Baby steps with BRIX

EDIT on Oct. 8, 2017: Sadly BRIX is no longer. This post remains for the record, but the software no longer exists.

When texturing large expanses of wall or floor with a tile, brick or parquet image, vizualisation artists face a familiar dilemma: how to avoid visible tiling without losing too much resolution? In other words, large maps that show no tiling are either incredibly big RAM-wise, or they are not detailed enough to be seen up close. Maps that cover a smaller area may have the necessary amount of detail but show visible tiling when seen from a distance.

Materialwerk, a company that also happens to be my neighbour has just released BRIX, a new tool for 3dsMax that could just be the solution, at least when working with tiled materials (planks, bricks, tiles, mosaics, stone cladding, etc.)

To me, BRIX was one of these rare no-brainer purchases. However, as this is quite a new tool, I thought I would post a small explanation of how I used it to create the following image.

First two remarks: This is the result of blind experimenting. I may have overlooked or misunderstood some of the settings, so feel free to correct me. Secondly, BRIX comes with 1.4Gb of ready-made high-quality materials, which should fulfill most needs without the need to dig into material creation. For me, however, it was imperative to use BRIX to create new materials with my own maps (I mostly use my own photos but in this case, I used a map from CGTextures to get started).

BRIX is essentially a 3dsMax texture plugin. After installation and registration, two new maps are available, the BRIX texture and the BRIX Slave texture. The BRIX texture includes the Brick Designer Tool, which allows you to load individual tile images (which you would have prepared in advance in a 2D editor) into separate diffuse, alpha, bump, reflection and displacement slots (you don’t have to fill all the slots if you don’t need them). The following captures show the settings for my red brick texture and the Brick Designer UI. For this material, I used 30 different images of bricks, though very good results can be obtained with far fewer images. Be warned that preparing the individual maps, especially if you want to use all the slots, can be time consuming. The best workflow, it seems to me, is to first create the bump, displacement, specular, etc. versions of the big map you are using as a starting point, arrange them into one document with layers, and only then to start cutting the map into individual brick images.

A very nice feature of the BRIX map is that it allows you to create random variation for nearly all slots. You can randomly tweak the hue of the diffuse map (allowing you for instance to create a varied brick wall with just one map), vary the position of the bricks, and even the tilt and displacement values of individual bricks.

BRIX offers various bond patterns (a few more would be nice) and the option to randomise them using a jitter function. The “Common” section allows you to change the aspect ratio of the tiles (you will want very elongated tiles, for instance, when working on a parquet floor), and how many rows you want to have (few rows for large slabs, lots of rows for tiny mosaic tiles).

Once your BRIX map is ready, you can use it pretty much like any other map in Max. One novelty is that the map is coded in such a way that Max will understand which information to use depending on which slot you’re plugging it into. If you use it in the bump channel, for instance, Max will automatically draw the info it needs from the bump channel of the the BRIX map. For the reflection and glossy reflection channel, however, you should input it first into a BRIX Slave texture, whose role it is to extract these channels from the master map. The Slave map does not seem to correctly pass on bump or displacement information, but since you can use the master map in these channels, it does not really matter. Here is a shot of the Slave map and the settings for my Brick material (in Vray).

One nice thing is that the composite BRIX map offers you feedback in both the Max viewport and UV editor, which allows you to refine the placement of the bricks, though I found that the viewport occasionally differs from the final render, which can be annoying (though it may be my own mistake). Here is how it looks in the viewport:

Now that’s pretty much all there is to it. The end result is a map that can cover huge areas without visibly tiling and can still be seen in all its detailed glory up close (and that without overburdening your RAM). Of course, the final result will depend on the quality of your maps. Materials with either no or a rather homogeneous mortar work best. There is also an option I haven’t tested to create a procedural mortar. The few gripes I have concern the Brick Designer, which could be faster. There should be an option for instance, to load all images in one slot at once (If there is one, I haven’t found it), or to copy one image from one slot to another (from bump to displacement for instance) rather than reloading it several times. The good news is that you only have to create a BRIX map once as the settings can be saved in an .xml file for fast re-use.

All in all, I would warmly recommend BRIX to any perfectionist architectural vizualiser. Here are a few more examples done with other CGTextures images. The green mosaic material only uses 13 different tiles.

  1. Really a nice plugin, a time saver and with very high quality indeed. Tanks for the info i’ll take a look at it but a demo will be nice.

    • Javi Pintor
    • July 5, 2010

    Looking very detailed and interesting, really powerfull plugin but 250€ I think is a little bit to much.

    Thanks for the review.

  2. Yeah, seems really intresting… then I saw the price… and you have to pay for the nodes too. No go for me

  3. Very interesting plugin… I been keeping my eyes on it, and this is a great post at a great time too 🙂

    299$ might be too much, cant say now before fully testing it, but i don not like the render node pricing policy. They should really include some nodes in the basic price.

    Thanks Bertrand for posting this (plugging it in my blog too)

    • BBB3VIZ
    • July 8, 2010

    Yes, just short of $300 is pretty steep. But do consider the huge material library and the fact that this plugin has no equivalent anywhere. There just is no alternative to it at present, which does give them a comparative advantage. Having said that, the node policy is problematic and I think Materialwerk is aware of that.

  4. Thanks for the blog Bertrand!

    Regarding the rendernode pricing. We have changed the pricing and will offer a unlimited rendernode version for 99,- € instead of the single licenses. The website will be updated soon and we are currently testing the new rendernode plugin. We will also probably offer a bundle of BRIX and the unlimited rendernodes for 299,- €.

    • BBB3VIZ
    • July 8, 2010

    Thanks for the info, Martin.

  5. nice blog post Bertrand!

    Will definitely look into this, especially now that its more reasonably priced

  6. Just a quick note that the BRIX Lite Edition is available now…

  7. This is amazing tool, exactly what I need!!!

    • Thomas
    • August 3, 2010

    there’s an interesting offer on materialwerk website…standard license + unlimited nodes for only 199€ 🙂

    • leelou
    • August 24, 2010

    Hi BB
    thank for sharing
    is this plug functionally with other renderer(fryrender,maxwell, and so on) or vray only?

    • BBB3VIZ
    • August 24, 2010

    From what I can gather (but remember I’m not affiliated with Materialwerk in any way), it’s available for Scanline, Vray, Brazil and Final Render. You can find more info here.

    • Matt Harrison
    • December 28, 2010

    Hi BB. Just got round to taking a look at this while considering purchasing the plug-in. I know from your articles on Ronen Bekerman that you’re a fan of the multi-texture/floor generator plugin. How would this compare and is it worth shelling out for over the free plugin? Thanks in advance.

    • BBB3VIZ
    • December 28, 2010

    Hi Matt. Definitely worth it. I see the two as complementary and, in fact, I use both regularly these days. There are situations where the additional overhead of using displacement (which you would most of the time when using Brix) is overkill. Think of a parquet floor over a relatively small surface, for instance. In this case, the floor generator is my preferred choice, especially since creating actual geometry will give you better results than displacement most of the time and for a fraction of the cost in resources. In other cases (when creating very large surfaces, materials with very small tiles, with detailed surfacing, or when texturing complex objects), there is no alternative to Brix. I would definitely get both. Also consider the fact that Brix comes with a gigantic library of ready-to-use materials.

    • Matt Harrison
    • December 29, 2010

    Hi, thanks for the reply. Yes, I think that’s very good advice. Using the two in tandem for different instances definitely seems the way to go. I’m trying to do David Chipperfield’s Neues Museum Main Hall which has large expanses of very varied brick as a personal project. ( Looks like brix would be ideal so I guess I should bite the bullet and buy it then.

    Also, I hadn’t thought about the great library that comes included. That’s surely worth it alone. Thanks again. Loving these chairs by the way!

    • BBB3VIZ
    • December 30, 2010

    Yes, that’s exactly what Brix should excell at. Although you will probably need a couple of old-fashioned B&W bitmaps to use as a mask between the different areas of bricks. I tried to do something like that recently and hit a snag with the displacement showing holes between the different areas of bricks (a logical problem due to how displacement works, not a Brix limitation per se). Great museum by the way. I happen to live a hundred meters from it!

    • pawel
    • March 10, 2011

    I greet.
    I am under impression of possibility, Or you know it where was can buy this product? Because side does not act and I can not find nowhere no information..
    I greet.

    • BBB3VIZ
    • March 10, 2011

    Yes, Pawel, their site has been down for some time, which is obviously not reassuring. You can try to subscribe to their newsletter and see if they get in touch. It’s all a shame, of course, as there is nothing else quite like this tool.

    • henia
    • June 8, 2011

    how to download this plugin

    • Jamie
    • December 2, 2011

    Hey, is tis plugin still available? The site doesn’t seem to exist anymore.


  8. Hey Jamie. Sadly not. The company went bust a while back.

  9. Hi BB. I wonder how did you made that light pillar
    I’ve tried 2side and Translucency effect, even though I get the similar look on the pillar but the light is not bright enough to light the scene and render result is noisy.
    Could you give me some advice?

  10. Hi there. You should not rely on these lights to illuminate the scene. They are more decorative than really functional. For this you could use an additional light source, either hidden or not. (In this case I used the outside light, which gives a slight blue cast).

  11. Thanks for reply, BB.
    I’m trying to achieve same texture quality with multitexture and berconmap, it’s pretty much but I still have some question.
    I can’t get the same highlight effect on the right side wall that facing the left main light, at this camera angle it seens to be impossible to reflect the light.
    And, is your image been post-product? Vray’s lens effects also can’t do that glow effect without blurring the image.

  12. Liert, I’m not sure what the problem could be. Do you have a link to the image possibly? Yes, these images have post-production.

  13. Hi Bertrand,

    I have a displacement question. The displacement in your renderings are they obtained with the VrayDisplacementMod or are they just a displace material. Also I have tried every tutorial I can find on the internet on the displacementmod and there’s not a single one that makes me succeed in creating realistic displacement for a brickwall and their corners. I was hoping you could shed some light on this matter or point me in the right direction. The official Vray manual explains all the parameters but I’m finding it hard to get a precise displacement. I can’t seem to understand the correlation between subdivions, edge length, etc and render output size (if there is any?). Thank you very much.

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