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3ds Max 2022 reaction

Is 3ds Max’s latest 2022 iteration a big release or a big disappointment? Creative lead Paul Hatton gives his reaction.

3ds Max features

All image credit supplied by Autodesk

robot star wars imagery autodesk
3ds Max 2022 brings with new features focusing on speed and security

Introduction

Another year and it’s another version of Autodesk’s 3ds Max. We’ve had a quarter of a century of iterations, updates, and revisions giving us a true heavyweight in the 3D visualization industry. Every year as the release nears the anticipation from users reaches fever pitch; expectations are high and the hope is always that Autodesk will pull something new, exciting and game changing out of the bag.

In my experience of using 3ds Max for over 15 years unfortunately more often than not I am left disappointed. Maybe that’s because of my high expectations or maybe it’s just the reality that software can only move on so quickly. Who knows? Let’s dive in and see where this release falls on the spectrum.

face model smooth small detail reduced noise Relax modifier
Smooth small detail and reduce noise from models by activating volume preserve in the Relax modifier (image credit  supplied by Autodesk and Sergio Santos)

Speed & security

The first thing that jumps out is how Autodesk is pitching the release. They’ve gone with the strap line “Taking speed and security one step further.” Now I don’t know about you but that doesn’t really get the heart going and the senses tingling. I’m all for being able to carry out tasks quicker and achieve more in an allotted time but that doesn’t get me out of bed in the morning. And security, it’s important sure, but it would seem to me to be something that should just be standard in the software – it’s not something to write home about.

Not a good start in my opinion but then again, I’ve learned not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Maybe the collection of new features considered together will give for a cheerier outlook. Let’s take a look.

Interactively edit light group AOVs  Arnold Light Mixer imager
Interactively edit light group AOVs without restarting your render using a new Arnold Light Mixer imager

Beefed up

Let’s begin with security. I imagine we all expected Autodesk to beef up its security game. After security issues for 3ds Max hit the news in 2020 it was no surprise that some improvements needed to be made. These improvements focus in on the scripts that 3ds Max utilizes and offers protection against malicious scripts as well as the ability to remove malware. A particularly nice touch here is that 3ds Max will routinely update their Scene Security Tools and make users aware it’s available for download as soon as it’s ready. Users don’t then have to wait for a full software release before taking advantage of the latest security tools. Well done Autodesk.

texturing rendering Bake Texture Common Maps
Faster material setup using new Bake to Texture Common Maps

Clever extruding

Let’s move onto the Smart Extrude functionality which 3ds Max has extended into their ‘Edit Poly’ modifier. The Smart Extrude functionality was released in 2021.2 but was only a part of the editable poly tool. This addition to the modifier will be good news for those of us who love a non-destructive workflow. Smart Extrude reduces the number of steps required to tidy up your geometry as you make extrusions and edit your model.

Other modifiers that have been developed and improved are the Slice Modifier, the Extrude Modifier, the Symmetry Modifier, and the Relax Modifier. These modifiers now benefit from some new features as well as faster results when processing their calculations. This is particularly noticeable on the Extrude and Symmetry Modifiers which used to really struggle with complex calculations. Even though these seem like very bog-standard improvements it is nice to see 3ds Max improving and cleaning up tools that are the bread and butter for 3D modelers.

Quick reactions

Speed improvements have also been given to the AutoSmooth tools and to the Rendering tools. You’ll find the render configuration window and the Quicksilver render settings to be much more responsive. And on the subject of rendering there have been some great improvements to the Arnold renderer. This will obviously only be good news to those who use it but the improvements may well tempt visualizers across to using it.

Most notably the ‘Light Mixer imager’ which is now common place in other renderers such as V-Ray has been introduced. It enables users to edit the contribution of each light on the fly, without needing to re-render. This is particularly useful when you’re playing around with the mood of your scene but don’t want to waste time waiting for all the calculations to be re-made. They’ve also introduced bloom and denoiser functionality further extending the capabilities of this excellent renderer.

accessibility presentation mode 3D scene full-screen UI controls
Use presentation mode to see your 3D scene in a full-screen, borderless view without any UI controls

Notable extras

A couple of other things to note before we wrap this reaction up. First of all are the improvements to the Bake to Texture which largely centre around simplifying and speeding up the workflow. Baking textures has historically been rather fiddly and cumbersome so it’ll be a welcome improvement for users who spend a lot of their time baking.

And finally, it is now possible to convert any floating viewport into a full-screen, borderless view. It’s not particularly impressive or much of a game changer for most users but it’s a nice touch and I’m sure will be useful in presentations with clients, or at training events for example.

workflow Extrude Smart Extrude functionality 3d
Extrude with fewer constraints using the new Smart Extrude “cut through” functionality

Conclusion

So, the big question is: did the collection of new features and improvements make up for the lack of any game changer features? Personally, I’m still on the fence. I’m grateful for the improvements and they’ll definitely speed up many workflows. I’ll feel their benefit every time I use 3ds Max but I still can’t get away from that feeling of a little kid in a sweet shop that really just wants the biggest and best sweet in the place. 3ds Max hasn’t delivered on that but it has delivered a robust and wide-ranging set of improvements.

Taking speed and security one step further

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