Some little tips’n tricks about 3ds Max

I know some people that want me to share some of my tips and I have some tricks to share too so I decided to write a few lines and to give you some usefull links to improve your workflow.

1. Use and customize quad menu to quickly access some option easier instead of navigating in menus. The Quad-Menu of 3ds Max is really great when you know how to use it. You probably noticed that the last used item from the Quad is always displayed in a different color, well when you just click the corner square of a pannel, it will apply this colored item. So it can make your life real easier for common task when modelling or rigging. Here’s a little how to:

In the customize menu, select the Quad-Menu tab. In the rollout you can select the quad you want to modify, then select the pannel of the quad-menu you want to edit, the right menu will display the option already in the pannel. You just have to drag and drop the action from the left list to the place you want in the quad.

2. When possible, try to script your actions. Use the MaxScript Listener to create some little maxscript that can speed up your work. I usually try to find a better way to work when I’m stuck more than 5 times with the same actions. ScriptSpot is a great website to find scripts. Here’s a little “how to” to create  a simple button that find and select a specific object using its name:

For example: to create a button that select lets say the base ui object of a character rig: open the maxscript listener window, make sure it’s recording your action then select your Base UI Object. You’ll see a new line in the maxscript listener. Select the whole line and drag it right to a custom toolbar, it will automatically create a button. Right-clic on it to edit its appearence. Go to the customize pannel, select toolbar and now click on save and save on the default displayed name sothat the button shows again next time you restart 3ds Max. That’s it, when you hit the button, max automatically select the base ui of the specific rig. It will be easier to find it when working with multiple characters.

3. When animating, I always have to create what we call “make previews”. 3ds Max cannot handle heavy animation at a good frame rate in its viewport so it’s always a good idea to create a draft movie of our animation to really see what it will look like when rendered. When animating, its a pain in the *** having to go inside two menus to finally create our movie. That’s clearly an example of function you want to have directly in max’s UI. Go to customize, select the toolbar pannel, select “new”, name it “custom”. Now in the left list, look for “Make Preview” (or Create Animated Sequence File in 2011 or higher). Drag it to your new toolbar. Save the configuration in the customize window by overriding the existing one and that’s it, you created a shortcut!

4. Demystifying composite maps’ UVW ! Did you ever notice this? For example you have a Cube object without any UV’s with let’s say a Noise map inside the bump slot of its material. You setup the bump the way you want. The Noise Map don’t use a map but fits well when rendering. Your object looks amazing but you think it would be better if it has some great diffuse Bitmap on it. You add a bitmap and you know you have to give an UVW channel ID infos to your object to render the bitmap correctly. By default, your UVW modifier use the first channel ( channel 1), the channel ID of your bitmap also use the first channel by default. Render it and gosh! Your bump doesn’t looks like before! We didn’t change anything to the Noise composite map, it doesn’t seems to use channel. What to do? Simply change the channel ID of the UVW modifier and the Diffuse map to 2 and it will render your diffuse and bump infos correctly.

This means two things: when working with bitmap maps, always use a channel different from 1 for bitmaps. This will allow you to quickly add a composite map for bump for example because you do not always need to play with another UVW modifier to setup a composite map because all can be done within the material editor.

Here’s also a list of really helpful plugins/maxscript:

  • Pen Attribute Holder: it’s like the 3ds max Attribute Holder modifier but a lot more powerfull. It automatically allows you to copy/paste and save all the attribute you’ll put in it!
  • AutoMergeSelectionSet : this one is awesome. When you save a selection set and then merge the scene, it’ll loose all selection set. This will allows you to merge the selection made on the UI of a character when you merge it to animate.
  • MergeByLayer: As his name says, it allows you to specificly choose the object or the layers you want to merge.
  • Camera Lister: like a light lister but for cameras. Allows you to quick change some parameters and have a bird-eye vue of all the scene’s cameras.
  • Outliner: Great script too. It allows you to work with nested layer (layer within layer). Let’s say you have a character with 3 layers: rig/character/UI. Animators don’t want to see the rig layer, and sometimes they need to hide a character to work with another. Nested layer lets you nest these 3 layers in a new one called Character’s Name in which we’ll find the rig layer frozen and hidden, the character visible and frozen and the UI visible and unfrozen. Just hide the Character’s Name layer and all the layers will hide, hit visible and all the layers switch back with the same visible/hide on or off properties as before.


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