Importing 3rd party models into Discreet 3ds max™

By Gary M. Davis, Discreet Training Specialist

Reality hits… you have a deadline in your face and need a 3d model done fast. The two, everpresent options are to trudge through a fevered modeling session or you can swallow your pride and go to a 3rd party resource for a stock 3d model. As I said, reality hits… you purchase a killer model online and save countless hours spent doing the actual 3d modeling. Suck it up, soldier! Models created in another session of 3ds max will be in the MAX format, obviously. These are the 3ds max native format and allow you to merge files (and even parts of files) together. 3d models from another application, however, are often not in the MAX format and need to be imported to bring them into 3ds max. There is a fundamental difference between merging and importing because of this. One issue with importing any 3d model into 3ds max is that quite often the parts might need to be scaled up after being imported. This is because 3d models typically import very small in scale into 3ds max. This is actually not a problem associated with 3ds max as much as issues with the more generic file formats such as 3DS, DXF, LWO and OBJ that will be imported into 3ds max. If you are working alone, quite often the scale of your scene might not seem to matter; only how things will render in the end. However, if you are working with a team of artists, you will all need to establish a sense of scale between your MAX files, because it will allow you all to merge each other’s work together without headaches. Trust me, even if you are working alone, you should establish a sense of scale and units in your creations to save yourself hours of digital housekeeping. It is [also] especially important to have your units set accurately in 3ds max version 5 and higher. This is primarily if you are going to be using the new methods of global illumination known as “Radiosity” in your renderings. If you are not, it is still advantageous to use accurate units, even if they are generic units. Scenes in 3ds max that have units that are very small or very large often have viewports that behave a bit odd sometimes. This is primarily due to these extreme values in scale. This is especially true of lights, shadows and cameras. After importing models, it is often a really good idea to perform certain scale resetting operations on these models. The models, upon import, will have all of the parts selected. This is a good thing when dealing with the next steps…

Scaling the Models Up:
1. With the entire model (all parts) selected, Right click on the Scale icon to access the Scale Transform Type-In Dialog.

you will probably want to verify at least one of your objects is scaled to the size you want. you can set up the target “sizer” cube to the exact units you need.2. that says five thousand percent… I told you they might be a bit too small when you import them!).0. You should now notice that your user grid is much easier to view. Try comparing your model to a cube created natively in 3ds max that is roughly the unit dimension you are shooting for. This target cube does not get scaled and represents a bounding box to scale the imported model to. Create a cube primitive at the world origin (0. if you want a twenty story building that is 200 units tall and 50 units in length and width (using generic units as feet). especially if you plan to use Radiosity. meters or miles. 2. you will probably want to perform a Zoom Extents > Selected from the viewport commands. 3. At this point. feet. Rename this object something like “My Target Stand In Cube” . Sizing the Model: If you are building scene that is going to. indeed. Your cameras and lights should also behave a bit better at this scale. A good starting point if you are unsure is 5000% (yup. enter the amount you want to scale the model up. Using this one field will give you uniform scaling on all three axis at the same time.0) that is the target size for your building. Use the Modify Command Panel to alter the units to exact measurements. You can do this by creating a cube that represents the size of the target-bounding box of your object. This will fit the entire (now larger) selected model(s) into the viewports. In the Offset World field. For example. 1. In the case that you are using real world units such as inches. use scale of some kind.

Select all the objects in your imported building. layers. or you can just delete them. For example. Continue to zoom and scale the model until it is the size and position of the Target Stand In Cube. If you do not want these (non-rendering) objects to clutter your viewport. or optionally use it for rough animations while the highresolution building model is hidden or getting textured by another artist. You may need to keep hitting the Zoom Extents > Selected button to continuously refit the viewport around your model as you scale it. or other organizational nodes in the application that created them. they are identical to the Helper object known as a Dummy. 4. AutoCAD or Softimage. imported models have helper objects that represent grouping. It might be best to do a uniform scale at first. 1. . Open the Select By Name Dialog from the top of the user interface. to get a quick approximation of the size. In the List Types. 2. you can optionally group them and hide the single group. In 3ds max. these will typically be green bounding box objects that do not render. click the None button.3. Do not have the target cube selected. Scale the building parts up or down as needed. Deleting the Helpers: Quite often. You may delete the cube at this time.

you will need to weed through them at this point by name to find the ones you want to delete. You should then be left with just the mesh model. Also. Select all the parts that you want to reset the scale. 1. At this point. You can now group them for hiding or simply hit the Delete key on the keyboard. you will probably want to do this) . all the helpers (and only the helpers) from the imported model are selected. it is a good idea to also reset their scale so that the new size represents 100% of the model’s scale (as opposed to something like 5000%!). NOTE: if you already have helper objects such as Dummy(s) in your scene. Next. 4. Resetting the New Scale to 100% After you have scaled up the models and removed the helpers. this should probably best be done initially and prior to adding UV coordinates or other mapping parameters. (Trust me. Exit the Select Objects dialog by clicking the Select button at the bottom.3. Go to the Hierarchy Command Panel and click the Reset > Scale button. In the List Types. 2. 5. turn on the Helpers. Select all the helpers by hitting the All button under the list (not the ALL button in the List Types section).

3. You can verify if the scale has been reset by selecting ONE of the model parts and opening the Scale Transform Type In dialog once again (if it is not still open from before). You models are now ready for texturing by adding and using the modifiers such as UVW Map. etc. Mesh Select. Material. You should notice that the Absolute Local scale is now 100% in all three dimensions. .

com By Gary M.Originally prepared for Marlin Studios Premium Model Collections CD. Davis Discreet Training Specialist 3ds max | combustion © 2003 Oregon3D .oregon3d. Edited exclusively for Oregon3D. www.