3ds Max Interactive

It’s clear Autodesk remains aggressive and presses forward, leading software and technology that nearly every industry in the creative market uses today. We see it in projects such as Forge and InfraWorks®. In the midst, they slipped in 3ds Max® Interactive (previously known as Stingray). Seeing first-hand how industry leaders are using it in their bid process and presentations, I believe this application will prove to be one of the most important upgrades to 3ds Max yet.  So in this article, I’d like to introduce it and demonstrate why I think it will become a necessary part of many users’ workflow.

Figure 1: Virtual Driviing

What Is 3ds Max Interactive?

Simply put, 3ds Max Interactive is an engine built specifically for visualization designers.  I’ll try to clarify. If a company wants to provide a client with a walkthrough today, the typical path might be similar to the following:

  1. Start with the planning and layout, typically in one of Autodesk’s CAD platforms with built-in modeling capabilities (Revit®, AutoCAD®, Civil 3D®, and so on).
  2. Build models using a combination of software such as AutoCAD and 3ds Max.
  3. Export the assets to work with a third-party engine.
  4. Remap textures and work on the environment to produce desired results.

Each of these steps is fairly comprehensive and involves a lot of time and effort—this is where the power of Interactive comes.  Unless you’ve made it your primary purpose in life, perhaps the more complicated steps in the process of providing a walkthrough or interactive environment for visualization is moving from CAD or 3ds Max to an outside engine in a streamlined and efficient manner (steps 3 and 4 above).  Interactive nearly eliminates these steps. And it dawned on me: that makes a lot of sense. Of course, the most efficient way to work with Autodesk models and assets is to use software developed by Autodesk.

Now here’s the kicker: 3ds Max Interactive is in its early stages, but is specifically being developed to accommodate VR, AR, and interaction.  With Autodesk focusing on pushing the heavy lifting to cloud-based solutions, it will only get easier.  They are pushing for solutions to ease conversions for the most popular renderers (VRAY for example) and pre-packaged the scripting needed to create quick experiences with pretty much the push of a few buttons. Finally, the ability to link 3ds Max to the Interactive application to work in a real-time environment is a feature that users have been pushing for with the advancements in VR the last few years.


I’m sure I’ve desensitized you with buzzwords by now, so I’ll get started with the demonstration. First, I’d recommend upgrading to dual screens if you haven’t done so. The workflow between 3ds Max and 3ds Max Interactive requires both sessions to be opened simultaneously, and to get the most out of them you’ll want to see them both at the same time.  See Figure 2 for an example.   I’ve also provided a video on YouTube to demonstrate working between 3ds Max and 3ds Max Interactive here:

Figure 2: 3ds Max and 3ds Max Interactive

Next, we’ll begin a new project.  The templates that come with 3ds Max Interactive will be sufficient to get started. For my demonstration, I used the character.

Figure 3: Selecting a template

Now the fun part. We use the interactive menu displayed in Figure 4, which is installed with 3ds Max 2018, with the Interactive installation package to export our scene or assets.  This menu was developed to be extremely user-friendly and efficient.  I’ll discuss the primary features used to get started.

Figure 4: Interactive menu

  1. Connect – This is near last on the menu, but it’s the first step required. This function connects 3ds Max to your 3ds Max Interactive session. For the connection to succeed, you need to be sure you have a level open (which occurs when selecting a template).
  2. Send All and Send Selection – This function sends your assets to your connected project. If you have not connected to a project, this will export the selected item(s) to an FBX file in the location you choose.
  3. Level Send – A function to export everything in your 3ds Max environment. If you take a look at Figure 5 you’ll see that my 3ds Max scene was exported and included both the materials assigned and the vegetation.

Figure 5: Assets exported with the Level Send function

For my example, I chose the character-level template. To ensure my character can walk on my pathways without falling into oblivion, I have to apply a collision actor to those objects. This is extremely simple:  locate the item in the Asset Browser and double-click on it to open the Unit Editor displayed in Figure 6.

Figure 6: The Unit Editor

Once inside the Unit Editor, select the Create Menu and choose Physics Actor.  That’s it.  Save and close the editor and that object will now have a collision.  

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