Author Topic: Scratching my head  (Read 4721 times)

Hi, I'm confused.

I recently discovered Substances, and from what I have seen, it looks like some good stuff.
Now there are some problems with this. And the reason why I'm scratching my head. I'll try to be clear and objective.
Well what are Substances? I read around the web and I find its a texture, material, map, etc... Either you (Allegorithmic) and some other people out there who know all the jargon, apply it in the wrong place, or you aren't sure about what is is. Everyone knows what a jpeg is, a text file...etc. Get the point?
I kind of know what it is but I don't. That leads to another question. I know where I can get these "golden" files. That I found right away. Perhaps that is your goal as a business I don't know. But something isn't right.
You have from my point of view a great "something" here, but it's poorly publicized, explained, and to be honest looks hard to use.
It feels like you rely on the fact that people know all the works, all the jargon. Of course it's not intended to be used by anyone, but than again neither is photoshop and I know some people who aren't photographers or designers that use it once in a while (even badly and in a primitive way).
I'm saying this because as I tried to further discover and learn more about the whole Substance concept I only got more confused.
You have "xyz" softwares but I can't figure out clearly what each one is for, what it does.
How does one create a Substance? Plain and simple. Google it, search on the tube, you find nothing understandable. As something developed intended to save time and effort to create, there is clearly a page missing in the book.
Picture this, I have a photograph of some material say a brick wall. I can use it in say 3ds max, the traditional way.
But I hear of this magic called Substances and how it will save me countless hours of work. I want some of that!
Ok, I'll go down to the site and... now what? Which software do I buy? What does it do? How to use it? Which one suits my interests? I'm willing to learn but it's confusing... and I give up.
And with all the fuss you end up loosing a potential customer.

My advice, be more clear and objective about your product. And think why are "xxxxxx for dummies" books so popular.

Hi and thank you for this lengthy feedback.

We try to make it as clear as possible and it's hard for a new format to explain what it is using traditional jargon. Substances are sets of textures, but in the end it's still one file, it's something new from the old 1-file/1-texture habit everyone is used to.

We tried to explain as simply as possible what it is in the Unity app on this page.
If you feel something is still unclear, please tell us.

And I guess what you are looking for your brick wall in 3dsMax is Bitmap2Material
Anyway, thanks for the rant, we listen :)
Last Edit: February 18, 2013, 10:52:24 am


I perfectly understand you man :)
My experience with substances began with playtesting the v2.5 ca. a year ago.  At first look substances were looking like magician hats, from which you can pull out not only a rabbit but an elephant.
But, there wasn't much practical info on this except VTC Substance Tutorials and Substance POD tutorial. I tried to make few substances myself but finally gave up in the end, well only a magician can do the tricks with magician hats I thought.

I'm a hobbyist which occasionally has a small job from time to time texturing some assets. I went back to SD when v3 came up. Watched the Cymourai tutorial and this time I went into SD trying to follow it not just watch. That changed my perspective on SD (yeah I was lazy before).
Substance designer is improving my workflow in making textures - imagine your client or you want to change a specific part of the texture just before your deadline.
If I work in Photoshop for example, I have to do more steps to achieve desired result. I have to juggle between AO, diffuse, specular maps and their layers, remake the normal map, redo the levels correction, etc.
In substance designer I can use baked SVG info, paint a mask on it, change only that specific isolated element and then just "plug it in" to previously made and working perfectly chain of nodes containing level corrections, gradient maps, AO bakes etc. All my final outputs are automatically regenerated with new information. Not only that, but I can expose some of the nodes parameters for the client to fine tune it to his/hers needs (ie. if he/she will want to change a color of that element in the future, again :) ).

Follow the first steps tutorials, Cymourai using the SD and I think after a while you will understand what SD can be used for and what substances are.
I only scratched the surface of this - there are still a lot of things I didn't put my hands on yet (FX Maps, advanced function graphs), but I don't give up.

Be careful though, after some time spent in SD you will be seeing patterns everywhere  ;D When I look at my wooden desk I think about streched noise pattern, mixed with transformed b/w gradient warped by noise, gradient colored...

Hey David,

you might want to check out the tutorials provided on the page and the youtube channel aswell. They are great and pretty indepth.

As for the jargon, it depends on how much into 3d you are. Nodes, nodesystems, textures, shaders, normal / spec / diffuse channels and alike are "traditional" terms. You have a lot of node systems for etc. particle flows and video editing.
You must realize however, that Photoshop was never intended for texture making. I mean, look at its name. Thats why more and more people use it amateurishly to pull up the blue in the shadows and yellow in the highlights to colorgrade their myspace duckface pics. Substance Designer on the other hand is more specialized and thus requires a little more knowledge.

Maybe one could describe it the substances as a form of ".zip or .rar", where it has all the different channels (diffuse/spec/gloss/younameit) in one file, ready for you to access.

I must also say, that i dont think that allegorithmics documentation is so horrible. Try using the Maxscript scripting reference inside 3DSMax. :D
Thats catastrophic.
SD is pretty overwhelming and you need to change the way you go about problems, because you have now different tools for achieving your goal. But once you got used to it, the nodes just pop out of the ground of your graph like nothing good ;)
Still, substances are no "golden files". You still need to put nodes together to achieve the look your after and it will definatly take some time, too. THe good thing is however, that if you set up your nodesystem cleverly, editing is like a breeze.

I guess I would chime in to say that at their core Substances are not images -- instead, they are primarily text based (XML type) commands that tell the Substance Engine what type of image you want it to generate.

All of that probably sounds overly complex, but I think this is at the heart of what it means to understand Substances. The powerful ramifications of the fact that these are simply text based commands are several:

  • You need the Substance Engine (via Player or other supported app) to be able to "play back" the commands as an "image".
  • Substance file size is typically tiny(compared to bitmap graphics).
  • The way Substances are "made" is to string a series of commands together (in the form of nodes).
  • These commands can be "exposed" to the end user so they can alter the output of the Substance Engine as needed.

So this issue of Substances being text based commands is no small concern -- you'll never really "get" several powerful aspects of Substances and Substance Designer (FX maps being an excellent example) without wrapping your head around this fundamental fact.

The way I understood it is: I was already very familiar with SVG -- which is also a set of text based commands that tell a rendering engine(built into a web browser) how to generate a graphic... so fundamentally SVG and Substances have quite a bit in common. And of course you can use and create SVG graphics within Substance Designer as well... so understanding SVG can be useful as a tool for making Substances.
Last Edit: February 26, 2013, 04:57:04 pm