Improve your 3ds Max workflow: handling massive scenes
Paul Hatton presents a helpful guide for handling massive scenes with lots of data in his latest feature for improving your 3ds Max workflow...
Improving your 3ds Max workflow – previous chapters:
1. Top 10 interface secrets
2. Better modeling workflow
With processors and graphics cards and general hardware improving rapidly, 3D modelers are packing in more and more information into their models. Detail to objects is being added into the geometry which wasn't possible a few years back. We take quite a lot of our 3D models straight out of Revit and we therefore regularly deal with models in excess of 15 million polygons! The past few years have helped me develop some techniques which enable me to handle these large scenes and even output them into interactive scenarios on tablets too.
When your scene polygon count is out of control and you're trying to cut it down, the first thing I do is find out the statistics of the scene. If you press the shortcut 7 on the keyboard you will notice in the top left-hand corner a set of yellow numbers. This tells you what's in your scene. It can then be customized by going to Customize Viewport and the Statistics tab. Then set it to Total + Selection. Finally, make sure that Show Statistics in Active View is selected.
If I have received a scene from an external supplier, and it's been built in something like Revit or SolidWorks then the first modifier I go to which is an absolute life-safer is the Pro Optimizer modifier. This is a quick and stable way of quickly cutting down the polygon counts of your models. It's as easy as applying the modifier, and adjusting the percentage value to your desired level of detail. You can also tell it to preserve vertices if you want.
Use asset tracking
As scenes get larger, sometimes it's difficult to keep a track of all the XRef's and materials and external files that are referenced in. 3ds Max have given us an excellent tool called Asset Tracking which lists out all the references. What is also neat is that it allows you to change the locations that those files are referencing. The asset tracking can be opened using the Shift+T shortcut combination.
Auto updates of material swatches
If your scene is large than the likelihood is that you'll also have a large array of materials. If those materials are particularly complex then you may find that your computer takes time to auto-update the material swatches. This can be a massive time waster. To get around this you can turn the auto-update off specific materials if you want. Simply right-click on the node and deselect Auto-update.
Remove modifiers from multiple objects
If your modifiers are starting to get out of hand then believe it or not but there is a way to remove modifiers from multiple objects. You can do this by making use of the Schematic View. To open it, go to the Graph Editor file menu and New Schematic View. Then simply select and delete the modifiers that you don't want. Make sure the Modifier Stack is
set to display.
Point cache modifier
If you have a large scene and you have objects animating with complex rigs then did you know that you can ditch the complex rigs but still maintain the animation. You do this by utilizing the Point cache modifier. By applying this to an object you can record vertex transform data and then remove the underlying rigs. The modifier will store all the vertex locations on a per frame basis enabling you to playback animations incredibly quickly.
Use instances, not copies
3ds Max will be able to better handle multiple instances of the same object rather than multiple copies. Keep this in mind when you're duplicating your objects. Instances allow you to have one type of object which all the other instances just reference. Copies are much more memory hungry in that they each require their own little space of memory.
Isolating objects is a brilliant feature that I use time and time again. It allows me to focus only on those bits of geometry that I really want to see at that point in time. It is also a great saver on your viewport performance. With your chosen objects selected simply hit Alt+Y and see the rest of your objects disappear!
Minimize the impact of crashes
When you deal with large scenes with complex modifiers, the reality is that your scene is going to crash. Unfortunately this is just the reality. However, what you can do is minimize the impact of a crash. The main way of doing that is to ensure you have your auto-save set to regular intervals. Backups are key, especially as 3ds Max may at times corrupt the current file you're working on.
Get better hardware!
This probably sounds harsh and obvious but often the best thing you can do is to just get better hardware. If you are doing everything you can to optimize your scene then maybe a new processor or graphics card needs to make it onto your birthday or Christmas list.
Top tip : Get the latest 3ds Max version
This might be a little controversial because I know each new version can have new bugs and it can take a while for those to be ironed out. But in general I've found that the improved viewport performance and handling of large scenes to be of great improvement with each new release.