Autodesk has released the 2016 editions of its Entertainment Creation Suites offering artists and production facilities access to a powerful range of creative toolsets. With the Standard suite, you select either Autodesk Maya or Autodesk 3DS Max, and you also get Autodesk MotionBuilder and Autodesk Mudbox. With the Ultimate suite you get both Maya and 3ds Max, the other products in the standard edition, and Autodesk Softimage. In part 1 of this Spotlight, I will look at 3ds Max. In part 2 I will look at Maya and Mudbox.
Autodesk 3ds Max 2016
Autodesk 3ds Max is a 3D animation, modeling and rendering application used for simulation, visual effects, rendering, and compositing. In the past there had been two versions of 3ds Max, but as of the 2016 release, there is only one.
The goal of 3ds Max is to produce high-quality content with efficient tools. The industry this product serves includes tv and film, advertising, gaming, design visualization, engineering, architecture, and more. By streamlining the versions into one product and adding accelerated performance and streamlined workflows, Autodesk has created a product that will give you the ability to productively create content when working with high-resolution complex assets.
What new features come with 3ds Max 2016?
• Geodesic Voxel and Heatmap Skinning give you the ability to generate skin weighting much faster than before. Voxel binding lets you select multiple meshes and treat all shapes as a single volume. These are designed to work with non-manifold, non-watertight intersecting triangles or are comprised of multiple connected components.
• Text Tool has been enhanced to add data-driven information to your scene. You can easily add textures, animation and effects to your text. 3ds Max also retains font information copied from applications like Microsoft Word.
• Camera Sequencer lets you cut between multiple cameras, trim, and reorder animated clips nondestructively. This lets you tell your story through better animated visualizations.
• Dual Quaternion skinning lets you create better characters with more realistic effects. No longer do you have to see your mesh lose volume as the deformers are manipulated as, for example, in the shoulders and the wrists. You can control the amount of influence skinning has on a surface.
3D Modeling and Texturing
• Text and shape map allows you to create text-based graphics using still or animated 2D objects. Because you don’t have to bake these, the elements can remain interactive and stay linked to the original objects. This means that when you update the object, it is reflected in your element.
• OpenSubdiv support, first introduced in 3ds Max 2015, now lets you represent subdivision surfaces using the OpenSubdiv libraries open-sourced by Pixar. This gives faster in-viewport performance when working with high subdivision levels.
• ShaderFX has been enhanced to provide more options as well as better shader interoperability. Now you can create a wider range of procedural materials with new node patterns. These include wavelines, voronoi, simplex noise, and brick. With the new bump utility node, you can create normal maps from 2D grayscale images.
• A360 rendering support is now available using the same technology as Revit and AutoCAD for subscription customers. Using cloud computing you can create impressive high-resolution images without tying up your desktop or having to purchase special hardware.
• Physical Camera is a new camera developed with the Chaos Group, the same people who made V-Ray, and it contains Shutter Speed, Aperture, Depth-of-Field, Exposure and other options that you would find in a real physical camera. This can give you that photorealistic look when creating images and animations.
• New Iray and Mental Ray enhancements mean that Iray Light Path Expressions (LPEs) now let you isolate objects and lights into render elements based on layer name. Included in Mental Ray is Light Importance Sampling and a new Ambient Occlusion render element which means faster quality images in complex scenes.
Dynamics and Effects
• Simple simulation data import lets subscribers visualize their data differently. Now you can animate simulation data in CFD, .CSV, or OpenVDB formats. You can apply render styles and apply CFD velocity fields as well as animate airflow splines. This will make your data come to life and you will see how data changes over time.
UI, Workflow and Pipeline
• One-click Print Studio access lets you launch the Print Studio directly from within 3ds Max. This means that when you need to print a 3D model of your scene, you can do it directly.
• Game exporter lets you move your data from 3ds Max, including character rigs, textures, models, cameras, etc., into game engines such as Unity, Stingray, and Unreal Engine through FBX interchange technology.
• Live link, available for the Stingray engine, will provide you with much more seamless interaction in scene creation, iteration, and testing. It enables geometry and camera connections between Stingray and 3ds Max, and the ability to make modifications in 3ds Max and see updates in Stingray with one-click workflow.
• Better support for Stingray shaders where the Stingray physically based shader respects the laws of physics and energy conservation. They use the same editor as the ShaderFX shaders, but they employ a different set of nodes, and there are some differences in workflow, but there is visual consistency in both tools.
• Integrated Creative Market: The 3D content store can now be browsed directly in 3ds Max when you’re looking to purchase and sell assets to use in your projects.
• Max Creation Graph is a node-based environment creation tool. It gives you the ability to extend 3ds Max with objects and modifiers by creating graphs in a visual environment. Connect hundreds of node types to create new tools and visual effects. Now included are new MCG nodes that allow for the procedural creation, manipulation and use of shapes and splines as well as the importing of data from bitmaps and simulation data like CSV or Open VDB files.
• XRef renovations now brings you nondestructive animation workflows so you can externally reference objects to your scene. Then you can animate them or edit materials on the XRef object in the source file without the need to merge the objects into the scene. This also provides better collaboration across teams throughout your pipeline.
• Scene Explorer and Layer Manager: Improvements provide better performance and more stability within the Layer Manager and Scene Explorer when working with complex scenes.
• Design Workspace has been improved to make the main features of 3ds Max easier to access. Importing design data that will let you create more dynamic visualizations is much easier. You now have easier access to object placement lighting, modeling, texture tools, and object rendering.
• Easier Revit and SketchUp workflows make it easier to directly import and file-link Revit .RTV file into 3ds Max. They import up to 10 times faster than before, and SketchUp users can now take their design further in 3ds Max by importing SketchUp 2015 files.
• Template system is a new scene creation process that will accelerate your development with new on-demand templates that provide standard startup configurations. These can be shared across your development team with easy export/import options. You can create your own templates or modify existing ones to match your workflows.
• Alembic support now means that you can view very large data sets in the Nitrous viewport and transport them through your pipeline with Alembic support. This allows you to move complex animated and simulated data into a non-procedural application-independent set of baked geometric results while using memory and disk space efficiently.
• Autodesk Translation Framework makes data exchange between Autodesk and third-party file formats much simpler.
• Multitouch support now has 3D navigation when working with the Wacom Intuos 5 touch tablet, the Cintiq 24HD and Cintiq Companion and the touch-enabled Windows 8 devices.
• Small user-requested features have also been addressed, requests to change other workflow obstacles that were identified as high priorities by customers.
To me there are quite a few new features that make 3ds Max 2016 a must-have update. The first is the Max Creation Graph, a customization method that gives you the ability to create your own tools. With a node-based scripting environment, you can create custom scripted tools, utilities, modifiers, and geometric objects without having to write a bit of code. Not only that, you can export and share the tools that you create.
The Viewport enhancements make object selection much easier, and improvements in performance and aesthetics without drastic changes to the overall look. The Camera Sequencer is also very cool in that it lets you sequence multiple camera shots. By doing this you can adjust the timing of the cameras and the overall flow of your visualizations, yet work quickly and easily. When you add in all of the other features, there is a lot to like in this version of 3ds Max and so I highly recommend it.