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Videos: Autodesk reveals new features in Max 2012

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011 | Posted by Jim Thacker

3ds Max 2012's new mRigids rigid body solver in action. Note the option for Nvidia's APEX clothing.

Autodesk has released details of 3ds Max 2012, including the latest fruits of its ongoing Project Excalibur (XBR) under-the-hood rewrite of the core code.

The software, which is due to ship next month, includes two key XBR features: the new Nitrous accelerated graphics core, and mRigids, the first of the new MassFX system of unified solvers.

Nitrous takes advantage of both GPUs and multicore CPU architecture to provide a more detailed, more responsive viewport display. According to our conversations with Autodesk, it will support unlimited lights, soft shadows, ambient occlusion, tone mapping and improved transparency: something the company’s beta testers have responded positively to.

“The first time I loaded a scene in 3ds Max 2012 [and] could see the soft lighting and shadows right in the viewport, I suddenly felt like the barriers to my creativity were falling away,” said Stephen Lebed, visual effects supervisor at US boutique effects house MECHnology.

Preview 1: The new Nitrous viewport in action, showing real-time soft shadows
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Preview 2: Non-photorealistic shading in the Nitrous viewport
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Preview 3: More advanced Nitrous display features
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mRigids, a PhysX-based rigid-body solver, is the first in a planned line of integrated physics solvers, similar to Maya’s Nucleus toolset. As yet, there are no details as to which simulation systems it will integrate with in future.

Improved sculpting and texturing tools
3ds Max 2012 also features a number of enhancements to its sculpting and painting toolsets, including a new Least Squares Conformal Mapping-based UV unwrap workflow and a new Clone brush that enables users to sample from anywhere on the screen in order to paint bitmaps.

With apps like Blender and Cinema 4D having had both LSCM and Angle Based Flattening unwrap workflows for some years now, the former is, arguably, just Autodesk playing catch-up; but the latter sounds genuinely nifty.

Other features in 3ds Max 2012 will already be familiar to users of last year’s Subscription Advantage Pack, including Allegorithmic’s Substance procedural textures and the iray GPU-accelerated preview renderer.

Details of new features in the visualisation-focused Design edition of the software are expected to follow at the end of the month. Pricing remains unchanged at $3,495. More details below.

PRESS RELEASE (Excerpts)
Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) announced the release of Autodesk 3ds Max 2012 software, the latest version of the company’s 3D modeling, animation, rendering and compositing application. Mapping to the Excalibur (XBR) initiative — a phased plan for the restructuring of 3ds Max — the new version provides fundamental improvements in workflow, user interface and performance that will give artists enhanced creative capabilities and help them to be more productive.

Achieving a key goal of the XBR initiative, 3ds Max 2012 introduces a rewritten, multi-threaded graphics core that provides significant improvements to viewport performance and quality. In addition, new creative toolsets and enhanced iterative workflows help increase overall productivity. The 2012 version also features single-step interoperability with products contained in Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite Premium 2012, offering artists easier access to specialized tools for the task at hand.

“Artists are facing shorter deadlines coupled with increasing expectations for quality,” said Marc Petit, senior vice president, Autodesk Media & Entertainment. “3ds Max 2012 delivers powerful tools that take advantage of recent hardware advances, along with better interoperability with the other products included in our Entertainment Creation Suites. Together these enhancements help artists to make creative decisions early, validate them and deliver better results faster.”

Key New Features in Autodesk 3ds Max 2012 Software

  • Nitrous Accelerated Graphics Core
    Accelerated by modern GPUs and multicore workstations, Nitrous enables artists to iterate faster and handle larger data sets with limited impact on interactivity. Advanced scene management techniques, along with multithreaded viewport scene traversal and material evaluation, result in a smoother, more responsive workflow.
  • Substance Smart Textures
    Artists can achieve a vast range of look variations with a new library of 80 Substance smart textures and filters — tiny, multi-output, customizable and resolution-independent textures
  • mRigids Rigid-Body Dynamics
    mRigids is the first module released in the new MassFX unified system of simulation solvers. Artists can use the multithreaded NVIDIA PhysX engine to create more compelling, dynamic rigid-body simulations directly in the 3ds Max viewport.
  • iray Renderer
    Using the newly integrated, NVIDIA GPU accelerated, iray rendering technology from mental images, artists can set up their scene, press “render” and get more predictable, photoreal result without worrying about rendering settings — similar to a “point-and-shoot” camera.
  • Enhanced UVW Unwrapping
    Artists can create better UVW maps in less time, with a new Least Squares Conformal Mapping (LSCM) method, enhancements to existing tools, and more streamlined workflows.
  • Sculpting and Painting Enhancements
    Artists can enjoy greater control over brushstrokes and their effects on geometry, thanks to new sculpting and painting workflows.

Pricing and Availability
Autodesk anticipates that 3ds Max 2012 will be available in English in April 2011. Autodesk expects to announce Autodesk 3ds Max Design 2012 software in late March 2011. The Autodesk suggested retail price (MSRP) for an Autodesk 3ds Max 2012 stand-alone license is US$3,495.* The MSRP to upgrade from 3ds Max 2011 to 3ds Max 2012 is $1,745.* Autodesk Subscription is available for purchase simultaneously with the product or upgrade purchase for $495* MSRP per year.

Autodesk 3ds Max 2012 is also expected to be available as part of the Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite Premium 2012. The Suite offers 3ds Max together with Autodesk Softimage 2012, Autodesk Mudbox 2012 and Autodesk MotionBuilder 2012 software for $6,495* MSRP, representing a 42 percent* cost savings compared to purchasing the software separately.

* International pricing and savings may vary.

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