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In 3ds Max 2011 Essential Training, author Aaron F. Ross demonstrates how to use this top-tier application for digital content creation, widely used in diverse industries such as architecture, industrial design, motion pictures, games and virtual worlds. This course covers modeling with polygons, curves, and subdivision surfaces, defining surface properties with materials and maps, setting up cameras and lights, animating objects, and final output rendering. Exercise files accompany the course.
The modifier stack is a really powerful tool. And these Parametric Deformer modifiers that we have been playing with, like Bend and Twist, give us a lot of control. But what they don't give us is the ability to select individual parts of the model and modify them on a sort of fine level. In order to do that we need to work with the so-called editable objects or the editable properties of 3ds Max. This is not an editable object in its current state. We can't select an individual point, or edge, or polygon, on the object.
In order to do so, I would either need to convert it to editable or add a modifier which had some editable parameters. Usually, I would just convert to an editable object. And when you convert what happens then is that all of the modifiers and all of these parameters are essentially baked in. So baking is a concept in 3D graphics that means taking a complex structure, such as something that has all these modifiers, and essentially making all of that permanent. If you will, baking a cake.
Think of this as being a recipe for this particular arch or this model. So when I open this file in 3ds Max, what happens is 3ds Max actually follows these instructions in a sort of formulaic method. It's almost like a mathematical formula. And it says, okay, make a box, and give it these parameters, this height and these number of segments, and so on. Okay, fine. Then go to the next thing and twist it. Here we go. So we can see this one at a time.
Take this and twist it and do stuff to it, and give it these angles and this amount of limits and so on. Then finally, go up to the top here, calculate that last modifier and bend it over and do all this stuff to it. So literally, when I open a scene, 3ds Max is following instructions, and it's really actually rebuilding or re- synthesizing this object from nothing every time I load the scene. And this is a procedural model or a model that's built out of only parameters of modifiers and primitives.
But that's got some limitations. Like I said, I can't select an individual point on here and move it or do anything to it. So we are going to bake the cake here. Thing I want to stress here is that you can't unbake a cake. So once I have converted this to editable, if I don't have a backup of this version of it, then I will never be able to go back to the Bend, Twist, or Box parameters, because they will be wiped out. So this is called collapsing the modifier stack. And so we are basically erasing the history of everything that we have done here and we are going to just have at the end a raw collection of points.
And when that file is saved or loaded, it's not a parametric object anymore. It won't have any of these parameters. It will be just be, like I said, a raw collection of points. The process for converting is simple. You will just select the object, and then right-click anywhere in the viewports, and you will get the 3ds Max quad menu. So when I am holding down the right mouse button, you can see that there are four quadrants here. There is actually only three out of four in this instance here. But the quad menu is a context- sensitive menu, so what you see here will depend upon what you have selected or what you are doing.
You notice at the bottom Convert To, and there are several options here: Convert to Editable Mesh, Editable Poly, Editable Patch. The one that we want right now is Editable Poly, because what that is is an advanced modeling environment basically. Edible Mesh is an old-school one that's simpler and dumber. Editable Poly is much more advanced. So I am going to choose Editable Poly while I am working. I release the mouse button and as soon as I have done that, you will notice the Modify panel has completely changed.
And instead of seeing a Box with a Twist and a Bend, all of those parameters are now gone and what I am left with is this raw polygon mesh object and all of the associated tools that go along with that. And as I said, this is a destructive act. I have just baked the cake, and I can't unbake it. So I will never be able to go back to those Bend or Twist parameters unless I do an Undo command in this scene, or if I go back to an earlier saved version.
So that should just illustrate the importance of versioning your projects. You want to save out a procedural or parametric object before converting it to Editable Poly. That way if you ever do need to go back in time, you can. So we have converted it to Editable Poly, and next we will do some simple edits at the sub-object or component level.
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