If you’ve ever been frustrated with sluggish performance or crashing while working on large-scale projects in 3ds Max, then you’ve come to the right place. Large 3ds Max scenes can be challenging due to their complexity and file size, but with the right optimization techniques, you can improve the workflow and achieve smoother results. In today’s post, we’re diving deep into how you can enhance performance in massive 3ds Max scenes.
Managing a 1+ gigabyte scene is no easy feat—it’s filled with millions of polygons, thousands of objects, and countless high-resolution bitmap textures. It’s not uncommon to encounter:
- Slowdowns in the general UI menu
- Lagging viewports
- Delayed animation previews
- Extended rendering times
- And the dreaded program instability, with the occasional crash or freeze
But fret not. Here are some insights from my experiences to help you navigate these issues:
Work locally versus across a network
- Avoid pulling massive files directly from a distant server over a network, particularly when relying on mapped drives over UNC paths. Ideally, transfer and work on 3ds Max files, including X-refs and related bitmap textures, directly from your local hard drive. Compressing and archiving Max scenes before transferring them from the network can reduce file sizes, making downloads quicker.
- If working across a network, use a dedicated server hard drive or RAID. Try to avoid using a NAS (network-assisted storage) device.
- Do not use synced cloud storage drives, such as Dropbox, OneDrive, Box and others as working repositories for scene assets, or as render destinations.
- For best performance, an SSD drive provides much faster read and write times as compared to a standard hard drive.
- If Autoback is set to save the scene file every 5 minutes, increase the Save interval. The larger the scene file, the longer it will take to save, even on a local hard drive.
- To do this, go to Customize > Preferences > Files and change the Autoback default from 5 minutes to 10, or even 20-30 minutes if the file is extremely large (5 gigabytes or more.)
- Pressing the ESC key while 3ds Max is auto-saving a very large scene file will cancel the Save process.
- Before rendering, save all unnecessary (hidden) geometry in the scene as a separate 3ds Max file. Then, delete it from the optimized scene, save the new scene with a new filename and proceed with rendering.
- Use the File > Merge feature to Merge in required objects later as necessary.
- Use Instances when possible. If there are many identical objects within the scene, use Instances so that 3ds Max saves memory when constantly drawing these objects in the viewports.
- Limit the number of nested Groups within a scene file. Groups are intended to help organize a scene file. Instead, try the following:
- For ease of selection and scene organization, use the Layer Manager > Nested Layers feature, which shows layer hierarchies.
- Use Selection Sets for quick object group selection as well.
- Each modifier applied to an object essentially creates a new reference of that object. Three (3) modifiers make the object 3X “heavier” in terms of memory and scene calculations.
- For final file iterations and rendering, select all non-procedurally-animated objects and from the Command Panel, right-click on the Modifier Stack and select Collapse To [Editable Mesh or Editable Poly].
- Right-clicking on the object(s) in the viewports to bring up the Properties menu and selecting Convert To is an alternative approach. Doing this will save on working memory.
- Note: Saving a scene with collapsed objects will increase the 3ds Max file size, as compared to a scene containing objects with complex modifier stacks, but will increase performance while working with the scene itself.
- If using Renderable Splines, before rendering, apply an Edit Mesh or Edit Poly modifier to them and collapse them to Editable Meshes or Editable Polys. These objects will render faster and consume less memory than procedural Renderable Spline objects.
- Use the Tools > Rename utility to label objects in the scene more accurately. Scenes containing hundreds of objects called “Box01, Box02, Box03, etc.” can be confusing to navigate in the Scene Explorer and are difficult to work with.
- Try to optimize scene objects as much as possible to reduce their complexity. Objects far away from any given camera position can be less detailed than objects closer up.
- Use the Optimize modifier to reduce the overall polygon count on distant objects, if applicable.
Optimize materials and maps
- If possible, use the File > Archive tool or the Command Panel > Utilities > More > Resource Collector feature to move all scene assets, such as bitmaps, to a single project folder.
- Once the files have been moved, use the 3ds Max > File > References > Asset Tracking Toggle menu to re-path all those assets to the folder using network UNC paths — not using a mapped drive letter, even if the drive letter is shared to all machines on the network.
- Remove Displacement maps when possible and use higher-resolution geometry, Bump or Normal Bump maps instead. Displacement maps will increase render times greatly.
- Before rendering, Collapse or Attach objects by unique Materials, then save a new version of the scene. (Keep the original non-collapsed objects version of the scene as a backup.)
- If there are 1,000 scene objects, but only 20 unique textures applied to these objects, use the Select Objects by Material button to select these objects and collapse them objects down into one single object before rendering. For instance, if there are 300 separate panes of glass in an architectural scene that share a single “Glass 01” material, select all objects that share the Glass 01 material, then use Command Panel > Utility tab > Collapse utility.
- Alternatively, use the Attach Options Dialog to attach identical-material objects together.
- Collapse all .PNG texture bitmaps that do not need transparency into flattened images.
- If a .PNG file shows “Layer 1” in Adobe Photoshop, but does not appear to have any transparency channel, use the Photoshop Layers > Flatten Image option.
- Unless higher colour depth is required, use the Photoshop Image > Mode feature to convert .PNG files from 16-bit to 8-bit, then re-save. (Use a different filename if desired, then replace the old .PNG texture in the 3ds Max scene with the new one.)
- Scale down textures unless necessary for extreme close-ups.
- If possible, take large-format textures, load them into an image editor such as Photoshop, then scale them to an even percentage of the original texture size. For example, 8K textures could be 4K; 4K textures could be 2K, 2K textures might be 1K, etc.
- Save the scaled-down versions with new filenames, and then replace the existing textures in the scene with smaller versions as necessary.
- Flatten Adobe Photoshop .PSD files (especially those containing multiple layers) used as texture bitmaps, then save new copies as .JPG or .TIF files.
- Use the File > Reference > Asset Tracking Toggle menu to replace the .PSD files in the scene.
- Note: if using the now-discontinued Nvidia mental ray renderer, avoid using .PSD files, since these use much more memory to process.
- Use Adobe Photoshop to load and check .JPG textures used in the scene.
- Once the file has loaded into Photoshop, use the “Save As” feature to see how Photoshop is interpreting the existing file.
- Save all .JPG bitmaps used as 3ds Max scene textures as Baseline (“Standard”) format, rather than Baseline Optimized or Progressive. The latter two options can be problematic with some renderers, including Nvidia’s mental ray.
- The .GIF file format is not recommended for use as a bitmap texture format, whether rendering locally or over a network. Using .GIF files as texture bitmaps can cause problems with Backburner; in some cases, Backburner may “hang” on the last frame of a sequence and not complete the render job.
- Use an image editor such as Photoshop to load, convert and resave any .GIF files used as texture bitmaps in 3ds Max scenes to .JPG images instead. Then, reload them in each relevant Material slot and/or use the File > Reference > Asset Tracking Toggle menu to replace them in the scene.
Optimize before rendering
- If using Backburner for network rendering, increase the Backburner timeout settings. This can be done in the “Advanced” tab within the Backburner submission window.
- Remove older 3rd-Party plug-in references. Edit files that may be using 3rd-party plug-in references that are no longer applicable
Read more recommendation for 3Ds Max projects at https://support.superrendersfarm.com/hc/en-us/articles/360022991933-General-recommend-for-rendering-3ds-Max-project-in-Super-Renders-Farm