• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint
Share this Page URL



Hello, fellow artists, and welcome to this installment of the Inside series. It occurs to me as I write this introduction that introductions are certainly in order for this book in particular. For one thing, Discreet has changed the name of its flagship 3D application from 3D Studio MAX to a much shorter 3ds max for this fourth and latest incarnation. Thank you, Discreet—the shorter, sleeker name befits the faster, more streamlined version of the tool that so many of us work with.

But there are many more introductions to be made. With this new edition of Inside 3ds max 4, New Riders Publishing decided to make some big changes, starting with a new editor—or, rather, consulting editor.

When New Riders first contacted me about being involved in this project, they said they wanted a fresh, new approach to the series that would appeal specifically to intermediate and advanced users. Having read many of the past volumes as well as other works on the subject, I suggested that we put together a book that not only covered the many new features in 3ds max 4 but also focused on real-world use of the tool in production. I stressed that if it were up to me, I would want to read only books by authors who worked full-time in their respective industries as hands-on artists and technical directors. I felt that if this book was to target intermediate and advanced artists, it had to be written by professionals in the field who work day in and day out with the tool in production. These artists could bring a much-needed insight to the subject that results only from working in a production environment. Although this had, in fact, been done to some degree in previous books, many of my peers and I felt that there was a need for a book authored entirely by production artists focusing directly on addressing the issues of the production world.

I also felt that the book should try to mirror as closely as was feasible a real-world production workflow (or pipeline, for those of you who like catch phrases), which led to the suggestion of a title change from Inside 3ds max 4 to In-Production 3ds max 4. Finally, I felt that the book needed to focus on two of the main industries using max—namely, broadcast/film and games/interactive. To my surprise, the response from New Riders was, “Okay, get started.” (They said “no” to the title change—oh well, four out of five ain’t bad.) Thus began one of the most challenging yet rewarding projects I have had the opportunity to work on.

Introducing a New Focus

So why did we structure the book the way we did? Having taught at both the undergraduate and continuing education levels—and having been a member of the Discreet Training Specialist (DTS) team—I realize that, for many advanced students and professionals in the field, books on this topic are a major resource for the everexpanding technical knowledge required by today’s computer graphics community. Unfortunately for many readers, myself included, all too often the texts available to the public present tutorials and instruction that, although perhaps technically and theoretically sound, are not practically applicable in a production environment. Being active in the broadcast industry, I, as well as many of my colleagues, have been frustrated by the seemingly constant stream of new animators who have been taught impractical 3D techniques and are unclear on how a full production is completed. Therefore, the decision was made to model the structure of the book after the process of the production world.

We also decided to cater to the intermediate to advanced users, for whom there seem to be far fewer useful texts. However, this book is not meant to be a substitute for the manuals that ship with the program. I urge any beginning users to first read the 3ds max 4 user manuals that ship with the product, followed by 3ds max 4 Fundamentals available from New Riders.

With that decided, we realized that to keep the integrity of the work high while keeping the project at a manageable size—and also to meet any hope of a timely completion—we needed to narrow our user focus. It was decided that by concentrating on both the broadcast/film and games/interactive industries, we would be able to provide useful information and insights to not only users in those respective fields, but also hopefully to users in many other industries, such as architecture and design, that could benefit from the techniques covered.

Introducing Some New Authors

Then came the hard part. We found ourselves in a Catch-22 situation that I am sure is familiar to anyone in the education field. We wanted to put together a writing team of respected and accomplished artists working in production who could represent the high-end users of their field. But, of course, the people we were looking for had the least amount of time available because they were busy with production projects.

We wanted to pull together a team of artists spread all over the United States and have them write a book that required them to share files and work as if they were all artists at the same production company. It became obvious that this was going to be a tremendous undertaking—and something that, to my knowledge, had never been done before. Thankfully, despite their busy, often insane, schedules, we were able to put together a team of professionals who were not only really good at what they do, but, more importantly, also excited to take part in this ambitious endeavor.

The next question to be answered was what project the authors should write about. Having so many artists from different companies as authors precluded the idea of using any recently created projects from the real world, such as commercials, films, or games. So, two new projects had to be devised: one for games and interactive projects, and one for broadcast and film.

The project for broadcast and film involves integrating a character and a prop into a live-action video scene. The backplate footage was shot interlaced on DV. Although it’s certainly not the highest-end format for people working in broadcast or film, it was attractive for two reasons. First, it simulates a worst-case scenario for the kind of material that an artist might be handed in production. Second, it is a commonly available format that most readers can conceivably have access to for their own projects. (I imagine that not many users have access to HD cams or film cameras and scanners.) The project takes the reader through the entire production process, from building a character and a vehicle prop to texturing, rigging, lighting, camera matching, rendering, and compositing, with some MAXScript, particle, and animation insights thrown in to round things out. On the gaming side, you will be using different techniques to build, texture, and rig a character, as well as light environments. Production insights will be included for issues such as game-engine exporting.

We realized early on that there would be no way to cover every possible type of project that an artist might encounter and still address issues to the depth that we wanted to. Therefore, you will not find specific chapters on creating space scenes, water scenes, natural disasters, car commercials, or the next greatest real-time strategy game. However, all the concepts and techniques here can definitely play a role in any of these examples.

The authors have aimed to cover the many new features of 3ds max 4 within the context of a real project. Within these pages, you will find many topics that other publications have merely touched on or even ignored. However, you might find that certain other topics or techniques have been seemingly left out. The reason for this is simple: The first mandate given to all the authors was, “If you don’t use it, don’t write it.” Although there are numerous solutions to a given problem in a tool such as 3ds max 4, some are impractical or lack flexibility. This book provides techniques that the authoring artists have found to be the best practical solutions in a production environment. Of course, they are by no means the only solutions in this ever-changing and evolving field of 3D animation. Hopefully these insights will plant the seeds for newer and even better techniques.

How to Use This Book

Because of the nature of the projects covered in this book, many of the topics and exercises can be taxing to your computer. A few recommended hardware minimums should be considered. Although these are merely suggestions, readers with underpowered systems might experience slower-than-desired performance when working in chapters that “push the hardware,” so to speak. Generally, the requirements outlined in the 3ds max 4 installation guide documentation represent a minimum desired configuration.

Suggested hardware configuration includes the following:

  • Dual Pentium III processors, 500MHz or faster

  • 256MB of RAM

  • OpenGL or DirectX accelerated graphics adapter (optionally, a graphics adapter based on the newer Nvidia chipsets that support pixel shading will take advantage of new features covered in Chapter 2, “Changes in Modeling and Materials.”)

  • Network card installed or loopback adapter drivers installed for standalone machines

  • TCP/IP network protocol installed

Before you read through this book and proceed with the exercises, you should be aware of a few things regarding the locations of files on the included CD. Chapter folders for each of the book’s chapters on the CD contain all pertinent files referred to by the authors. Readers should especially note that there are color JPEG versions of all the figure files printed in the book. These should be referred to often because it might be difficult to tell what is going on from a grayscale print. This is especially true for chapters dealing with textures, lighting, rendering, and compositing. Any AVI animation files referred to in a chapter can be found in the respective chapter folder on the CD.

In the case of the backplate footage for the broadcast/film project in Chapter 19, “Camera Matching,” and Chapter 26, “Compositing and Finishing in Combustion,” we have included the sequential targa image files only once because of storage issues. Because we will be referring to this footage in multiple chapters, you will need to refer to the Footage folder on the CD to find the proper files. It is also strongly suggested that you copy this backplate footage to your local hard drive, to improve performance in max when accessing these files.

This book was written using version 4.02 of 3ds max. For users running the original version of 3ds max 4, it is suggested that you update your max installation to version 4.02. This free update is available from the Discreet Web site, at www.discreet.com. The newer point release of 3ds max 4 might be available by the time you read this, and hopefully it will fix bugs or inconsistencies experienced when we authored this book.

As is the case with any undertaking of this nature, New Riders and myself are interested in any suggestions or constructive criticisms that you might have regarding its usefulness to you.

During a conversation on making a living as a 3D artist, a colleague once said to me, “Don’t forget, this is commerce, not art.” This phrase has encapsulated for me the constant struggle between creating quality 3D animations and getting a project done on time and on budget—it’s a struggle faced by working 3D artists everywhere. On behalf of myself, the authors, and the team at New Riders, I hope that you find some useful techniques in this book that will improve your abilities as a 3D artist and that maybe, just maybe, will help you reach that sweet spot between commerce and art.

Kim Lee

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint