Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Will Autodesk kill 3ds max next?

There have been so many extensive forum threads on this topic over the last year since Autodesk did away with SoftImage. A lot of warnings to 3ds Max users to choose another software program fast, abandon Autodesk, fear for your life, start learning Maya, etc. Max was next on the chopping block. The SoftImage users were a dedicated bunch, though statistically shrinking, but imagine how you'd feel if your career software package hit its end-of-life cycle? I thought these insights from the Digital Tutors Blog were very good and the subsequent comments insightful.
Read it here

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Max 2015 vanishing icons

This bug has been bothering me since day 1, where sometimes the toolbar icons (particularly drop-down lists) or even parts of the UI vanish while working. Research has told me that this is because max 2015 is using hardware acceleration to draw the UI and in complicated scenes or when lots of graphic's intensive resources are being called up, some parts of the UI don't get completely redrawn.
Either way, an interesting workaround was mentioned on one of the forums (sorry, I don't remember the user). Pressing the "M" key to quickly toggle the Materials Editor will force a redraw of the icons and UI. Seems to be working so far. Thanks! (whoever you were).

Nitrous Soft Shadows & Shadow Map Resolution

Call me an idiot if you like, but when trying to achieve soft shadows from a Nitrous display, I just couldn't get it to work. Changing the Shadow Map size on the lights had no effect, nor increasing the Lighting and Shadows Quality slider in the Viewport Configs. Well, a little research and it turns out it's been there for a while if you try taking the Quality slider DOWN to the left. I didn't think to keep setting the quality of my viewport shadows down to lower and lower settings, but 2nd from the left is "Point Lights/Soft-Edged Shadows". Not sure how this affects other parts of the viewport quality but it might be handy on occasion.

You can use this feature along with a MaxScript command (available since 2014) that controls the shadow map resolution used to display shadows in the Nitrous viewports. Shadow Map size for lights ( you must have physical lights in the scene, not the default lights) can be set with a simple MaxScript command referring to the Nitrous Graphics Manager core interface. The default Shadow map size used by Nitrous is 512 but you can raise or lower this to your liking to affect the crispness of the viewport shadows. Use the following MaxScript command, typed into the Listener (w/o quotes of course):  "NitrousGraphicsManager.ShadowmapSizeLimit = 1024"  
(or whatever size you like, but not likely above 4096 which is the typical high end texture size limit for graphics cards). Keep in mind that though maxScript expects this number to be an integer value, it's probably a good idea to keep it power of 2.

Viewport Mouse Focus & Focal Point Sampling

There's been a feature out in max since 2013 called "AutoFocus Viewport" that allows you to maximize a viewport from a multi-view display, based on the current location of your mouse (with the hot key for maximizing a viewport (Alt+W)). In other words, you can maximize a viewport simply based on whether your mouse cursor is currently in that viewport. Previously you had to R-Click to activate a viewport before maximizing. This functionality can be enabled/disabled from the "Mouse" tab of the "Customize UI" options.The "Mouse" tab was implemented in release 2013 and also contains some other features including some old favorites that used to be in the "Viewport" tab of the "Preferences" options.

There have been some additional issues reported by users related to a new 2015 viewport navigation feature (not documented very well IMO) to resolve some older viewport navigation complaints. Any long time user is familiar with max's perspective view problem zooming and panning in large scenes. For example, after a lot of zooming in to an object, the increment of zoom and pan becomes very small and you are forced to zoom extents to re-establish an appropriate increment based on your current view/proximity. "Viewport Focal Point Sampling" was implemented to try and fix this, but apparently didn't work very well. You can follow some of the threads about this here: Focal point Sampling Issues. It is reportedly fixed in Serve Pack 3, though one of the user comments on the SP 3 release states that it is not fixed. SP3 is included in Extension 2 for subscription user and can also be downloaded here available from here: