One of the most obvious changes with 3ds Max® 2015 is the updated Scene Explorer, which has replaced the layer manager and gives users greater control over object level and layer viewing. Using a simple hierarchy, users have the ability to control multiple objects’ child and parent relationships and nested layers in just a few simple steps. This ability to save configurations and customization makes managing a scene much simpler.
Figure 1: Scene Explorer
Beyond tools provided by our friends at Autodesk, we can take several steps to manage our Max scenes more efficiently, reducing both file size and render times. Take, for example, a simple teapot. A teapot left in its parametric state with 65,000 faces and 32,000 verts is saved as roughly a 212 KB file. When collapsed to an editable poly and saved, the file size explodes by more than 2,000 percent. Objects left in parametric state rely on calculations to assume their shape and composition. When collapsed, Max can no longer apply those formulas and must rely on the x, y, and z coordinates for every vertex and consider their position, rotation, and scale. For 65,000 faces, we can see how the data stored is multiplied considerably.
Instead, simply add the editable poly or mesh modifier to maintain the parametric state of the object and manage the file size more efficiently. Note that with alterations we make to verts beyond the parametric model, the file size grows with each save.
Figure 2: Teapots
Rendering can strain our systems, but there are some ways to speed up rendering times or reduce the burden it has on our computers.
One option is to install and rely on cloud-based technologies. With third-party plug-ins or utilizing tools provided directly by Autodesk, we have the option to simply upload a scene (or multiple scenes) to render farms that utilize networks to speed up render times considerably. With advances in the broadband and cloud technologies, this option is no longer limited to the "big boys" and makes rendering large, complex scenes seamless and easy.
Figure 3: Sample cloud-based rendering plug-in
A second option is to reallocate system resources. Windows users are given the option to alter the priority and affinity in Windows Task Manager Processes. Simply by selecting the 3dsMax.exe file and right-clicking, users can increase the priority to help reduce render times (though it often limits users’ ability to use the computer for much else at the same time). By right-clicking over affinity, users can allocate how many processors are dedicated to the software.
Figure 4: Processes
If you don't have a tricked-out system you might be able to take advantage of Windows ReadyBoost technology. ReadyBoost utilizes flash or memory cards to speed up computers (using a flash drive with at least 1GB of memory available).
When plugging in your flash drive (or memory card), select General options in the Autoplay dialog box, then choose "speed up my system." Here you will have the option to not use the device, dedicate the memory you would like to use to speed up your system, and more.
Figure 5: ReadyBoost
A Few More Tips
Xrefing the most complicated scenes can help us maintain efficient workflows while limiting a scene’s burden on a computer. Producing and managing a proper file structure and planning ahead often makes or breaks a budget.
Converting objects to proxies allows us to populate scenes with hundreds of identical objects and tens of millions of polygons while limiting the burden on computer resources and minimizing render times.
Scene alternatives can be managed with xrefs. Base objects can be stored in a single file and utilized for all alternatives.
Instanced objects can reduce system burden as well as make for efficient workflows.
As mentioned, by not collapsing objects, users have smaller file sizes with more opportunity for revisions. One disadvantage is a reduced load time. When opening parametric models with modifiers attached, Max has to construct and build those objects each time it's opened.
Compound objects (such as booleans) have the tendency to increase load times and memory size. The load time can be reduced by collapsing the objects, but will increase file size.