A Look at 3DS Max 2021

Apr 16, 2020 at 10:00 am by Warlord720

3DS Max 2021 Release

Can you believe it? 3DS Max adds PBR materials!  

But wait… this isn't 2016… this is 2021! Even real timers have had PBR for a while now. Glad you made it to the party anyway. As a longtime user, I'm glad to see PBR embraced as a native format. Late to the party is better than never I guess. 

I already diss'ed 3DS Max 2020 as a ghost upgrade and perhaps I'm being too hard on Autodesk as Max is an outstanding product that has come a long way over the years. There is a reason Max is still a tool on top productions from games to video and film. It is steady and consistent. I've used and taught with it for so many years I can't remember the first version now but Discreet owned it then. 

It seems I've become a bit jaded to Max upgrades over the past few years because other products have added a lot of bells and whistles. In fairness though… a lot of those tools were already in Max so no fanfare. In some areas though… they fall behind and PBR materials/render was one of those areas. 

The truth is there have been solid upgrades. Just boring, under the hood, behind the scenes, kind of upgrades that no one really celebrates such as: 

-Bake to Texture 

-Python 3 

-Arnold Default Renderer 

-Physically Based Rendering (PBR) 

-Improved Viewport Quality & Settings 

-OSL Shaders 

-File I/O 

-Chamfer Improvements 

-Weighted Normals Modifier 

-Sketchup Import 

-Substance Update 

-ProSound Improved Audio Support 

-FBX Improvements 

-3rd Party Developer Tools 

Not exactly the sexiest list of improvements and updates but a solid one just the same. There is a lot to embrace here from OSL shaders to Sketchup file import. I double many will grumble about FBX improvements and Python 3 either. 

Needed improvement such as the PBR materials and Arnold default rendering are welcome. The old scanline renderer is still there but the default is now Arnold and the PBR materials are preloaded for you to swap out or use in your scene if isn't PBR based. Below is a note on the upgrade page from the Autodesk website: 

Note: The legacy Render to Texture and Render to Surface tools are still available in 3ds Max. The goal is to have feature parity before removing the old functionalities. 

3DS Max 2021 PBR Materials
PBR Materials and Arnold Default Renderer

Bake to Texture will certainly be popular. Roughness and Metallic Maps are added in Arnold, but you will probably want to make adjustments or custom maps to get the most out of PBR.   

Some of the much-needed OSL shaders in version 2021: 

-Color Correction 

-HDRI Environment 

-HDRI Lights 

-Float and Color Curves 

-Camera Projection 

-Object Projection 

-Spherical Projection 

-Uber Noise  

Here is a big one for modelers… Chamfer improvements:  

-Enhanced chamfer support for Edit Poly and   Editable Poly operations inside of 3ds Max 

-Preserves and works with existing UV data when generating new mesh results 

-Added support for Uniform, Radial, and Patch chamfer types 

-Added support for Edge Depth, End Bias, and Radial Bias control and refinement 

-Smoothing support for the generated results so that you can blend the new geometry into existing mesh data. 

Substance has also been updated with the latest engine for SBSAR files. No need to export maps from Substance Designer. They've added support for up to 8K textures so it's looking like we are getting quite a few goodies in this one. 

The feeling of this upgrade is like chroming up or tricking out your car engine. It's great, what you've always wanted, but at the same time, no one can see what you've got with the hood closed. But we know, the longtime users of Max, that these are much needed and welcomed additions. 

M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years.  Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.   

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