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.
Be aware of how your scene polygons are stacking up. Statistics give you more control
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.
Replicate your render aspect ratio right inside your viewport
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!
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.
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.
The help section is my first go-to place when any new 3ds Max version is released
Check out Paul Hatton's personal site
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