Cody's 3ds Max tutorial series

I’ve decided to finally start making tutorials for 3ds Max. These tutorials are not aimed at animators per say, they are aimed towards engineering students who want to know how to make some awesome imagery using max. In order to keep this manageable the series will be broken up into a few one hour videos each covering some part of Max. The first of which will get you cranking out bad-a renders inside of sixty minutes.

Please understand that I will be giving out some of my best lighting and modeling techniques learned over the last six years through countless hours of professional training services and an endless amount of experimentation. This is a passion for me and something I consider myself to be extremely talented at. The bottom line is, if you want to learn from one of the best - here’s your chance. I’ll make this fast, fun and rewarding. It really isn’t that hard once you have the basics down.

Small disclaimer, you’re going to need a pretty nice computer, a mouse with a scroll wheel and a copy of 3ds max in order to follow along. If you’re a student, you can get a copy of max for free from the Autodesk Educational Community.

License: These tutorials and provided content are published under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial agreement. You may use the work for non-commercial purposes as long as you accredit the original author. Using this content for commercial work is strictly prohibited.

Tutorial #1 - Besting the VRC animation inside of 60 minutes
In this tutorial we meet max, import some CAD and learn
the basics of making renders look really, really good!

http://polynomic3d.com/user/smith/3dsMaxTuts/1/cover.png
Video Tutorial | Scene (2013) | Scene (2010) | Final Render
(right click to download video - use VLC to watch)

I’m open for future video suggestions also feel free to ask questions here, I’ll do my best to answer them. Feedback is also appreciated.

-Cody

I can’t get the scene file to open. I am using 3ds max 2012 x64. Also, thank you for this.

The scene file is 2013, I’ll create a 2010 and you are very welcome. Check the post for updates.

-Cody

hmm post vids on youtube for ease of streaming the vids?
should really start to learn animating…
esp with the summer around the corner
ill give it a whirl :slight_smile:

I can’t post one hour long videos on YouTube without jumping through some hoops.

-Cody

or through your site?
i remember the X-holonomic tut being hosted somewhere
wayy back when

Just finished following along with the video. Did some 4" omnis and they look great. I am moving on to my full robot now. May start it rendering and come back in an hour or so.

What would speed up my render time. I am running a 4.2 ghz 3570k without a graphics card. I have 16 GB of ram. Would getting a GeForce card with CUDA help any? Or would it have to be a Quadro?

It’s a good question, first off let’s start posting our renders here. It’d be great to see what people can do with this.

As for render times, I will go into how to branch rendering between two workstations and even network then between many nodes much later, for now we’ll stick with the single computer setup (which is most common for design stuff anyway).

NVIDIA’s mental ray (formally owned by mental images) comes in two flavors, regular mental ray which is a CPU renderer and iRay which is a GPU renderer. Believe it or not I’m currently running an AMD HD 6770 that was given to me (it does rock at games, gotta give it that), so I can’t run iRay (it’s CUDA only). That’s OK though because so far I have been unimpressed by iRay. I need to take another look at it, but mental ray still seems like the best way right now.

For optimizations, there really aren’t that many that don’t really affect the render. I recommend looking at the render bar and seeing where you are spending the most time, I’ll try to map render stage to process.

So if this is taking forever…

Consider bringing down the number of GI photons per sample.

So if this is taking forever…

Consider changing the big FG slider. Watch the numbers
under it change, see how the slider is affecting the values.
The slider is just a quick predefined “jump” between those
values, you can enter your own once you understand the
relationship between those to make finer optimizations.

If GI is killing you, turn it off and enter a value of 4-7 into
the Diffuse Bounces here in the FG section. It’s not as good
as GI, but it does approximate the effect.

Finally if this is taking forever…

Moar threads, just more threads… Actually this is where
that “Optimize for FG” comes in, make sure it’s checked. The
resolution of the image also affects this, so maybe go smaller.

I’ll break this down in more detail in another tutorial later. Hope this helps for now.

-Cody

In terms of rendering time, how does mental ray compare to V-Ray?

That’s an excellent question, but V-ray costs $1,300 and is not included with Max so I really don’t know.

Both MR and V-ray are very powerful renderers, but I believe they differ in workflow. V-Ray is more like Pixar’s Renderman in how materials are created. I personally like MR because it’s what I know and in general realism is at the core of what they care about. The A&D shaders for example are built with energy conservation, etc. Whereas Renderman in particular is not meant to be realistic, it is meant to provide whatever “look” the artist is after and for Pixar that could be just about anything. That being said, I really do like some parts of Renderman, it’s a very interesting renderer which is soaked in the history of computer graphics and is in itself an amazing piece of work.

For this tutorial series, which is aimed at engineering students (as started in the original post), a photorealistic renderer like MR which was build with engineering and architectural modeling in mind seems appropriate. Also for what it’s worth, MR has served me well over the years.

I’ll be doing a tutorial soon on the various parts of MR, and I’ll also be putting together some numbers to show the render time v/s quality tradeoffs. When does GI matter? How many FG points do I really need? Etc. I’ll try to explain it all to the best of my abilities to get you guys reasonable renders quickly.

So, if you’re interested in V-ray I would certainly not discourage you from digging into it but I probably am not the right person to teach it.

To answer your exact question, V-ray is usually faster at the cost of some photorealism. My understanding is that V-ray is more look driven. In general the largest trade-off regarding V-ray is it’s cost, that’s the simple truth - most people don’t want to pay for it seeing as MR comes with Max and Renderman is free.

-Cody

License: These tutorials and provided content are published under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial agreement. You may use the work for non-commercial purposes as long as you accredit the original author. Using this content for commercial work is strictly prohibited.

Tutorial #2 - Importing the VEX Field
In this tutorial we learn how to import some detailed CAD files
and we learn a little more about those render settings.

http://polynomic3d.com/user/smith/3dsMaxTuts/2/cover.png
Video Tutorial | Scene (2010) | Final Render
(right click to download video - use VLC to watch)

Thanks for doing these Cody.

Of course, or no problem. I … love doing this too much :slight_smile:

I just need some feedback, that’s all. Good, bad, ugly, anyone actually watching these needs to speak up!

Unfortunately, I don’t have a computer good enough to run 3dsMax :frowning:

Buttttttttttttt, I will watch these videos once I get a chance to get on youtube (school blocks it and all I have is school laptop)! They look really good and next year I plan to learn 3dsMax and will definitely refer to these videos. Thank you!

These are hosted on my personal web space, they are surely not blocked.

Too bad about your machine not being able to run max, I have always felt like having a good strong personal computer was a must in this day and age.

-Cody

Ohh I thought they were on youtube, I’m downloading the video now. I wish I had a good computer though, maybe next year.

In the first tutorial you feature the teapot, here’s a little history on this, it has been around for years.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utah_teapot

Good find. It’s a great object for a ‘‘standard reference object’’ because of all the shadows and reflections it can create, as the wiki said.

That was a wonderful read, thanks so much for sharing :slight_smile:

I knew there was a story behind it, I didn’t know it was that well documented, or far back!

This tutorial is not quite like the rest, it features more information on Windows networking, TCP-IP, etc etc. By the end you will have at least a good idea of how to setup and deploy 3ds max in a fashion that can be used to setup basic renderfarms across a range of computers belonging to the same subnet.

In a sense, this is how you get a big job done fast and can be a way for someone with access to many not-so-powerful computers to get some serious performance out of them as a computational cluster (+5,000 geek points instantly for setting up a computational cluster).

Small warning, this works best when every machine in the cluster is a x64 machine and I wouldn’t bother setting up a machine that fails to meet 3ds’s minimum specs, it just doesn’t work well and tends to slow everything else down.

Have 20 computers and want to use them ALL to render something? This is the video for you!

License: These tutorials and provided content are published under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial agreement. You may use the work for non-commercial purposes as long as you accredit the original author. Using this content for commercial work is strictly prohibited.

Tutorial #3 - Distributed Rendering
In this tutorial we learn how to use multiple computers over a network to simultaneously
work together to create a detailed render or sequence using Backburner.

http://polynomic3d.com/user/smith/3dsMaxTuts/3/cover.png
Video Tutorial
(right click to download video - use VLC to watch)