'3D Studio Max'

'Fast Ambient Occlusion in 3ds Max'

by Tom Isaksen

3d studio max, fast, ambient, occlusion, mapping, techniques, photoshop

Software Used :

3DSMax & Photoshop

Introduction :

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.

3d studio max, fast, ambient, occlusion, mapping, techniques, photoshop

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).

3d studio max, fast, ambient, occlusion, mapping, techniques, photoshop


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).

3d studio max, fast, ambient, occlusion, mapping, techniques, photoshop

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).

3d studio max, fast, ambient, occlusion, mapping, techniques, photoshop

Page 1

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The first, and ugly option, would be to flatten the UVs in an unwrap modifier and then texture it in a 3D painting
software like Mudbox/Bodypaint etc. The second option would be to create a low poly ball, unwrap it and then
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Your rating:  
  Rating: 3.76, Votes: 21 
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: http://mentalraytips.blogspot.com/2008/11/joy-of-little-ambience.html
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.
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.
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.
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: [email protected]
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.


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.
Mick on Sun, 24 November 2013 8:41pm

Great...thanks for this.
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 ;)
Anoop Eapen on Tue, 28 October 2014 2:55pm

Dear, pls give the 3ds max system requirement pls send me
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: http://www.ariespranata.com/2014/11/freebies-maxscript-rendering-ao-pass.html

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. :)

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