12 Tips for 3dsmax and your PC

Many people have problems and get frustrated when 3dsmax freezes on them because of too many polygons in a scene, the lighting setups, and advanced textures all loaded in the viewport. Alot of people know where I'm coming from when I say this, and you may be one of them. So I'm going to give you some tips on making 3dsmax run faster for you, and how you can work more efficiently with the program.

Section 1 - Viewports

In this section, I will be giving you tips on how to make your 3dsmax viewport run faster and more efficiently.

Let's start with the viewports, probably the most vulnerable feature of 3dsmax to freeze up. I get so many questions from people who can't work on their scenes because they add too many meshsmooth or turbosmooth modifyers to their models, and they just aren't looking at those modifyers full options. When you add any subdivision modifyer to your models, preview it with just one itteration, if it looks somewhat good, then change it back to 0, and set your render itteration to 1 or 2, if the model in the render doesn't look smooth enough, then simply add more render itterations.

When you're working on major scenes (that have about a million or so polys, and a few hundred objects), and you are stuck trying to get around in the viewport which is traveling at a choppy 2 frames per second, then simply turn the viewport wireframe mode on (hotkey: F3). It should be easier to get around in, especially when you are previewing animations. Another good alternative to the wireframe mode is the box mode (hotkey: O). In this mode all the objects in the viewport appear to be 6-poly boxes and is virtually lag free. This is an ideal solution for people who have low-grade video cards.

Another big factor for disruption in the viewports is the lighting. Lights take up quite alot of your system memory, and a good trick for dealing with that is to (simply put) delete the lights...but BEFORE you do that, select the lights (individually if you have more than one) and press F12 to get their position co-ordinates. Make a new text document or something to paste your X,Y,Z co-ordinates and write down the light settings. This may be a little much just to free up some memory, but it's well worth it.

If you're viewport ever acts weird (such as models looking bright green and such) then why not change your viewport renderer? There are 3 options for it in 3dsmax, including Direct X, OpenGL, and Software. I recommend using D3D if you have an NVidia graphics card, they seem to perform well together. If you are using an ATI card, then go with OpenGL. If you are using card that doesn't perform as well (such as an integrated card), give all 3 a try. All options should work on any card, but some are more compatible than others). On my old video card I used the software version, and it worked great (but it isn't recommended on the hi-grade cards). To change the viewport renderer just right click on the 3dsmax icon on your desktop and go to properties, and then add "-H" at the end of the target.

Section 2 - Rendering

In this section I will be giving you tips on how to make your rendering methods faster and more efficient.

To start off, if you have a scene that has a great looking render, and you want to keep it (and you don't feel like redoing the settings every time you work on a new project), then all you need to do is save it as a render preset file (located at the very bottom of the render dialogue window, hotkey: F10). You can save everything from the actual render settings, to the environments/effects, and even the common settings.

A good key for rendering is to choose a specific renderer that you feel comfortable working with. I particularily use VRay as my renderer, but that is a 3rd-party plugin. If you have 3dsmax v6 or later, then you will have both Default Scanline, and Mental Ray already to choose from. What you should do is learn both renderers, get aquainted with their settings and capabilities, and use whatever is to your liking. For faster renders, go with Scanline, it is very quick and efficient. If you want to make a good looking render just add a skylight with light tracer (in the Rendering, Advanced lighting menu). It has great results and renders very fast. Mental Ray can make better looking images in a timely manner, but overall it renders much more slowly (not to say that it's a bad renderer, because it is very professional).

Quick tip: While doing tests renders (not finals) delete the lights in your scene (unless they are absolutely necessary). They are one of the longest things to compute while getting ready to render. Taking them out generally cuts my rendering time in half.

Section 3 - Getting to know 3dsmax

In this section I will be giving you tips on how to work with 3dsmax and getting to know shortcuts that will get you very far when working.

Some quick advice for new 3dsmax users, take the tutorials that are already preset with the program, they will get you farther than any other tutorials, and will teach you the basics of learning pretty much everything the program has to offer.

Another quick tip is to start using hotkeys and memorizing all of them. Here is a small list of some example shortcuts that I use all the time:

- F9: Quick Render
- F10: Render Dialogue
- Ctrl+C: Create new Camera (from current perspective)
- F12: Positioning Dialogue

Hotkeys are a godsend to me, and I always use them when I'm working. It saves me a little time here and there and end up giving me more free-time in the end. I would definitely recommend that you look at the hotkey map and get to know which keys do what, it will more than likely make your experience with max a better one.

Another great feature that 3dsmax has in the XRef importing feature, which lets you import objects from other Max scenes and places them into your new one (and no, it doesn't affect the other scene at all). You can import ANYTHING from another scene (geometric data, lights, helper objects, etc.) with XRef. I use this option whenever I'm working on large scenes so that I don't have to model an object in the scene itself. (And yes, XRef does import the materials from objects so there's no need to retexture them).

Section 4 - Overall Performance

In this last section, I will be giving you tips on how to make 3dsmax run faster and perform better overall.

3dsmax loves RAM, and lots of it. Memory affects every aspect of how the program performs, such as the viewport, rendering, and animation. If you want it to perform better just get more ram. (I know it sounds inane, but it's a necessity).

If you already have alot of ram, but 3dsmax is still performing poorly (for some odd reason), then simply exit those other useless programs! Pretty much all graphics oriented software uses up alot of memory, and so do anti-virus/spyware programs, and instant messengers. Exit all of those programs while working inside Max. They affect how you work in the program and are consuming everything that 3dsmax needs.

Well that's it for now, I will be writing all kinds of new tutorials for 3dsmax, including some more tip-based tutorials. Thanks for reading this one and I hope you will check out my others! If you need any help, just drop me an email at:


And I will get back to you asap. (If I don't then it just means I'm quite busy). Have a nice day!

(You are free to put a translated version of this tutorial on any other 3D/tutorial related website that isn't primarily in English, or posted on another website ONLY with written consent of the author first.)

Tutorial copyright by Necksmasher/Xeron3D 2006.

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