3ds Max 2015 Essential Training
Illustration by John Hersey

3ds Max 2015 Essential Training

with Aaron F. Ross

Video: Optimizing shadow maps

Shadow maps are pixel based, and they have advantages and disadvantages. And in the perspective view you can se that it looks kind of grainy.
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  1. 2m 6s
    1. Welcome
      1m 2s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 4s
  2. 14m 44s
    1. Using project folders
      5m 42s
    2. Customize user interface and defaults
      4m 4s
    3. Setting preferences
      4m 58s
  3. 49m 17s
    1. Getting familiar with the interface
      3m 39s
    2. Using the Create and Modify panels
      3m 36s
    3. Choosing units of measurement
      4m 12s
    4. Controlling the grid display
      5m 16s
    5. Navigating in viewports
      6m 2s
    6. Using hotkeys
      5m 55s
    7. Transforming objects
      7m 26s
    8. Choosing shading modes
      6m 30s
    9. Configuring viewports
      6m 41s
  4. 37m 49s
    1. Creating an image plane
      6m 1s
    2. Controlling Display properties
      2m 28s
    3. Creating primitives
      7m 4s
    4. Working with Scene Explorer
      3m 39s
    5. Understanding level of detail
      2m 46s
    6. Working with the modifier stack
      3m 38s
    7. Understanding dependencies
      5m 23s
    8. Collapsing the modifier stack
      6m 50s
  5. 1h 5m
    1. Using the Graphite ribbon with Editable Poly
      4m 47s
    2. Working with subobjects
      6m 0s
    3. Welding vertices
      6m 47s
    4. Choosing a transform center
      4m 22s
    5. Detailing with Cut and Remove
      4m 30s
    6. Detailing with QuickSlice
      4m 56s
    7. Using soft selection
      4m 9s
    8. Faceting corners with Chamfer
      3m 2s
    9. Using Window/Crossing Selection
      2m 50s
    10. Using Paint Selection
      5m 21s
    11. Combining objects with Attach
      1m 44s
    12. Joining elements with Bridge
      4m 39s
    13. Branching polygons with Extrude
      3m 44s
    14. Smoothing and hardening edges
      8m 46s
  6. 43m 50s
    1. Understanding subdivision surfaces
      7m 35s
    2. Creating an editable poly object
      4m 29s
    3. Adding the Symmetry modifier
      3m 30s
    4. Choosing NURMS or TurboSmooth
      7m 16s
    5. Roughing out the shape
      8m 9s
    6. Inserting edge loops with SwiftLoop
      3m 8s
    7. Constraining subobject transforms
      1m 37s
    8. Welding the seam
      1m 59s
    9. Adding asymmetry
      2m 14s
    10. Baking subdivisions
      3m 53s
  7. 35m 52s
    1. Sculpting with Paint Deform
      6m 33s
    2. Using Noise and Relax Brushes
      4m 30s
    3. Setting Paint options
      3m 46s
    4. Controlling Brush options
      5m 11s
    5. Conforming one object to another
      3m 53s
    6. Sculpting with Conform Transform brushes
      5m 52s
    7. Duplication with Object Paint
      4m 20s
    8. Positioning objects with Select and Place
      1m 47s
  8. 33m 32s
    1. Creating a line
      2m 21s
    2. Moving a pivot point
      1m 37s
    3. Revolving a surface with a Lathe modifier
      2m 27s
    4. Using different vertex types
      3m 4s
    5. Using axis constraints
      6m 14s
    6. Extending a spline
      4m 8s
    7. Snapping an Arc primitive
      2m 23s
    8. Combining splines with Attach and Merge
      1m 31s
    9. Rounding corners with Fillet
      1m 28s
    10. Offsetting a spline with Outline
      4m 13s
    11. Adjusting level of detail with Interpolation
      4m 6s
  9. 31m 34s
    1. Understanding NURBS
      2m 48s
    2. Creating NURBS curves
      4m 24s
    3. Converting objects to NURBS
      3m 32s
    4. Cloning subobjects
      3m 13s
    5. Creating a U loft surface
      3m 29s
    6. Rebuilding curves
      3m 18s
    7. Setting Surface Approximation
      6m 36s
    8. Grouping objects
      4m 14s
  10. 41m 25s
    1. Understanding hierarchies
      3m 1s
    2. Moving and rotating pivot points
      7m 50s
    3. Understanding coordinate systems
      6m 53s
    4. Setting Axis Order for rotation
      6m 0s
    5. Linking objects
      3m 41s
    6. Using the Schematic view
      3m 8s
    7. Locking transforms
      2m 57s
    8. Avoiding problems with scale
      7m 55s
  11. 32m 35s
    1. Exporting paths from Adobe Illustrator
      2m 40s
    2. Importing Illustrator paths to 3ds Max
      1m 20s
    3. Creating a Text primitive
      4m 25s
    4. Applying a Bevel modifier
      3m 48s
    5. Instancing a modifier
      2m 13s
    6. Editing text splines
      6m 12s
    7. Viewport clipping
      1m 16s
    8. Controlling level of detail
      3m 44s
    9. Editing polygons
      6m 57s
  12. 29m 7s
    1. Merging scenes
      1m 43s
    2. Managing Display layers
      5m 0s
    3. Creating a target camera
      5m 51s
    4. Enabling Safe Frames
      3m 23s
    5. Choosing an aspect ratio in Render Setup
      2m 34s
    6. Adjusting Field of View
      3m 48s
    7. Using a free camera
      6m 48s
  13. 40m 17s
    1. Setting up Time Configuration
      2m 5s
    2. Choosing Set Key Filters
      2m 11s
    3. Creating keyframes in Set Key mode
      3m 37s
    4. Editing keyframes in the timeline
      1m 24s
    5. Editing position keys with trajectories
      3m 5s
    6. Editing function curves in the Curve Editor
      8m 33s
    7. Creating keyframes in Auto Key mode
      5m 55s
    8. Building up animation in passes
      5m 34s
    9. Editing keyframes in the Dope Sheet
      7m 53s
  14. 21m 23s
    1. Understanding controllers
      2m 53s
    2. Assigning a Link constraint
      2m 27s
    3. Adding link targets in the Motion panel
      1m 56s
    4. Animating constrained objects
      4m 47s
    5. Constraining animation to a path
      9m 20s
  15. 54m 32s
    1. Understanding CG lighting
      5m 56s
    2. Creating a target spotlight
      2m 6s
    3. Adjusting intensity and color
      2m 33s
    4. Setting spotlight Hotspot and Falloff
      3m 0s
    5. Correcting gamma
      5m 31s
    6. Previewing renders with ActiveShade
      3m 13s
    7. Controlling contrast and highlights
      2m 59s
    8. Choosing a shadow type
      2m 56s
    9. Optimizing shadow maps
      7m 4s
    10. Optimizing area shadows
      6m 9s
    11. Creating Omni fill lights
      6m 16s
    12. Using the Light Lister
      2m 49s
    13. Excluding objects from lights
      4m 0s
  16. 27m 21s
    1. Using the Slate Material Editor
      3m 28s
    2. Choosing material and shading types
      4m 0s
    3. Working with scene materials
      4m 49s
    4. Adjusting specular parameters
      5m 53s
    5. Assigning Multi/Sub-Object materials
      9m 11s
  17. 46m 48s
    1. Applying 3D procedural maps
      8m 34s
    2. Working with bitmap image files
      4m 32s
    3. Tracking scene assets
      7m 32s
    4. Projecting UVW mapping
      3m 3s
    5. Using Real-World Map Size
      3m 50s
    6. Mapping a bump channel
      2m 25s
    7. Adding reflections with a Raytrace map
      6m 47s
    8. Painting objects with Viewport Canvas
      10m 5s
  18. 19m 27s
    1. Choosing a renderer
      6m 7s
    2. Choosing Quicksilver options
      2m 33s
    3. Enabling motion blur in the software renderer
      3m 38s
    4. Rendering image sequences
      3m 58s
    5. Playing image sequences in the RAM Player
      3m 11s
  19. 15m 37s
    1. Controlling mental ray sample quality
      4m 28s
    2. Tuning Final Gather
      5m 15s
    3. Enabling motion blur in mental ray
      3m 18s
    4. Distance blurring with depth of field
      2m 36s
  20. 24s
    1. Goodbye
      24s

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Watch the Online Video Course 3ds Max 2015 Essential Training
10h 43m Beginner May 13, 2014

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In this course, Aaron F. Ross covers all the features you'll need to start creating advanced 3D models and animation with 3ds Max 2015. Learn the most suitable techniques for modeling different types of objects, from splines and NURBS to polygonal and subdivision surface modeling. Then learn how to design 3D motion graphics, set up cameras, animate with keyframes, and assign constraints. Aaron also provides an overview of lighting scenes within a simple studio setup, and construction of materials with the Slate Material Editor. Finally, learn about your hardware and software rendering options, and make your projects more realistic with motion blur, indirect illumination, and depth of field.

Topics include:
  • Navigating the interface and viewports
  • Understanding the Modifier Stack
  • Modeling with polygons and subdivision surfaces
  • Freeform sculpting
  • Modeling with splines and NURBS
  • Linking objects in hierarchies
  • Modeling for motion graphics
  • Framing shots with cameras
  • Creating and editing keyframes
  • Controlling lights and shadows
  • Building materials
  • Texturing with bitmaps and procedurals
  • Painting objects with Viewport Canvas
  • Rendering a sequence
  • Adding special effects with mental ray
Subject:
3D + Animation
Software:
3ds Max
Author:
Aaron F. Ross

Optimizing shadow maps

Shadow maps are pixel based, and they have advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is they're fast. They render quickly. One disadvantage is that they don't respect opacity. So if you have a transparent object, it will cast a perfectly black shadow. So if you want really realistic shadows, you want to use area shadows. If you want quick and dirty fast renderings, and just a little bit of blur on there is good enough, then use shadow maps.

Let's look at the parameters for shadow maps so we can use them to their best advantage. I'm going to select that light, once I've got the light loaded here in the modify panel, I'm just going to pin the stack. Click that button and that way we won't lose these parameters even if we deselect, so we can always get back to these. Let's try shadow maps, turn on shadow map. And in the perspective view you can se that it looks kind of grainy. But if you do a proper rendering, you will see something different. So let's select that perspective view and click on render production.

And you see here in the actual rendering it looks kind of blocky and not grainy at all. Let's lock this view so that from now on, we will only render this view port. So click the little lock icon there. So that's a shadow map with default parameters. And you can actually see the individual pixels. The reason those pixels are showing up so large, is because the shadow map is spread across the entire area of the light fall off cone. I select that light once again.

The image of the shadow is being spread across this entire angle here. If we increase the quality, or if we make that falloff radius tighter, we will improve the shadows. All right? So, by way of illustration, I'll reopen my rendered frame window and clone this off to a separate window, so we can compare them. Now I've got a copy here. This is with the light unadjusted, and I'll select that light and go over to the Modify panel and play with the spotlight parameters.

I'll bring the fall off in so it's at 70 degrees now. I'll bring it in to something like 30 degrees or even 20 degrees. All right, so we still see a shadow here. We're still in that zone and I've got my render view minimized here and I'll render again. And the only difference between these two renderings is the size of that fall off cone. So this one had an angle of about 20 degrees, and this one had an angle of about 70 degrees, and you can see there's a major quality difference there.

Anything that you do that will change the size of that fall off angle is going to affect the shadows. For example, let's say I grab the move tool, and I switch over to local mode, and I just move the light backward. That's going to spread shadow over a larger area, and once again, that's going to degrade the quality of the shadows, and do another rendering. Render production. Here it is with the light moved away and it looks even worse now. So the distance actually matters. All right I'm going to undo that, bring it back to where it was, set the fall off back to 70 and now let's look at the actual parameters.

So that we can see the effect a little bit better in the view port here, I'm going to change the view port configuration. Click on the plus sign and go to configure view ports. In the visual style and appearance tab, you have lighting and shadows quality. I'm going to bring that all the way down to the minimum of point lights and hard shadows. Click okay and now we're seeing a very blocky approximation. And that's good. That's giving me an idea of what the shadow map is going to look like. Back in the modify panel, I'm going to scroll down and open up shadow map parameters.

And there are three parameters here. Bias is the distance of the shadow from the shadow casting surface. Size is the resolution and sample range is the blur. Let's try playing with the size now. So I'll do another test render. Here it is with default parameters. Once again, I'm going to clone that off to its own separate window, and then increase the size. Let's set the size to 1024. It's a good idea to use powers of 2, because that's going to optimize memory usage.

So always double that 512, 1,024, 2,048, and so on. Let's render that. So on the left, we have a size of 1,024 and on the right, a size of 512. And you can especially see it here, this is much softer. Okay? Let's try also playing with the blur, which is this sample range. I'll bring the size way down. Let's set it to a crazy value like 128 and then reduce the sample range down down to its minimum, which is 0.01.

And click Render. And now these are individual pixels, blown up to huge size. All right, well we'd never really use that value. But I'm just trying to illustrate. So to optimize this, to get a good look, I might do something like this. Set the size to 1,024, but set the sample range up from where it was. It was set to a value of four, let's try that with a value of 4. But I could crank it up a bit more, and soften this up. So let's try a value of 8. And now we're getting soft shadows everywhere.

You may notice however, that the shadows are not actually contacting the shadow casting object. And that's when we would want to play with the bias here. We can move the shadow towards or away from the shadow casting object. Lower values will move it in tighter or closer. We could set this to a low value like 0.1 and then render. And that's moved it in closer and now they're actually in the right place. All right, cool, so that's one look we could achieve. Maybe we could make them look a little crisper.

Let's try a size of 4,096. That's about the maximum you'd really ever want to take it up to. Anything beyond that and, the memory usage is going to be so much, that you may as well just use area shadows or raytraced shadows. Alright, with the size of 4K, I'll set the sample range back down to the default of 4 and see what that looks like. And that's not so bad, it's looking a little bit ragged there, so maybe I'll give it a sample range of 6. From a distance that will look fine. So we can dolly back out again, and render that.

Pretty cool. So that's basically how shadow maps work, and that's how you can optimize their performance.

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