Review: Autodesk 3ds Max Entertainment Creation Suite Premium 2012
Once there is content in the scene, the new Nitrous viewport driver and its Realistic viewport visual style show off the new display technology. This is the “Render-quality display environment” that according to the documentation “supports unlimited lights, soft shadows, screen-space ambient occlusion, tone-mapping, and high-quality transparency, along with progressive refinement of image quality when the artist pauses”. Maya and Mudbox have added viewport rendering features for 2012 but Max has surpassed them with Nitrous, allowing for faster iteration of ideas and more accurate animation feedback. On my hardware though,the Nitrious display was slow for animation playback and when I switched to the OpenGL driver and had my FPS jump from 15 to 50.
Note: Some quick tweaks for Maya users.
Because I have worked between the software enough, I head to the preferences to tweak a few settings to allow for a more Maya like user experience. (While other Suite software have hot key mappings for each other, Max does not)
Starting with Customize-Preferences, for anyone used to being able to grab the center of the manipulator and move in screen space, turn on Gizmos-Center Box handle-Move in screen space. This matches what Softimage and Maya manipulators let you do.
The other thing I like to turn off while I am in here is the white bracket display that shows up when you have objects keyframed or selected (you can turn selection brackets off per view). It creates extra visual clutter and noise and I keep it off.
Along with more accurate viewports Max gets a physics overhaul finally dropping the clunky reactor dynamics and adding in its version of NVIDIA PhysX called Mass Fx mRigids Rigid-Body Dynamics. The solver was fast to setup basic simulations and the constraints like pin and hinge work as expected. I am happy to see the built in bake functionality was quick and allows for easy editing and tweaking by hand if needed. I also like it has an un-bake functionality for getting back to the simulation. I do wish that the Maya and Max implementation was more standardized as it looks like Maya has the full Nvidia PhysX install while 3ds Max only has the ridged body portion,though you can get the apex cloth installer from the Nvidia Developer Zone.
A small but nice update for anyone that has been annoyed by the Scene Explorer updates in the past, I found it slow and difficult to use, is that it is now much faster and includes a more Maya like layout. In the past I also used a add on Max script to emulate the Outliner window in Maya, but now with minimal effort I can replicate and even improve on the functionality right here in Max. I also really like the saveable layouts and the more powerful select and search options.