Spline Direction, References, & Sweep Modifier in 3dsmax

One of the problems I run into for design visualization in 3dsmax on complex site models is managing extremely complex sweep objects, specifically to create the curbs for a site model.  The sweep modifier is a great tool for creating curbs (as well as trim profiles for architectural interiors).  The issue that option arises is that when the source of the linework is an Autocad drawing from a client, the lines don’t necessarily have a unified vertex direction.  The result of this is that sweep profiles can face the wrong way.  This is of course an easy fix:  you go into the spline sub-object level of your linework, and reverse the spline in question.

The trouble arises when you have very complicated scenes.  Like this one:

When you go back down the modifier stack to reverse the spline, you lose the visual reference to the sweep that you’re trying to fix the direction on. This isn’t a big deal when you have 3-4 sub objects, but when you cross over to dozens or hundreds, it becomes a more complex problem.  The software has to calculate the modifier stack every time you go in or out of sub-object mode, and you lose a little time each time you go back up the stack to check your results.

Here’s a video of a quick workflow that will help speed up this process.

TL;DR:  Make a reference copy of your spline object.  Apply the sweep modifier to the reference.  Edit sub-object spline direction on the original spline object.  The reference updates in realtime, giving you a visual cue as you make changes.

Window Tutorial – Pt. 1

It seems ambitious to title this part one of a window tutorial.  I guess that will keep me accountable to do a part two.

Here’s a tutorial I’ve been wanting to do for awhile.  I started trying to type it out once, but gave up, and ended up doing it as a video.

If your archviz workload is anything like mine, you’re building windows all the time, and they’re very rarely reusable objects.  There are always the built-in window objects in 3dsmax, but they have some severe limitations (I touch on this in the video), and don’t really have enough detail for today’s level of required realism.

Some basic assumptions for this tutorial:

  • Assumes some decent knowledge of 3dsmax and edit poly tools
  • Some functions are done by keyboard shortcuts.  I tried to give a verbal explanation when possible.

So, without further ado, here’s my first-ever video tutorial.  Hopefully it’s helpful.


So you’re thinking – I don’t know if I want to watch a 10:13 video on how to build a window model.  I’d rather read.  Here’s the short list of directions.

  1. Create a plane.  Use edit poly tools (if necessary) to give it the correct number of divisions.  You should have an edge/face layout that corresponds to your light/muntin layout.
  2. Using graphite modeling tools in the edit poly modifier, use Extrude/Bevel/Inset to split out the faces into the right shapes.  Once you need to move from outer frame into muntins (or is it mullions?), you’ll want to operate at the local face level.
  3. Apply material ID’s and materials.  I like to add a black gasket around the glass to give it a little more pop and realism.
  4. Using transform tools, move your object transform to max Y value.
  5. Mirror modifier to build the “inside” of the window.
  6. Edit poly, select boundaries, then bridge them to seal up gaps.

Good luck and happy modeling!

Selection Sets For Quick Access

File this under the “things I should have been doing all along but just now figured out”.

You know selection sets, right?  It’s this little guy:

I use it from time to time, but honestly, I’m lazy about some tools like that.  But recently, I found a great use for it, especially when working on an exterior rendering.  Goes a little something like this.

  1. Select your Daylight system (or your primary light source)
  2. Create a selection set for “Daylight” (or similar)
  3. Drop down and grab it to quickly select the Daylight system while tweaking lighting and such.

In the past, I’d use the named selection  / scene explorer to select it by name each time, but by the time I get a large and complex scene going, it became a little unwieldy.  This seems to save 3-4 mouse clicks, and maybe 5 seconds or so.   It also makes me more likely to grab the light, tweak it a little bit, and continue to refine the look of the scene.

Selection sets.  Learn them.  Live them.  Use them.