3ds Max: The Learning Curve

We will explore the some of the options available to develop a comprehensive knowledge of Autodesk® 3ds Max.  This can lead to recognized certification to train others and disseminate knowledge on a professional level.

One ongoing challenge to the digital artist is staying current with new software versions. Fortunately, there are several communities online and resources in print that contain excellent training information. There are many groups online geared specifically to each field where 3ds Max is used, including media & entertainment, film, AEC, and gaming.

The 2012 version of 3ds Max adds more tools and dramatically improves the user experience with improved view port rendering. Updated cat tools, slate material editor, and phys-x systems along with new real-time rendering engines make this version well worth it.  I've been 3ds max user for many years and I was happy to find a richer tool set than ever before in Max 2012.  Cat still need some work, though. This opens the door to development of the next version with more capabilities that support better integration and interoperability of software combined with a greater ability to exploit the hardware.

Figure 1: Real time view port shading. Excellent for pre-viz animations.

Recent hardware developments, especially in graphics cards and GPUs in partnership with NVIDIA, enable Max 2012 to take advantage of real-time view port effects, including shadows, ambient occlusion, and lighting. This tool is invaluable when creating pre-viz animations. The "realistic" setting for making previews is much faster than rendering and results in a more realistic look than in past versions.

Although 3ds Max user communities grow every day, the technological innovations are enough in front of training that it becomes essential to further develop the field of training and education for professionals and future professionals. Years ago the learning process was different from the one today because your first step was to buy a three-part manual and dig in. With the web at the ready, it’s faster and easier to answer how-to questions, as well as see what’s being done by other artists around the world in near real time. That being said, there are so many levels of complexity in 3D software that the web may not always address some of the finer points.

Figure 2: Education and Certification

Education and Certification

Autodesk has been developing various forms of training and instruction by establishing clear guidelines for what it considers the certification of skills and highlighting direct channels to schools and universities. It becomes necessary to know and understand the advantages of a high-level certification, which can complete the cycle of knowledge quickly and effectively, especially in preparation for new software releases.

Autodesk is committed to a project of education and helps students and teachers get up to speed with specific technologies in the field of computer graphics, both 2D and 3D.

As Max users, we can choose to belong to many educational communities including the Autodesk Students Community, ASC enables students and teachers to download free software with a lifespan of up to 36 months, time enough to learn how to use these applications

Another Autodesk resource comes from ATC (Autodesk Authorized Training Center) available in all countries where Autodesk operates. It provides direct instruction from Autodesk Approved Instructors. For more information visit: and look under the Support tab.

If you are interested in Associate and Professional certifications Autodesk can help there, too. Exams take place during Autodesk University in Las Vegas. Visit or for more information.

Figure 3: Certified Instructor

For certification as a Professional Trainer, Autodesk has designed the PCI (Professional Certified Trainers) system. This is one of the fundamental solutions for education and training sectors.

The PCI training system is designed to give trainers involved in Media & Entertainment the proper education platform, specific to the field. There is a three-day workshop to become an Autodesk Certified Instructor. The workshop is a real opportunity for the trainer to increase his or her knowledge, meet other professionals, and trade information in a friendly and professional atmosphere. This certification is essential for those who work in media and entertainment. For more information, visit

The ability to share information and know-how is the key to success, helping to create better products and keeping users and companies competitive. For more information:

In-depth training helps the software development process as well.  The markets that develop digital content are booming and are in need of professionals with advanced skills and an excellent understanding of production workflow, especially for the digital animation industry. All vertical markets such as film, broadcasting, video games, architecture, and others are experiencing a true multimedia revolution.

Figure 4: Autodesk User Group International (AUGI)

AUGI, Autodesk User Group International ( places an emphasis on training and education with programs such as AUGI CAD Camp, a one-day training event, and support through the AUGI Forums. While AUGI historically has been strong in the AEC industry, it has been growing in the Entertainment industry as well. The Media and Entertainment industry grows exponentially every day and welcomes new AUGI members, who meet virtually in their own forum. This community works hard to develop new initiatives that can help all users of Autodesk products. It’s also nice that AUGI membership is free. Visit

Figure 5: The AREA

AREA is a community created by Autodesk for the AEC field. Its purpose is to bring together all creative professionals who use software such as 3ds Max, Maya, Mudbox,  and editing software for digital content.

In this community you can find professionals ready to share information and solutions. The site, at, has a welcoming atmosphere where you can see remarkable achievements in visualization. Registration for the AREA is free; visit

Whatever your choice—whether you take a course or participate in a community—know that there is a vast amount of information available to everyone. 

Dario Passariello is head of 3D and training at Digital 3D srl, Palermo, Italy, where he lives and works. Since 1999, he has been a trainer in 3D special effects, compositing and rendering using Autodesk 3ds Max, mental ray, Combustion, and Cleaner. He is also a trainer at Associazione Nationale Famiglie Emigrati (ANFE) Regional Sicily for courses funded by the European Social Fund (ESF). As an Autodesk Certified Instructor and Autodesk 3ds Max Master, and in addition to teaching techniques with mental ray and iray, Dario also teaches high dynamic range imaging (HDRI), modeling techniques, organic Sub-D, character studio, physX, particle flow, texturing/unwrap, animation controllers, video editing and compositing, 2D design, database,  and authoring. He began working with 3D Studio (DOS) in 1992 and his passion for 3D graphics started with watching the special effects in Disney's Tron, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, and video clips from Money for Nothing. His experience also includes 3D CG for medical, forensic and military multimedia productions in Italy. He is also studying 3D visualization systems for the Internet (viewpoint) and real time for multimedia authoring.

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