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3ds max 5 Fundamentals


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Author/Animator Michael Hurwicz examines 3ds max 5 Fundamentals by Ted Boardman. This book is published by New Riders. An update of Boardman's previous book on 3ds max 4, this book is primarily a series of excellent tutorials covering the fundamental elements of 3ds Max 5. It also covers general principles, workflow, tips and traps. Highly recommended.

If you're a beginning/intermediate 3ds max user and you'd like to take some lessons from a master, I highly recommend Ted Boardman's 3ds max 5 Fundamentals. It communicates the fundamentals as well as a lot of juicy little extras, but always in a step-by-step fashion so you never get overwhelmed. Clear writing, an easy-to-follow layout, and ample figures make this book about as painless a way of learning 3ds max 5 as I've seen.

(Note on the figures: Although they're printed in black and white in the book, they are on the accompanying CD in full color. This can be very helpful when you're trying to get an idea what a project should really look like.)

The book is basically 450 pages of tutorials covering many of the basic techniques that a 3ds max animator might use every day. The author especially tries to focus on new features, such as the new Editable Poly editing features, global illumination and radiosity renderers, and new keyframe animation techniques.

Boardman provides not only technical how-to details, but also suggestions for optimizing your overall workflow. For instance, he notes that set designers often build a fa├žade for outdoor shots and then several interior scenes on a separate sound stage. He illustrates how this approach can work with 3ds max 5.

One of the things that I really like about this book is that the author tells you not only what to do, but also what not to do. For instance:

  • Activate a viewport by right clicking in it. If you left click, you could accidentally select and transform an object.
  • Scale objects using the Xform modifier, which can be applied at any point in the object's stack. Avoid the scale tool, which 3ds max always applies at the top of the stack, and which can yield unexpected results if modifiers are added or changed after applying it.
  • "Groups occasionally cause odd behavior, with no clear-cut explanations. Named selection sets and the new Layers tool offer similar functionality with no ill effects."

Boardman is not afraid to talk about 3ds max's weak points, a necessary preliminary to helping you work around them. For instance: "The buildings are not casting shadows, even though shadow casting is turned on for the Sunlight system by default. This is because of bogus settings in the default Sunlight system that you must change before it will work correctly. This is a source of much frustration for new users who quickly abandon the Sunlight system."

I also like the fact that Boardman not only tells you how to do things, but how to do them efficiently, both in terms of time and in terms of computer resources. For instance, he discusses how techniques like lofting, which create 3D objects based on 2D shapes, save both computer resources and modeling time. And did you know that an omni light is actually composed of six spotlights and can take six times as much memory, too? Because of this, Boardman points out, omni lights should be used conservatively.

The topics that are left out of the book are wisely chosen, as well. For instance, NURBS and Booleans can be a bit flaky in 3ds max. Boardman avoids them. Character animation using bones/skin or biped/physique, although a common technique, is more appropriate for an advanced text. The author doesn't touch it.

The only thing I don't like about this book is the price. For a less-than-500-page introductory-level book, it is fairly expensive: $45 list. Of course, you can get it for about 30 percent less than that online. Anyway, it's worth it.

All in all, highly recommended. Four and a half Cows.

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