3ds Max has consistently been one of the most popular 3D graphics programs on the market, and one of software developer Autodesk‘s flagship products. But as with any piece of software developed decades ago, there is always the risk of it falling behind new programs that don’t have to build on top of previously existing features and functionality. Due to expanding computing power and the actions that software is capable of taking, older programs often seem to take a lot longer to adapt to those changes than new ones. Not only do software developers need to worry about alienating long time users by changing the way that the program and UI works too drastically, but there is always risk of overcomplicating the software and making it hard to navigate.
Autodesk has been putting a lot of effort into making sure that 3ds Max doesn’t fall behind the way some of their contemporaries have in the last few years. When 3ds Max 2016 was released earlier this year it had some pretty big advances and expanded functionality added to it, but some critics felt that as a design program it was still starting to show its age. Not only did 3D assets still need to be exported into other programs to make simple adjustments, but even basic functionality long considered standard by other programs was absent, such as the ability to preview a font before it is selected. But the new 3ds Max 2016 Extension 2 that Autodesk just released does a pretty good job of bring some new, necessary functionality to the program. While many of them really should have been included in the original release some pretty big holes in functionality are being filled.
The Max Creation Graph (MCG) that was introduced in the first 3ds Max 2016 release has gotten beefier with the addition of MCG shapes and splines to create smoother curves. Extension 2 also allows the MCG to import bitmap or simulation data like CSV or Open VDB files, allowing it to animate accurate simulation data. Buttons can also be added to the user’s MCG tools using a signal parameter as well as color pickers with the new color parameter. Users of Autodesk CFD will also be able to pull their data into 3ds Max with a new set of MCG tools that allow for smoother importing, parsing, and display of simulation data sets.
One of the most glaring holes in 3ds Max 2016 was the inability to incorporate Autodesk’s Print Studio application. Considering how much focus Autodesk has been putting on 3D printing it seemed to be a really odd oversight. But it looks like that has now been rectified with Extension 2, which allows users to launch Print Studio from within 3ds Max, and if it isn’t installed it will help install it. This seems like a small change, and one that seems designed to force users to stay within the Autodesk ecosystem, but that was always supposed to be the entire point of their various software suites, an ability for all of them to easily work together.
Extension 2 also includes the ability to map text or shapes to a 3D object, and it will automatically update with the new data if the 2D image being mapped is changed. The amount of time this will save is immeasurable, and make it easier to create mockups of a combined 2D and 3D image even if neither is complete. It is also easier than ever to apply textures to specific objects within a scene using the new Texture Object Mask map. And 3ds Max now includes a function that it really should have had years ago, it will display the names of different font in the actual font, making it easier to select the desired font, and quickly change to a different one.
You can find out more about all of the new features included in 3ds Max 2016 and the new Extension 2 here. And users who already subscribe to 3ds Max 2016 can now update their software directly from their subscription account. Let’s hear your thoughts on this software in the 3ds Max 2016 forum thread on 3DPB.com.