Autodesk 3ds Max: The 3D universe in your hands

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Once upon a time the real and digital world had very distinctive appearances. The real world was colored and three-dimensional and the digital world was two-dimensional and black & white. As computers evolved, the digital world became colored and also three-dimensional.  So now we have 3D games, 3D digital art, 3D movies and God knows what else. For a regular person creating 3D content might resemble somewhat to magic, and maybe this belief wasn’t too far from reality at the beginnings of 3D graphics. However, the need to increase 3D modeling productivity resulted in the continuous efforts of software developers to create programs that are both easy to use and efficient.

One of the top applications designed for three-dimensional modeling, animation and rendering is Autodesk 3ds Max, a highly-evolved program using the latest technologies that made it the industry leader in present times.

Autodesk 3ds Max Interface

Installation & Requirements

Unlike the generic swift install processes we are used to, 3D modeling programs don’t fall into that category. It’s not a surprise tough as 3D graphics will always require a lot of system resources and storage space. Besides the rather long wait (which may differ based on your computer’s performance) the installation is easy enough for pretty much any type of user.

However, the slow install process should be the least of your worries. Just as expected, Autodesk 3ds Max has high standards when it comes to system requirements so be sure to check them out on the program’s official website because they vary based on both computer type and operating system (namely Windows and Mac OS X).

Interface

The interface might be intimidating for novice users: an apparently endless clutter of hard to understand options and tools. This is not the case if you’ve previously seen at least a 2D-graphics program, because the layouts tend to be organized in a similar manner.

The top menu contains all the basic file operations, a Search Bar, Help and a few other options. Below lies the main menu which lists all the main categories including the basic ones such as Edit, Tools, Group, Views and Create. Following the standard interface organization, from under the main menu we can easily access a large number of commonly used functions, for example: selection and transformation tools, the Views menu, layer management and more.

The right sidebar menu is the place from where you can quickly start to create and edit shapes, add motion and lights, set up the display and a bunch of other useful functions.

After this quick analyze of the program’s interface, hopefully its appearance will start to make some sense. Nevertheless, 3D-graphics is not something you can learn overnight so reading documentation and studying the program itself  is the only way you will fully realize the capabilities of Autodesk 3ds Max.

The good news is, after you have a basic understanding of the software, it is highly recommended to check out the “Customize” option, because each individual is using Autodesk 3ds Max for its own purposes and it’s most likely that the functions displayed by default will not suit your needs.

Pros

– Industry-standard application with powerful modeling capabilities.

– Customizable layout.

– Thanks to the program’s popularity there are many tutorials roaming the Internet.

– Great support, containing extended documentation and an official forum.

– A free version of the program is available for students and teachers that join the Education Community.

Cons

– Extremely resource consuming.

– The license, currently priced at 3500$ is out of reach for most small companies and individuals.

Alternatives

People usually consider alternatives for Autodesk 3ds Max for two reasons: the first is that they find the program bloated with too many features and the second is the high-priced license that is definitely a turn off especially for small businesses and individuals.

Fear not, as the competition has done its job and provided a number of free similar software such as Blender, an open-source 3D content creation suite, available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux altogether. Another similar free application is Google Sketchup an easy and intuitive 3D modeling program for Windows and Mac that also has a commercial sibling, Google Sketchup Pro with much more affordable pricings than our software in question.

Other popular commercial alternatives are Autodesk Maya and Cinema 4D, a full-featured 3D modeling software for Windows and Mac with a number of versions and license costs designed for specific purposes.

Conclusion

The use of Autodesk 3ds Max for creation of many popular video games and movies such as World of Warcraft, Need for Speed, Call of Duty, Avatar, X-Men and Transformers is enough proof of the program’s importance in production of 3D graphics and animation. Derived from the previous fact, it’s logical that Autodesk 3ds Max is the first choice to consider if you wish to learn three-dimensional graphics as it remains a rock-solid giant in the related industry in spite of the intense competition.