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3ds Max Tips and Tricks
Posted March 29 3:53 PM by Kelly Murdock
Kevin Booth presented a session on Thursday titled, “3ds Max Tips and Tricks.” My interview with Autodesk ran late so I missed the start of this session, but I was able to glean some worthwhile tips from the portion of the session that I saw.

Using Ambient Occlusion Maps

Kevin showed how you can bake in ambient occlusion effects into the diffuse texture map. With the ambient occlusion map applied to an asset, the render engine doesn’t need to calculate the light effects. Using the Render to Texture dialog box, you can create an ambient occlusion map and bake it into the diffuse map. A blur can then be applied to smooth the discontinuities.

The ambient occlusion map can also be used as a grime layer on an object. To do this, simply add a Blend material to the object that includes both shiny and dull maps. The ambient occlusion map can then be added as a mask between the two blend maps. This causes the shiny areas of the object to be located in the crevices and indentations of the object where the isn’t likely to be any wear, but the areas that aren’t occluded will appear dull.

Mapping a Hand

The next tip that Kevin showed was how to pelt map a hand so it retains its basic shape. When mapping a hand, you should first start with the fingers and apply a pelt mapping to a single finger. The resulting mapping can then be dragged from the Modifier Stack and dropped on the other fingers.

When pelt mapping the rest of the hand, it is best to divide the hand in two with an upper and lower halves. Using the point to point seams, divide the two and select one half. Then apply a pelt mapping and stretch the vertices. Typically, when pelt mapping all the edge vertices are spaced out around the stretcher causing the hand to stretch and distort. But, if you select the Snap to Seams option in the Pelt Map Parameters dialog box, then the Stretcher aligns to the seams, which are shaped like the hand. You can then scale up the hand-shaped Stretcher and do a simulate pelt operation to stretch out the texture within the expanded hand shape.

Once the hand is stretched into a pelt, you can use the Relax buttons to smooth the constrained vertices. By enabling the Show Edge Distortion option in the Display menu, you can view which edges are distorted by the current mapping.

Adding Bones to Cloth

The final trick showed how cloth simulations could be better controlled using some simple bones and the Skin Wrap modifier. For this demo, Kevin added a cloth robe to an animated fighting character, but the simulation caused the robe to bunch up and distort. To add more stiffness and control to the robe, Kevin added several rows of bones that ran along the length of the robe. Spline IK was then applied on each of the vertical bone rows. The first bone in each chain was position constrained to the shoulder and the Skin Wrap modifier was used between the bone chains and the cloth. The resulting motions were much more realistic and fluid.

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