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Max Monster Pak


Buying digital 3D models for use in programs like Autodesk's 3ds max can become expensive. One detailed, realistic, textured model, whether it's human, animal, vehicular, architectural or botanic, typically costs from $50 to $100. A collection of half a dozen models -- even something relatively simple like a living room set -- may run several hundred dollars. It's easy to argue that it's money well spent, given the time it would take you to construct the models yourself. However, if you're spending even $100 a month on models, it may be worth considering buying larger collections of models, which give you models for a fraction of the individual price -- often less than a dollar per model.

Digimation's Max Monster Pak, released in August, 2006, takes this concept to a new level, offering more than 5,100 textured 3D models (more than 1700 distinct models, many in four versions from high to low resolution), for $1,700, not to mention 900 motion capture files. Together, these products would sell for more than $13,000. (There's also an impressive list of free bonus software for the first 50 customers.).

There are 15 categories of models, including 56 buildings in the Architectural category, 44 pieces of furniture, and 50 electrical devices. (Each model is offered at four levels of detail.) For a complete list of what you get in the Monster Pak, click here.

This is an impressive collection. It boggles the mind to think of the thousands and thousands of hours that must have gone into making these models. The models are not just highly realistic, but also highly specific: For instance, you do not get a collection of generic plants; you get acacia, albicia, bamboo, drosera capensis (that's the one on the left up above, that looks like it might bite).

That being said, the collection of 14 tropical plants actually does contain a Generic Plant. Here's a picture of it, in case you've ever wondered what one looks like:

Sometimes, the specificity makes the models less useful to me than they might be. For instance, most of the models in the "Public Works" category (containing road signs, railroad crossing signs, gas station equipment and the like) come from Spain. The gas station air/water pump on the right in the banner above is an example. Unless you happen to be doing a visualization of an office building by a Spanish freeway, you might never use them. You could "localize" them to some extent by creating new textures, but it turns out that for many of these types of models, the texture is most of the work.

The international flavor of models may extend to the naming of the objects in the 3ds max files. For instance, for the flamingo model shown near the end of this review, the material in the screen shot is named OJO, Spanish for "eye".

It's hard to predict how easily you'll be able to modify or animate parts of a model the way you'd like to. Take, for example, the WW II Spitfire pictured below. If you want to rotate the propeller, you're in good shape. It's a separate object (two separate objects, actually: the props and the central cone) with the pivot point logically located at the center. No problem at all changing the position of the propeller or animating it.

On the other hand, what if you want to open the cockpit, either as an animation or permanently to get the "open cockpit" look shown in the WW II picture below?

(The above public domain image comes from http://www.raf.mod.uk/bob1940/gallery/19sqnspit640.jpg. For more information on this image, click here.)

Unfortunately in this case, the Spitfire cockpit in the model is a one-piece construction. In the picture below, for instance, the three blue pieces, though they look separate, are just one object in 3ds max. You'd have to divide it into three pieces at the sub-object level to open the cockpit properly. Not necessarily a big deal, but a bit of extra work.

Some cases are much more difficult than this. Take, for instance, the flamingo shown below. This model is a single mesh. Even at the sub-object level, the whole mesh is just one "element" in 3ds max.

This "one-piece construction" is fine for many purposes You can move or animate the head, neck, body and legs easily enough, for instance. (One common approach uses "bones" to manipulate various parts of the model.) However, suppose you want the beak to open and close. Even in the lowest-resolution version (shown above), which is the easiest to work with, you've got some work ahead of you, cutting an opening for the mouth at the sub-object level, creating new polygons for the inside of the mouth, and then perhaps using bones-based animation to open and close the beak. It's a lot of effort, since the model evidently was not designed with this in mind. The higher the resolution of the model, the more work. These kinds of problems are by no means unique to this collection. Any time you're using a model created without your specific application in mind, it's possible that the model may present you with significant challenges.


  • Low cost per model
  • Highly realistic, detailed, textured models in multiple resolutions
  • A rich, diverse collection


  • A substantial up front investment
  • Suitability issues that come with using models not specifically designed for your application

Bottom Line

Overall, this collection delivers solid value for the money. If you buy detailed, realistic 3D models with any frequency, check out the Monster Pak. It requires a hefty up-front investment, but it could save you money in the long run. Having "free" models easily available may also encourage you to enrich your scenes in ways you otherwise wouldn't if you had to download and pay for models one by one.

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