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Improve your 3ds Max Workflow: Top 10 interface secrets

By Paul Hatton
Web: Open Site
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Date Added: 28th July 2014
Software used:
3ds Max, V-Ray

Show statistics

For those scenes where you need to be careful of the polygon count, it is helpful to know the number of polygons that make up your scene, as well as the number of the particular object you have selected. This in general can be done using the shortcut 7 on the keyboard. It can then be customized by going to Customize Viewport and the Statistics tab. Then set it to Total + Selection. Finally, make sure that Show Statistics in Active View is selected.

1898_tid_paul-hatton---3d-total---hidden-interface-gems---step-7.jpg
Be aware of how your scene polygons are stacking up. Statistics give you more control

Safe frames

When setting up cameras and your composition, safe frames are absolutely essential. They let you see in your viewport the exact aspect ratio that you have set in your render settings. This will give you the confidence to set your camera up in a way that ensures your render is an exact replica of your viewport. Toggle safe frames visibility using Shift+F.

1898_tid_paul-hatton---3d-total---hidden-interface-gems---step-8.jpg
Replicate your render aspect ratio right inside your viewport

Object isolation

Isolating objects is a brilliant feature that I use time and time again. It allows me to focus only on those bits of geometry that I really want to see at that point in time. It is also a great saver on your viewport performance. With your chosen objects selected simply hit Alt+Y and see the rest of your objects disappear!

1898_tid_paul-hatton---3d-total---hidden-interface-gems---step-9.jpg
Focus only on the bits of geometry that you need to

Hold and Fetch

My final little gem which has been introduced fairly recently to 3ds Max is the Hold and Fetch tool. This tool enables you, by pressing Hold (Ctrl+H), to take a snapshot of your scene in time. The Fetch tool (Alt+Ctrl+F) then takes your scene back to that point in time. You might think: "Why not just use the save feature and go back to a previous version?” And you'd have a good point! But this does away with extra files. So when do I use it? Well, if I'm embarking on a task which is going to take me well beyond my number of undos then I'll set Hold just in case and then Fetch it back if all goes wrong.

1898_tid_paul-hatton---3d-total---hidden-interface-gems---step-10.jpg
Save your scene at a particular point in time to enable you to get back to it if you need to

Top tip 1: Exploring new releases

Every time you embark on a new version of 3ds Max make sure you head over to the Help section. There are always massively helpful articles and videos which explain new features and get you right up to speed with how to make the most of the revised software.

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The help section is my first go-to place when any new 3ds Max version is released

Related links

Check out Paul Hatton's personal site
Are you a 3ds Max user, or looking to start? You could try our collection of 3ds Max eBooks or purchase our books, 3ds Max Projects and Photoshop for 3D Artists



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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
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(ID: 303432, pid: 0) Paul Hatton on Tue, 14 October 2014 9:51am
Thank you for all your comments regarding the article and also for the corrections! That's the benefit of community input.
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(ID: 291115, pid: 0) Who Cares on Sun, 10 August 2014 10:18am
You can repeat last quad command faster by hitting the ";" key.
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(ID: 289531, pid: 0) Lester Holten on Wed, 30 July 2014 12:21am
Nice work man,,, thank you for the tutorial, very helpful indeed!
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(ID: 289504, pid: 0) Rogelio Del Toro on Tue, 29 July 2014 5:41pm
There's a typo on "Object Isolation", the shortcut or hotkey is actually "Alt+Q" not "Alt+Y". Great tips for everyone (specially the beginners), keep it up!
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(ID: 289444, pid: 0) Ihab Kalache on Tue, 29 July 2014 7:14am
Hold and Fetch has been around since the Dos days, I used it 15 years ago, it hasn't been recently introduced as you claim.
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(ID: 289328, pid: 0) Rodrigo D on Mon, 28 July 2014 2:42pm
For the hold and fetch feature there is also an alternative, in Customize > Preferences, in the general tab, you can adjust the levels of Undo (ctrl+z). This feature have save me a lot of times, my computer only has 8GB of RAM and I have this parameter in 200 (200 undos) and i have never had any trouble running out of memory.
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