3ds Max Customization

Customizing 3ds Max® has improved my own experience with the software. This month I’ll present customization of the user interface, viewports, and quad menus.

Customizing the Interface

Figure 1: Customized user interface

Figure 1 is an example of my typical environment in 3ds Max. There are three particular features I’d like to focus on. First, I revised the color palette of the environment to a neutral blue-grey color to reduce the brightness of the screen and unnecessary strain on my eyes. Second, I expanded the canvas for my rollouts (on the right of Figure 1) to gain quicker access to the properties I work with most. Last, I’ve customized the way my viewport appears, increasing the quality of my previews.

To change the colors of the 3ds Max user interface, select Customize->Customize User Interface from the menus on top.  On the dialog, select the Colors tab and choose Custom Colors under the Scheme. Select the feature you want to change and revise the color by clicking on the Color Selector—refer to Figure 2 for assistance.  When complete, select the “Apply Colors Now” button. When you’re happy with the changes, select the Save button to store them in a Color File that can be loaded any time.

Figure 2: Custom Colors tab

Next, we’ll expand the portion of the interface that contains the rollouts. Hover your mouse over the edge of the viewport, then click and drag to the left. See Figure 3 for clarification.

Figure 3: Expanding the rollout

Customizing Viewports

Changing the quality of the viewport can be important.  For enormous scenes with many objects, it helps to reduce the quality to speed up display performance during production. On the other hand, increasing the quality for smaller scenes can help to identify and solve flaws or review elements such as lighting and shadows more efficiently.   

To configure the viewports in 3ds Max type “X” (with a viewport active) and type “configure,” then press Enter. (Tip: the “X” command allows us to access an enormous number of tools quickly with a command-driven system.   For example, we can type “X” then the name of a modifier to quickly apply the modifier to an object we have selected.) With the Viewport Configuration dialog open, I’d like to focus on a few items.

Visual Style & Appearance tab: Refer to Figure 4 where we have control of our viewport(s) quality with regard to lighting, shadows, and ambient occlusion.

Figure 4: Lighting and shadow quality

Display Performance tab: This tab controls our texture display resolution in our viewports, frames per second (FPS) when using adaptive degradation, and antialiasing quality.

Textures: By default, 3ds Max displays textures at their highest resolution. To improve performance, we reduce these values by adjusting the image and texture display resolutions.

Adaptive Degradation: 3ds Max adjusts how objects are displayed to keep up with its current performance.  This is noticeable when zooming in on particular objects where they change from shaded to bounding boxes and then back again.  We can control the amount of degradation 3ds Max applies based on FPS.  

Antialiasing: The stair step effect that occurs on diagonal or curved lines is referred to as aliasing.  To eliminate this, we recruit its nemesis, antialiasing.  Increasing this value will reduce the jagged edges on objects, but might also decrease the performance. 

Quad Menus

Figure 5: Quad menus

Many users don’t realize that 3ds Max gives us the ability to customize or even create our own Quad menus.  In fact, many don’t realize there are more menus already accessible simply by using the proper key combination.  For example, holding Alt + Control and clicking the right mouse button (RMB) in an active viewport will bring up the render menu displayed in Figure 5.  Custom quads can be created by going to the Quads tab in the Custom User Interface we visited earlier when working on the color schemes.  Here we can refer to Figure 6 and the following descriptions:

Figure 6: Customizing the Quads tab

  1. This dropdown contains the various quad sets, including the default one we are accustomed to using.  Selecting the quad set will update the items marked with number 4 in Figure 6. 
  2. We assign our key and mouse combination to activate the quad (such as Alt + Control + the right mouse button displayed in Figure 5).
  3. We can add a title to our quad menu that will appear above the functions it includes.
  4. Displays the functions that are included with that particular quad set.  We can drag and drop any number of items from the left of the dialog shown in Figure 6 to this location to add it to that particular quad set.

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