3ds Max 2011 Review: Easier Workflow
3ds Max 2011 brings many enhancements to Viewport Canvas. Where 3ds Max 2010's Viewport Canvas provided basic painting tools and let you paint on a 2D canvas, representation of the current viewport 3ds Max 2011's Viewport Canvas provides a full suite of painting tools, multiple layers and painting either in 3D, directly on an object, or in a moveable canvas that is displayed over the current viewport. With the addition of multiple layers with blending modes, tools like blur, dodge and burn; and the ability to save the canvas as a layered Adobe Photoshop document the new Viewport Canvas is a welcome feature and a great workflow enhancement.
With 3ds Max 201, CAT has been thoroughly integrated into the program rather than as a third-party plug-in, an integral part of 3ds Max's animation tools. CAT's collection of modifiable skeleton presets, covering just about any type of animal imaginable, lets you quickly animate characters for your scene. CAT takes all of the grunt work out of creating control rigs, too. Being able to animate in place and to be able to map an animation cycle to an arbitrary path makes CAT suitable for both in-game and cinematic animation work.
Containers have also seen numerous welcome updates in this release. My favorite addition is the inclusion of the Only Add New Objects and Anything Unlocked rules that can be set on containers. Now you can ensure that anyone using a container you created cannot edit it or can only edit items that you have marked as unlocked. This protects your work while also letting others build upon it for their specific scenes. Containers now automatically lock their definitions when you have them open. This prevents accidental overwriting of content by others while you are working within the container. In keeping with 3ds Max 2011's theme of making the viewport informative and useful Containers now show whether or not they are Locked or Editable directly in the viewport. These status updates are also viewable in the Scene Explorer. For me, Containers are quickly displacing XRefs as my preferred way to share common data between different Max scenes and different users. I'm glad to see that Autodesk is continuing to support them.
3ds Max now ships with a modern compositing tool, self referentially named Composite. Composite is based on Autodesk's Toxik product. It is a node-graph- based, HDR capable video compositing tool. It has a customizable user interface that can quickly be tuned to support different aspects of your workflow. It supports all of the expected compositing effects like keying, color correction, blending, tracking, camera mapping and raster and vector painting. All in all, Composite is a capable and easy to use tool. Having it as a free addition to 3ds Max lets you expand your production capabilities without having to expand your budget.