Autodesk has announced the new features of 3ds Max 2014 in the run up to tomorrow’s live Unfold event.
The biggest single addition is probably the new crowd-animation toolset, courtesy of the technology formerly known as Project Geppetto when it was released as an Autodesk Labs research project in 2011.
Judging by the demo video, the new Populate system doesn’t include all of the functionality of Project Geppetto 2, but it does enable users to ‘paint’ motion paths and idle areas onto terrain.
The software then generates animated characters to follow the paths laid down.
There are a range of display options, from stick figures to randomly generated hi-res skins – it doesn’t seem to be possible to assign textures individually yet – and you can set the clustering and gender ratio of the figures.
The demo doesn’t show any avoidance behaviours, so we doubt you’ll be doing any visual effects work with Populate yet, but it looks suitable for still images and simple architectural visualisations.
3ds Max 2014 also includes an update to the particle tools, with the integration of mParticles into the existing Particle Flow toolset. As part of the MassFX system, mParticles can interact with other dynamics simulations.
The video above shows new Buoyancy, Drag, Force, Shape, Solvent and Switch operators; and there are new Data operators for “behind-the-scenes sub-particle control for very complex simulations [for film and TV VFX]”.
The Cache Disk and Cache Selective operators give more control over how simulations are cached.
Another existing technology that has received an upgrade is the Nitrous viewport.
Autodesk previously posted a sneak peek video showing its performance on heavy scenes, but the new demo goes into slightly more detail on its adaptive degradation options and improved depth of field.
As with Maya 2014, the viewport display now supports DirectX 11 rendering.
3ds Max 2014 also gets a couple of new features that weren’t trailed in Autodesk’s sneak peek videos.
The first of these is the new Perspective Match option, which facilitates the process of matching 3D geometry to a photographic plate, in much the same way as Cinema 4D’s new Camera Calibrator tag.
Selecting Show Vanishing Lines generates a series of guidelines in the viewport, which can be positioned to match the background plate. 3ds Max then orientates the background grid to match the perspective of the image.
It’s simple, yet undoubtedly useful in a lot of day-to-day tasks in visualisation and VFX.
A neat extension of the workflow is the new 2D Pan Zoom Mode, which enables users to lock the registration of 3D geometry and a 2D backplate, enabling the two to move in sync as the camera moves.
Autodesk has also added a new way of working with vector graphics, in the shape of the option to use PDF documents that include page transitions as texture maps.
The video shows the feature in use to create facial expressions for a cartoon character. Since the textures are in vector format, they remain sharp no matter how far the camera is zoomed in.
3ds Max 2014 also gains support for AutoCAD pattern files, Illustrator AI files and SVG and SVGZ files.
Other new features?
Autodesk’s website doesn’t mention one new feature that was covered in its sneak peek videos: the changes to image-based lighting in mental ray. As yet, we’re not sure if it has been overlooked; or if there is more to come.
New brand identity
3ds Max also gets a new ‘origami-inspired’ logo, which you can see in the homepage image for this story. The new identity is part of a company-wide revamp, bringing all of Autodesk’s product logos in line with one another.
The animation tools, including 3ds Max, Maya, Softimage and MotionBuilder, also get new brand graphics in aqua and white, described by Autodesk as an abstract “visual representation of movement”.
Release date and pricing
3ds Max 2014 is due to ship on 12 April. According to UK distributor bluegfx, the price of a seat is set to rise by just over 10%, from £2,900 to £3,200.
As yet, we aren’t certain if the same applies outside the UK, but it seems less likely: the North American SRP of 3ds Max rose by 5% last summer, from $3,495 to $3,675.
Tags: 3ds max, 3ds Max 2014, AI, crowd, DirectX 11, illustrator, MassFX, mParticles, new features, new graphic, new identity, new logo, Nitrous, pan, Particle Flow, particles, PDF, perspective match, PFlow, Populate, Project Geppetto, simulation, SVG, vector graphics, viewport, zoom