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3ds Max 2008

Barbara Witkowska 2008-11-03 00:00 article  > Article

"3ds Max 2008. Architectural Visualization. Beginner to Intermediate" is intended to people interested in creating proffesional architectural visualisations. Surely a lot of CG fans concentrated around Evermotion, will find here many precious advice, that will help speed up their workflow and enlarge quality level.

The book (hardcover, 480 pages) was published in 2007 by 3DATS, a 3D training company cofounded by Brian Smith, the book's author. It is the partial rewrite of the book "Foundation 3ds Max 8 Architectural Visualisation" published by Friends of ED in April 2006. Brian Smith, an experienced architect visualizator, reveals secrets of creating architectural visualizations and animations, using 3ds Max software.


The book language is clear and comprehensible. All discussed issues are summarized with short tutorial to deepen your understanding of the principles. With architecture field on mind, Brian Smith choses only the most handy tools, not to discourage beginners. Text is richly illustrated in full colour.

The book contains 6 parts:
- "Getting around Inside 3ds Max"
- "Modelling"
- "Materials"
- "Lighting"
- "Cameras and Animation"
- "Rendering"

Each part is divided into few chapters that include number of sections. All chapters are provided with short introduction and summary, that makes the reader curious about what's next and put gained knowledge in order. Beside that, book is accompanied by two appendixes:
"Appendix A" that explains in greater detail what was introduced in "Chapter 1" - " Navigating the 3ds Max Interface", "Appendix B" that includes list of 100 default and additional 3ds Max keyboard shortcuts.
At the very end of the book we'll find "Index" and "Gallery of Images", where author compares initial and up-to-date works of lead visualisation artists. Worth noting is well thought-out layout, that enables both reading a book from cover to cover and browsing through it, searching for any questions or doubts answers.

For full Table of Contents and sample chapter, please see at


Simultaneously with learning new tools and techniques, we get to know how to avoid a program crash, or a time-consuming rendering or modelling. Brian Smith strongly emphasizes, on each page of the book, a need of effectiveness of our work: from time-saving use of select and transform feature, through preventing wasting time correct naming system, to reducing file size instance comand.

The Author focuses on useful for architecture visualisators areas: for exapmle in "Modelling" part, Brian Smith presents most effective, for architecture visualisators, types of modelling: spline, shape and mesh modelling. Avoids bringing up NURBS and patches, about what I'm a bit disapointed. Especially NURBS I find worth mention, as this method, used in creating some objects, significantly speeds up both modelling and mapping process, what makes this technique very efficient. The author's choice of those three methods is directly connected with 2D architectural drawing form, which mostly are imported from AutoCad.

Floor plan drawing in AutoCad.
"When creating architectural visualization, you will almost always work with drawings, that originate in a 2D CAD program..."

Time-saving scatter feature

The text is full of tips and tricks:
- making 3ds Max send you an e-mail with failure alert progress when your rendering brokes
- the Horizon option, helpful in creating vast exteriors works
- creating a 360-degree panorama using the Panorama Exporter tool
- typical rendering resolution, used for billboard, magazine advertisement or brochure
- standard animation resolution for North American TV, European TV, HD-DVDs or HD-TVs, Internet

I found "Animation" chapter very useful and interesting. Not only because you can find here huge amount of information, but also because of author's encouraging and amusing recommendation. He says: "Animations offer sth unique that stills simply can't provide - a true sense of being immersed within a scene", "...if you show them [people] quality animation, they will probably be left scratching their heads in amazement". This part surely covers basics of animation needed to create architectural visualization. You'll learn how to place and move a camera, or animate elements in the scene: you'll be able to move, scale, rotate them using 3ds Max controllers.
Apart from this critical knowledge, Brian Smith shares with us some handy tips, as what focal length of camera lens he uses to create typical camera view, show the scene foreground, or get wider angle to render small room.

The Clipping planes feature

Brian Smith let us know his opinion about 3ds Max 2008 new features:
- "Scene Explorer", that is very useful managing ojects tool, but, in author's opinion, requires second monitor
- "Viewport Shadows" that is presented as a long-expected feature, that significantly speeds up work

The new viewport shadows feature.

Worth mentioning is the forum created on, where book's readers can ask questions to the author. Additional support is ensured via downloadable files, that some of the tutorials in the book require.

To sum up, it's a great book for focused on architectural visualization people. Included in book methods will undoubtedly help to save a lot of time and show beginning of the way to create photorealistic works. Following the author: "...with dedication and hard work, you too can vasty improve the level of your imagery". I highly recommend it.

Review of Brian Smith's latest book "3ds Max 2008 - Intermediate to Advanced" will appear soon.


Author: Barbara Witkowska
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