Workflow: Industrial bar and restaurant scene revisited with Arnold

By - - 3ds Max
4 mins
Last modification: 16 Sep, 2017

Guest workflow by Yanis Lachat, a 3D artist from Geneva, Switzerland. Yanis previously shared his workflow for this scene using 3ds Max and Corona. We then asked if he'd give it another shot using Arnold.

When Autodesk asked me to recreate my industrial bar and restaurant scene with Arnold, a renderer now integrated in 3ds Max, I was a bit afraid but also very excited. I knew nothing about Arnold and was eager to see how I could use it for architectural visualization.


I decided to begin by researching Arnold, finding tutorials, references, videos or anything that could be of use. The Solid Angle website was extremely helpful, along with the Autodesk 3ds Max Learning Channel. I got a few pointers from Jenni O'Connor on the Max team as well, which really helped speed up the process.


First step: I removed every material and every light from the previous scene I had rendered using Corona. Since everything was already modeled, my main focus was texture and lighting. I switched to Arnold in the 'Assign Renderer' tab and started to play around.

I initially applied a standard surface material to the entire geometry in order to have a neutral volume and thus have an easier scene to work with. Pretty quickly and without tweaking too many parameters, I got nice feedback in Active Shade mode. I kept the same lighting principles that I used for the prior scene - an HDRI map from Peter Guthrie's collection - as the main light source. Through the duration of this project, I was having an issue with noise. It takes a little bit of testing before getting the right results, though it's definitely worth spending some time to understand noise in order to avoid a very long render time.

After tinkering with that for a bit, I unchecked “Autodetect Threads" and set Active Shade to -2, which gave me the results I was looking for.


Arnold comes with a lot of very nice shaders; Curvature, for example, is very useful when creating rough materials. A nice surprise was the extra Clearcoat channel included in the standard surface material, which allows you to add more depth in the reflection without having to use blend material. I isolated individual elements for faster feedback on materials. Re-texturing everything was probably the most time consuming aspect of this project - especially all the bottles in the bar - but all in all, I didn't do anything particularly fancy with materials.


I worked in Active Shade mode for the most part and switched to Production mode only to improve material quality in details.

The volumetric effects in Arnold are the best I have tried so far, as they're very intuitive and responsive. They give you a beautiful and clean result, however since my scene was very heavy, I decided not to use them. I will definitely explore them further with an exterior scene.


The post production workflow remained the same as with the other renderer: the raw image was pretty good, so it didn't need too much work. I threw in a few final touches in Photoshop, played with levels and colors, added some vignetting, chromatic aberration, glow, and I also sharpened the images a tad. I played with masks to lighten or darken specific elements, and used REDGIANT LOOKS and After Effects for more cinematic look.

As a first-time Arnold user, I can say that it's very powerful and quickly gives a very polished result. Because of its flexibility and the possibility to use it in a more artistic way, I will absolutely be exploring its uses in future projects.
Published In
  • 3ds Max
  • Architectural Visualization
  • Archviz
  • Design Viz
  • Design Visualization
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| 3 years ago
Very Nice
| 3 years ago
Corona seems much better... IMHO