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.


AU Rumormill: Combustion2008 release confirmed

•November 28, 2007 • 2 Comments

augrab.jpgI heard on the AU show floor here at AU that Combustion 2008 was shipped today. The Autodesk website is showing that Combustion 2008 is shipping/available, though I have not seen a press release confirming that. If you try to download the free trial, it takes you to the version 4 download page. I did see a sneak peek a the new color corrector somewhere 😉 and if it works as cool as it looks it will be great. The guru is trying to confirm its release and I will follow up with facts when I get them.

UPDATE: This is confirmed, though no press release was issued (to my knowledge). is explcitly naming Combustion 2008 as the shipping product the trial download page has been updated.

AU LIVE BLOG: Session – New Mental Ray Features in 3ds Max 2008

•November 28, 2007 • 2 Comments

augrab.jpg This session is being presented by Pierre Felix-Breton, Product Designer for 3DS Max, Autodesk.

The session is starting, agenda, introductions, etc…

First up, mrPhotographic Exposure Control (I will be talking about this in my presentation too). PEC is actually a tonemapper based on the Rineart algorithm. This maps available tonal ranges so we can see them. PEC works in a completely physically based work flow. He shows an LDR photo with a high dynamic range (brights and darks) and tells us the photo settings, 1/15, f3.5, ISO200.

Shows the same image in true HDR format (made from 5 EV’s). Plugs that image into Max’s environment map slot. Sets the PEC settings to match the first example image. And hits render. Its almost a perfect match. Thus proving that PEC is working correctly in phyically based work flow.

Goes over the features of PEC. It works like a camera (shutter speed, fstop, ISO) Shows the control dialog on tweaking highlights, midtones, and shadows (These are great). Talks about when to use”unitless” (for HDR).

Next topic, Glare Shader. Simple easy to use post process. Not physcially based. For aesthetics only.

Next topic: A&D Material (ArchDesign Material). Self illumination. Works best with Photometric lights. It is physically based. Now has EXACT ambient occlusion, meaning it now considers color of objects, not just proximity, as to whether it should darken it.

Next topic: Showed the portal lights. These are great. Like area lights, but considers the environment as the light source. (works with HDR)

Next topic: Hidden Gems. Show mrBlackBody shader. Creates physically accurate reflections with physically based lights. Showed the Production shaders, showed to to reveal them (read my previous post here for more info).

Concluded by showing a movie of Zap Andersson’s Production Shader example movies.

AU LIVE BLOG: Session – Autodesk Software Production Questions Answered

•November 27, 2007 • 1 Comment

augrab.jpgThis session is being moderated by Gary M. Davis (good friend of mine) and he will be taking questions from the audience…

The session is starting.

  • Gary Davis, Production Artist
  • Mark Gerhard, AE from ImagineIT
  • John Higgs, Partner, Corgan Media Lab.

Question: Network Rending with Mental Ray… whats allowed and what isn’t

Distributed Rendering has some limitations, to use distributed rendering vs. not distributed rendering

Use rendering passes.

Distributed rendering is not the same thing as network rendering. So you can have the rendering farm rendering with MR in the same unlimited fashion as scanline. (machine per frame). Distributed rendering is many machines per frame.

All machines are tied up with distributed rendering, regular network rendering the machines are not. If you have to stop a machine in distributed render mode, you stop the whole rendering process.

Continue reading ‘AU LIVE BLOG: Session – Autodesk Software Production Questions Answered’

Revealing The Production Shaders in 3ds Max 2008

•November 22, 2007 • 9 Comments


Thanks Zap Andersson (his blog here) for creating a series of shaders for Mental Ray in 3ds Max called “the Production Shaders”. These shaders ship with 3ds Max 2008 and are available for you use, but they aren’t revealed to the program but default– so you have to reveal them yourself by changing a single configuration file.

Why isn’t it revealed? I can’t speak for Autodesk officially of course, so my opinions here are speculative at best, but I suspect its because there is no official support for these shaders. That doesn’t mean they don’t work. In fact, the ones I have used work great. But you should be aware that using them requires a comfort level on your part that you’re OK with changing a configuration file and that you may need to be resourceful in finding other individuals who are also using them for “support” and info sharing.

If you’re still reading, I’m about to show you how to reveal them. In future posts, I will be posting a couple of examples from my Autodesk University talk about Image Based Lighting (see this post) where I will show you a couple of very distinct advantages these shaders bring to the table.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN, I have to put this disclaimer. Changing this file is at your own risk. Be smart, back it up. Once the shaders are revealed, you are technically on your own, as I know of no direct Continue reading ‘Revealing The Production Shaders in 3ds Max 2008’