Is this blog dead?

•December 13, 2013 • 1 Comment

This blog is on Hiatus. I have been working for Autodesk Media and Entertainment as a 3dsmax specialist since 2008. I now blog regularly for the Area (

You can also follow me on twitter (@chrismmurray)

Thanks for stopping by.

Blurbeta website is open once again

•August 1, 2008 • 8 Comments

For those of you jonesing for some of the great productivity tools that were once readily available from the production machine that is Blur Studios, you can stop seeing the therapist.

I’m not sure when it happened, but I just recently noticed that Blur Studio’s Beta Tools is back open again. In case you’re not familiar with the old one, this is where Blur made public some really, really useful scripts and tools for 3DS Max. Many times, these tools were (and are) very polished “enhancements” to 3ds Max’s core tool set.

One thing of note, there is now a Softimage XSi section to the portal. Blur has been an ardent believer in the best tools for the job and that usually meant 3ds Max. But I’m not surprised to see this new section given Blur’s tight relationship with XSi’s Face Robot.

The list of tools is way too long to list here. But click this link to see all the goodness.

My future favorite Script will no doubt be the “” script

Also, if you haven’t seen Blur’s animated shorts, check them out at the Apple Itunes store. Here’s a link to “Gentleman’s Duel

(header image is from the Blur Beta tools page. Thanks guys.)

Autodesk Acquires RealViz, makers of “Image Modeler” and “Stitcher”

•May 12, 2008 • 3 Comments

AutoDesk Image ModelerAutodesk has been busy. Besides a mega-speedy development cycle for 3ds max 2009 and 3ds Max 2009-Design, they just announced that they have purchased RealViz, makers of high end 3D image modeling and panoramic photography software. I remember doing some consulting for RealViz way back in 2000. I’m surprised it took this long for Autodesk to acquire them. This letter arrived in my in-box today.

May 12, 2008

Dear Autodesk Customer,

We are pleased to let you know that Autodesk has completed the acquisition of substantially all of the assets of REALVIZ, the privately held developer of image-based content creation software. This exciting acquisition grows Autodesk’s software offering in 2D and 3D design innovation, helping bridge the real world and design environments.

REALVIZ’s products are used for panoramic photography, image-based modeling, match moving and optical motion capture. The technology extracts 3D information from pictures and videos, and is complementary to Autodesk’s modeling, visual effects and animation products. REALVIZ technology has many complementary applications across the industries Autodesk serves, including architecture, film, broadcast and game development.

The REALVIZ team has joined Autodesk, bringing vast expertise in visual graphics and image processing. Together, we look forward to accelerating technological innovation for you. Our plan is to integrate REALVIZ technology into our current products, making it easier to create 3D models from simple 3D images, and virtual environments from conventional photographs. As well, we plan to continue selling REALVIZ’s flagship products: Stitcher software for the creation of panoramas and 360° virtual tours, and ImageModeler software to produce 3D models from photographs.
To learn more about the acquisition, and about the REALVIZ products, please visit

So there you have it. More later.

Obituary: Ollie Johnston, The last of the “Nine Old Men”

•April 15, 2008 • 2 Comments

Sad news today. Ollie Johnston, the last of Walt Disney’s “Nine Old Men” has died at the age of 95.

He, along with eight other legendary sage animators, are credited with much of the work that brought Snow White, Bambi (he drew Thumper), Fox and the Hound and the other Disney Classics into our lives and into our hearts.

Current animation best practices are largely credited to these men with Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas leading the way. If you know or are studying the 12 principles of animation, you know Ollie’s work.

Johnston’s death marks the closing of one of the best chapters in animation history. But it will certainly not be the last. John Lassiter (Pixar) and Brad Bird (The Incredibles and Iron Giant) have become the modern torch bearer’s for the craft. Ollie Johnston even makes a “cameo” in Iron Giant with Frank Thomas. If you want to see a fantastic piece of animation art in the true spirit of Johnston and Thomas, be sure to check out Iron Giant.

Also, if you want to learn animation from this man himself, its not too late to get a masterpiece of his book here: “The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation”.

Autodesk Ships 3ds Max 2009 today

•April 1, 2008 • 2 Comments

Sorry for the lame posts. I’ve been busy on my MFA. But Autodesk announced first customer ship today for 3ds Max 2009. I also hear the trial version of the software is live.

I’ll post more later.

Autodesk sees double. 3ds Max 2009 (x2) announced.

•February 12, 2008 • 3 Comments

adesk2009.jpgIts official. 3ds Max 2009 was announced today. Surprised? Yes, this release cycle was wicked fast. I’m sure there were lots of reasons why this happened so quickly. But the net end result is not just one new version of 3ds Max, but two. “Two?” You say? Yes, two. Not just 3ds Max 2009 was released, but a new member of the 3ds Max family called “3DS Max Design.”

Before we all jump off bridges, immolate our selves, or otherwise go berserk, lets chill for a sec. Lets hear from Ken Pimentel, 3ds Max Product Manager.

According to Ken, “Why two? We’ve decided that the best way to focus on Entertainment and Design/Vis solutions is to customize the user experience accordingly. So, we now have two versions of your favorite product to choose from. At the same time, we are ending development on VIZ and encouraging customers to shift to 3ds Max Design. This is one of the reasons we created 3ds Max Design – to give VIZ users a clear path to 3ds Max and something they can fully leverage.

At this time, we are not releasing all the information about the two new flavors, but that will come as we officially launch the products later this quarter (March 25th). So, I don’t actually want to duplicate all that information here, just deal with the major points:

  1. 3ds Max Design 2009 includes 100% of the features in 3ds Max 2009 – except for the SDK
  2. 3ds Max Design has the new Exposure lighting analysis feature, 3ds Max 2009 does not

Those are the critical differences you need to know about. We’re also working on making each product a richer experience for the specific set of users, so you’ll see evidence of this in tutorials, samples, application defaults, etc. They are 100% data compatible and they are actually the same binary. We think this should be the policy moving forwards as it means you’ll always be able to mix/match these versions without fear of data loss.”

Thanks Ken, you saved me lots of typing. You can see Ken’s full blog entry here. And for those sleepless nights, here’s the official press release.

So what does this mean for you? Well, if you’re 3ds Max user, life just got a little better. I can’t officially comment, of course. (I don’t work for Autodesk) but I can say that I think we are going to see a very stable release with lots of new features.

Over the next several weeks, I will post some reviews of those new features. 3DS Max 2009 doesn’t officially ship for “several weeks” but its a good looking app.

Lastly, if you want to “pile on” with your comments about the split. Go here.

Review: The HDRi Handbook, by Christian Bloch

•December 13, 2007 • 5 Comments

The ShizzyI’ve been on sitting on this review The HDRI Handbook (Rockynook Publishing) for a while. Not because there’s anything bad to write, I just wanted to let the material settle in. And I wanted to see how much I actually kept going back to the book.

Frankly, author Christian Bloch (“Blochi” as he’s known as on his blog) has created a complete graduate level college course in a book about CG lighting. Bam! This book is a must have for any serious CG artist.

The book is incredibly easy to read with direct examples and attainable results if you read the material carefully. What Blochi doesn’t do, thankfully, is serve any one master when it comes to 3D software. Now there are a couple of “Lightwave” only references in the book, which I find peculiar. Blochi is the only dude I know (and I’ve never actually met him yet) that is still using Lightwave. But I’m not going to argue that point because as far as I’m concerned, the imagery looks freaking fantasic, so who gives a crap what he’s using?

The book is organized with a work flow mentality. Start here, end here, this is what you need to know along the way. I love the section on spherical image capture because it settled several bets at the office about how much data was actually captured by a mirror ball.

The book is for basically 2 types of people. A photographer doing HDR panos and moving into CG; an experienced 3D artist looking to elevate his/her CG lighting game. But as I alluded to earlier, everyone in CG should read this book. I’ve been doing CG for 12+ years and have read TONS of books (I even wrote 2 on 3DS Max). This is one of a handful I’ve read almost cover to cover. Honestly, I don’t think I even read my own book this thoroughly when it was done. Some sections I glanced over because I needed more specific stuff. Some chapters are worn out. I read them repeatedly (there’s THAT much meat on the bones here.)

Copyright (c) Chris MurrayThere are only a couple of weak spots. (But only because I’m a 3ds Max guy and I suspect Blochi isn’t). One weak spot was that there were painfully thin specifics on 3DS Max HDR integration. If you’re going to use HDR in 3DS Max, don’t expect this book to be a tutorial on how to do that. You will need to know 3ds Max pretty darn well to kick the tires here. But I’m OK with that. If fact, I think that attitude is a strength of the book even if specific tutorials aren’t present. No offense here, but this book, besides being chock full of tasty goodness, makes you think about implementation. So for 3DS Max, you gotta know what the hell you are doing with lighting to begin with. The only real thing overtly missing from the book is an index. There is none. Poof. That hurts. But it forces you to read stuff and hunt around. Its absence is either a glaring oversight or a stroke of brilliance to get peeps to read his book.

The bright spots in the book are plenty. Here are some of my favs. Chapter 2 and 3 on(work flows and capturing) are the shizzy. How to do it, what to use, and how to munge it are all right there. Page 270 is almost worth the price of the entire book all by itself (thats all I’m going to say about that) BAM! Chapter 7 is supposed to “demonstrate” how HDRI’s can be used in 3D rendering. Although the info in the this chapter is fantastic, its should be described as a chapter that “Illustrates” more than “demonstrates”. valleyoffire_3_final-small.jpg

The image above is an unretouched CG match to a LDR back plate straight out of 3ds Max. Its lit with an HDR Pano made with the techniques discussed in the book AND the new MR production shaders in 3ds Max 2008 (you cannot create that image easily in 3ds Max 9 or older, see below). The image to the right is a tone mapped HDR photograph I took in the Valley of Fire National Monument using the techniques described in this book and tone mapped with Photomatix (also mentioned in the book).

Word of caution, if you are new to 3ds Max, parts of this book will be a painful tease. Not because its full of “max-speak”; it isn’t. But if you haven’t mastered (and I mean mastered) how the lighting systems in 3DS Max work you will be struggling to implement the CG techniques discussed here. That being said, its still worth every penny if you’re new because you will be learning this stuff the right way from the start. (Warning; shameless plug here, avert your eyes if you’re offended, I’m available for custom training in the regard. Visit my training site) 3ds Max 2008 has shipped with the new production shaders and photographic exposure control. Those shaders, coupled with this book will really elevate your game in 3DS Max without Vray. You can do everything in Mental Ray.

The amazing thing is there is much much more that can be covered (like specific compositing work flows) . 300 pages isn’t enough to cover everything. But thats good because maybe there will be a part II or a next edition. Heck maybe I’ll even write a 3ds Max centric HDR book.

Blochi, well done. The guru rates this book 5 polygons. 5-polys.jpg

Mac Book Pro and 3ds Max: The baby-daddy needs lovin’

•December 4, 2007 • 2 Comments

bootcamp_hero20071016.pngBoot Camp has been my baby-daddy. It has made my 3ds Max habit possible with my MBP guilty pleasure. Its never complained, or tried to get me treatment (It tried to get me into Co-dependents Anonymous, but I wouldn’t go unless it went with me). But now, the baby-daddy wants some respect. For those running 3ds max/WinXP (any flavor) on a Mac Book Pro, there is some news.

Here’s the email that landed in my in box this week.

“Dear Boot Camp enthusiast:

We hope you’ve enjoyed the opportunity to preview an exciting new feature of Mac OS X Leopard.

With the introduction of Leopard, the Boot Camp Beta program has ended. The Boot Camp Beta software will expire on December 31, and Apple won’t offer further updates of Boot Camp Beta for Mac OS X Tiger.

If you’d like to continue using Boot Camp, Apple invites you to upgrade to Mac OS X Leopard.”

The way they are making it sound is that Bootcamp will “expire” which means that it might no longer work. Though I have no specific knowledge of that, its makes sense to assume that. At the very least, I suspect it will not let you upgrade to any future updates of Boot Camp unless you are on Leopard. So for those of us in production gigs, why risk it?

I’m getting mine and when I do, that baby-daddy’s gonna get some payback. I will report on it when I upgrade.

Editor’s note: Here are the links to the 1st three parts of the MBP + 3dsMax experience. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Image courtesy of 

Review: The HP (Compaq) 8710w Mobile Workstation

•December 2, 2007 • 11 Comments

hp8710.jpgSanta is a tease. What Santa giveth, Santa taketh away. Ever notice that Santa is a malformation of Satan? Well, either way, I was on the losing end of this stick. Not because I was forced to use a new HP 8710w Mobile workstation, but because I couldn’t keep it longer than 2 weeks.

For that reason this review will be somewhat limited to my experience using for 3ds Max specifically. I recently spoke at Autodesk University and for my presentation I was lucky enough to get hold of this HP rig from my office.

Lets begin with the easy stuff. The specifications were a delicious mix of efficiency and brute force.

  • Intel Core 2 Duo 1.8Ghz (the slowest model available)
  • 2GB RAM, 667Mhz
  • nVidia QuadroFX 1600m with 512MB
  • 120gb Hard Drive
  • LightScribe DVD/RW Burner
  • 6 (!) USB 2.0 + 1 1394 (mini)
  • Wireless Everything (B/G/N, bluetooth)

The visual styling of this box is really refined, HP has done a nice job with this considering past models (specifically the NX9600 behemoth that will not fit in any laptop carrying bag I own, nay a back pack). Continue reading ‘Review: The HP (Compaq) 8710w Mobile Workstation’

AU LIVE BLOG: Session – Image Based Lighting

•November 29, 2007 • 3 Comments

augrab.jpgHey! This was my own session. Its now complete and went great. I will be posting some more info on it, but for now, here’s a couple of images I created during the presentation.

This image was created with 3ds Max 2008, the production shaders, mrPhotographic Exposure Control, HDR lighting, and Mental Ray. Its a straight render directly from 3ds Max. There is no photo retouching.






This image is also a straight render from 3ds Max 2008, using the Production Shaders, Mental Ray. Everything on the window sill is CG. The image based lighting is all LDR. The background image is courtesy of Zap Andersson.