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Fast Ambient Occlusion in 3ds Max

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(21 Votes)
Date Added: 16th November 2010
Software used:


Ambient occlusion adds great realism to your renders, but can be bit cumbersome to set up in Max, particular if you're using a mix of mental ray shaders and standard shaders. You could create an ambient occlusion effect by using lights, but it can be slow to render and tricky to get the right look. So if you want to skip all that, you can simply use a material override in your render options to get the job done - it's super fast and gives you the added bonus of having the ambient occlusion in a separate pass. As a separate pass you can adjust and manipulate to your heart's desire without affecting the rest of your render.

Please note that this tutorial uses 3ds Max 2011 and Photoshop CS5. Earlier versions should work too, but there might be slight differences in interface.

Fig. 01

Step 1: Create a mental ray material

First you have to make sure you have assigned mental ray in your Render Setup menu (press F10) (Fig.02).

Fig. 02

Then open your Material Editor (press M) and select an empty material slot. Give it a new name, like "AO material" and click the Standard button to select the mental ray shader in the Material/Map Browser (Fig.03).

Fig. 03

You should now see the mental ray shader. Under Basic Shaders click the Surface parameter and select Ambient/Reflective Occlusion in the Material/Map Browser (Fig.04).

Fig. 04

continued on next page >

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Leo on Thu, 02 June 2016 11:10pm
js it hard
Mario on Wed, 16 December 2015 3:13pm
Thanks for the tutorial! I've been struggling getting a realistic look to my renderings and this is a really quick and easy way to spice up the render. Even though the occlusion isn't "accurate", it's great and really fast, especially since i'm rendering a 1500 frame animation and splitting it up helps it not take too long. Thanks again!
Ariespranata on Tue, 11 November 2014 3:16am
Hi, this is a very nice tutorial. Btw, I've spent a little time and creating a script that will do exactly the same as what you're doing in this tutorial. Take a look: Nice thing about this script is, when you run the script, it will render the AO pass and leave your scene as if nothing happened. :)
Anoop Eapen on Tue, 28 October 2014 2:55pm
Dear, pls give the 3ds max system requirement pls send me
Aily on Fri, 21 February 2014 7:06am
You can use mr AO shader on standart Omni light, but in it "advanced" rollout enable "ambient only" flag. And now any materials (not only mr) will be with AO. And you don't need photoshop anymore for this ;)
Mick on Sun, 24 November 2013 8:41pm
Great...thanks for this.
David on Fri, 22 November 2013 12:10pm
This is great to follow up for a quick 'render to texture', nothing wrong with it at all, even though it isn't 'physically accurate' and all that rubbish.
Martin on Thu, 03 October 2013 12:15pm
Thank you for making this tutorial. I know it was not supposed to be a 100% accurate AO map, but it is absolutely perfect for a very quick way to get very nice results for quick proofing renders. Cheers Martin
Merey on Sat, 22 June 2013 9:35pm
nice but how do you handle a;pha maps like leaves with this technique?pls if you know tell me: tanx
Grant Salisbury on Mon, 28 January 2013 2:13am
A great way to do this quickly is to use this script. Quick Passes Great for quick mattes and lighting as well as ao passes.
Tim on Sun, 09 January 2011 11:00pm
also, you can disable final gather for your ambient occlusion pass, makes it at least slightly faster.
Tom Isaksen on Wed, 17 November 2010 10:05am
Actually Vladimir, the point is to make it easy and quick, particular if you NOT just using Arch & Design shaders.. But you are right, it's not a physically correct Ambient Occlusion effect, and I suppose I could have stressed that more in the tutorial. So thanks for pointing it out.
Vladimir Jankijevic on Tue, 16 November 2010 9:22pm
I'm sorry but if you've read that post by Master Zap, you'll see that your technique isn't quiet right and is missing the point of ambient occlusion. here is the link to the post:
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