Working More Efficiently by Streamlining Your Workflow in 3ds Max
As a 3D artist being able to speed up a simple process even just a little can go a long way. Whether you're a beginner or more advanced user chances are you've found a certain workflow formula that you feel most comfortable in.
Every 3D artist has a workflow that is different, but one thing stays the same no matter what, you're workflow must be efficient so you're able to create great work, but also do it in the shortest time possible.
Let's break down some simple ways you can streamline your workflow in 3ds Max, from simple shortcuts to helpful tools there should be a few things you can incorporate into your workflow with this post.
One of the easiest and simplest ways you can speed up your workflow is to use the many different shortcuts and hotkeys in 3ds Max. There is a reason they're called shortcuts. If you were driving along a road you took often and discovered a shortcut that could get you to your desired destination four minutes faster, chances are you'd take it.
Sure, four minutes is not that much, and in the world of 3D a shortcut will probably only mean ten seconds quicker, but when you start cutting ten seconds here and ten seconds there it can start to add up.
A great shortcut you can use is to choose your transformation axis directly in the viewport by pressing Alt+RMB.
This shortcut is the alternative to going up to toolbar and opening the transformation axis dropdown and choosing the axis from there. Sure, this is not a huge time saver, but it still is just a little faster to click directly on your model and use the Alt+RMB button to choose a different axis.
If you've used Maya before, you may before familiar with the "G" shortcut, which reapplies the last command you did. Well in 3ds Max this shortcut is achieved by pressing ; (semi colon). So for example, if you extruded out a face with a height of five, you can press ";" to apply the exact same extrude with the same values again.
You can enable the walk through mode in the viewport by pressing the UP arrow on your keyboard. Walk through mode allows you to basically move your camera like you would if you were playing a first person shooter. This movement is also good for interactively zooming in on an object, so you can get the exact angle you want. To get back to the normal navigation mode you can just press the Right Mouse Button (RMB).
Another method for getting a closer look on your object is to press the "Z" key. This will zoom in on any object you have selected, including single vertices, edges or faces.
Pressing CTRL+C will create a new camera straight from your current camera. For instance, if you're looking through the perspective camera and find that your current angle would be perfect for the shot cam you can press CTRL+C to create a brand new camera from the current view.
If you press "7" on your keyboard it will display the polygon count for your scene in the upper left corner of the viewport. This is great especially when you're trying to stay within a certain polygon count for your objects or scene.
You can edit what polygon count gets displayed in your viewport by either displaying the polygon count for just the selected mesh, the entire scene or the entire scene and a selected mesh. You can find these settings under Views>Viewport Configuration>Statistics.
Renaming Multiple Objects Quickly
When you're working on a model with many different objects you'll eventually need to name them all. For example, maybe you're working on a dinosaur model with large horns lining its back. To stay organized and help any other departments down the pipeline you'll want to name each object accordingly.
In 3ds Max you can do this very easily by using the Rename Objects tool. This tool is located under Tools>Rename Objects... This will open the options for it.
You can select all the objects you want to rename, and enter in a base name, a prefix and suffix as well, and if you want each object to be numbered.
Once you select Rename it will update all the objects you had selected to this new name. So for example, it might be Dinosaur_Horn_1, Dinosaur_Horn_2, and so on. Depending on what you entered into the Base Name, Prefix, etc.
This can be a huge time saver, especially if you have a large number of the same object group, like teeth or a magazine of bullets.
Creating Custom Modifier Sets
As a 3ds Max user you're probably aware of the numerous amount of modifiers that allow you to achieve some rather complex things, whether it's creating cloth or assigning hair and fur to an object. These modifiers all come in handy at some point, but chances are you're not going to use all of them in every project you work on.
You're most likely going to have a few very important modifiers you find yourself using in just about every project. However, having to skim through the numerous other modifiers in the modifier drop down list to find the one modifier you actually need can take time out of the task at hand, whether it's animation, modeling, rigging, etc.
Well, in 3ds Max you can create your own custom modifier set with your most used modifiers at easy visibility and reach.
To do this, select the Configure Modifier Sets icon within the Modify panel and then select Configure Modifier Sets.
This will open up the Modifier Sets options. To start creating your own modifier set you can simply begin editing any of them, and this will create a blank name space under Sets:
You can then name it whatever you like and adjust things like the number of buttons you want visible.
To change what modifier is assigned to each button simply drag a modifier from the Modifiers list onto one of the buttons, and this will switch it out for that new modifier.
Once you save it you can open up the Configure Modifier Sets drop down and select Show Buttons and then select the new modifier set you created.
Organize Your Scene Using Layers
As mentioned earlier, renaming objects is a great way to stay organized, not only for yourself but the others that may be in the production down the pipeline. Another very important way to stay organized is to organize your scene using layers. This will allow you to separate the different elements of your model into different layers, that way if you need to you can hide certain elements, freeze certain elements or even render just that single element.
This can make the modeling process easier for you because if you need to focus on just one single element of the model you can hide the other pieces that may be distracting to you.
It can also be a great way to keep your scene running quickly by hiding different elements you don't really need visible at that moment. The more complex a scene becomes, the slower the application will run.
To manage your layers you'll need to make sure it's visible in your toolbar. If it's not you can go to Customize>Show UI>Show Floating Toolbars. Once you've opened the floating toolbars you can find the Layers toolbar and snap it to your interface.
Once you have the layers panel on your toolbar you can select any section of your model and select the Create New Layer icon which opens up a dialog box where you can name the new layer.
From there you can use the layer drop down menu to freeze layers, hide them or exclude them from the render.
Whether you use shortcuts to speed up your workflow in 3ds Max or try to stay more organized by utilizing layers and correct naming conventions you'll become a more productive 3D artist. If you want to learn more check out Tips and Tricks in 3ds Max and push your skills further with the hundreds of other 3ds Max tutorials.