File Management in 3ds Max - Creating Custom Start Up Templates

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  • Design Visualization
  • 2014
  • Basics
  • 3ds Max
Skill Level
  • Intermediate
13 min

File Management in 3ds Max - Creating Custom Start Up Templates

This training video shows you how to create a Startup Template based on an existing 3ds Max scene. You'll set up a simple scene to always render an Ambient Occlusion pass, no matter what you throw at it. You'll then add a custom template to the existing sample files so you can start building your library.


  • Recorded in: 3ds Max 2015 Ext. 2
  • This tutorial is intended for use with 3ds Max version 2015 or higher.


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In this movie, you create a custom Startup Template based on a 3ds Max scene that you define.

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The five sample templates that ship with 3ds Max 2015, starting with Extension 2 are quite fine but are meant as examples.

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It is inevitable that very soon, you will need templates that are more aligned with your kind of work.

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Arguably, one quick solution every 3D artist needs is a simple way to generate Ambient Occlusion renderings.

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For those not familiar with the term, Ambient Occlusion is a rendered shading solution based solely on scene geometry.

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It's usually in black and white and makes models and volumes easy to read and study.

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In essence, ambient occlusion or AO calculates the blocking of light between scene objects based on the distance between those objects.

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As the distance between objects decreases so too does the amount of light bouncing between these objects.

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Conversely, as the distance between objects increases, the amount of light bouncing between these objects also increases.

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Here you create a scene that always renders an AO pass, no matter what models you throw at it.

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If you are new to 3D and to 3ds Max, the next few steps may seem daunting, but the scene is actually quite easy to set up.

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However, the finished scene is provided to you as part of the downloadable assets, so feel free to skip the next few steps.

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If you want to follow along, then by all means let's start.

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Start or Reset 3ds Max.

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Also start a session of Notepad, you'll be taking notes that will ultimately help you fill out the description part of the template.

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In 3ds Max, start by defining your units setup.

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This is done under Customize > Units Setup

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Click the System Units Setup button and ensure it is set to Inches, which is the default when you install 3ds Max.

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Under Display Units, set it to Generic, which is also the default. This basically means that 1 Max unit equals 1 inch.

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Enter that information in Notepad, the way you would want it to appear in the templates Long Description.

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While you're at it, you can also enter a line that defines the scene in a short description.

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From the Standard Primitives panel, choose the Plane object.

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With a click and drag in the Perspective view, create a new plane object.

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Set its Length and Width values to 120 (inches); that's basically a square ground surface that's 10 feet across in the real world.

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Now use the Move tool to center the object to the world.

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This is done by zeroing out the coordinates at the bottom of the screen.

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You can do so by right-clicking the spinners.

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With the cursor hovering above the Perspective view, press Alt+W to maximize it.

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While you're at it, add this information to Notepad, namely that a maximized perspective view is current.

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Otherwise, the scene uses four equal-sized viewports.

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If you want, place a Teapot with a click and drag in the middle of the plane object.

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Increase its Segments detail to 8.

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This is just a placeholder, so you can test out the rendering effect.

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The two objects are all you need as far as geometry is concerned.

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Next, you need to make a few rendering adjustments.

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From the Rendering menu, choose Render Setup.

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A dialog appears and you can also access it from the Main toolbar,

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or by pressing F10

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First, change the rendering resolution. In the Output Size menu, choose the HDTV (video) option.

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Choose the 1280x720 preset. Enter that information in Notepad.

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Go to the very bottom of the dialog and expand the Assign Renderer rollout.

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Click to choose a different production renderer and choose the NVidia mental ray option. Ambient Occlusion works well with that one.

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Enter the information in Notepad.

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Dismiss the rendering dialog when done.

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Try a test render using the Render Production icon on the main toolbar. The background is black, you'll need to change that in a moment.

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Also, the plane object is too small and while that works in the viewports, you may want a bigger expanse at render time.

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Select the plane and go to the Modify panel.

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Set the Scale value to 10. This means the plane will be ten times bigger at render time.

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Try another render to see the effect.

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To change the background color, call up the Environment dialog. You can do that from the rendered frame window, or by pressing 8.

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Change the background color to white,

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and render again to verify.

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Dismiss the environment dialog and enter the information in Notepad.

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All that's left is to add the Ambient Occlusion effect.

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For that, you first need to call up the Material Editor from the main toolbar or by pressing M.

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Drag in a Standard Material into the View1 space.

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Drag out the Diffuse color socket and choose mental ray > Ambient/Reflective Occlusion.

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Double-click the new node green area to edit its parameters.

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The Samples value defines the overall quality of the AO pass.

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The higher the number, the better the quality at the expense of added render time. Set the value to 24.

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Also set the Max Distance to about 30. That's how far 3ds Max will look for objects to interfere with one another.

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Finally, bring back the Render Setup dialog (F10) and go to the Processing tab.

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Enable the Material Override option and then drag out the output socket of the new material you created into the None button.

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Choose Instance when prompted.

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Close both dialogs when done and test render the scene again.

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In essence, the material you just created is going to override all other materials in the scene and apply itself to all objects.

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Add a few more teapots if you will and see how they affect one another.

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Of course the purpose is not to have teapots but more interesting geometry.

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Delete the teapots,

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and save your file. Name it AO_Pass. A similarly-named file is already provided to you, so you may want to choose a different name actually.

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In this movie, the file is saved to the C drive under a folder named: "Custom_SU-Templates" (SU for Start Up).

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Update the Notepad information by stating what's in the scene.

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Test out your scene by merging in other projects.

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For example, merge in the file named F1-Car you downloaded for this tutorial.

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This can be done by dragging it from Windows Explorer into the current scene.

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Zoom back and orbit around to adjust your view. This is done with a combination of the mouse wheel and the Alt key.

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Render the scene to see the results.

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This looks nice, in fact nice enough to be used as a template thumbnail.

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Use the Save Image icon on the Render window to save out an image. Name the image AO_Pass.png.

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It's important that thumbnail images are saved to the png format as this is what's compatible with the Template Manager.

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Dismiss the render window and reset 3ds Max without saving the changes. You saved the scene before importing the race car, which is fine.

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Go back to the Welcome Screen and open the Template Manager window.

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Add a New Template to the collection. As stated before, a new template is blank and you need to fill the information.

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Start with a title, name it: Ambient Occlusion Pass or AO Pass.

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To fill the short and long descriptions, use a simple copy and paste from the information you stored in Notepad.

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For a thumbnail, select the image you saved earlier. A similar image has also been provided to you.

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Keep note that you can save a png image at any resolution, Template Manager will take care of resizing it to specs.

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In passing, the Snapshot 3ds Max button can be used to take a snapshot of the whole 3ds Max UI, much like you see on the Classic Start Up thumbnail.

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Enable Scene File and point to the max scene you created or that you downloaded for this tutorial.

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If you are in the habit of using Project Folders, you can set them up in this section. Leave this blank if you place all your resources in the same folder.

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You can also force a specific workspace to launch every time you start a project based on this template.

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Leave the Default for now but feel free to experiment with others. You can always change this field at a later time if you so choose.

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There are a few additional options you can use: If you like the current configurations of rollouts, viewcube, viewport settings or user paths,

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You can store that information in the template.

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For example, enabling Viewcube and clicking Set Now, ensures that the current viewcube configuration is preserved.

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This means if you were to make the viewcube behave differently or appear smaller or larger in the viewport,

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It would still revert to this current state every time you use this template.

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The same holds true with the other options as well.

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Click Done and see that you have a new custom template that you can use.

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Give it a try and see how it's behaving. Try merging the F1 car again or try a different model, such as the catapult.

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Well done, you have created your first custom start up template.

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You still need to learn to compile it if you need to export it to another system.

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Conversely, you need to learn how to import custom templates sent by a colleague or a friend, or simply bought or downloaded on-line.

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This is explained in a movie named: "Importing and Exporting Start Up Templates".
Posted By
  • 3ds Max
  • 2014
  • Basics
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