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3dsMax tips #4 – My rig is stuck at the previous animation range!

This post is from the recent discussion on Stack Facebook group

The original question was…

has someone experienced that a rotation script controller gets broken/stops calculating properly when it was created with the timerange set e.g. 0-100f and afterwards timeline gets extended to let’s say 0-500f and you start animating with autokey the affected objects, which have the script controller?

I had the experience, too. This could happen in all procedural controllers like Script, Noise controller or Expression controller. What is the solution? One of the most Sr. 3dsMax developer Larry Minton chimed in and gave the answer.

When max creates procedural controllers, by default the controller range is set to be ignored. The setting on whether this is done is controlled by the following 3dsmax.ini setting:

[AnimationPreferences]
IgnoreControllerRange = 1

This setting is exposed to maxscript via: maxops.overrideControllerRangeDefault

And is in the Preferences dialog in the Animation tab in the Controller Defaults group.

Apparently when these controllers were created this option was off. Or this is an extremely old file, this option went into max back in 2005.

You can turn this override back on for these controllers by saying:
c = getclassinstances rotation_script
enableORTs c false

This is the settiing. It is on by default and should be ON.

If you want to make this to be on. You can run this code as a startup script.

maxops.overrideControllerRangeDefault = true

If you already have finished the rig and even animated it. Then, you can use this code to fix for a class of controller. This code is for rotation script controller. If you want to reset all Noise position controller. Swap rotation_script to noise_position.

c = getclassinstances rotation_script
enableORTs c false

If you also change from TrackView for each controller, too. Set to Ignore Animation Range. Here is 3dsMax help file link.

 

OSL mini tutorial #2 Random map per tile for SimpleTiles map

Using only 1 map.

Welcome to my second OSL tutorial. Again, we will not write a single line of code in this tutorial. We will use SlateME as our OSL editor. Let me say it again, YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW HOW TO CODE TO USE OSL IN 3dsMax.

I don’t want to spoil the ending. But, you should read til the end. 🙂

One of the advantage(or could be disadvantage for some users) of using OSL in 3dsMax is that it brings more granular and lower level of control which provide a greater flexibility. But, it also means that user need to learn and understand a new way of thinking(or workflow). Again it doesn’t mean you need to learn to code. But, you need to understand how and what kinds of data is flowing between lower level maps and how to control them. So, please try pay more attention to the explanation of “why” I’m connect port A to port B instead of memorizing map tree. 🙂

Today’s goal is randomizing textures in the tiles of Simple Tiles OSL shader so we can get infinite random tile texture from a few texture files.

    1. Open SlateME.
    2. Make a Simple Tiles map. Maps > OSL > Textures > Simple Tiles.
      This is an equivalent of Tiles legacy map. You can make a various tile or brick patterns.
    3. Double click the thumbnail so we can have a bugger thumbnail.
    4. Change Tiling Mode to Twist Box.

As you can see, OSL can output not only color information but also various data information. For this tutorial, we will mainly utilize Index data which is a integer index number for individual tiles. Let’s see that it means visually.

    1. Make 2 OSL > Math Vector > Random by Index.
    2. Connect Index port of Simple Tiles to Idx of both Random by Index map.

So, what’s happening here?

Random by Index map generates a random float number between Min and Max and drives the randomization with the Idx and Seed parameters.

Since Idx of Random by Index is provided by the Index value of Simple Tiles, all pixels in the same tile will get the same random value.You can see that well from the thumbnail, each tile has a different shade of gray.

But, you can see both map has exactly same pattern and color. That’s because both map has same Seed number by default. What is the Seed number? This is from the Wikipedia. “A random seed (or seed state, or just seed) is a number (or vector) used to initialize a pseudorandom number generator.”, which brings another important concept, pseudorandom.

In CG, we can not use true random number, if a number is truly random. That means every time when you render or even open file again. You will have a different number and different pattern! Therefore, all random number in CG is pseudorandom driven by Seed number. If Seed number is same you get the same ransom number just like the above image.

  1. Select the bottom Random by Index map
  2. Set Seed to “77”, You should get this.

OK. let’s make a bunch more maps and actually do something with these 2 random maps.

  1. Make the following maps
    OSL > Math Vector > Component (Vector)
    OSL > UVWCoordinates > UVW Transform
    OSL > BitmapLookUp
  2. Choose “C:\Program Files\Autodesk\3ds Max 2021\maps\uvwunwrap\uv_checker.png” for BitmapLookUp
    This is a new 4k UV template which is added in 2021.
  3. Connect Out of the top Random by Index > X of Component (Vector)
  4. Connect Out of the bottom Random by Index > Y of Component (Vector)
  5. Connect Out of the Component (Vector) > Offset of UVW Transform
    Do not connect anything to BitmapLookUp yet.

The 2 Random by Index we made were for the random Offset value of UVW, and it is a vector value. How do I know? If you see in UI, you can ses that it is made out of 3 values. The, it is a vector value.

So, we can not directly plug 2 float values into the Offset port. We need to assemble a vector data and plug into Offset. Component (Vector) map allow to compose or decompose a vector from/to 3 floats. Since we need to use only X and Y value. you don’t have to plug anything into Z. If no map is connected to the property, OSL map will use the value in the UI which was 0.

What we got so far? As you see in the thumbnail of UVW Transform, we randomly offset UV per tile. If you see more red, that means the pixel is offset more along U. If you see more green, that means the pixel is offset more along V. Remember Slate can only show any value range from 0-1 because it is made for color. Fortunately this case out data range is also 0-1. So, we could see what’s going on as image. But, it would be be the case all the time.

  1. Now Connect UVW of the UVW Transform > UV Coordinates of BitmapLookUp
    Tada! you can see your texture randomly offset by Tile ID.

Cool. Now how can I control the scale of texture? Yes, you change the Scale value of UVW Transform.

How can I control the size of tiles? Scale in Simple Tiles.

Let’s see what it looks like with a real texture. Remember this technique only works with seamless tileable texture. This is with the TexturesCom_RockSmooth0172_1_seamless_S.jpg from here. https://www.textures.com/. I use scale to 5.0 for UV.

How about some mid tone variation? We can use Tweak/Levels OSL map for this. We will also need another Random by Index map driven by Index.

  1. Select one of Random by Index map and SHIFT+drag to make a copy.
  2. Set Min as 0.75, Max as 1.25. Seed as 131.
  3. Add a OSL > Tweak/Levels map.
  4. Connect Out of the new Random by Index map to MidTones of Tweak/Levels.
  5. Connect Out(RGB) of BitmapLookUp map to the Input of Tweak/Levels.

OK, I hope you get the hang of how to wrangle data to drive values at this point. Next, let’s put the gaps in. There are unlimited ways to how to handle gaps. But, I’ll just go easiest way since the main purpose of this post is tutorial. The Bump output of Simple Tiles map already give you a black gaps and white tiles. I’ll use that output to composite with Multiply mode.

  1. Make OSL > Compositing > Composite map.
  2. Connect Out of the Tweak/Levels > Bottom layer RGB of Composite
  3. Connect Bump of the Simple Tiles  > Top layer RGB of Composite
  4. Set Top layer Alpha as 0.7, BlendMode as Multiply.

OK, it is getting there. Let’s add one more randomization, the rotation. By now, you should already know what to do.Yes, you need to have another Random by Index (Float) with range 0.1 – 360 and feed into Rotate of UVW Transform. BUT, since it is a tutorial, let’s make things more complicate to learn. What if we want to rotate only at right angle like 90, 180, 270 degree?

Our goal is get only one of the 0, 90, 180. 270 per tile. How we do that? Right, we can get a random value between 0 – 3 and multiply 90.0. But, Random by Index (Float) generates float number, and we don’t have Random by Index (Integer) map. Well, don’t worry. Here comes Float-to-Int map to the rescue!

  1. Copy one of Random by Index (Float).
  2. Set Min as 0.0, Max as 3.99. Seed as 666.
  3. Make OSL > Math Float > Float-to-Int map
  4. Set Mode as floor.
  5. Make OSL > Math Float > Multiply map
  6. Set B as 90.0
  7. Connect Out of the new Random by Index map to Input of Float-to-Int.
  8. Connect Out of the Float-to-Int map to A of Multiply
  9. Connect Out of the Multiply map to Rotate of UVW Transform.
    You may wonder why 3.99 instead of 3.00, and what the heck is “floor”? Floor is a way to convert a float value to integer value by returning the largest whole number (integer) that is less than or equal to the number. if you had 1.24, you would get 1.o. So, it is a floor of the range 1.0-2.0. There is also “ceil” which is kinda opposite. The ceil of 1.24 would be 2.0. By setting range as 0.0-3.99 and mode as floor, we are trying to make sure all 4 numbers are getting even chance. 0.0-1;0 > 0.0. 1.0-1.99 > 1, 2.0-2.99 > 2.0. 3.0-3.99 > 3.0.
    Left is without the rotation randomization. Right is with the rotation randomization.

As you can see, you can randomize any parameters you want. You just need to know when to stop. Should we stop now then? No, not yet. So far, we have used only one map file and looks like getting a good result. But, what if we can use multiple map files and randomly use per file?

Here is a great news. One of the new feature of 3dsMax 2021.2 is 1-of-N(Filename) map. If we don’t have this map, we have to setup a small tree with multiple BitmapLookup , 1-of-N Switcher and Random by Index map. Now we just need 2 maps.

  1. Add a OSL > Switchers > 1-of-N(Filename) map.
  2. Choose all 5 maps.
  3. Add a OSL > Switchers > Random Index by Number/Color map. BTW, such a great map, I wonder who made this? 🙂
  4. Connect Index of the Simple Tiles map to Input Number of Random Index by Number/Color.
  5. Connect Out of the Random Index by Number/Color to Filename of BitmapLookUp.

OK… This is the full tree. I guess we end up with not-so-mini-tutorial.

BUT! Yes, there is always. “BUT”.

We went through all these to learn how to work with OSL maps to build own randomization. Now I have to tell you this. Sorry, we didn’t need to go through all these if you wanted to just use it. Why? Because Zap made the awesome Bitmap Random Tiling for 3dsMax 2021.2.

This is what it looks like if you use Bitmap Random Tiling. Youjust need to plug Index into Seed. Make sure to turn off Randomize by UV position.

You can even randomize color, too.

If you want to use multiple map file? Then, re-use the 1-of-N(Filename). Another 2021.2 feature.

I guess it is worth to upgrade??? 🙂

If you are really lazy, here is the max file. It has the full setup and simple 2021.2 setup. I can not include texture file. So, you probably need to download some seamless tileable maps. Here is another good news. Because ,max file actually embed the source OSL code in the scene file, you can even open this file in 2019. You will see the new 2021.2 OSL shader there. Save the OSL map in a material library. Then, you can even use the new map in 2019 or 2020.  Another nice thing about 3dsMax OSL implementation!

Click to download .max file of this tutorial (2019 version)

Since you follow me all the way down here, you need to check renderStacks. Click here!

A teaser for the future article! What is the difference between the following 4 images?

The answer is… they all rendered in a different renderer. From the left, Corona, VRay, VRayGPU, Arnold. Yes, all different renderer. You can have exactly same map tree across different renderer even CPU/GPU. I can say this is the first time I ever see this is possible in CG history. I’ll have a blog post with more examples in the future.

3dsMax tips #3 How to make imported tree animation 15 times faster

The models I have been dealing with in 3dsMax have been mostly internally made or purchased as .max file, which means I usually do not have explicit normals on my model. If you make a model in 3dsMax, you usually smoothing group instead of explicit normal.

But, most other DCCs are using explicit normal. Which means when you import fbx, obj or alembic. You will be likely to have a lot of explicit normals. I mean a lot. All this explicit normal also need to be recalculated when your object is deforming, which means it can have a great impact on your animation playback performance.

Recently I have learned the impact of normal calculation is HUGE. I mean really HUGE. Another reason why this issue surfaces more recently is that 3dsMax dev have beenputting a lot of effort to preverve explicit normal in various modifier. In the past, many modifiers had destroyed on the stack, now more explicit normals have preserved and causing slow down.

I downloaded a MaxTree sample file from https://maxtree.org/products/plant-models-vol-16/ 
They have the original max file and fbx file.Perfect.

I chose the biggest one, MT_PM_Albizia_saman_01_01_H, and applied animated Bend modifier.It has 4,4mil verts and 3.8mil tris. This is what it looks like in my Ryzen 2700X(kinda old… I know). I turned off real time playback.

The native max mesh from .max file plays at around 14fps. Not bad for 4.4 million verts animation.
Now I imported the fbx version of same tree. I got 0.6fps.
In other wards, max mesh took less than 2 second to play 24 frames. fbx mesh took 36 second to play 24 frames. That’s almost 20 times slower! When I check the amount of explicit normal, there were 11.399 million normals! File size also jumped from 294M to 645M!

3dsMax native mesh
Mesh from fbx with explicit normal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to solve this issue

First of all, this is why it is always better if you stay in 3dsMax all the time. The native data is always the best. But, if you have to get data from outside of 3dsMax. The ultimate fix issue would be converting to smoothing group and remove all explicit normals. Unfortunately, I have not found a good way to do this for 4.4 million verts model.

So, I took a little bit of time to find a solution, and here is two work arounds.

Apply Mesh Select for Editable Poly, Smooth for Editable Mesh and set to “Off in render”

Some may think “why not Edit Normal modifier?” because it turns out that Edit Normals can not completely remove normal interface.  So far the only way to completely wipe out explicit normal is applying Mesh Select modifier on Editable Poly or Smooth modifier on Editable MeshThen, by setting this to Off in render, you wipe out explicit normals only for viewport and get correct smoothing while rendering.

So, by doing this, I got around 9fps. That’s a lot better than 0.6fps. That’s 15 times faster.

Do not turn on Auto Smooth on 4.4 million verts model. You don’t need to smooth anything. Just applying Smooth modifier on Editable Mesh will wipe out all normals. Same for Mesh Select, just apply it and change to “Off in Render”.

Conclusion

  • Use always the native mesh if you can. The native mesh is always the best.
  • Use always Smoothing group instead of explicit normal if you can.
  • “Smooth” to wipe out explicit normal in Editable Mesh.
    “Mesh Select” to wipe out explicit normal in Editable Poly.
    Edit Normals modifier can not do this.
  • After the model is imported, always try this if the model has animation.
  • As you can read the below paragraph, having any explicit normal will make 3dsMax calculate something all the time. Even tho you have an explicit normal per vetex(Usually it is a lot more), it is essentially same as having one more mesh. in the above case, it had 11.4 million explicit normals, which means it is same as having 4 trees than 1 tree.  On top of that, this would happen for each modifier after animated modifier. So, this tip will be always valid i n the future.
  • Don’t just assume 3dsMax would be slow for deforming hires mesh. If you for really low fps, always try something. It would be always case by case But, generally speaking, 3dsMax should not havce problem playing more than miilion verts around 10fps.

Technical details

One of the main 3dsMax developer, Peter Watje, game some insight about this issue. I’m sharing the full text. It is must read for any 3dsMax users who want to know the technical details. Thanks, Peter!

Mesh Normal Interface is really the correct name but basically it is an object that is attached to the mesh when you want to override the smoothing groups. It lets you describe normals by smoothing group, or by which faces they are attached to or by the user explicitly setting the value changing the normal direction. It carries around a lot of data even if you don’t have any explicit normals. So for instance if you Box and you put an Edit Normals all the normals start out as Unspecified Normals and are colored blue which means the normals are generated by smoothing groups. Then there are Specified Normals in which case the normal is still computed but the faces that are used are determined by the user. For instance if you Unify some normals they become a Specified Normals(cyan) and the normal is computed by all the faces the original normals where attached to, Finally there are Explicit Normals(green) which the changes the direction of the normal and that normal is no longer computed in anyway. All that data needs to be stored in the Mesh Normal Interface.

Reset Normals sets all the normals back to Unspecified. The Mesh Normal Interface is still there it just uses the smoothing groups to compute the normals but there is still alot of data there.

When it comes to performance it breaks down to were the normals are computed and how much data is copied to create them. With no Mesh Normal Interface the normals are created when the mesh is displayed and is actually done by a shader that takes the mesh and the smoothing groups and generates the normals directly on the display mesh. It is really fast which is why in some cases when you put certain modifiers on the stack that strip out the Mesh Normal Interface it becomes faster.

The other way performance path is thru the Mesh Normal Interface. Since it is data on an object that flows up the stack that means it may need to be copied which is a heavy weight operation. It also means that any geometry changing modifiers need to also deform the explicit normals in addition to the vertices. So when you come to the display all Specified and Unspecified Normals need to be computed if they were not already and merged with the Explicit Normals and then attached to the display geometry. So you performance is determined mainly by how heavy weight your stack was. Previously the stack was super conservative dealing with normal. It did extra copies and the deforming of normals on a single thread. We are looking at making it less conservative to get better performance but that might bring up other unforeseen issues.

A Tip in a tip

How to set modifier to work only in viewport? Right click menu of the modifier. You can set a modifier to on/off or on/off only in render or viewport.

How about making your workflow 15 times faster? Meet renderStacks!

3dsMax tips #2 Custom Viewport Tooltip

When your cursor is hovering over an object in the viewport, you can see that a tooltip pops up and shows object name. 3dsMax 2017+ allow you to customize the viewport tooltip of the active viewport. You can not only show any data you want but also have a custom style using a subset of html tags.

This is a template code for a custom viewport tooltip.

global genTooltip
fn genTooltip = (
	local obj = callbacks.notificationParam() -- Getting the objects under cursor from callback
	local nodeName = obj.name
	local mtlName = (if obj.material == undefined then ("undefined") else (obj.material.name))
	local faceNum = try(obj.mesh.numfaces as string)catch("0")
	local vertsNum = try(obj.mesh.verts.count as string)catch("0")
	local tooltipText = "<u><b><font color=blue size=6>" + nodeName + "</b></font></u><br>"
	tooltipText += "<font  size=4>Layer : "	+ obj.layer.name + "</font><br>"
	tooltipText += "<font  size=4>Material : "	+ mtlName + "</font><br>"		
	tooltipText += "Verts Count: " + vertsNum + "<br>"	
	tooltipText += "Face Count: " + faceNum + ""	
	viewport.appendtooltip tooltipText
)
callbacks.removeScripts id:#MXSVIewportTooltip
callbacks.addScript #preViewportTooltip "genTooltip()" id:#MXSVIewportTooltip

Let’s see what’s happening here.

First, we made a global function, genTooltip , to assemble the tooltip text and add to viewport.
The first line local obj = callbacks.notificationParam() is how you get the the objects under cursor from callback. It is what it is. Don’t touch it. 🙂

Then we build the text for the tooltip, As you can see, you can use a subset of html tags. The devloper mentioned to check this document. http://doc.qt.io/qt-4.8/richtext-html-subset.html

The above code will make a bold(<b></b>) big blue(<font color=blue size=6></font>) object name with underline(<u></u>).
Adding <br> is like adding enter to make a new line.
Then, the size 4 layer name and the material name will be added.
Then, normal size verts count and face count will be added.

After you build the text to display,viewport.appendtooltip tooltipText will resister the text as tooltip.

Lastly, we call this genTooltip  function as #preViewportTooltip callback.
That’s the lase 2 line. If copy/paste the above code into Maxscript Editor and run this once with CTRL+E, it will last for the session.

If you are lazy like me, you can copy/paste the above code into notepad.
Then, save as “customViewportTooltip.ms” in the user startup script folder.
C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\Autodesk\3dsMax\2020 – 64bit\ENU\scripts\startup

OK. if you are lazy again, type this in the listener and press num pad Enter.
getdir #userstartupscripts

Now every time when you start max, the script will run automatically for you.

Bonus tip!

If you have a looooooooooooot of objects(I mean really a lot), the hit testing to detect which object is under cursor might take a little bit of time. If you want to save a few milisecond. You can turn off viewport tooltip from here.

If you like this post, you will like renderStacks, too! Let’s click here and check it out!

 

3dsMax tips #1 – 3dsMax.ini setting for file load/save speed up

As you know, 3dsMax searches a few folder to find your asset or map files. I personally do not set any of these search folder. Either having assets in a correct folder or not. But, I know some users rely on this behaviors and even having 100s(!) of search folders.

When you save a max file, 3dsMax will try to resolve all this path which means it will try to search all these folders until it finds the map. As you can imagine, it could take some time if you have a lot of maps and especially a lot of user folders.

3dsMax need to resolve path for 2 reasons. First, there is the asset meta data streams. Second, there is External Dependencies file list in Properties dialog.

You can turn off this process by adding this in 3dsMax.ini. The first one will disable resolving path for properties. Second one will disable for asset metadata stream. If you want to turn on set as “1”.

[Performance]
SaveAuxFilesInFileProperties=0
SaveAssetResolvedFileName=0

Or you can run this code and restart max.

setIniSetting (getMAXIniFile()) "Performance" "SaveAuxFilesInFileProperties" "0"
setIniSetting (getMAXIniFile()) "MatePerformancerials" "SaveAssetResolvedFileName" "0"

Next! When 3dsMax open a max file, it will also try to revolve asset path to popup Missing External Files dialog. You can see it could take a while if you have a lot of maps with many broken or need-to-be-searched path on the network drive. Also 3dsMax will try to find every single file in IFL! One time I had a scene with many IFL sequences which total more than 20,000 images. You can imagine how painful was to load the file.

Good news! You can turn off this by setting this in 3dsMax.ini.

[Performance]
FindMissingMapsOnSceneLoad=0

Or you can run this code and restart max.

setIniSetting (getMAXIniFile()) "Performance" "FindMissingMapsOnSceneLoad" "0"

I can not remember exactly. But, I think these options are added in 3dsMax 2015.
Try it!

renderStacks can speed up your task, too! Let’s click here and check it out!

3dsMax 2021.1 Custom Default Parameter – and the manager!

Updated to 1.03! 9/7/2020

3dsMax 2021.1 has been released today. There are many fixes and nice improvement.
One of a new feature is the custom default parameter using Maxscript by DefaultParamInterface. Click here for details. This new feature allows you to have custom default for most areas of 3dsMax as long as it is a class.

The simplest  example would be the height segment of Cylinder. The current default is 5. Id you change it, whatever that value becomes the default for the session. Now you can set your own default  height segment using Maxscript DefaultParamInterface. It is not limited to object and modifiers since it is supported for all classes. You can also use this to set your own renderer default include 3rd party plugins.

The custom defaults will be saved in C:\Users\[username]\Autodesk\3ds Max 2021\User Settings\DefaultParameters.ini. Next time when you update to 3dsMax 2022. You just need to copy that file to the corresponding 3dsMax 2022 folder.

BUT, you would wonder… “why do I have to use Maxscript?”. I think setting the custom default using UI will come in the future. There was some prototype for UI in beta. But, it was removed from release because it doesn’t cover some cases.

So, that’s why I made this Custom Default Param Manager script. This script give you a UI to search a class and parameters and allow you to set default value.
Download Custom Default Param Manager 1.02

Download, unzip and drag and drop the script into the viewport. It will be nder csTools > CustomDefaultParamManager. Or simply type X > CustomDefaultParamManager.

This is the UI.

On the left, you can choose a class. On the right, you can choose a parameter name. Then, you will see the spinner of checkbox to input the new default.
Then, just press Set button.
Persistent checkbutton is on by default. To make the default for the next session, you need to check this. So, don’t turn off.
The last 3 buttons are to remove the custom default. You can clear custom default for selected parameter or restores to the factory default. You can also remove everything you set.

Have you heard about renderStacks? The smarter way to render? Let’s click here and check it out!

 

3dsMax 2021 OSL Advanced User Interface

3ds Max has many cool OSL shaders. It also has some under the hood improvement for OSL shader developers for better user experience.

For details, you can check Help document. Click here.

Here is some highlights.

  • Additional metadata
    widget type “null”
    metadata connectable
    metadata worldunits
  • Row Packing
  • Custom Widgets
    max:ramp0
    max:actionButton
  • Dynamic UI
    help of the “max:actionButton” shown above, a few helper scripts have been introduced that makes shaders dynamic – as in – the shader is actually modifying its own sourcecode!
    Thanks to this. Now 1-of-5 and 1-of-10 has been consolidated to 1-of-N.
  • Fully Custom UI via QT
    allows a custom layout to be provided in the form of a .ui fil
    You can design cool UI with QtDesigner!
    The following images are a few new OSL maps which is using new Qt UI.