I find myself constantly copying paths from one place and pasting them in another place. Be it texture source folders, render paths, script locations etc… The problem comes in a networked environment, which is a common thing nowdays, isn’t it I usually map a network drive to the most common remote locations and use one of the last letters to label the drive, like X: or W:. This is all fine and it saves a lot of trouble when constantly jumping from one folder to the other on the company’s intranet.
The trouble come when you send a scene onto a renderfarm with such mapped hard-drives in the resource paths. You see, the remote render slave would have to have the exact location mapped under the exact letter for it to find the assets and finally render what you want from it. This is where the UNC (Universal Naming Convention) paths system comes in. Instead of accessing the drive through “X:\ASSETS\TEXTURES\MyTexture.tif” you re-map the texture’s location to something like: “\\storage\latest_project\ASSETS\TEXTURES\MyTexture.tif” so that even the render slaves understand where the assets are stored or where they should store the rendered frames.
It’s generally quite tedious allways re-writing such locations by hand (in Max you have a few tools that help you automate such tasks, such as the Asset Tracker) if you need to send the paths to your colleagues so that even if they don’t have the exact same drive letters mapped to the exact same location, they’ll be able to locate your files/folders you’re sending them. I got fed up with this, manual, task and, as allways, started looking for a general purpose solution. One such option is a Shell extension for explorer that adds a new menu for copying UNC paths to whatever you have selected into the clipboard. It’s called Ninotech Path Copy 4.0 and it has solved my trouble for good!
I highly recommend anyone installing this, free, utility and start using it as it will save you so much time, trouble and headaches navigating and sharing data in a networked environment. Installation is easy, unpack all the files somewhere on your disk and right click to install the *.INF file. It’ll automatically do the installation for you and you can immediately start using it. It supports several default ways of copying the paths as well as a few more you can configure yourself for your exact needs. I personally have tested it on Windows XP, but it looks it works on Vista as well.