Introduction to and history of Autodesk 3ds Max
Developed and produced by Autodesk Media and Entertainment, Autodesk 3ds Max
is software for rendering 3D animation, models and imagery. It was originally
called 3D Studio and was created by the Yost Group of Atari for work on the DOS
platform, and development started in 1988. It later was adopted for Windows NT
with 3D Studio DOS release 4 and was subsequently renamed 3D Studio MAX. 3D
studio MAX, also developed by the Yost group was produced by Kinetix, which was
then the media and entertainment division of Autodesk. It was the release 8 of
the original 3D Studio, which was renamed Autodesk 3ds Max which was made
available to the public in 2009. 3ds Max offers much functionality targeted
towards ease of use and faster image and animation rendition.
Major Applications of Autodesk 3ds Max
The software is used in developing CGI as well as applications ranging from
academia to game development. Each use of the software requires the use of a
different set of tools available in the software and as plug-ins. 3ds Max is
available free of cost for students. However profession packs are available for
Major Features of Autodesk 3ds Max
Autodesk 3ds Max is primarily, although not completely, based on polygon
modeling. Polygon modeling is used more extensively in game design than in other
animation application as it offers a highly specific control over individual
polygons that make up the model. This feature of polygon modeling also allow for
greater optimization of the model.
Usually, the design process begins at the
selection of a primitive model bundled with 3ds, which is then further refined
as per need. The current versions have a simplified mesh editing interface and
using the 'edit poly' modifier which moves the tools available in the primitive
model, higher in the modifier stack, allowing them to be used on top of other
In the 3ds Max software various unique primitive shapes
such as teapots, cones, pyramids and cubes are available which can be used as a
base for model development.
Although polygons are the method of choice for model
building, surfaces are easier to define using other methods. 3ds Max's
subdivision surface support allows for smoothened surfaces and with the use of
tools like Soft Selection, which allows manipulation of vertex clouds into the
desired shape without distortions from unwanted shapes and displaying smooth
surfaces. The sculpting brush feature allows smooth surfaces to be drawn by
hand, if polygons give a distorted image, although functionality is limited.
NURBs feature of Autodesk 3ds allows smooth surface rendition by use of
mathematical formulae and is of greatest use to in accurate simulation of
mechanical parts. This is of greatest use in applications such as automobile
design and instrument design.
3ds Max allows the use of custom lighting
and shadows and highlights can also be 'burned' into the image rendered. These
settings are mostly used for game imagery, since pre-fit values of shadows and
highlights allows the game engine to process less data thereby improving game
speed and performance as the model is already painted with the required
This also means that for constant lighting conditions during
play, especially if motion is involved, the images do not falter and give a
constant, regular image, free of improper shadows and bad graphics.
like character models, 3ds Max includes simulation for hair, skin, cloth and fur,
all requirements for simulation of living beings. These inbuilt add-ons reduce
the time required for model development and improve the detail for each frame.
It also includes rigid body dynamics which means that simulation of hard bodies
such as wood or bricks, is easy to perform. This software is also equipped with
features like shatter effect to recreate the dynamics of shattering rigid
objects. However, soft body dynamics, which allows for the motion simulation of
deformable objects, is not supported by 3ds Max, which makes simulation of such
A very useful feature of this software is the support for
Inverse Kinematics and Forward Kinematics. Inverse Kinematics or skeleton
modeling allows the user to create a model and fit it with a skeleton, which can
then be animated as per the requirements of the animator. This skeleton can then
be placed inside the model, making the animating the model easier.
Tools available in Autodesk 3ds Max
* MAXScript: It is a scripting language which is built into the software and
can automate repetitive tasks, give varying combinations of present features and
developing tools and user interfaces. MAXScript can also be used to build
plug-ins for 3ds Max.
* Scene Explorer: Scene Explorer provides an orderly, hierarchical view of
scene data. It allows categorical editing of data, to achieve simplicity in
editing complex sets and can also manage code in .NET.
* Character Studio: Initially a plug-in character studio is a tool for help
in animating virtual characters, the Character Studio allows using stock
skeleton animation to quickly and easily modify characters for a project which
work on the 'biped' skeletal system.
* General keyframing: There are two keying modes; auto key and
set key which provide support for separate workflows. The keyframing
controls given help in easing the animation by providing simple, but important
features like cut, copy and paste.
* Constrained animation: It allows animation of objects placed inside the
constraints of their shape. This tool allows the animation of objects along
curves with controls provided for smoothness, velocity, alignment, banking etc.
and along surfaces.
* Skinning: Using with the Physique or Skin, a fine
control of movement can be achieved and can be used in the most tricky of
* Integration with Autodesk Vault plug-in: The Autodesk Vault is
a plug-in which is shipped along with 3ds Max and is used to integrate user data
and assets on to one location, thus tracking progress on projects. Also,
managing work in progress is an easier task. The plug-in enables users to safely
and easily design, find, reuse and share 3ds Max models for a team production
All in all, Autodesk 3ds Max is a useful software for learning and practicing
animation and developing the skills required for 3D modeling and animation
purposes. Along with having a very user friendly interface, it also can be used
for managing professional projects in animation. One of the best features is
added plug-in functionality which increases its features by a wide margin.
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