• Price When Reviewed: 2695 . 295

  • Pros: Updated Mental Ray 3.4 with improved global illumination and distributed rendering. Powerful Hair and Fur extension with excellent styling tools. Instanced geometry can be used as individual hairs, and design visualization functionality is on a par with Autodesk VIZ 2006.

  • Cons: Hair and Fur only renders in perspective view, and some bugs are present. The extension is only available for subscribers to upgrade the program.

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

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This extension from Autodesk Media & Entertainment (formerly Discreet) is available as part of its new subscription program, which provides downloadable, modular enhancements to 3DS Max that add new functionality as it’s developed. As well as modelling and rendering enhancements, the 7.5 extension brings 3DS Max 7.0 up to the same core design visualization functionality as Autodesk VIZ 2006.

The updated Mental Ray 3.4 engine provides support for up to eight physical CPUs when doing distributed bucket rendering. It improves map handling and texture filtering and improves rendering speeds by replacing the Rapid Motion Blur algorithm with a Fast Rasterizer.

There are also tweaks to global illumination performance, adding the ability to control diffuse bounces thanks to a new Maximum Bounces setting on the Final Gather rollout.

This version introduces a new Smoothing option and a new height displacement shader, specifically intended for using height maps with normal bump mapping. In addition, you can now set Mental Ray displacement parameters on a per-object basis using Object Properties.

 border=0 /> </div>The big component that will thrill modellers is Hair and Fur, based on Joe Alter’s renowned Shave and a Haircut plug-in, offering strand tools, and realistic hair styling and dynamics tools. As with similar methods in other 3D packages, you restrict the hair modifier’s effect to only the polygons on your model that will serve as emitters for the hair, unless you want a complete furball. 
You control the number of Hair Segments created along the length of each hair – more segments are used for longer hair, but this increases the amount of time it takes to render the scene. Hair properties such as frizz, and root and tip thickness can be adjusted and you can add randomly selected Mutant hairs by assigning a colour and percentage value of the whole – this is ideal for peppering ‘a do’ with grey, for example. 
Hair can create a guide from splines and then use these guides as cross-sections to create hair growth. It’s possible to use instances of geometry such as blades of grass or leaves to create a forest or field with the modifier.
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