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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.
To finish our discussion of shadows, I'd like to introduce you to Area Shadows, because they have some effects that will be more realistic than the standard Ray Traced or Shadow Maps. Okay. So currently shadows are turned off. I am going to enable Shadows, just the default Shadow Map settings, and do a quick render of that. As you can see, okay it's giving me softish shadows. I could maybe play around with this a little bit if I want to make this look better, but the shadow edge is going to be consistent.
In other words, it's going to be the same amount of blur across the entire edge of the shadow, or the penumbra of the shadow. Well, that's not terribly realistic because actually in a real-world situation the top of this cone would not be so defined in the shadow. It would actually kind of blend or soften up a little bit because where a shadow- casting surface and a shadow-receiving surface are close together, we are going to have a sharp shadow. But as that distance increases, as this distance between the shadow-casting surface and the shadow-receiving surface increases, the shadow is going to spread out further and become blurrier and blurrier.
You can't get that with the Shadow Map, and you also can't get it with the standard Ray Traced Shadows. That's just going to be completely sharp edged throughout. So, what you can do is you can choose Area Shadows. These are good, because they are not terribly computationally expensive. So, they render pretty quickly. So, I am going to choose Area Shadows. I'll do a quick render of that and see what I get. It doesn't look like much, currently. But I am going to play around with some of these parameters. So, I am going to go into Area Shadows roll out.
What do I have here? Well, I've got a type of light. So, this is a bit confusing. But instead of a point light source for the purposes of casting shadows, this type of shadow is considering the light to actually have area. So, that's how we are able to get soft shadows that obey distance. So, a Rectangle Light, you can just imagine that this light is actually a rectangle in the scene. But there is no icon to show you that. You do have dimensions here. As I increase these dimensions, it's going to cause the shadow to get softer in my view.
So, let's try 36" x 36" and do another Rendering. Now, you'll see, okay, we are getting soft shadows at greater distances and sharp shadows at lesser distances. Okay, so that's not so bad except for the quality leaves a little bit to be desired. So, you can see how grainy that is. We can increase that quality and improve it. There are two settings for that: Shadow Integrity, which is the accuracy of the shadow, and then Shadow Quality, which is the amount of sampling that's done to reduce that graininess factor.
So, if I increase the Shadow Integrity, something like 4, let's say, and do another Rendering, you see we didn't get that weird white spot in the center here. So, I set this back down to 2 and render again. You'll see it's doing something strange there. So, the Integrity should be set up a little bit higher, let's say maybe 4 or 5. Then the Quality is to reduce the grain. So, I'll set the Quality at let's say 10.
That's not bad, and it's actually fairly quick to render. It's not that much slower than Ray Traced or Shadow Maps, and the results are much more realistic. You can use these Area Shadows with any type of light. So, it's quite a useful technique. It's actually less to think about than the Shadow Maps. It's basically a good solution. Nowadays, computers are getting pretty fast. So, we can afford to use these Area Shadows quite a lot.
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