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AE Interoperability

The 3ds Max 2012 Subscription Advantage Pack was recently released. Features include iray 2.0, better SDK support, and a render pass system called State Sets which plays well with Photoshop and After Effects CS4 and CS5. This article will focus on the After Effects interoperability features provided by the State Sets interface. The interoperability features support the transfer of standard 3ds Max Cameras, Lights, Planes (as Solids in AE), Helpers (as Null objects in AE), and footage rendered via the State Sets interface.

3ds max 2012 Service Pack 1 is Live

The 3ds Max 2012 Service Pack 1 is now live. Go install it, all ye 3ds Max users:

Service Pack 1 includes numerous performance and stability fixes. The readme (the PDF listed in the pages above) lists a tremendous number of fixes for 2012. Most of the fixes focus on CAT and the Nitrous Viewport, but the Unwrap UVW modifier also got a few boosts. According to the readme file, the Unwrap UVW modifier received a few optimizations that "greatly increased performance" - and I'll agree, it's noticeable. The window no longer scootches along with a trail of ghosts behind it.

Careful when upgrading because there are some issues with 3ds Max 2012 Service Pack 1. If you're in the middle of a project, you may want to finish it before upgrading. For example, our CAT rig for the raptor now behaves differently and some animation layers have been affected negatively. The toes in our animation layers moved below the foot and scaling the chest bone now scales all children bones.

That said, this 3ds Max 2012 service pack comes a mere 2 months after release. Must have been some long hours for the devs... For the full list of changes, check out the readme in the links above, or see the table below.

Update in the works

On June 20th, Ken Pimentel announced another set of Hot Fixes in the works that will address more issues related to CAT as well as Service Pack 2. No release date on either of these upcoming fixes has been scheduled, but know that work continues. If you've found a bug in 3ds Max or any of its components, you can manually report the bug here: 3ds Max Defect Submission Form. The easier it is for the QA department to reproduce the bug, the more likely it'll be addressed, so be as specific as you can.

ZBrush Insufficient Memory Error

The dreaded ZBrush memory error reared its ugly head as I was trying to create a 4096x4096 adaptive displacement and adaptive normal map for the velociraptor model.

Memory Error windows caused by insufficient memory and possible crash while creating a normal map

ZBrush Memory Error dialogues crashing the scene.

At the highest subdivision, the raptor model reached 13.4 million points. While taxing to the system, ZBrush handled sculpting at the highest subdivision with ease. Our system is pretty beastly and has more RAM than the current 32-bit version of ZBrush can use, so I was a bit confused to see the MEMORY ERROR dialogue appear. Instead of abandoning my work and reducing the model complexity, I decided to consult The Internet.

As it turns out, insufficient memory errors can be caused by numerous issues which all have their own fixes. For reference, our machine was running Windows 7 64-bit SP1 and had plenty of RAM.

Retopology Tools

With 3ds Max 2012, users can retopologize a mesh with no additional plugins or scripts. In this article, I'll highlight the best retopology tools in 3ds Max and their uses. The workflow isn't the greatest and, as far as I know, the tools can't be assigned to hotkeys, but they can be used to retopologize a mesh with 3ds Max out of the box. In order to use the retopology tools in 3ds max 2012, you'll need to use the graphite modeling tools in the ribbon. If the ribbon does not appear, you can reveal the ribbon using Customize Menu > Show UI > Show Ribbon.

Velociraptor, Part 1

We started working on a "velociraptor" model the other day. I put quotes around the name because it's the Jurassic Park version of a velociraptor - large and featherless. Normal velociraptors, on the other hand, are turkey sized and are believed to have had feathers.

I decided to start the model in ZBrush, using ZSpheres to rough out the bone structure and ZSketch to give the model volume and muscle mass before the initial sculpting.

ZSphere setup of our velociraptor

ZSphere Pose

ZSphere setup of our velociraptor

ZSpheres to define volume

Initial sculpting of our velociraptor

First sculpting pass

Vote for 3ds Max Features

If you're a 3ds Max 2012 (or any version) user and haven't cast your vote in the AutoDesk Community Wishlist for 3ds Max, do so now! The 3ds Max development team is keeping a close eye on all the feature requests, enhancements, bugs/annoyances, and default setting suggestions that users are providing.

Creating Buoyancy without Reactor

Now that I've shown you Flex can be used to simulate water ripples, you may be wondering about the other part of reactor water simulation in 3ds Max 2012: buoyancy. Buoyancy, which causes objects to float on water, is a little trickier now that we don't have Reactor. To accomplish this, we'll have to use a script controller for position and rotation. Fortunately for us, Shawn Lewis over at Script Spot, released a handy little MaxScript called Follow Surface which allows us to make objects float on the water with very little work. I've tested this script in 3ds Max 2012 and it works flawlessly.

Simulate Water with Flex in 3ds Max 2012

Water Ripples using Flex in 3ds Max 2012

Water Ripples using Flex

With Reactor removed from 3ds Max 2012, users will now need to explore other means of animating physical simulations. This tutorial will cover replacing Reactor's water simulation using Flex, a tool already available in 3ds Max. While you could simulate general water movement or ripples using the Ripple modifier or the Waves Standard Map applied to a Displacement modifier, these options require manual animation and can't be affected by dynamic collisions. Flex, which you may have used to add jiggle to fat characters, simulates soft-body dynamics using springs. It's a very powerful modifier which can be affected by forces and deflectors to simulate cloth, rope, water, and other soft-body dynamics.

3ds Max 2012: Farewell Reactor

Having recently upgraded from 3ds Max 2011 to 3ds Max 2012, I've been busy learning how to use some of the shiny new features. Because of my soft spot for physics engines, I was excited to hear about MassFX for 3ds Max. Sadly, Autodesk also removed Reactor, a physics engine that had been in 3ds Max for years. Unlike Reactor, MassFX does not simulate soft-body dynamics, cloth, water, ragdolls, etc. It only simulates rigid bodies!