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Category: 3dsMax Tips

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.

 

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!

How to share your awesome MCGs – MCG Installation and network deployment

MCG had a big changed in 3dsMax 2018. This post is based on 3dsMax 2018+.

One of the biggest changes was Improved MCG Package Installation Experience. Let me just norrow the words from dev.

“In previous versions of MCG, the package installation process of an .mcg file involved the automatic extraction of its contained .maxtool and .maxcompound files into the user’s 3ds Max /Max Creation Graph/Tools/Downloads directory. A consequence of this installation method was that common compounds would often conflict with each other, resulting in duplication messages.

In MCG 2018, we’ve simplified the package installation process to make it much more robust. You can now install a .mcg file by dragging it into the viewport. All installed packages now reside in the user’s 3ds Max 2018/Max Creation Graph/Packages directory, and are evaluated as standalone .mcg files. No more file extraction, no more conflicts, no more problems.”

Basically, 3dsMax will consume .mcg package file directly and use the compound in that package first to avoid compound version conflict. Now .mcg file act much like a plugin dll file.

Packaging MCG

MCG Editor > File > Package Tool Graph… will allow you to package the current tool graph and all compound in a .mcg file.

Installing MCG

It means just copying .mcg file into MCG package folder, and drag and dropping .mcg file into 3dsMax viewport will do that f or you. The MCG packages folder is in your user folder/Autodesk. 2018/2019 shares the same structure. But, 2020 MCG package folder is a slightly different.
C:\Users\[username]\Autodesk\3ds Max 2018\Max Creation Graph\Packages
C:\Users\[username]\Autodesk\3ds Max 2019\Max Creation Graph\Packages
C:\Users\[username]\Autodesk\3ds Max 2020\User Tools\Max Creation Graph\Packages

ProceduralContent.ms

Before I tal about network deployment. I need to mention about this file first. The mCG is implemented with dotnet and Maxscript. The engine is dotnet and UI and communicaion with 3dsMax portion id Maxscript. This means we can actually see the source of many MCG functions which are in C:\Program Files\Autodesk\3ds Max 2020\scripts\Startup\ProceduralContent.ms file. If you dissect this file, you can learn a lot about how MCG is working.

Custom MCG Path

By default, 3dsMax uses the above MCG folders. But, you can also have own custom path for MCGs. RegisterCustomGraphPaths function in ProceduralContentOps struct in  ProceduralContent.ms manages how to set the path.

By default, it is set to use 3dsMax.ini file, C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\Autodesk\3dsMax\2020 – 64bit\ENU\3dsMax.ini. You can type getMaxiniFIle() in Maxscript Listener to get your 3dsMax.ini file path

You can add MCG Compound Directories, MCG Tools Directories, MCG Package Directories sections and add path like this.

[MCG Tools Directories]
tools_dir=C:\path\to\my\tools
other_tools=C:\path\to\other\tools
[MCG Compound Directories]
common_compounds=C:\path\to\my\compounds
experimental_compounds=C:\path\to\experimental\compounds
[MCG Package Directories]
networkPackages=\\path\to\network\packages

Custom MCG path without using 3dsMax.ini #1

But, what if you do not want to use 3dsMax.ini. The one way of using own .ini file for MCG path would be modifying ProceduralContent.ms. Open the file,C:\Program Files\Autodesk\3ds Max 2020\scripts\Startup\ProceduralContent.ms, search “getMAXIniFile()”. Then, replace with whatever path you want.

fn RegisterCustomGraphPaths =
(
local iniFile = getMAXIniFile()
local settings = dotNetClass "Viper3dsMaxBridge.Settings"

Custom MCG path without using 3dsMax.ini #2

But, then you have to modify on all workstations and render node. That might be too much. The next methods is taking the function from ProceduralContent.ms and make own script.

If you check the code, you can see all the functionality is coming from Viper3dsMaxBridge.Main dotnet class. So, I check what kinds of methods it has with showMethods command. CompileGraphsByFolder is what we need. There are a lot more methods. But, I revmoed not to scare you.

bridge = dotNetClass "Viper3dsMaxBridge.Main" 
dotNetClass:Viper3dsMaxBridge.Main
showMethods bridge
.[static]CompileGraphsByFolder <System.String>folder
....

Now, this is the final maxscript you can use

local viperbridge = dotNetClass "Viper3dsMaxBridge.Main"
-- Just in case if Viper3dsMaxBridge.dll has not been loaded yet
if viperbridge == undefined then (
    local bridgePath = (symbolicPaths.getPathValue "$max") + @"\Viper3dsMaxBridge.dll"
    dotNet.loadAssembly bridgePath returnPassFail:true
    viperbridge = dotNetClass "Viper3dsMaxBridge.Main"
)
viperbridge.ReloadOperators()
viperbridge.CompileGraphsByFolder @"D:\myfolder1\"
viperbridge.CompileGraphsByFolder @"E:\myfolder2\

Put this in a .ms file like myMCGload.ms. Then, throw in one of your network shared plugin folder. I’m sure you probably already have a plugin folder for a free plugins. Any .ms fil in plugin folder will be automatically runs when 3dsMax start.

 

A few more things to know

  • mcg files are registered in 3dsMax file as an asset. It will show up in Asset Tracker and asset metadata stream.
  • If you use BackBurner and use Include Maps, .mcg filw will be submiited with the job like maps.
  • When 3dsMax starts in slave mode, it will automatically evaulate all .mcg file in the folder where the max files are. Therefore, if you use 3rd party render farm, all you need to do is put .mcgs in the same folder as max file. You don’t need to set any path.

I hope this post is helpful for MCGers.