3D Studio Max

3D Studio Max (sometimes called 3ds Max or just MAX) is a 3-dimensional vector graphics and animation program, written by Autodesk Media & Entertainment (formerly known as Discreet and Kinetix). It was developed as a successor to 3D Studio for DOS, but for the Win32 platform. Kinetix was later merged with Autodesk's latest acquisition, Discreet Logic. The current version of 3DS Max as of November 2004 is 7.



3D Studio Max v6 Logo
3D Studio Max v6 Logo

3ds Max is one of the most widely-used 3D software packages today for several reasons, such as its long heritage on the Microsoft Windows platform, its powerful editing capabilities and its ubiquitous plugin architecture. While still supplying most of the needed tools out-of-the-box, there is a plethora of plugins available.

Some previous versions required a special copy prevention device (a dongle) to be plugged into the parallel port while the program was run. Due to the risk of people sharing the dongle (if the people don't use the program at the same time), a software copy prevention method was implemented instead. Registration involving personal information such as name, address and e-mail address is now required.

Currently 3ds Max has a lot of advanced features. Since version 7.0, advanced texturing tools, such as a built-in normal map generator and renderer, have been included to enhance the game design capabilities of the application. Since version 6.0, Mental Ray is included. This is the second advanced renderer included in 3ds Max. Since version 5.0, 3DS Max has had advanced lighting. Advanced lighting included Radiosity and Light Tracer. These were very user-friendly and not so far behind professional rendering systems such as finalRender, Brazil r/s or V-ray.

3D Studio also includes Havok Reactor 2.0. This is a very powerful solution for realistic dynamic simulation (also used in many games such as Half-life 2, Max Payne 2 and Tribes: Vengeance).

Besides the powerful tools, 3ds Max has an intuitive user interface that is relatively easy to use, featuring a stack-based modifier architecture.

Modeling Methods

There are 5 basic modeling methods:

  • Modeling with primitives
  • Surface tool
  • Polygon modelling

Modeling with primitives

This is a basic method, in which one models something using only boxes, spheres, cones, cylinders and other predefined objects. One may also apply boolean operations, including subtract, cut and connect. For example, one can make two spheres which will work as blobs that will connect with each other. This is called "blob-mesh modeling," or "balloon modeling."

List of Primitives

Standard Primitives

The Standard Primitives are: Box, Sphere, Cylinder, Torus, Teapot, Cone, Geosphere, Tube, Pyramid, and Plane.

Extended Primitives

The Extended Primitives are Hedra, ChamferBox, OilTank, Spindle, Gengon, RingWave, Prism, Torus knot, ChamferCyl, Capsule, L-Ext, C-Ext, and Hose.


NURMS stands for Non-Uniformal Rational MeshSmooth.

This is the 3ds Max implementation of subdivision surface modelling, a methodology that is rapidly displacing NURBS modeling as the methodology of choice for both low- and high-polygon modelling. Max implements NURMS as a modifier, to be applied to a polygon or mesh object. After creating a rough-edged model (including all the desired detail) with polygons, Meshsmooth (the modifier containing NURMS) is applied. An advantage of NURMS Meshsmooth is that every vertex and edge has its own weight. The numeric value, weight, determines how strongly each vertex/edge will influence the final shape.

NURMS modeling is less complicated than spline-based modeling, and serves the needs of less professional users very well, yet it provides excellent scalability and control for skilled and experienced artists.

In older versions, Max required the user to smooth the whole mesh to which the Meshsmooth modifier was applied, or to pass the portion to be applied upward, through the modifier stack. With the addition of the Sub-D tools to the package, the capability to edit smaller portions of a model's smoothing, with the aim of allowing greater control of the the level of detail across different parts of a complicated model. Sub-D tools are probably based on Maya's Subdivision Surface object.

Surface tool

Surface tool was originally a plugin, but Kinetix bought it for version 3.0. The surface tool is for creating common 3ds max's splines, and then applying a modifier called "surface." This modifier makes a surface from every 3 or 4 vertices in a grid.


NURBS stands for Non-Uniformal Rational B-Spline.


Scanline rendering is 3ds Max's default. Max's scanline renderer is fairly robust compared to many similar packages' out-of-box offerings (Lightwave's default renderer being one exception). While several advanced features have been piggy-backed onto the scanliner over the years, such as global illumination, radiosity and ray tracing, advanced users may wish to consider using one of the many 3rd-party renderers available for Max, or make use of the somewhat limited connection to mental ray. A 3rd-party connection tool to Renderman pipelines is also available for those that need to integrate Max into Renderman shops. mental ray (written in non-capital) is integrated to the later versions of 3dsmax, and is a powerful rendering tool, with bucket rendering, what distributes the rendering burden between several computers more efficiently, and many hundreds of differents tools which allow a myriad of effects to be created with relative ease. It also counts with global Illumination, that is an automated calculation of all the behaiviour (reflection and radiosity) of the current scene. Such efect can lead into grainy-looking scenes, so actvation of Final gather (which extends the render time significativelly) is advised.

Polygon modelling

Polygon modelling is more common with game design than any other technique. Usually, the modeller begins with one of the 3ds max primitives, and using such tools as bevel, extrude, and polygon cut, adds detail to and refines the model. This technique is most often used for game design, as the very specific control over individual polygons allows for extreme optimization.

Particle systems

3ds max allows the user to create an object called a particle emitter which allows the user to treat all the particles as a group.

A particle emitter is an object in a 3D modelling program which emits objects that are treated as a group. As of version 7, there are 7 3ds max particle emitters. The 7 3DS Max particle emitters are PF Source, Spray, Snow, Blizzard, PArray, PCloud, and Super Spray. The most flexible of these particle systems is PF Source, which makes use of a technology called particle flow.


Max Script

Is a built-in script similar to C++ programming language, which is useful for developing script using 3D Studio Max objects.

Character Studio

Character studio is an application integrated in 3D Studio Max helping user to create and animate virtual characters.

See also

External links

fr:3D Studio Max it:3D Studio Max nl:3D Studio MAX ja:3ds max pl:3D Studio Max zh:3D Studio MAX sv:3D Studio Max


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