Substance: Current State and Future Updates

Jérémie Noguer from Substance by Adobe talked about the team's highlights of 2019, discussed how they create materials for Substance Source, talked about future plans, and more. 

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Highlights of 2019

Of course – one of the key highlights of 2019 was Allegorithmic joining the Adobe family in January 2019, and the teams have been thriving in their new home.

Substance Painter has gotten a ton of love with displacement, RTX baking, new projection modes, automatic UVs and too many more to list here.

We also released the first public version of Alchemist, which was the culmination of a three-year effort from multiple teams and, at the same time, exciting and scary for us since it was our first new app release since Substance Painter in 2014.

The Substance Source team has also been on a roll, with 10 drops totaling close to 1,500 tweakable materials, with the help of the world’s best material artists. That’s millions of material variations at your fingertips on the Source website.

Working on Materials Packs

When we decide on new drops for Substance Source, the team tries to come up with a theme or a use case and builds a collection of materials around that central idea.

For the stylized collection, we thought it’d be interesting to change gears a bit and explore other areas than the usual photorealistic materials. It turns out Substance Designer is really fun to play with when designing stylized and non-realistic materials and patterns, and reproducing more traditional mediums like hand painting is a whole other challenge than trying to reproduce reality.

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The decal drop we just released was another change of direction. Decals are everywhere in games, but there isn’t any resource out there for parametric decals. Decals can cover a whole lot of use cases, though, so we decided to focus on an urban environment and figure out what could add depth and storytelling to a bare bone, somewhat clean, urban scene.

Both drops, as with all other materials on Substance Source, come with their Substance graph so you can study and learn from the best in the business, and of course, the materials can be used in any kind of project, commercial or not.

About Substance Alchemist

I don’t think we have a specific user in mind with Alchemist. It’s really a tool that was built to let anyone create environment materials in a snap, no matter what type of project you’re on or what industry you’re working in. 

Where Substance Designer gives you very granular control over every aspect of your materials but requires you to put in the work, Alchemist helps manage repetitive work for you and lets you focus more on polishing and building on top of existing content. On top of that, the latest version introduced custom export presets, allowing you to export your creations to virtually any renderer or game engine out there.

If you follow our YouTube channel, you may also have seen our first presentation of a major feature coming to Alchemist later this year: an AI-based Image to Material filter.

A lot of people know about Bitmap2Material, which, believe it or not, first came out 8 years ago!

This time around, we’ve leveraged machine learning to “teach” Alchemist to recognize elements and objects in your input photograph and to generate accurate normal maps and height maps based on that deduction. It feels like magic and we can’t wait to have everybody trying it out.

Substance Alchemist On the Market

Adoption has been steady and we’re seeing more and more artworks produced with the help of the tool. Although studio adoption of new tools can take time, we expect to see plenty of studios leveraging Alchemist features in the next few years, especially with the increasing amount of assets and size of the worlds they are building for the next generation of hardware.

Next Steps

As I was saying earlier, we believe our new AI-based Image to Material will be a big leap forward for material creation this year. You can also expect, after years of hard work, a UDIM release for Substance Painter, more incredible nodes in Substance Designer and much more!

It will be a big year for Adobe Medium, as well. The amazing team behind the VR sculpting app joined us a few months ago and have been hard at work on a new update for the app and more that we can’t wait to be able to share with you.

Upcoming Changes 

We’ll likely see with this upcoming generation of consoles, as with the previous ones, a notable leap in terms of texture resolution, triangles and particle count, but what I’m more excited about is how new advanced material models and shaders will be able to convey a broader range of materials and surfaces, with realistic skin, translucency, sheen, anisotropy, coating and more. I expect characters especially to see a significative improvement, with real-time cinematics getting indistinguishable from film quality, thanks to these new shaders but also to complex simulations of cloth and hair which are finally ready for prime-time in a real-time context.

Jérémie Noguer, Principal Product Manager for Entertainment, 3D & Immersive

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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