Join Aaron F. Ross for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating custom project folder structures, part of 3ds Max: Tips, Tricks and Techniques.
- [Instructor] If you're a 3ds Max user, you're probably familiar with the concept of project directories or project folders. These are containers for all of your scene assets such as your .max scene files, textures, sounds, dynamics, caches, and so on. Today, I'd like to go into a little bit more depth about project folders and the project toolbar and menu commands. If you're not seeing the project toolbar at the top of your screen, you can make that visible just by right-clicking on any toolbar.
And just make sure that Projects is enabled. You'll see the path to your current project displayed here and if you click on the Down arrow, you'll get a popup list of all of the past projects. And you can simply switch to another project by choosing it from that list. If the project we want is not in the list, we can Set the Active Project from this button on the Projects toolbar or from the corresponding menu command in the File menu under Project, Set Active Project.
You probably know that much if you've taken my 3ds Max Essential Training Course. Now I'd like to talk a little bit more about the structure of a project and what your options are. I only use the Autodesk default project folder structure, but you might want to set up a custom folder structure, especially if you're working in a studio or need to assemble your assets in a special way for a render farm or something like that. The easiest thing to do is to simply drop all of the assets into one folder with no subdirectories and that's known as an empty project.
We can create an empty project by clicking on the button Create Empty. And we want to create a new folder somewhere. I'll just do that on my Desktop right next to the Exercise Files. I'll right-click and choose New Folder. I'll call it Project A. Press Enter and its name is already entered into the folder field here and click Select Folder. And now that's my current project. If I reset, and then go to the File menu to Open, I'm taken to the root level of Project A and there are no subfolders.
Let's investigate this a little bit more deeply. I'll cancel out of here, minimize 3ds Max. I've got my Desktop directory open already here. Let's go into Project A in Windows Explorer. And we'll see there's a .xmp file. This is simply a list of all of the directories that 3ds Max will look in order to find various assets. And currently now if I try to edit this, I would have a problem because 3ds Max is currently open.
So in fact, I need to exit out of 3ds Max. It's not good enough to just minimize it. So I need to close 3ds Max completely. And I can now create my own project folder structure in here, set this up anyway I want. I'll make a new folder here. Right click and choose New, Folder. And I'll name it max files. That's where my scenes will go. And let's also make one for textures. I'll right-click and do another New folder, call it textures.
Then I can edit this .xmp file. Just double-click on it, and it should open up in Notepad. If it doesn't open in Notepad, then you can right-click on it and open it with Notepad. And I can just change these paths. We have Images here. And it says .\. In fact, they all say .\ because this empty folder is expecting me to just dump everything in this root level. Alright, but I've hot rodded this a little bit, so for the Images field, I will point it to .\textures.
And down here we have scenes, and I'll point that to .\max files. Okay I've made those changes and then just save the file. Close the Notepad window and relaunch 3ds Max. Once Max is running again, we can see once again that our current project is Project A. And we can test to see if our .mxp file editing worked. Go to the File menu and choose Open, and we're taken to the max file directory.
Not to the root level of Project A. So that is working just the way we want it. Alright let's take this one step further. Let's say we've got a project structure and a .mxp file that we like, we can make another one just like it by using this button over here which is Create from Current. Click on that and then once again go to a folder. I'm going back up to my Desktop. Make a new folder. Right-click and choose New, Folder. And I'll call it Project B.
Press Enter and that name is entered into the field here. And click Select Folder and now we're pointing at Project B. And once again, if we reset the program, and go to the File menu and choose Open, we can test it. And we're now taken to Project B max files, the .mxp file that we edited was read. And that information got put into the new mxp file in the new project, very cool.
Alright, I'll cancel out of this open file dialog. And there's one last thing I want to show you which is automatic project switching. I'm just make an object here in the scene. I'll just make a simple sphere. And then save that scene file, File, Save. And I'm saving into Project B. Just call it sphere. And we have the ability to choose whether or not we want to switch projects automatically when we open a scene file that is not in the current project.
So to demonstrate I'm going to switch my current project back to Project A, just from the pull-down list I'll choose Project A. And then Reset just to be sure. Go back to File, Open. And now I'm in Project A max files. And here's what you normally wouldn't do which is navigate outside your current project to find your scene file. But let's see what happens if I do it. I'll go up one level, another level, and then back down into Project B, and then back down into max files, and then select sphere.max which once again is in Project B, not my current project.
And click Open. And that scene file opens, but we're still referencing Project A over here. And although I don't have any textures here, if I did have textures, they would probably get broken at this point because I've opened a scene file from a non-active project. However, we can automatically switch projects, so let's do that. Go to the File menu. And under Project we have Automatic switch. I'll enable that. And then Reset.
And I'm still pointing at Project A. Go back to Open. And once again navigate to Project B, again going outside of my current project. So I'm selecting sphere.max inside Project B. Click Open and I get Project Mismatch. What do you want to do? Do you want to change the project, i.e. adopt the project of the current file, or do you not want to change the project? In other words, stay in the current project but just open a file that's not in the current project.
So I'm going to choose to change the project and click Continue. And now since I opened a scene file that was in Project B, I've automatically been switched over to Project B and hopefully that will prevent any issues with broken texture links and so on. Alright, that's how to use the project toolbar and menu items and how to set up custom project structures as well as duplicate existing project structures.