5 Tips for a Better Autodesk 3ds Max Workflow

January 31, 2013, posted by Bill McKown, Solutions Engineer:

Five Tips from the 3d Pixel Monkey:

1. Use Activeshade: If you use Mental-Ray as your renderer than setup Activeshade renderer to use iray when you setup lights and materials. This is an extremely fast GUI based renderer, so you can render lots of time quickly when you are working on tweaking the scene. ActiveShade allows the viewport to constantly update the render view as you work. I love this because most of my time is spend rendering, then adjusting the lights and materials, then re-rendering.

  1. Go to the Rendering Menu tab (F10), and select Render Setup.
  2. When the Render Setup Dialog opens select the Assign Renderer rollout, and select the button next to ActiveShade. Then select Nvidia iray from the Choose Renderer dialog box.
  3. Now you’re setup to render continuously in that view, as you update objects (like move the lights, or change materials) this rendering view will update automatically.

2. Use Layers: Whatever you use 3ds Max to do, Architectural, Mechanical, Civil, Character Animation, etc. Organize you scene objects into layers. This helps with reducing screen clutter by allowing you to hide objects on the screen, like all of the Furniture in an Architectural scene. It also helps speed up rendering by shutting off the interior objects like Furniture when you render an exterior.

1. Click on the Manager Layers button at the top of the screen (see below). Use can also easily select objects or entire layers of objects thru the layers Dialog, and change objects onto other layers.

2. Create a Morgue: This is what artists call libraries. Store and organize your own material libraries, that contain images and textures, also organize 3d objects (similar to how you’d organize CAD blocks). Save that chair you slaved over creating with all of the textures assigned to it into a 3d library you can re-use. This saves incredible amounts of time if you can merge “ready-to-render” 3d objects into your scene!

3. Use the Scene State Manager: This allows you a fast way of capturing the status of your scene. You can save different light off-on states, different materials assigned to the same object, different positions of things in the scene, and layer states. With the click of button re-call a named scene state: It works not only on layer off-on states, but also objects positions, and materials.

1. Under the Tools menu, click to open Manage Scene States button (see below left).

2. Manage Scene States dialog opens, if you already have saved a scene state all you need to do is select the name of the saved state and click the Restore button.

3. If you want to save a scene, click Save button and you’ll be prompted to enter a Scene State name and to select which Parts (properties) you’d like to save with the scene state.

Images below show saved scene states: Note: Three different renderers saved as well. (1 – Daytime metalray, 2 – Daytime vray, 3 – Nighttime iray)

<a href="http://synergiscadblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/bm010.png"><img class="size-thumbnail wp-image-880" alt="Daytime Scene (vray)" src="http://synergiscadblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/bm010.png?w=129" width="129" height="150" /></a> Daytime Scene (vray) Daytime Scene (vray) Nighttime red light iray

4. Use the Light Lister: This is like a lighting control panel. This gives you an easy way to adjust all your lights in one place.

1. Under the Tools menu, select Light Lister

2. This gives you a quick way to adjust some common settings on your Standard and Mental ray lights. Notice you can not only turn on and off layers, but rename lights, change the multiplier, and change the shadow types. If you use Vray as a renderer, there is a free light lister available to control Vray lights from the Scriptspot.com

5. Use the Project Folder Setup: This creates a project folder with a standard set of sub-directories to help consistently organize your projects.


On the top “shortcut” menu, click on the Project Folder button.

I hope these tips help make your 3ds Max experience more productive. If you have any questions and or ideas for upcoming Max blogs give us a bang on the ear.

-Bill McKown

Bill is Synergis’ Visualization expert. Having joined the company in 2011, his prior employment involved CAD design, 3D renderings for both architectural and interior design projects, and training and supporting for all the products associate with these. Bill has a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Arts in Education and additional certifications in Computer Animation and Autodesk solutions.


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