The term "material" is used to refer to the cumulative effect of all of the shaders that you use to alter an object's look and feel. Strictly speaking, though, materials in Softimage are really just containers for, or connection points to, an object's various attributes. If an object's material has no shaders attached to it, nothing defines the object's look, and the object won't render.
Shaders are rendering tools that you use to create anything from basic object surfaces to a variety of special effects. Shaders help you achieve just about any visual effect you can imagine.
This section describes how to work with materials and shaders in Autodesk® Softimage®.