Welcome SD3DSM (San Diego 3ds Max User Group) Members!
Shorthand meeting notes from 10/2/2008


My name is Chris Grant, I'm the Visualization Artist for HMC Architects in Ontario, CA - my portfolio site is I work a lot with models from SketchUp and Revit. Compressed deadlines mean I have to have an efficient process to help reduce the time it takes to get a rendering from provided 3d base model.

Case study 1 - Clovis Botanical Garden


  • VRay 2d displacement for the grass (applied with the vraydisplacement modifier). Material is a simple vray shader with a diffuse texture of a 3ds max composite map. The base layer is ordinary grass. The second layer is a more interesting 'wild' grass (not so manicured looking) that is overlaid at like 15%. The 3rd layer is a tiled gradient with a bit of noise with its tiling set really low in X and high on Y so you get those lawn mower looking streak. The gradient is using the 'color burn' transfer mode so it overlays nicely on the grass below it. There are actually 2 UVW maps, one at 10'x10' in channel 1 for the ordinary grass and another at 20'x20' in channel 2 for the wild grass / gradient.
  • VRay proxies used for all plants / trees. Proxies are extremely memory efficient - while a single tree may be a quarter million polygons, even after being copied 20 or 30 times its only going to take up memory to load it once. VRay proxies - good stuff.
  • I knew for the final render there would be certain materials likely to need fine tweaking so for those materials I set their material id to a unique number allowing me to create a matte along with the main render for tweaking in photoshop
  • Render elements: multimatte, material id, render id, raw reflection, raw refraction
  • Bit depth: everything rendered to full float openexr files which allows for exposure adjustments in photoshop
  • Sky / car streaks added in Photoshop
  • AO / line pass rendered as well by creating a blank file, then using xrefscene functionality to load in this file, then setting material overrides so everything renders as pure white with either a black line for fine edges (vray toon) or a vray dirt shader to get the ao details

Case study 2 - Elementary School 9

  • revit model has tons of parts
  • google satellite image used for base, along with 3d massed buildings. two layer approach to satellite image, high res image used for surrounding couple hundred feet then another satellite image used for surrounding couple miles.
  • scripts instrumental in eliminating temporary objects that are used to maintain original revit hierarchy. usually I find eliminating those objects cuts down object count to almost 50% - so this file has currently 8,000 objects and previously it had nearly 14,000 objects. the extra objects aren't useful if you're a max user but if you want to use the file-link functionality then you have to keep em. I find its not worth it to keep those helper objects around because it makes the computer too slow.
  • render elements: multimatte, material id, render id, raw reflection, raw refraction
  • everything rendered to full float exr's to maximize ability to adjust in post.
  • AO/line pass rendered separately

Case study 3 - NPR

  • watercolor rendering used VRay for base color layer, then watercolor effect applied in photoshop to "smoosh" the colors
  • psoft liquid+ renderer used to create b/w line pass that looked like the paint was running / clumping
  • vray toon pass used to create fine lines
  • ink n paint pass used to create line pass that appeared to fade out with strokes to simulate a person lessening pressure on the paper
  • in photoshop the basic 4 layers (color + liquid + vray toon + ink n paint) combined to get the look we wanted
  • watercolor brushes in photoshop used to paint out certain areas / vinette ... several available from or specifically
  • watercolor scans found online that show actual splashes of real watercolor overlaid onto photoshop iamagery to give it the look of splashes of color. (will try to find link to these online)