How to Cheat in 3ds Max 2011: Get Spectacular Results Fast

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Need to get results with 3ds max fast? Why take months to learn every button in 3ds max when you can create great visuals with just a few key tools? Learn to create quick yet stunning special effects, and animated characters with the fastest techniques possible. Need convincing grass, trees, water, shadows? You can use the memory-hogging methods that choke your display and take forever to render, or you can get it done bing-bang with this book. When you need an animated character you can spend days fiddling with polygons, or you can use this book to put it together in minutes and get the entire project done in a day. How to Cheat in 3ds max includes a host of time-saving techniques as well as little-known tools that will make you look like an expert in no time flat. This book is for busy professionals who need to get it done right, but also need it done fast. This rev of the book will have higher-end cheats (for Intermediate users) and ALL NEW or UPDATED content on: new modelling and material tools, mental ray, special effects, particle systems, and scripting. The web site offers scene files and bitmaps used to illustrate the cheats, also music files, organizational samples, and instructional Camtasia movies of Michele where Michele showing some of the trickier techniques.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for How to cheatin 3dsMax 2010:

"My first impression was 'WOW!' and my second impression was, 'This is what reference material should look like!' The balance between illustration and text is just right for visual people-aspiring 3D artists will love it.”
-Borislav "Bobo” Petrov, Technical Director, Frantic Films VFX
"This excellent book will inspire anyone to dig a little deeper into this incredible piece of software.”
-Stefan Vittori, Managing Director Tangram 3DS
"Moving past what a tool does, Michele details various combinations of features in the application and their importance to completing commonly requested, real-world tasks for visual effects, games, and design visualization alike.”
-Gary M. Davis, 3ds Max Master 2007, autodesk Media & Entertainment
"Michele is at it again with updated workflow techniques in a format that makes the tips and tricks readily accessible as an essential desktop companion. If working smartly can be called 'cheating,' then this is cheating at its best. There is a lot here for beginners and advanced users alike. Good luck and have fun.”
-Ted Boardman, independent 3ds Max instructor and author
"This newly updated version conveys the fun and fast side of 3ds Max. Bousquet has packed the pages with colorful and quick tutorials that help you master all of 3ds Max's main concepts.”
-Jim lammers, President, Trinity animation inc.
"In addition to the excellent tips and tricks uncovered in this book, I found the illustrations easy to follow, informative, and fun. I highly recommend this book to 3ds Max users of all levels.”
-Jeff Patton, Freelance Digital artist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780240814339
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 7/15/2010
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.70 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Michele Bousquet is an Autodesk Certified Trainer who has been using 3ds Max since its first release. She has worked as a Senior Technical Writer for Autodesk and has authored more than 20 books on 3ds Max. Michele is currently the Director of Marketing at, the largest online marketplace for stock 3D models in the known universe. TurboSquid and Michele were recently featured on CNN's Anderson Cooper's 360 Blog.

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Read an Excerpt

HOW TO cheat IN 3ds Max 2011

Get spectacular results fast
By Michele Bousquet

Focal Press

Copyright © 2011 ELSEVIER INC.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-240-81434-6

Chapter One


MODELS ARE the main building blocks of scenes. When creating a model, it's important to model just enough detail to make a good rendering. It's easy to get bogged down in small details that take a long time to model and won't even be noticeable in the final rendering.

Mapping, the process of putting textures on a model, is akin to modeling. In this chapter you'll learn simple mapping techniques that can reduce modeling time to minutes instead of hours.

Modeling tools

KNOWING the primary modeling tools in 3ds Max will make your work go much faster. Make sure you can find all these tools in the user interface, and take it from there.

1 Primitive objects are the starting point for most of your objects. Between Standard and Extended Primitives, there are more than 20 primitives to choose from. The box is the most commonly used base object for both simple and complex models.

2 A primitive can be turned into an Editable Mesh or Editable Poly for direct access to vertices and polygons. You can access the tools at the Vertex or Polygon sub-object level by expanding the base object and choosing a sub-object level, or you can click directly on a tool from the Graphite Modeling Tools toolbar.

3 In some cases, a spline (curved or straight line) is the most straightforward way to create an object. The Sweep and Lathe modifiers, among others, will turn a spline into a 3D object.

4 To clone an object, hold down Shift as you move the object. A Copy is independent of the original. An Instance maintains a connection between the two so any changes to one clone changes the other. References are a combination of the two, which is useful under specific circumstances.

Reference images

THE IMPORTANCE OF USING reference images for modeling cannot be overstated. An hour spent creating or cleaning up useful reference images can easily save you a dozen hours of modeling and tweaking.

The best tool for cleaning up reference images is Photoshop. By learning the Transform tools, you'll open up a whole new world of useful images that can even double as textures.

I've found the following tools most useful for image cleanup:

* Quick Selection

* Transform

* Distort

* Warp

* Guides

1 Take photographs or make drawings of the object you want to model. With a symmetrical object such as this fire alarm, a front and side view are sufficient. Take photos at as much of a straight-on view as you can get. You can also take a back and top picture if you like.

2 Use guides to help you rotate the items straight. Using a contrasting background color, erase the photo background with the Quick Selection and Eraser tools. Resist the temptation to waste a lot of time delicately erasing pixels at the edges. The edges don't have to be perfectly clean to use the images for reference in 3ds Max.

3 In this case, the base of the fire alarm in the front view is straight, but the top is crooked. Straighten out the image using the Rotate, Distort, and Warp tools as necessary. Remove any perspective artifacts from the image. Here, I erased the bit of the underside of the "roof" that was visible at the upper right corner of the object.

4 Use horizontal guides on the front view to line up the side view parts. You'll need to use the Distort and Warp tools liberally to remove the perspective from the side view. Utilize any obvious rectangular elements, such as the FIRE decal, to determine the correct vertical alignment.

5 Save the image and use it as a guide for your model's proportions in 3ds Max. The details on how to do this are covered in this chapter.

6 With a few modeled details and the reference image as a texture map, you have an instantly believable asset for your scene.

Virtual studio

A VIRTUAL STUDIO is a scene setup that provides the three-dimensional reference required to model a specific object. It's one of the prime tools used by expert modelers to get the job done quickly.

1 Get two views of the object you want to model. In Photoshop, paint out the backgrounds and remove any obvious perspective from the images as described in the Reference Images cheat.

2 Create a perfectly square image that contains both maps. This will save your being concerned with the image aspect ratio when you use it in 3ds Max.

3 In 3ds Max, create a material with the reference image as a Diffuse map. Set the Self-Illumination value to 100 to make the image show clearly in viewports regardless of the lighting.

4 Create a plane in the Front viewport with square dimensions and one segment along each side. Apply the material to the plane, and turn on Show Map in Viewport. Press F3 to toggle the viewport to a shaded view. Because the map is square, you don't have to be concerned about its aspect ratio.

5 Clone and rotate the plane by holding down Shift while rotating it by 90 degrees. The resulting arrangement, called a virtual studio, provides a framework for creating a 3D model.

6 Make a box and position it in the Front viewport to align with the image. Press Alt X to make the box see-through, and match its size roughly to the outer bounds of the front reference image.

7 Press F4 to turn on the Edged Faces display, and increase the number of box segments to allow enough detail for the object. Convert the object to an Editable Poly by right-clicking the modifier stack and choosing Convert to Editable Poly.

8 Now you can directly access the box's vertices (points) and edges (lines between points) to shape the object. At the object's Vertex sub-object level, move and scale vertices to shape the object to fit the image. Be sure to select vertices using a bounding area so you get the ones in the back as well.

9 In the Left viewport, move vertices to match the side image.

10 With the help of the virtual studio, finish shaping the object as necessary. If necessary, add more edges with the Cut tool, or with the Connect tool as described in the 15-Minute Building cheat.

11 With the use of a TurboSmooth modifier, the result is a correctly proportioned object that looks great when rendered, especially if you use the reference images as a basis for its textures.

15-minute building

WHEN YOU NEED TO POPULATE a scene with buildings, you can do it with a long, arduous process. Or, if you like, you can do it the quick and easy way. Which would you prefer?

The Preserve UVs feature of the Editable Poly object makes it possible to visually shape the building right to the map without leaving the Front viewport.

1 Get a photograph of a building with a nearly straight-on perspective. In Photoshop, correct the perspective distortion and clean it up. In this image, I've removed the flag, signage, and balcony from the facade. Note the background color, which is similar to the building color. 15-minute building

2 In 3ds Max, create a box and map the building image onto it. Assign a UVW Map modifier and use Align to View, Fit, and Bitmap Fit to map the image with the correct aspect ratio. The box won't have the right aspect ratio, but you need to get the image right before you can fix this.

3 Adjust the box size with parameters only, with the Show End Result On/Off Toggle turned on. If you use scaling rather than parameters, the map won't stay still while you change the box size. Collapse the modifier stack and convert the box to an Editable Poly.

4 Count the number of horizontal segments you'll need to extrude windows and other details. Here, I counted one for the top and bottom of each window with an extra segment for each arched window. There's one segment near the top that will be used to shape the roof, for a total of 16.

5 Access the Edge sub-object level and select the vertical edges at the sides of the building. You'll need to make sure Window/Crossing is set to Crossing, and then draw a bounding area across the box horizontally.

6 Click Connect Settings and choose the appropriate number of segments. The horizontal segments appear on the box. If you can't see them, press F4 to turn on Edged Faces in the viewport.

7 Access the Vertex sub-object level. In the Edit Geometry rollout, turn on Preserve UVs. This will keep the map in place while you move vertices. Move each row of vertices to line up with its corresponding horizontal.

8 Using the windows as a guide, count how many vertical segments will be needed. Select the horizontal edges and use Connect again to add the segments.

9 With Preserve UVs on, move the new columns of vertices to line up with windows. Note the adjustment of vertices around arched windows and the sides of the building.

10 If the texture wobbles as you move vertices, fix it by reapplying the UVW Map modifier. At the Polygon sub-object level, select the window polygons and extrude them inward. Voila! A 15-Minute Building.

Modeling around maps

SHADOW-CASTING DETAILS make an important addition to your 15-minute building. A sign hanging off the facade, a balcony, flags, and other doodads multiply the 3D illusion.

The most convincing items use maps you've created from a photo. However, these items are often odd-shaped, and it can be tough to get the object and map to match. By using the Preserve UVs feature, you can use a map placed right on the object as a guide and get the modeling done right-quick.

For the 15-minute building in the previous cheat, the original image shows an ornate balcony. Adding the balcony to the scene as a 3D object adds depth to the rendering without a lot of work.

1 In Photoshop, cut out the balcony and paste it to its own layer. On the facade, carefully paint out the balcony by taking a guess as to what the building looks like in that area. This step was already done in the 15-Minute Building cheat.

2 Separate the balcony picture into the front and top views, and save each one as a map. Not much of the balcony top is visible, so I've stretched the image to make its proportions match the balcony front.

3 In 3ds Max, create a primitive object a bit larger than the final object. A box works best for the balcony, as it does for most modeling tasks. Create the box in the Top viewport.

4 Make a material with the balcony front map and put it on the box. Adjust the size of the box so the map looks right. That means you need to adjust the box until the map is correct, without any regard for whether the box is the right size.

5 Make a judgement on the number of segments you'll need to model the object. Here we want sufficient segments for the supports and top detail. Collapse the box to an Editable Poly.

6 Go to the Vertex sub-object level, turn on Preserve UVs in the Edit Geometry rollout, and move vertices around to fit the map. You might need to delete polygons or use Extrude or Weld to make the right object shape.

7 Modeling right over the mapping, rather than modeling and applying the mapping later, makes the process much simpler. Here, I've shortened the sides of the balcony to show only half of the map.

8 For the balcony top, select the top polygons and apply a UVW Map modifier to give that area its own Planar mapping, and collapse the stack. Apply a material with the balcony top map to the polygons, and extrude them down.

9 Add a shadow-casting light, and you have an interesting detail that gives a lot of depth with minimal effort.

Modeling from a plan

A FLOOR PLAN can be helpful as a guide when creating a building or a design. But contrary to popular belief, it's not just a matter of importing the plan and extruding it. Most plans aren't built for easy extrusion; even if you try to weld the vertices together, you'll usually end up with a mess.

When you redraw the plan with your own lines, creating a building from a plan goes from a long nightmare to a quick, beautiful dream.

1 Use File > Import to bring in the plan in DXF, DWG, or other file format. Turn on 3D Snap and right-click it to turn on the Vertex option. Use Line to draw the outer wall by snapping to vertices on the plan. Set Steps on the Interpolation rollout to 0, and use Refine at the Vertex level to add any needed vertices on rounded areas.

2 At the Spline level, use Outline to create another spline to define the inner wall, and add more vertices at the corners to line up horizontally and vertically. Apply a CrossSection modifier to connect the two splines together with segments. By creating the shape this way, you won't create interior polygons when you extrude.

3 Before extruding the plan, you'll need maps to guide the modeling process, one for each part of the building. Since this is a new building, I've drawn maps in Photoshop by pasting together brick textures and a few other items borrowed from photographs of similar buildings. The maps shown are for the side, turret, and front, respectively.

4 Apply a Surface modifier to the spline. Set Steps to 0, and turn on Flip Normals if necessary to make the faces visible. Collapse to an Editable Poly, and at the Polygon level, select all faces and Extrude them to create the height.

5 Place each map on the building (see the Multiple Maps cheat in the Materials and Mapping chapter). Then use Connect to make edge lines using the 15-Minute Building technique.

6 At the Vertex sub-object level, turn on Preserve UVs and move vertices to line up edges with windows and other elements. When working with corner areas like the turret, use all your viewports to help you select the correct vertices.

7 Instead of extruding the windows, you can create actual holes for them. Select the window polygons on both the inner and outer walls, and click Bridge. This tool deletes the polygons and creates new polygons to connect them.

8 Create long, thin boxes to replace the window mullions. Create a separate plane almost as large as the building facade, place it behind the mullions to represent the window panes, and apply a reflective material to it.

9 Create the roof in the same way, using the maps as guides to horizontal and vertical lines. You can also extrude other detail on the outside of the building, such as the blocks below the windows.

Curvy curtain

THE NURBS MODELING method uses curves to define a surface, as opposed to polygons. While NURBS caused a sensation when they were first included in 3ds Max back in the 1990s, nowadays they're mainly used for specialty modeling of softly curved surfaces. Here, NURBS make an easy, convincing curtain out of a handful of curves.

When making a surface with draping folds, it's important to draw each curve separately. While you could copy a single curve and scale each copy, the final model would have a stiff, computer-generated appearance. When you draw each curve separately, the inevitable differences between each one will result in subtle variations over the length of the curtain, making it look more realistic.

1 On the Create panel, choose Shapes, and pick NURBS Curve from the dropdown menu. Click Point Curve, and create a wavy curve in the Top viewport to set the shape for the top of the curtain. Right-click to end the curve.

2 Create more NURBS Point Curves in the Top viewport to set the shapes at different vertical levels along the curtain's length. Make sure each curve has the same number of points and the same pattern of peaks and valleys. You can scale a curve after creating it, or edit points on the Modify panel at the Point sub-object level.

3 In the Front viewport, move each curve to correspond to its vertical position along the length of the curtain.

4 In the Top viewport, move the curves so they are on top of one another.

5 In the Front viewport, select the curve at the top of the curtain. On the Modify panel, in the General rollout, click Attach. Click each curve in descending order.

6 On the Modify panel, in the Create Surfaces rollout, click ULoft. Click the top curve, then click each curve in succession to create the curtain surface. Right-click to complete creation of the loft.

7 The ULoft might be inside-out. Choose the Surface sub-object, and click the Surface itself to select it. In the Surface Common rollout, toggle the Flip Normals checkbox to make sure the curtain is facing the right way.

8 To remove the curvy effect at the curtain's middle, increase the tension on that curve. At the Surface sub-object level, select the surface itself, then select the curve from the list in the ULoft Surface rollout. Increase Tension parameter to 20 or 50. Do the same with the last curve to firm up the curtain at the bottom.

9 You can move or scale any of the curves to change the shape of the curtain. At the Curve sub-object level, select any curve and change it to create different types of curtains.

BYO weapon

THE GAME STARTS in an hour, and you want to bring a custom weapon. What's a modeler to do?

This speed-modeling technique starts with a plane rather than a box, cutting in half the number of vertices you need to deal with in the first phase of modeling. The Shell modifier makes it 3D. After that, all you need is a bit of shaping and a texture, and you're good to go.

1 Create a plane the same size as the reference image, with sufficient detail to model the major shapes of the object. Use Alt X to make the plane see-through so you can see the reference.

2 Convert the plane to an Editable Poly. Move the plane's vertices to fit the major parts of the object. As necessary, use Connect to create more edges, weld vertices together, and create new edges between vertices.

3 At the polygon sub-object level, delete all the polygons that do not form parts of the object.

4 Apply the Shell modifier to the object to give it some thickness. Collapse the object and convert it to an Editable Poly, and shape the object a bit more where needed.

5 Pull out a few edges and scale down some of the polygons, and you have the basic weapon shape. Apply TurboSmooth, and set the Crease value at the Editable Poly's Edge sub-object level to 1.0 for edges that need to keep their shape. With the reference image as the texture map, you have a weapon that isn't perfect in every detail, but is good enough to get you in the game.


Excerpted from HOW TO cheat IN 3ds Max 2011 by Michele Bousquet Copyright © 2011 by ELSEVIER INC. . Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

How to Cheat in 3ds Max 2011 TOC

Graphite tools (ribbon)

  1. Modeling
  2. Character Modeling
  3. Materials & Mapping
  4. Lighting
  5. Shadows
  6. Reflection
  7. Glass
  8. Animation
  9. Character Animation
  10. Rendering
  11. Wiring & Scripting
  12. Special Effects




Logo Treatments chapter to be retired to the website. A few of the cheats might be portable to other chapters.

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