Behind the scenes on the 3ds Max Interactive VR engine
We introduced a new VR toolset for 3ds Max today. What’s it all about?
We introduced a new VR toolset for 3ds Max today. What’s it all about?
We caught up with Bruno Landry, product designer for real-time design visualization technologies, for the inside scoop - and a glimpse of things to come. Bruno has been a Max user for more than 15 years, after first discovering a passion for all things 3D while pursuing his degree in industrial design. Several agencies, visualization studios, and freelance gigs later, Bruno joined Autodesk where he’s at work on new applications of game engines - outside the game industry.
How would you describe your role on the 3ds Max team?
As a long-time Max user who’s fairly new in the real-time and VR world, I oversee product design for tools and workflows adapted to the specific needs of design viz specialists. I constantly try to channel the state of mind of a Max user working in VR for the first time. Even for an artist with in-depth knowledge of traditional 3D visualization challenges, and familiarity using all kinds of CAD data in 3ds Max, it’s the move into real-time and VR that involves a new range of skills. That’s the gap we’re trying to bridge.
So, what exactly is 3ds Max Interactive?
3ds Max Interactive is a VR engine that extends the power of 3ds Max to create immersive and interactive architectural visualizations. At its core is the Autodesk Stingray engine, but we plan to tune Max Interactive to the specific needs of visualization workflows rather than real-time rendering for games.
Candidly, today’s release is really just the beginning. We know it’s an early-stage solution out the gate and that’s by design, since we plan to learn alongside our community. But it also feeds into our broader vision of giving design visualization artists more relatable interactive and VR creation tools. And frankly make it a lot easier.
Just as important as what it is, is why we’re doing this. Virtual reality isn’t just a fad, it’s a fact. We’ve heard it first-hand from our customers, and seen the survey data. We’re fast approaching the point where VR experiences will shift from ‘the impractical’ to ‘the expected’ from the perspective of clients. You can read more about that on our design visualization blog.
What’s the big hurdle for design visualization artists who want to move into VR?
Let’s be honest: learning a game engine is tough. Taking that leap from a 3D environment to a VR authoring environment is never going to be easy, but we are already taking strides to make it easier. Case in point: last year the Autodesk LIVE Design team launched Revit Live, a cloud-based service that transforms Revit models into VR in one click. Okay, so it’s not that easy in 3ds Max Interactive today, but we’re exploring ways to get the heavy lifting of data-prep up in the cloud to strip away some of the tedium for artists.
Inside the Max VR workflow, we’re using automation where it makes sense. One example is our V-Ray materials translation from Max to Max Interactive. We know V-Ray is one of the most popular renderers for design viz artists, so we’ve been looking at ways to optimize the process. In our testing, we’ve been blown away by shaving hours, if not days, off the laborious data-prep process.
Other thoughtful features include templates for various VR platforms that are packaged with the necessary tools and scripts that make it easy for non-developers to quickly create mobile, PC, and room-scale VR experiences without any advanced scripting knowledge. You’ll also find a pretty slick digital content creation link tool, which quickly connects your 3ds Max dataset to the real-time environment and lets you work more iteratively and interactively on your project.
What do you hope the Max design community will create with it?
It’s early days, but we’d be thrilled to see Max Interactive be the catalyst that nudges design viz artists to take that first step and give architectural VR content creation a try. Getting started is definitely the hardest part. But, by including an accessible and approachable VR engine in the Max creative workflow we hope to make it a little less daunting.
Why add VR tools to Max when there are a lot of broadly adopted game engines out there? And why now?
Here’s how we see it: when you’re trying to learn a new skill, it’s way easier to tackle if you have a familiar point of reference. Same deal here. We see the best path for arch viz VR as starting with the familiar language of Max, then easing into the less familiar territory and terminology of virtual reality – which is where Max Interactive comes in. It’s far less intimidating than being dropped in the middle of an unfamiliar game engine designed for game developers and trying to work your way back, or settling for an unknown set of 3D tools retrofit onto a VR game engine.
Could you use Max Interactive to build a VR game?
That’s a matter of “could” versus “should.” Sure, you could use Max and Max Interactive to build a game because the tools aren’t that different today. But over time, you’ll see Max Interactive evolve and adapt to the specific demands of design visualization in VR and AR. Meanwhile, game developers have already established their open workflows and pipelines based on Max and real-time engines like Unity and Unreal. We’re not trying to upend that. They’re just not optimized for architectural visualization workflows.
Is Max 2018.1 an example of smaller, more frequent updates?
Our entire development approach has evolved over the years to become more agile, and more continuous. Think about it like your mobile phone: you’ve come to expect regular updates to the apps you rely on. In the case of Max 2018 Update 1, we’ve added an entire real-time engine to the 3ds Max environment, which is a pretty big enhancement! We’ve also released a series of valuable usability fixes that makes Max an even better environment for everyone to work in day and day out.
So, how can Max users get their hands on the new Max Interactive?
If you have an active subscription to Max on its own or as part of an industry collection, Max Interactive comes with your subscription at no additional cost. You can install it right from your Autodesk Account. We created a quick guide here for anyone that needs a hand getting up and running.
What’s next for 3ds Max Interactive?
We’ll be analyzing how the design viz community is using 3ds Max Interactive, and looking for the sticking points. Our end-goal is to make virtual and augmented reality visualizations easier to create. At the moment, we’re hammering away at automating some of the more complex data processes like geometry optimization, to let artists focus on the fun part, which is creating.
Sound exciting. Where’s the best place for users to share feedback on Max Interactive?
One of the best things about 3ds Max is our active community. There are a lot of places to share product feedback and requests, but in this case, the most direct line is here.
Last question: morning person or night owl?
Right now for me it’s both!
We look forward to hearing about the next chapter on the journey to making 3D to VR easier and more accessible for design visualization artists.