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Security, customizability, flexibility and cost are a few of the benefits of open-source software for developers. They’ll get all these and more from NVIDIA’s Material Definition Language software development kit.” —NVIDIA Blog.

The material definition language (MDL) is a programming language used to define and render physical materials. This includes the creation of a wide range of physical materials such as woods, fabrics, translucent plastics and more.

It is a set of tools integrating the precise look and feel of real-world materials into rendering applications. It gives users the freedom to share these materials between applications that support them. Now users can move a library of these materials between applications without worrying about them losing their appearance. This will allow developers to focus on building their applications.

Allegorithmic had already built an entire MDL authoring tool, but with NVIDIA making the MDL SDK open source, developers get a deeper unrestricted access to the entire spec.


The Blog states that Unreal Studio 4.20 now offers native support for MDL.

Being able to use a single material definition, like NVIDIA’s MDL, across multiple applications and render engines is a huge benefit to the end-user,” said Ken Pimentel, senior product manager of the Enterprise team at Epic Games. “Now that we’ve added MDL support to Unreal Studio, our enterprise customers can see their material representations converted to real time in Unreal Engine without baking every parameter. This means their creative intent can be carried to new forms of expression.

The MDL SDK API is C++ based and used for integration and customization tasks. It can be loaded dynamically and linked to visualization applications. The API also allows applications to load MDL modules, and analyze and understand the structure of a material. Therefore it can build a UI for editing materials then rendering the results.

Some of the features in MDL SDK include:

  • Can be used on GPU as well as CPU
  • Database view on the imported MDL package space
  • MDL editing
  • C++ component-based API, and plugin architecture for extensibility

MDL SDK supports Windows (only 64-bit), Linux, and macOS.

To know more, visit the NVIDIA website and to get started here is the GitHub repository.

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