Autodesk 3DS Max 2010


Autodesk, USA


Free-form modelling, animation and rendering software.

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LEARN, The Catalogue


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Max is a modelling, animation and rendering package recently acquired and now developed by Autodesk.  It is considered as a standard for 3D modelling and it is certainly one of the most popular. 

Primary functions:

Max's primary functions are visualisation and animation.  Freeform modelling is still carried out in Max by some users despite the fact that other programs (Rhino for example) can do it much better now. 
1.     Materials and visualisation (Rendering) 
2.     Animation  Max is the largest selling 3D computer animation program in the world.  This uses Max's bones and modifiers like wind and gravity.  This includes reactors.
3.     Modelling, massing and form finding One of the concerns with modelling in Max is the lack of accuracy available.  For this reason, the likes of Rhino, SketchUp (which at least has snap functionality) and BIM software are used more readily for final project modelling.

However, perhaps precisely due to these inaccuracies, and general freedom of modelling, Max can be put to good use in form finding and at the conceptual modelling stage.  Common practice is to move the conceptual model out of Max once the form is "found" and into Revit which is included under the umbrella of the Autodesk suite.  Direct, accurate integration of files now between these two Autodesk applications makes transfers such as this a piece of cake.

On the other hand,  Some users of Max find its lack of accuracy and precision in modelling frustrating and counter-productive and for this reason prefer to use BIM/parametric modelling right from the conceptual stage.

Max is a poly-modelling software which means there is a limit to how faceted a surface can be before the program will crash.  Compare this to NURBS modelling in Rhino and spline modelling in Maya.  Especially, in light of the high cool factor associated with parametric modelling, programs such as Max which offer only limited semi-parametric modelling capabilities have fallen out of favour slightly.

In this way, increasingly Max is used only for visualisation and animation tasks for which it is excellently suited.

Compare the use of Rhino to achieve modelling functions.   Also, for visualisation refer to comparable programs such as Maya, Softimage, Lightwave, Cinema4D and Blender.

Primary outputs:

Primary outputs from 3DSMax include:
1.     Print (paper or digital media)
2.     Video
3.     3D Printing


The sheer volume of tasks which Max can accomplish sometimes makes it an intimidating software to get to grips with.  Realistically, it is rare that a user will understand and more specifically use all the functions of the program.  Most users prefer instead to focus on one aspect of the program.

Max uses graphic menus only for inputting data and carrying out tasks.  Although the onscreen tabs introduced in the 2010 version are relatively intuitive, many users prefer the drop-down menus, at least to start of with.  When modelling, the poor snap capabilities in the program are very frustrating.  The program is relatively difficult to get to know, and time consuming to learn.

The program is highly interoperable especially amongst other Autodesk products.


Over and above those strengths and weaknesses listed already, Max at present is:
- Weak when it comes to precise, accurate modelling.  This is a constant criticism of the program, from those in the architecture industry where precision is favoured.

Learning support:

Good software manuals issued by Autodesk can be found in the Library. 

One of the benefits of Max is extensive online video tutorials.  This equips the learner with almost all the skills needed to work the program. 

To get you started Media Systems suggest the following tutorials:
Beginner A: Intro
Beginner B

Beginner C

Intermediate A: Lathe
Intermediate B: Video – realistic leaf
Intermediate C: Modelling and texturing

Advanced A: Unwrapping
Advanced B: Illumination
Advanced C: Coastal terrain


You"ll also likely find interesting:
Max Forum 





External links:



First published Mon. 1 Feb. 2010

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