3ds Max alone is powerful enough to fulfil most users’ demands on this software but there is still a lot space for improvements and add-ons which can improve not only the functionality of 3ds Max but also speed up your workflow. We could divide these add-ons into two parts; plug-ins and scripts. Plug-ins are generally intended to bring new functionality to 3ds Max or any other software and so enhance the functionally of the software itself. Thanks to 3ds Max SDK the developers are free to do literally anything and bring new features such as; new modelling tools, new renderers, and new primitives and so on. Most of the plug-ins are not free of charge but still there is plenty of them for free and some are more than useful. The scripts on the other hand are using a programing language called MAXScript which is available directly through 3ds Max interface.
The scripts itself are using inbuilt tools to delivery new functionalities or enhance the old ones. You can even use the scripts for animating an object by “telling” him where he should go. Bellow you can see a list of some plugins and scripts which you could consider useful and which could increase your workflow.
Greeble is a modifier plug-in used for generating random detail for spaceship models, cityscapes or any other object. Is a fine detailing added to the surface of a larger object that makes it appear more complex, and therefore more visually interesting. Moreover the plug-in itself can be used not only to fill empty spaces on a hull of a spaceship but for creating complex cities and artwork just by using the plug-in. The gallery bellow together with a video about greeble will give you an idea where and how you can use it.
More information at: Greeble
3ptools Lite is a slimmed-down version of an upcoming plugin for Autodesk 3ds Max™ and is free to use for non-commercial purposes. So far the plug-in is supported for versions of 3ds Max: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012. 3ptools Lite is designed to invoke the experience of line-drawing in a 3D environment by letting you paint strips of geometry in an intuitive manner. The toolset is intended to intended for 3ds Max polygon creation and to this time it’s still under development.
More information at: 3ptools
This tool is intended to save lots of time by allowing the user to render a luminance, RGB mask from selected objects. This is very useful when you planning to edit or modify your final render using Photoshop. With this tool you can instantly render the masks necessary for your editing and so save a lot of time. The script doesn’t affect the scene materials, lights and render settings.
More information at: RenderMask
Scriptorganiser is a tool for managing your scripts in a simple treeview layout, and when hidden it displays a quick access bar where you can add your favourite scripts with custom icons. The idea is that you can just copy your script folder (with this script inside it) to any other PC and run the script once and have all your scripts ready to go in an instant. The script was rewritten from scratch using .net language. It’s more than useful when you need to manage your script and make finally order in the mess. I highly recommend the script.
- Multiple custom root paths to build the treeview on. Smart building of the tree. (No deep recursion)
- Max related files are opened in max now (Scenes, import etc). Other files are opened in their native programs.
- Implemented file watch system that notifies and updates the treeview whenever outside changes are made to the root paths’ files and folders.
- No excess files. It is now only a .dll-file, a start-up script and a macro script. (No custom icons or .ini files)
- Hotbar displaying favourite files and folders
- Widget displaying on hotbar mouseover with additional options
- Uses the users own icons for the files.
- Settings are saved as windows application data.
- Optional automatic error report sending.
- Feedback form
- Uses the users own colours
More information at: ScriptOrganise
This script is very similar to the Greeble plug-in mentioned above but still there some differences. Both are used to fill the empty spaces of your object but unlike Greeble, Cocktail greeble doesn’t generate new objects on the surface but instead of this he creates pseudo randomized mesh. This basically means that you can really mess up your mesh but still have control over it. The author mentioned that the code is a mess and most of the function you will never use but there is one which is very useful and probably you will play mostly with this one; the shuffle connect. The examples below will give you an idea for what you can use this script.
More information at: Cocktail greeble
Very interesting script which can be used to create creates or any similar cracks on your shape. Unfortunately this script doesn’t have any GUI so you need to change the code in order to change the settings. Besides this fact the script can create great shapes within seconds and save you a lot of time. The result can vary and it’s highly depending on the topology of the selected faces and also on the surrounding edges.
- Download the script
- Select an editable poly object.
- Select some faces
- Run the script
- Edit the settings
- Press Go!
More information at: Shellhole
Cobwebs is a very interesting MAXscript with help which you can create all sorts of cobwebs, spider webs, wire bundles, cables, bag-worm nests and much more. You can select and control the way how the cobwebs would be generated and so have the full control of the final result. Of course a sort of random generator is applied to place and generate the cobweb in a natural way. So if you need to create a sort of cobweb, grab this script. For a better imagination how powerful it is check the gallery bellow and look what an experienced user can do with it.
- Maxscript > Run Maxscript > Cobwebs.ms
- Select your geometry objects
- Choose your desired settings for the cobwebs and hit create
- Knot types
- Format Types for Main and Sub strands
- Better sorting for Radial web
- Addition to format is Spiral
- Order format with option of loop
- Sub strand Amount control
- Gap control for sub strands
- Knot spacing control for both main and sub strands
More information at: Cobwebs
Vert Tag is also known as PinBox. It can be used to create a wide variety of things such as the PinBox toys that many people are familiar with. Those toys would allow the user to place their handle over a bed of dull pins and leave an impression of their hand. The script can be run on a custom object with custom pin objects. This feature gives you the complete freedom about the final result because you decided how the pins will look. Also, the script is compatible with both Editable Poly and Editable Mesh. Check the video below for a quick presentation of the script.
- Compatible with Editable Meshes
- Custom Pin Object
- Custom Surface Object
- Animate-able surface with objects remaining attached
- Copy types (copy, instance, reference)
- Compatible with both Editable Poly and Editable Mesh
- Options for distributing on polygon centre or vertices
- Display showing object count
More information at: Vert Tag
Welder do what his name stands for, the script helps you to create welds of two materials which are interacting with each other. For example if you want to create a handle for a metal pot you need to do the welding in the place where the objects interacting with each other. The script is working in real-time with help which you can create your weld and then fine tune its properties using the UI of Welder with instant feedback. Check the video below for a quick presentation of the script.
- Maxscript > Run Maxscript > Welder.ms
- Select your master object. The one that you want to weld all your other objects to.
- With the master object selected, hold the “ctrl” key and select the objects you wish to weld to the master object.
- Choose your desired settings for the weld seem and hit intersecting welds.
More information at: Welder
As you can see, scripts and plug-ins can make your life easier and bring lots of new features inside 3ds Max. If you ever faced any problem or wanted to automate something, be sure that someone before you had this problem and maybe a script is available which could help you. If you have enough time and want to try to make your own script, just do it! At the end i would like to mention few more scripts in short; Blueprint-Manager (a handy script which can create and position your blueprints into 3ds Max), ColorPolyByVerts (if you have a complicated mesh and want to know how many triangles, quads and n-gons you have there, use this script), Fractuator (really nice looking script for fracturing objects).