June 9, 2011, 1:20 a.m.
posted by nuclear
Software that handshakes with other software establishes mutually agreed-upon communication practices such as a common file format. The 3ds object file format, for instance, is not only common to 3ds max, but dozens of other computer graphics and animation software packages are able to write and read it as well. This means that all those other software packages have a way to speak with, or handshake with, 3ds max. If a book were to be written with just one chapter for each of the 3D software applications that addressed the 3ds object file format, it would be a much larger book than this one.
There are more direct ways that one piece of software can handshake with another however. Software can be designed to handshake so closely with another targeted piece of software that the source package acts almost like a plug-in. Such relationships do indeed exist. Here are five very different and unique handshaking applications that address 3ds max in different ways, all worthy of exploration as you extend your max mastery.
For creating and animating 3D characters of every type, Poser rules the roost. Poser has a wealth of character presets and character-related features. Poser handshakes with 3ds max by writing out full character-incorporated animation scenes and using a plug-in bridge between the two programs. Poser 5, the latest edition, contains groundbreaking advances in character design and animation technology — which its effective handshaking makes available to 3ds max users. Poser models can be exported as 3ds models (max artists and animators, rejoice!), and you can keyframe-animate any preset element in Poser by using the controls shown in Figure.
Credo Interactive’s LifeForms is software dedicated to the creation of BVH and other movement file formats. These formats can be applied to characters in 3ds max and Poser to give superealistic motion to jointed characters. LifeForms has a large library of characters of its own that can also be ported to 3ds max. Preset movement scripts are also included, and you can order more character and animation files to add to your LifeForms resources, as shown in Figure.
Adobe Illustrator sets the standard when it comes to vector drawing software. You don’t know what a vector is? Sure you do! A vector is a spline, the same thing as the splines you use in 3ds max to create shapes. 3ds max imports Illustrator vectors as spline shapes, which you can then extrude, lathe, make visible, or use as animation paths. Illustrator has a much wider array of tools for creating all sorts of splines, so Illustrator handshakes quite effectively with 3ds max. Illustrator is a must-have if your 3ds max work involves wide spline use.
When you need to create photorealistic backdrops of still or animated naturalistic environments for 3ds max, look no farther than Vue d’Esprit (pronounced Voo-Deh-Spree). With all the features needed to create 3D trees, water, clouds, landscapes, and more (as well as the ability to incorporate Poser animation projects), Vue is the perfect environmental complement to 2ds max. Vue’s cloud and sky presets alone are worth the ticket, giving 3ds max users very high-quality natural backdrops. You can also use Vue’s output to create still or animated Reflection and Diffuse Channel maps in max.
Post-production effects are image effects applied to a project after it is rendered. (Effects created in the 3ds max Render Effects panel are post-production effects, as are Video Post effects.) Two excellent plug-ins are
Illusion: This 2D particle-system application creates final touches for 3ds max animations. Illusion has been used to create professional effects for broadcast television shows including “The Starship Trooper Chronicles,” “Star Trek Voyager,” and Warner Brothers’ “Max Steele,” “Lexx,” and “Superman.”
Combustion: This complete post-production effects package comes from AutoDesk, the developer of 3ds max; it handshakes with 3ds max on the fly! Using Combustion, you can layer animations and apply myriad effects, stitching everything together into one seamless whole. Combustion is used in major Hollywood and broadcast productions.
Why mention Illusion and Combustion in the same breath? The Illusion effects are folded into Combustion, and are available to all Combustion users. Combus- tion is included on its own CD-ROM in the 3ds max package, so if you have purchased 3ds max version 5, you also have the Combustion CD-ROM with the integrated Illusion effects. This is only a time-limited version of Combustion, which has to be purchased separately from Discreet, but when you are ready to create your first major animated films, Combustion will be there waiting for you.