• Price: 2695 . 595 . 295

  • Company: Autodesk

  • Pros: A decent upgrade. The Pelt mapping is a great feature in terms of improving day-to-day work.

  • Cons: There’s no getting away from the complex mess that is the Max user experience. Some features are excellent, while others are a pain.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

The recent news that Autodesk has agreed to buy Alias came as a shock to 3D users. Autodesk will soon own the two biggest applications in the 3D industry, and users are getting nervous that either Maya or 3DS Max will bite the dust. Both Autodesk and Alias have made assurances that in the foreseeable future no plans are afoot to kill or merge Max and Maya, but no-one knows what the companies will do long-term. Amid this confusion, Autodesk has released another upgrade to 3DS Max, bringing it to version 8.

Users on the subscription scheme have had access to some of version 8’s new features via 3DS Max 7.5. Additions that do stand out are significant though, plus there are numerous improvements to the interface.

The new asset-management feature is the most significant workflow enhancement. The new system borrows technology from Autodesk’s CAD applications to improve asset management for collaborative teams, but it works well for lone artists too.

The Asset Tracking window available from the File menu lets you view all the file dependencies in a scene in a single hierarchical list. It displays images with their paths, and any xRefs used in the scene. If the scene has been moved then right-clicking on a selected group of items (textures, for example) allows you to set a new path for them en masse. You can change a texture used in the scene here, and all materials using it will be updated too.

Though Max’s asset tracking features can work with third-party database systems such as Avid’s Alienbrain, version 8 introduces Autodesk’s own central database server called the Vault. The Vault allows teams to work on a scene – users check out files, and the system notifies the group when colleagues have made changes. You can track versions of a scene with the History feature, and the Vault will notify you if scenes are out of date.

The Vault

 border=0 />The Vault Explorer lets you view the Vault contents outside of the 3DS Max application. It shows you what files are being used, who’s using them, where they are being used, and version history. The Vault Explorer offers a good way to get an overview of how a project is going. Using Autodesk DWF files, the Explorer lets you view the actual contents of 3D scene files, so you can view and approve scenes without having a copy of Max on your computer.
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Another workflow enhancement in version 8 is a kind of versioning tool called Scene States. Rather than saving multiple scene files with different names and suffixes, you can use States to save versions within the same file.
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States gives you a list of attributes that you can save. For example, you could save just the texture changes or lighting changes within a scene. This is not just a way to save different versions of scenes. It offers a powerful way to quickly change the properties of a scene as you work.
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