For my latest blog I thought I'd compile a short guide and explanation of 3ds Max shortcut keys and some suggested settings for the new or occasional user of 3ds Max Design to get a suitable rendered output.
With the advent of Autodesk Suites, many of these include 3ds Max Design. 3ds Max Design is a program to show off your idea or concept using world class rendering and animation tools. It also has a very powerful modelling engine, though through Suite workflow processes one can get an Inventor or Revit Model seamlessly into the environment with all the geometry, material shaders and lighting intact.
I know in theory you should just be able to hit the render button and get a perfect image, right? Well possibly yes, but as I say on my Max training courses there is no right answer in Max, you can spend days fiddling with lights and textures before an acceptable answer is achieved. The problem though is that Max is a HUGE product (understatement of the year!) and despite some similar looking buttons, Max is quite removed in look from AutoCAD, Revit or the Inventor products.
However by knowing a few shortcuts and a few settings to enter, you can get a pretty good result if you are lucky and you are careful which buttons to press. Whilst the following tips are no substitute for a training course, they will hopefully take you in the right direction for a professional looking output.
H - Select Object by name - Opens dialogue to list all Max object types, lists can be filtered by switching off 3d objects (geometry) 2d objects (shapes) and Lights etc.
Position of button on max menu (or use shortcut)
Spacebar - Locks object Selections - This is a very useful toggle to lock your selection when for example you wish to do a number of transform operations like Move or Rotate (without selecting something else by accident!)
Position of button on max menu (or use shortcut)
Materials and Textures
M - Material Editor - Initiates the Paint Palette environment in Max. Assign and edit materials here. A whole book could be written on this function by itself!
O - Material Map Browser - Available when the editor is active. Initiates a browser for the loading of inbuilt and custom materials that be assigned to objects.
N - Material Navigator Window - Available when the editor is active. Dynamic Zoom like function to help you quickly find and work on certain material elements within the editor layout workspace.
P - Material Editor Parameters - Available when the editor is active. Initiates a properties style dialogue to adjust texture parameters such as scaling or general parameters of materials.
F9 - Quick Render - Initiates a window with a rendered image frame. Options to render a whole or partial view, save the image to a preferred format and compare and contrast options with previous renders. You can also to an extent change qualities of reflection, refractions and global illumination. (indirect lighting)
F10 - Render Setup Options - Initiates dialogue to set the extent of render, stills or animations, size of output, direct and indirect illumination and file outputs. (NB. If you are a new user and have any doubts leave things you don't understand alone! Or attend a training course and your instructor will guide you through the alarming collection of buttons and settings of Max, it's a minefield out there!) The function that is most useful is the ability to specify what format of image you require and its location. You can also choose an alternate renderer, should you feel the Mental Ray engine is not sufficient or delivering an image style that you want.
8 - Environment and Exposure Controls - Suggested environment for the Mental Ray renderer is the Mental Ray sky (this comes across if you use the suite workflows from other Autodesk products).
With regards to exposure settings.
If you are using mr sky and sun I would strongly suggest use the mr exposure tool and set the EV value to the following..
For external renders :
Set EV to 14-16 (dependant on geometry, sun orientation and individual preferences)
For internal renders:
Set EV to around 9 (dependant on geometry, sun orientation and individual preferences)
This generic EV value can be found in other rendering products like AutoCAD and Revit and you'll find 3ds max Design uses similar settings. Be aware though adjusting elements like 'Final Gather' may requiring further 'tweaking' of the EV value.
If you are not using Photometric lights (just using 'Standard Lighting') and no Daylight system is required, you may be best to use no exposure settings and then just adjust the lighting and shadow settings manually. (ie set exposure to no exposure).
Standard render using scanline renderer and the standard 'skylight'
This tends to be useful for 'abstract' images or occasional rendering of parts for product catalogues etc..
This concludes my little quick whistlestop 3ds max guide. Obviously I cannot cover everything in a simple document like this but hopefully it provides a little insight on some of the more critical functions of Max for the occasional user who has inherited the Max software from the suite. If you find 3ds Max too much, then you can always get some kind of result from your native application render or consider Autodesk Showcase for a less complicated environment which can be rewarding to an ocasional user for needs to deliver impressive visualisation results.