Review: Autodesk 3ds Max Entertainment Creation Suite Premium 2012
The downside with 3ds Max 2012 and MotionBuilder is we don't get the full HIK rig as in Maya but we get a much improved workflow for Biped. I am not a fan of Biped but there are many studios that use it still and being able to get motion capture on to it, accurately is important. In past versions this was a bit rough but having testing the “Send-to” MotionBuilder option, for single characters the workflow is faster. MotionBuilder opened automatically and the Biped skeleton loaded and I was able to characterize* it, animate it, bake the animation on to the Biped skeleton. Then click the “update” button and in seconds my animation was back in 3ds Max and playing correctly. This is a big win for me and many other motion capture editors/users that have to deliver work from MotionBuilder.
I am disappointed to see that other built in rigging system, CAT still is lacking a smooth workflow between the two software, as it still relies on its capture animation tool instead of being able to import FBX directly on to the CAT rig. MotionBuilder 2012 has two cat auto mapping templates and they work well. I also am not able to find any new way to access this via Maxscript thus locking teams out of being able to batch convert mocap data on to CAT rigs. I would love to find out I am wrong on this though.
*Tip: Characterization of BIP skeleton with the 3ds Max Biped Template-
Once the biped skeleton has imported, you can use the template in MotionBuilder to quickly characterize it for retargeting or motion editing but there is a bug in the template that will cause the characterization to not work when importing back to biped. First be aware the template expects the default biped names but it does not correctly map the pelvis and the biped root. The simple fix is drag in the Bip001 (root) to the character -special-hips translation slot and then drag in Bip001 pelvis to the character-base-Hips. This way when the animation is updated in max the Biped character will get the proper split rotation and translation attributes. If you change the biped names then you will have to map the character by hand but still you will have to make sure the parent COM nod is in the Hips translation slot. MotionBuilder 2012 has a much better Template editor and name extraction tool that will let you easily create templates for any of the skeletons you want.
The 3ds Max Entertainment Creation Suite 2012 for studios and individual artists is an incredible deal both for the cost savings and the range of applications included. It was not so long ago that it was enough to just have 3ds Max but the landscape of content creation has changed and having access to specialized applications for sculpting and animation are again important, offering greater artistic and creative freedoms that a single tool cannot.
There are a few catches though and some things to consider in upgrading including the rather large set of bugs in the first release that riled up the userbase on the Area forums, even though most of the issues have been quickly fixed in the service pack. With any large code change problems get fixed and new ones show up so test your hardware and pipeline accordingly.
I think that the upgrades and improvements are on the right path and many users both experienced or new to the software will find it a great new version. While the improvements to rendering and modeling are exciting, for me the unified animation system, better physics and file interoperability are excellent changes, hopefully creating fewer technical hurdles and shorter ramp up time between Autodesk software. Artists using the Entertainment Suites can focus on creating great content and not just workarounds.