Design Visualization

First Looks:Design Extension for 3ds max

30 Apr, 2003 By: Ron LaFon Cadalyst

Design visualization tools for 3ds max.

3DS Max Design Extension
Design visualization for 3ds max

pros: DWG linking; lighting; panorama exporter.
cons: None significant.
price: Free for 3ds max subscribers


When Discreet's 3ds max and Autodesk VIZ diverged as products, 3ds max evolved its core modeling, animation, and rendering features with additional capabilities specific to game design and film and video effects while VIZ offered AEC-oriented features. This left many users facing a dilemma-some who produced architectural designs also needed more sophisticated animation and visualization tools, while many 3ds max users needed the convenience of easily creating such entities such as walls, doors, and windows for their animations. Because neither application is inexpensive, getting all these features turned into a costly affair when you had to buy both packages.

With the release of the Design Extension for 3ds max, virtually all the specialized design functionality in Autodesk VIZ 4 is now available from Discreet for 3ds max 5 users. Discreet extensions are downloadable, modular enhancements to 3ds max available exclusively to subscription members-they are not available independently. Some extensions enhance existing features, and others add one or more new features to 3ds max.

Figure 1. From 3ds max, you activate the Design Extension from an integrated pull-down menu.
Information on 3ds max subscriptions is available on the Discreet Web site and from authorized Discreet resellers. There are some restrictions to the annual subscriptions, so be sure you qualify. Annual subscriptions for 3ds max are currently $390 per year for new subscribers and $331 per year for renewals. They include the latest product updates, fixes, new extension software, and tutorials.

The Design Extension for 3ds max includes the DWG Linking feature found in VIZ, which allows 3ds max users to easily access 3D design data created with any DWG-based CAD application such as AutoCAD and Autodesk Architectural Desktop.

You can easily create and modify architectural objects such as as walls, doors, windows, stairs, and railings. You can also add a variety of realistic 3D vegetation to scenes by parametrically controlling the appearance of the included thirteen plant species.

Figure 2. Design Extension’s Wall dialog box.
Combine this with third-party content providers to cover a broad range of landscape and interior planting needs.

Other features include the ability to create specialized assemblies that represent the geometry, mechanics, and photometric performance of any lighting fixture (luminaires). A two-point perspective camera correction modifier automatically generates a two-point perspective view from any camera for maintaining parallel vertical lines in what is a classic representation for architectural rendering. Region Net Render enhances productivity by using the 3ds max network rendering system to create single-frame high-resolution images.

Finally, the Design Extension for 3ds max incorporates a panorama exporter that generates 3608 panoramic renderings suitable for interactive presentations using Apple QuickTime VR or other panoramic browsers.

Discreet also recently released the Shockwave 3D Extension, which gives access to the same Shockwave 3D exporter previously found only in Discreet plasma-making it easy to output 3D designs and animations to the Shockwave 3D format without leaving 3ds max. This extension also provides direct connectivity with Macromedia Flash and Director.

I can't help but wonder about the continued viability of Autodesk VIZ as a separate product now that most of its functionality is available as an add-on for 3ds max, although Autodesk has not mentioned any plans to discontinue VIZ or incorporate it into other applications. It'll be interesting to see what happens, and in the meantime, there are sure to be many delighted 3ds max customers who can now access architectural design features from within their favored application.

About the Author: Ron LaFon

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