Autodesk's 3ds Max 2010 Brings Major Changes

Autodesk brought to the table some major improvements with the release of 3ds max 2010. Definitely not an update release, but really a whole new user experience, with plenty to offer this time around, especially in the modeling department. If you want to do more in less time, 3ds Max 2010 has all the tools to speed your workflow and get the job done.

The first major addition to mention is the Graphite Modeling Tools, which boasts over 100 select tools and functions that will make work much easier for the 3D modeler. This toolset is accessed through a top ribbon which fully rolls out to display the tools when an editable object is selected. Of course, with over 100 tools, not all are readily visible. But, as you select the specifics of what you are editing, such as vertices, polys, or edges, those respective tools become visible.

The placement of this ribbon itself suits me fine, though it is fully customizable so that you can line up the panels along the side, or even float panels, just by simply dragging them out, which is especially nice if you want to keep handy those 'most used' tools.

I should mention a couple of quick favorite tools. With 3ds Max 2010, it is easy to define and select edge loops. Now with the Swift Loop tool, you can actively place loops right where you want them. Also, in the Freeform section, you now have the Shift tool, which works like a soft selection tool that allows you to add detail to your mesh.

Furthermore, the amount of selection options is quite outstanding. As an example, you can quickly and easily select half a model on an axis away from the camera, and remove those unneeded polys to reduce rendertime.

But, not only are there plenty of tools, there is also an abundance of help with these tools. Unfortunately, I couldn't screen cap this, but as you rollover the graphite modeling tools, the respective help info is shown, including diagramed examples of some of the tool effects. Of course, as you learn what everything does, you can turn the rollover help off.

And speaking of help, the opening splash screen displays links to a few quick start videos, as well as linking to Autodesk's 3ds Max Learning Center, for further tutorials and other resources.

Another major new feature in 3ds Max 2010 is the new viewport display, Review 3, which does a fantastic job of allowing you to preview your scenes in greater detail so as to cut down on those test renders that take away from precious work time. You have plenty of options quickly accessible right in the viewport to view your scene with ambient occlusion, shadows, and other lighting options, even exposure controls.

While talking about the viewports, I should also mention the new xView mesh analyzer (which you can also access directly in the viewport). xView allows you to check for a number of faults in a mesh, such as duplicated faces and wayward vertices. It's easy to see how this can be a major help in spotting problems early on.

Now, in a production environment, there is a major new feature that can help smooth things out in the pipeline. This is the new Containers feature, which allows you to collect any number of scene assets into a single file (container), which can also be passed on in the pipeline with certain edit settings. This ensures that no unwanted, or accidental editing can occur. Just set the access level.

As I mentioned the possibility of locating errors in a mesh with xView, there is now a way to optimize a mesh to reduce its poly count without losing too much detail. This is done with the ProOptimizer modifier, and it really does a great job of retaining original detail.

3ds Max 2010 has no shortage of rendering options, that's for sure. And now with the Mental Ray renderer there are new global quality knobs that appear below the render window. You can quickly change the settings for shadows, refractions, reflections and image anti-aliasing and illumination quality.

For a fast and easy way to find and replace materials in a scene, there is the new Material Explorer. Not only does it show you material relationships, but it allows you to make quick changes globally, which is a definite plus.

For adding audio to your work, the new ProSound multi-track audio system does a wonderful job. It makes easy work of arranging sound clips and syncing to animation, by way of the Dope Sheet. Up to 100 audio tracks can be added and even the volume can be animated.

First and foremost, what really makes 3ds Max 2010 a winner of a package is the new Graphite Modeling tools. Throw in the viewport enhancements and all of the other great new features, and you have more than enough reasons to consider giving 3ds Max 2010 a try.

For more information, please visit the Autodesk website.

In reviewing Autodesk's 3ds Max 2010, I had the pleasure of using an HP Z800 workstation, part of HP's Z Series, complete with 2 Intel® Xeon® W5580 processors at 3.2GHz , 12GB RAM, a NVIDIA Quadro FX4800 video card, and running with Windows Vista. In running several high poly renders and large sample scene animations, all eight cores were showing full usage. If you are looking for a workstation that packs power with a vast potential for upgrade, be sure to check out the HP Z Series.


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Nick C. Sorbin is a digital artist, sculptor, writer, and Managing Editor for Renderosity's Front Page News.
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