• Price When Reviewed: 2600 . 2600

  • Pros: pros: Reveal rendering system; ProMaterials; biped animation, modelling and photometric light enhancements; improved mental ray rendering; increased integration with Mudbox and Revit, OBJ and FBX formats.

  • Cons: cons: Windows (64-bit/32-bit) XP and Vista only; enforced split between architectural and VFX/games-focused features might not suit everyone.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10 Best Buy We rate this 9 out of 10

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For the first time, 3D package 3DS Max comes in two flavours: the plain 2009 version addresses the media and entertainment sector, while 3DS Max Design 2009 is aimed at architectural and engineering use.

The main difference is that Design ships with a set of light-simulation and analysis tools called Exposure, while the plain 2009 version ships with a software developers’ kit allowing users to create their own Max plug-ins. There is custom content included in the documentation for each. All features discussed in this review are applicable to both versions.

Many of the standout features are based around mental ray and the tools shared with Revit, a parametric architectural tool acquired by Autodesk some time ago. These include the ProMaterials library for simulating real-world surfaces, featuring ceramic, concrete, hardwood, water and glass, as well as several others. ProMaterials react best with photometric (physically accurate) lighting and are capable of some nicely realistic results.

ProMaterials work with the mental ray renderer and share some common controls, such as ambient occlusion controls for giving a true global illumination effect; a setting that creates more organic, rounded corners at render time; and performance-tuning parameters that fine tune refraction and reflection settings for each material.

Revit Architecture users will find more examples of enhanced support in this version of Max: photometric lights now correspond more closely to their Revit counterparts, making it easier to share scenes. Other project-management enhancements include improved support for the OBJ file format, particularly when working with files from Autodesk’s modelling application Mudbox. There’s enhanced FBX memory management and new import options for FBX that smooth the interoperability between 3DS Max, Maya and MotionBuilder.

Image courtesy of Herminio R Jalocon Jr