effort to seamlessly pick up, where we left off.

I open my current asset and Mari starts converting it to the current version. I would say, I sat five minutes as patience was replaced with anxiety waiting for the conversion to finish. I went to the kitchen and fixed myself a green tea. No? Nervous jokes and comparing notes with my fellow texture artists. One had a delivery looming and had switched back to old Mari 2.6. Five more minutes of waiting at my desk and finally Mari comes around. Nervously I inspect all the aspects of my project. Apart from the custom layers from Ideascale, everything else seems to be operational.

As for (the indispensable) extension pack from Ideascale? You obviously need to update your installation, or convert old custom procedural layers to paintable layers in an older version of Mari. A nice nod to Jens Kafitz' impressive work is that Mari alerts you to the fact that you need to update your Ideascale node pack.

Starting to work on my asset, I notice that my color management toolbar across the bottom of my main viewport is gone. Hunting around for it, I find that color management is now a palette. I am not happy about that. Those 3-4 roll-out menus fit nicely into the bottom of my viewport and seems way too little to dedicate a whole palette to. It is certainly not a palette I will dedicate my screen space to on a constant basis. The split point slider is a nice little addition. For me as a texture artist, I work with a limited number of color spaces and a LUT is something handed down from above, so I don't really need to compare different LUTs or color spaces - I can tell the difference between sRGB and Linear blindfolded with both hands tied on my back. I don't really need a split point slider to help me tell the difference.

That said, I think it is a great idea. I do a lot of A B testing and comparisons switching between channels and switching layers on and off. A split point slider there would be an amazing function to clearly make out the differences and spot changes.

On the projection palette I am pleased to note that, again, my elaborate projection settings have been kept intact.

Mari's ambient occlusion is notoriously... low tech... so reading about the new baking tools in Mari 3.0 I had high hopes for the AO bake - something I use on pretty much every asset I touch, in one form or another. It doesn't seem that much better to me? I am surprised by this to the point, where I am wondering whether I have missed a trick? Maybe I am not doing it right?

Another thing I use constantly in my work is the 1-6 hot keys for zooming on selected components from different angles. In Mari 3.0 1-6 now zooms weirdly on not the entire selection but a single part of it. I have still not determined the logic behind what is going on there.

In the Export menu for channels, Export Current Channel Flattened is now number one in the roll out instead of two. Damn my muscle memory. That is going to take some time getting used to.

The thing I have been most excited about in this Mari release are the new nodes and the ability to get under the hood with node graphs. We already work very much in a node graph based fashion with other The Foundry products such as Katana and Nuke. It seems a very straight forward step forward.

However on a busy day, where you are mindful of your time and deliveries etc. I didn't have time to dedicate more than 5-8 mouse clicks to check out the new palette etc. I already try to cover as much ground as I can procedurally before starting painting. Many effects I produce over and over again, like dust, value and color variations, generic dirt in corner and cracks and the effects of the sun bleaching outdoor assets. I am very excited to find out more about nodes and start building a library of these effects and exporting them as gizmos.

That was my first day in Mari 3.0 - of course I am anxious get back tomorrow morning and start peeling back more layers of what Mari 3.0 offers. For starters, I really need to get that 1-6 hot key navigation sorted out...