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Book Review: 3ds Max 2012 Essentials By Randi L. Derakhshani and Dariush Derakhshani

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Learning how to use a professional 3D computer graphics program like 3ds Max can both be fun and frustrating. This is a complex program and trying to tackle too much can leave one overwhelmed. 3ds Max 2012 Essentials tries to address this by allowing you to work at your own pace while it is showing you how to create artwork whether it is in static or animated form.

The goal of 3ds Max 2012 Essentials is to expose you to all of the facets of 3ds Max by introducing all of the tools and functions, explaining how they work and the concepts behind them through the use of hands-on tutorials aimed to give you the confidence to venture deeper in to this program. 3ds Max 2012 Essentials is 400 pages and is divided into 16 chapters.

Chapter One, “The 3ds Max Interface,” starts off with the basic operation of the program and works through all of the important aspects of its interface while getting you up and running. Chapter Two, “Your First 3ds Max Project,” walks you through the concepts of modeling using the 3ds toolsets. In this project you will create a dresser using polygonal meshes and modifiers. It is here that you will also get a feel for the 3ds workflow as well.

Chapter Three, “Modeling in 3ds Max: Part I,” takes on a more complex modeling assignment by building a child’s red rocket ride-on toy. Here you will work with the Editable Poly toolset. Chapter Four, ” Modeling in 3ds Max: Part II,”  completes the model, using the Lathe and Bevel modifiers as well as the Loft compound object. Here you will learn more about splines and shapes.

Chapter Five, “Animating a Bouncing Ball,” examines how to animate using the 3ds animation tools by creating a rubber ball and giving it life. Chapter Six, “Animating a Thrown Knife,” gives you more experience in animation by working with the Curve editor as well as introducing the concepts of anticipation, momentum, and secondary movement.

Chapter Seven, “Character Poly Modeling: Part I,” is the first of three chapters and starts off with modeling the basic form of a character – in this case, a soldier. This is a project that will be suitable for character animation. Chapter Eight, “Character Poly Modeling: Part II,” will complete the main body, create accessories, put on the boots, and create hands.

Chapter Nine, “Character Poly Modeling: Part III,” finishes off with creating the head and merging in and attaching the head’s accessories such as goggles a face mask. Chapter 10, “Introduction to Materials: Red Rocket,” switches back to the red rocket and examines how to set up and use the Compact Material Editor in 3ds Max to give your object its look through the use of materials.

Chapter 11, “Textures and UV Workflow: The Soldier,” takes the concepts of material mapping and applies it to the soldier that was created earlier. Here you learn about UV unwrapping, seaming the rest of the body, as well as other topics. Chapter 12, “Character Studio: Rigging,” now looks at Character Studio for the animation of a biped.

Chapter 13, “Character Studio: Animating,” is a large topic, but this chapter introduces the basics of using Character Studio and bones for animation. These tools are a must to know if you want your animation to be full of life. Chapter 14, “Introduction to Lighting: Red Rocket,” looks at the fact that light is what reveals the world to us and gives things shape, color, and texture. This chapter looks at all of the tools that are used to light your world in 3ds Max.

Chapter 15, “3ds Max Rendering,” describes the last step in creating your computer graphics work. This chapter will show you how to render you scene using 3ds Max’s scanline renderer. Chapter 16, “mental ray and HDRI,” continues on with scanline renderer and also introduces you to the mental ray renderer as well as a HDRI lighting workflow.

3ds Max 2012 Essentials takes you step-by-step through the creation of several projects and effectively paces you through as you get to know and become familiar with the various concepts of working with 3ds Max. It is very well written and presents a lot of diagrams to help with your understanding of how this program works.

There are numerous sidebars that present additional information and exercises that you can use once you are comfortable with the basics. The photos are full color and very clearly illustrate what you are trying to accomplish. If you are looking for a high quality basic book of the essentials of working with 3ds Max 2012, then I can highly recommend 3ds Max 2012 Essentials.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.