• Price: 2695 . 595 . 295

  • Company: Autodesk

  • Pros: At the high-end of 3D, version 9 offers some great new technology and performance improvements.

  • Cons: Can be less flexible than competing systems. It’s also fairly expensive.

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

With its acquisition of Alias and a formidable product roster under its wing, Autodesk has a fierce line up of 3D solutions for the entertainment industry.

Autodesk now owns MotionBuilder, StudioTools, and two of the biggest 3D suites – Maya and 3DS Max. A new version of Maya was released in August, and now 3DS Max gets the upgrade treatment. With both packages in its roster, Autodesk has the dominant position in the high-end 3D market, but the company has stated that it intends to continue developing both products side by side.

Like Maya 8, 3DS Max 9 has been rewritten to work on the latest 64-bit Windows systems. There is some debate, however, over what benefit this actually offers, as you won’t get an obvious out-of-the-box speed increase across all functions just by switching to 64-bit.

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64-bit systems come into their own on very large and complex scenes – for example crowds and high-resolution meshes. The main benefit is that 3DS Max (or any other program) can access more memory than is possible on a 32-bit system, and this is most useful to power-users.
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In real terms, support for 64-bit translates to being able to more easily create highly detailed scenes, often in a single pass. Within the limits of a 32-bit system, such scenes would have to be broken into smaller segments and recombined post-render. This kind of workaround can lead to exponentially longer production times and complex scene management. In these situations, 64-bit becomes a huge advantage.
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Autodesk offers both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of 3DS Max 9 in the purchase price. However, third-party plug-ins will need to be specifically written to work with 3DS Max 64-bit. This is usually the case when you change to a new OS. Autodesk also states that plug-ins for previous releases will not work with 3DS Max 9 either, no matter which OS you use. If you are a current 3DS Max user and rely heavily on third-party plug-ins, you will need to check with the developers to see if upgrades will be available. Autodesk says the plug-in Software Development Kit (SDK) had to be changed for 64-bit computing anyway, so this was the least disruptive time to make the SDK break.
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