Realistic, Interactive, Real-Time Visualization

For several years in the visualization industry, 3ds Max® artists were limited to only a few options to present interactive content for multimedia purposes.  One of those options was Unreal Engine.  Along with many other programs, artists reluctantly added another program they had to learn to present data the way they wanted.  Users destroyed their beautifully created VRAY scenes, crushing materials down to standard, and struggled their way into the Unreal software piece by piece, unwrapping and resetting everything one pivot at a time.  The process was painful, and costly, which is frankly why most visualization has never really been interactive at all, but images or short video clips instead.  Today though, not only do we have the option of using 3ds Max Interactive to present interactive and virtual reality content quickly, but users who have spent years honing their skills with Unreal are receiving one ginormous gift that’s sure to impact their bottom line: Datasmith.

For many studios, Datasmith cuts down a four-week function into a matter of hours.  It supports more than 20 programs (including 3ds Max, Solidworks, and SketchUp), converting and importing their data into Unreal Studio non-destructively.  This means users can focus on generating interactive experiences without having to deal with reconstructing everything.  For visualization experts, one of the most important features is its ability to convert Vray scenes. See Figure 1 for example.

Figure 1: 3ds Max and Unreal scene

To get started with Datasmith, users need to install the current version of Unreal Studio Beta software through the Epic Games installer as well as the 3ds Max plug-in to export objects to the Unreal Datasmith file format (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Unreal Engine install

The plug-in for the installer can be downloaded from Unreal Engine’s website (SketchUp plug-in is currently available from the same location).

After the engine and plug-in are installed, the steps to export our 3ds Max scenes and import them into Unreal Engine is pretty simple.  In 3ds Max, we follow the typical procedure by selecting the File Menu and then the Export option.  With the plug-in installed, we see a new option under the Save as Type drop-down menu called Unreal Datasmith (Udatasmith). After selecting a location to save, the options displayed in Figure 3 will appear to give us the ability to export an entire scene or only the items we have selected.

Figure 3: Export options

When the export is complete, close 3ds Max.

Next step is to import the file we created into the Unreal Studio software. Begin by creating a new project.  When creating a new project in Unreal Studio, we have the advantage of choosing from Blueprints Unreal, made to assist game developers, or to select a blank slate.  The Blueprint options provide preconstructed functions, reducing the work we have to do to accomplish tasks such as creating a virtual reality environment or allowing users to drive around a scene (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: Blueprints

The final step is simply to select the Import Datasmith button shown in Figure 5 and use the power of Unreal Studio to generate the multimedia and interactive experience we desire.

Figure 5: Datasmith file importer

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