'3D Studio MAX'

'Compositing For Production Using 3DSMax and Mental Ray'
Lee Johnson


Software Used: 3ds Max & Mental Ray

Step 1:

Download the file “production_render.zip”, and extract all the files to a directory of your choosing.  Open the scene “blackberry_elements.max”. 

If you need to fix the material paths to get all the texture maps to load, go to the Utilities Panel, and click on More > Edit Resources > Select Missing Files. Hit the  “. . . “ button, and browse to where you extracted the files.  Now choose “Set Path” (Fig.01).


Step 2:

Next set your output path for rendering.  Save as “blackberry_.png”, and choose a directory where you want all the render files to wind up.  Under setup, set RGB 48 bit, and check the Alpha Channel.  If you have a render output set up then when you add your render elements they will automatically be added to that directory.  Also set it to single frame for right now.  You can render out the full range after you get everything setup.

Step 3:

Go to the Render Dialogue > Render Elements > Add.  Now highlight the following elements (Fig.02):
*mr AD Output Diffuse Direct Illumination
*mr AD Output Diffuse Indirect Illumination
*mr AD Output Reflections
*mr AD Output Self Illumination
*mr AD Output Specular
*mr AD Output Transparency


Step 4:

Now for a little clean-up.  Right now all your elements will output to the same directory.  That’s fine if you are doing a still image, but if you want to render a sequence, this will get messy.  It’s a good idea to create a subfolder for each element you create.  Also clean-up the file name.  Currently the default name is: “blackberry__mr ad output diffuse direct illumination.png”.  That’s a little long, and “blackberry_dir_illum_.png” works just as well. Finally, uncheck “Apply Shadows” on each of these elements.

Step 5:

Now click “Add” again. This time select the Shadow and ZDepth options (Fig.03)


Step 6:

Now to set the range for the ZDepth.  Go to Indirect Illumination, and uncheck the Enable option on Final Gather.  Now go to the Processing Tab, and enable the Material Override (Fig.04).  Drag a blank grey shader into the material slot of the Override and choose “Instance”.  Now uncheck the Enable option on all the elements except the ZDepth.  Start adjusting the Z min and Z max until you get solid white at the front of your scene and close to black at the back.  Don’t be afraid to spend awhile doing this to get a feel for it. I wound up using 7.25” for the Min and 9.75” for the Max (Fig.05).


Step 7:

Now Re-Enable all your elements, disable the Material Override, enable Final Gather, and hit Render (Fig.06). When the render completes it will kick out all the elements at once.  Older versions of Mental Ray had to render each element separately, so this is much faster.  Save your work.


Step 8:

Now it’s time to go through your elements to see if there are any errors with the render.  Turns out there is a problem with how the Self Illumination and two Diffuse elements are reading the way we have set up the material on the buttons (Fig.07).  So we are going to setup a render pass to fix it in post.  There is nothing wrong with troubleshooting your render file to avoid problems with the renders, but sometimes deadlines require you to fix it the fast and easy way and figure out the real problem another time.  In each of the four Button Materials (top row of the Material Editor) uncheck “Material 2” and the Mask.  Now re-render.


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