Adobe Substance 3D First Impressions

Almost every 3D artist we work with in our global animation pipeline uses Adobe Substance. It's definitely the industry standard, just like Maya is for animation and Nuke is for compositing. We've had a license for a while here at the studio. 

However, I'd never really touched it. My own focus is on story and directing much more than 3D texturing. That changed when we got some very fast-turnaround 3D character animation work. We started to find the need to jump into Substance and make client changes on the spot, often delivering final renders only a few hours later. 

This week, Adobe released a new Substance 3D suite. If you have the old version and use the old website you pretty much have to update to the "All-Adobe" version. But they make it pretty easy to do. You just cancel your subscription and get a copy of your invoice, plus a copy of your new Adobe invoice, and email it off. Adobe took all of 10 minutes to figure it out and refund us the money owed from the pre-paid and now cancelled subscription. Suite! Er, I mean, "Sweet!".

The new suite is mostly the same apps we'd used, but updated. And Adobe added a totally new app they call 3D Stager to help people quickly make 3D product photos and other such things. I will admit, though, to a twinge of probably unfounded "grrrr" when I saw the pricing was pretty close to what an artist would pay for the entire Adobe Creative Suite. 

Whatever. It has finally become time for me to dive in deeper with Substance.

As I worked my way through their new tutorials, I was a little surprised how easy Painter is to use once you wrap your head around their UI "vibe". The shortcut keys are pretty exactly Maya's, too, which is very nice for me. Overall, Substance looks really freakin' easy to learn. Especially Painter. And I love the features in Sampler that make it easy to bring real-world stuff into 3D texturing.

Substance suite's new app, the 3D Stager... well, it's clearly not going to replace Marmoset Toolbag or whatever. It's a 1.0 product. But it's a nice-to-have for product photos, like the one I did at the top of this article.

When I do 3D work, I mostly do it on a PC workstation, because that's how 3D is mostly done. But I've been working my way through Adobe's new Substance tutorials using a Mac Pro because it's right here at my desk. 

The biggest bummer for 3D Stager on a Mac is I'm pretty sure that it does not take advantage of the $5,000 worth of GPU power we've got in this machine to speed  rendering. For example, I did the "Ultra" quality render you see above and it took 33 minutes on this machine. That's kind of stupid in a world of Renderman 24, Redshift, and Octane where you can often get great renders in tens of seconds. And even skipping the whole GPU thing, this Mac's got 16 cores of CPU power to use. I didn't see anything like the performance I should have.

I'm very interested to try it out on one of our PCs.

Also, their Substance 3D asset collection brags about having tens of thousands of assets. I was very excited about this, but I think Quixel/Unreal's Megascans is a far better collection for now, and I was especially bummed they didn't even include any sample scenes. It was all small bits and bobs you may use to dress a scene. But I do like that they're trying. I hope this feature grows a lot soon. They also limit you to 50 downloads a month, so good luck with that.

Overall, though, I love it. The latest version of Substance is tightly integrated, feels more "Adobe", is super easy to use, and will continue to be a part of our pipeline and probably everyone else's. It's really like Photoshop, now. There's other apps that do specific things better. But not all together better.