We're going to start by picking up where we left off in the Animation tutorial. If you didn't complete the tutorial, you can download the .zip file here
and open "pinbox_animated.max". Select PinBox, and rotate it 90 degrees on the Y axis (Fig.01).
Hit P to make sure you are in a Perspective viewport. Right click over the perspective label at the top left of the viewport and choose "Show Safe Frame". Tumble, Pan, and Zoom around the model until you get a view you are happy with. While it's not necessary to work within Action and Title safe when you are not working on broadcast television footage, it still is a good reference to frame the shot. Use Ctrl + C to create a camera from that perspective view (Fig.02).
Create a plane in the viewport. Align Z min to min with the PinBox. Now increase the size of the plane and move it along the XY so that it fills the viewport. Name it "Ground Plane" (Fig.03).
Create a mr Area Spot light and position it as shown. A good rule of thumb for light positioning is to place it directly opposite the object from the camera. This will maximize your shadows and make the scene more interesting. After playing with the settings a bit, I set the spotlight with the following parameters. Check to turn on Shadows, and drop down and choose "Raytraced Shadows" Under "Intensity/Color/Attenuation", check to use Far Attenuation and set Start: 100 and End: 200. Under "Spotlight Parameters" set Hotspot: 87 and Falloff: 96. Go to your Render Dialogue Box, and make sure you have the Mental Ray Renderer selected. Please note: This has pretty bad aliasing along the edges, but we'll fix that later (Fig.04 & Fig.05).
Next create a Sky Light. It doesn't matter where you put it; just click in the viewport somewhere. Now here you have several choices. You can just set it up to use a colour, or you can load a map. I have loaded "Dock_Sphere.hdr" into the map slot. This image is included in the .zip file, but you can find it and two other free HDRI images from HDRImaps.com. Drag the map from the slot in the Sky Light to an empty material editor slot and choose Instance. Set the Coordinates from Texture to Environ and Choose Spherical Environment as the Mapping type (Fig.06).
Under the Indirect Illumination tab check Enable Final Gather. Drag the slider to set FG Precision to "Low". Under Trace Depth, set Depth, Reflections, and Refractions to 2. If you have one mirrored surface facing another and you want to see reflections off to infinity, increase these settings. For almost any other setting, two bounces are all you need visually and this will keep render times down. Another setting to experiment with here is the number of Diffuse bounces. Default is 0. If you compare the two images, there is the slightest increase in illumination at the right side of the image. But since this object is mostly black plastic, this is not really going to be visible. Render time goes from 11 seconds to 16 seconds. This may not sound like much, but proportionally it's a 45% increase in render time. For now, leave bounces at 0 (Fig.07).
Next we are going to create some materials. I use the MR Arch and Design Shader for almost all of my materials. This is a very flexible and powerful shader. It is also just as fast to render as Standard or Raytrace materials, making it very cost effective in terms of render time. Lastly these materials have some really useful presets that will get you close to most of the materials you will use in your scene. In an empty Material Slot, change the name to "Black Plastic" and change the shader type from Standard to Arch & Design. Change Diffuse color to 0,0,0 (solid black) and set Reflectivity to 1. Apply this to Plastic Tray01, 02, Corner Post 01, 02, 03, 04, and Nut01-04 (Fig.08 & Fig.09).
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