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History of Autodesk 3ds Max

History of Autodesk 3ds Max


After their success on the Atari, The Yost Group forms and begins a publishing relationship with Autodesk. The team begins a new project, THUD, a modeling and rendering application named for Tom Hudson, the one and only programmer working on the project. The application started out in four modules (Shaper, Lofter, Editor and Material Editor) due to the 640k memory limit on DOS.
After joining with Dan Silva, keyframing was introduced which added the fifth and final module, 3D Studio. THUD had turned into a 3D animation program.
Autodesk agrees to publish 3D Studio with the new Yost group and removes the 640k memory limit, allowing all 5 modules to work together.


On Halloween, Autodesk releases 3D Studio, the first affordable (and integrated) 3D modeling, rendering and animation system for the PC. The product is released at the unprecedented price of $3495 USD and has not gone up since.
3D Studio was released with an amazing amount of functionality, the ability to draw spline shapes, lofted surfaces, geometric primitives, and basic mesh editing was combined with object level keyframing were all revolutionary.
A 3D Studio support forum (the origins of “the Area”) is started on CompuServe, and eventually becomes one of the most heavily used forums on the service. Gary Yost and Jack Powell from the Yost Group become the primary “support” for 3D Studio and start building the 3D Studio user community.


Autodesk releases 3D Studio R2
An IPAS interface for 3D plug-ins is introduced – for Image processing, Procedural modeling, Animation, and Surfaces.
The GUI colors change (as they become customizable in this version)
The Yost Group produces several suites of plug-ins that are sold after market to enhance 3D Studio, providing everything from particle systems to lens flares.
Planning begins on a new, object-oriented product (code name Jaguar, what would become 3D Studio MAX) that will take full advantage of Microsoft’s upcoming 32-bit OS and object oriented programming methods.


Autodesk releases 3D Studio R3. With only Dan Silva and Tom Hudson working as developers, Dan gives the Material Editor and Renderer a major overhaul. Two new extension types are added for bitmap processing and keyframing, and the IPAS term is retired and the term Plug-In is used from then on.
Planning on Jaguar begins in earnest, with Don Brittain joining the team from Wavefront to design its Windows framework.


Autodesk releases 3D Studio R4, this “plug-in release” adds all its new functionality including Inverse Kinematics, Fast (Shaded) Preview, and Keyscript (Keyframer scripting language)
This is the first release where Autodesk provides development assistance other than install or the initial DXF support. Johnny Mnemonic and The Craft are made using this release.
After producing the impressive IK module for R4, its author Rolf Berteig is brought onto the Yost Group for Jaguar. The full-time Jaguar development team is now up to four.
A new publishing agreement is made with Unreal Pictures to produce a character animation add-on product for Jaguar. Code named “Cheetah”, it was the most complex plug-in concept anyone had yet come up with, and pushed the architectural needs of Jaguar very early in its design.


Autodesk announces 3D Studio MAX for the Windows NT platform at the LA SIGGRAPH. Crowds were blown away to see interactive shaded, textured objects, animating in real time to music in the viewport for the first time.
“Have you seen it?” buttons are handed out at the Autodesk booth, and MAX becomes the buzz of the show.
Plug-in support for MAX was announced from numerous companies.
3D Studio MAX featured:
A true 32-bit application, which was thoroughly multi-threaded, as modeless as possible, and with an object-oriented architecture having a robust instancing and referencing system (unmodified to this day).
The shaded, interactive graphics leveraged Autodesk’s new HEIDI interface to deliver 3D shaded performance without either OpenGL or Direct3D (as neither existed for the fledging Windows NT at that time).
Architecturally, nearly every feature is actually a plug-in – meaning nearly every capability shown could have been created by a third party. The first application wide, modeless plug-in architecture is born.
Cheetah is also debuted – now called “Biped” and “Skin”, it was demonstrated with a chimpanzee model that was freely animated via a new footstep driven approach.
Users didn’t care about music so much as MAX’s revolutionary capabilities:
Undo! – Believe it or not, a new concept in 3D packages.
Animate anything at any time. What took hours to do in 3D Studio R4 could now be done in seconds in MAX.
“Stress free modeling” with proceduralism – the thought of saving modeling decisions, and animating the modeling process is revolutionary.
Blizzard Entertainment’s Warcraft game is released and features film-quality cinematics created in 3D Studio.
After SIGGRAPH, 3D Studio MAX is shown at Autodesk Cad Camp, where the rest of Autodesk learns about MAX for the first time. The 3D Studio MAX beta program begins, and a loyal group of 3D Studio veterans help fine tune MAX’s features for usability in production.


Autodesk renames its Multimedia Division to Kinetix (a division of Autodesk); with 3D Studio MAX as is flagship product.
Kinetix ships 3D Studio MAX for Windows NT, and shows the shipping product at NAB.
The product matched nearly all the “features” as 3D Studio 4 by name, but with tremendously more capability as you can now model, animate and change your mind at any time.
The Character Studio product is announced at NAB, with Skin being renamed to Physique.
A free “Combustion” plug-in is posted by the Yost Group at release as the first plug-in add-in for 3D Studio MAX. This is later folded into R1.1.
Johnny Mnemonic, one of the first films using 3D Studio DOS 4 for visual effects, is released.
With the tagline, “It’s Carrie meets Clueless”, The Craft, a movie about a group of teenage witches, is released. 3D Studio DOS 4 is used for the movie’s visual effects.
The ‘Dancing Baby’ animation craze hits.
Shipped as a .max scene example on the product CD, a slightly modified version is rendered to an AVI by a user, sent to a receptionist, and then went viral.
The first Tomb Raider action-adventure game is created using 3D Studio. This title is followed by 5 additional games, comic books, novels, theme park rides and movies, centering on the game’s heroine, Lara Croft. Croft is later inducted into the Guinness Book of World records “most successful human videogame heroine.”
3D Studio MAX R1.1 ships
The SDK is now included with every copy and the plug-in revolution is set to take off.
The Editable Mesh feature is included – MAX could now do explicit modeling.
MeshSmooth and FFD are added for subdivision surfaces and free form deformation.
Network rendering is now included.
Character Studio ships, bringing character animation to 3D Studio MAX
3D Studio MAX R1.2 ships, adding support for Windows 95.


The Designer Utility Pack (DUP) is produced.
Autodesk announces 3D Studio MAX R2
Originally codenamed “Athena”, it boasts over a thousand new features and workflow improvements.
Major features included: selective ray-tracing , Lens Effects Post Effects; basic NURBS modeling tools, MAXScript built-in programming language and OpenGL support.


Autodesk ships 3D Studio MAX 2.5
Includes advanced NURBS support, and camera matching
The Dancing Baby hits primetime, landing a guest spot on Ally McBeal.
The first major movie to use the new 3D Studio MAX R2 Beta for visual effects, Lost In Space, is released.


Autodesk acquires Discreet Logic, Inc. Discreet Logic and Kinetix becomes the division known as Discreet.
Autodesk ships 3D Studio Max R3.
Originally codenamed “Shiva” after the Hindu deity – because of all the architectural changes that were happening in it.
The last version to be published under the Kinetix logo
Several areas of MAX were refactored to allow the GUI to be customized, external references, paramblock 2 (so plugins could talk to one another), thorough MAXScript integration so scripts could be anywhere and macro recording was possible; and the Scanline Renderer was enhanced with support for pluggable Anti-Alias filters and Supersamplers.
MAX’s RPF format is now exploited in compositing by Paint/Composite (later Combustion), After Effects and Digital Fusion.
Digital Dimension creates a one-minute opening sequence using 3D Studio MAX for the Super Bowl, the nation’s highest rated TV program. The opening sequence is so successful, it wins the studio an Emmy, and so does the opener they create with 3ds max in 2002.


Autodesk ships 3ds max R4, originally code named “Magma”. 3D Studio MAX was renamed 3ds max (all lower case) to align with the lower case naming conventions of Discreet products.
New features included a new IK system; QuadMenus context menus ; ActiveShade render preview mode; a redesigned Modifier Stack (Stack View) with support for Drag and Drop; new Editable Poly modeling toolset; DirectX Shader support in viewports; and MultiRes mesh optimization.
Electronic Arts’ The Sims, created using 3ds Max and Maya becomes the best-selling PC game of all time.


Created with 3ds max, Fifty Percent Gray is nominated in the Best Animated Short Film category at this year’s Academy Award® ceremonies.
Halo 1 is released, breaking sales records. By 2002, this video game, created in part with 3ds max, will have sold over one million units.
Frantic Films uses 3ds max on Swordfish.


Discreet releases 3ds max 5, which is the first release entirely done by Autodesk.
The biggest addition was the Advanced Lighting sub-system of the Scanline Renderer, including a Global Illumination module called Light Tracer, a Radiosity module and Photometric and Day lights support.
3ds max wins an Editor’s Choice Award, with a 98% rating, from
The same year 3ds max also wins an Atomic Hot Award from Atomic Maximum Power Computing Magazine, as well as the Seal of Excellence Award from Animation Magazine.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell is released. 3ds max is used and receives critical acclaim for both lighting and the high quality of animation.


Kaena: The Prophecy uses 3ds max, right out of the box, to create beautiful 3D scenery and characters.
Discreet released 3ds max 6.
The main new features were mental ray renderer incorporated into the base package; Particle Flow; a refactored Schematic View, Shell modifier; new Vertex Paint; Reactor 2 dynamics; and network support for Render To Texture.
Les Triplettes de Belleville, made entirely with 3ds Max is nominated for two Oscars®
In Final Destination 2, 3ds max is used in creating the terrifying scene where timber logs fly off the back of a flatbed, causing one of the largest and most frightening automobile crashes in motion picture history.


World of Warcraft, what would become the Guinness Book of World Records title holder for most popular MMORPG of all time, is released. Blizzard, the game’s creator, uses 3ds max to achieve high quality detailed art.
Discreet released 3ds max 7. It included new Editable Poly tools; new Edit Poly modifier; support for Normal mapping generation and rendering; mental ray (version 3.3) is now included in core, sporting sub-surface scattering and ambient occlusion shaders and render-to-texture support; per-pixel camera mapping; flat shaded view; Character Studio 4.3 included in the base package; SkinMorph and SkinWrap modifiers; TurboSmooth modifier; Parameter Collector; Refactored Reaction controller; and walk-thru mode for first-person navigation in the viewports.
The Las Vegas Sands Macau opens its doors. This Casino and Hotel boast over one million square feet and is the most financially successful building in the world. It only took the building’s designer, Steelman Partners, five days to create a completely animated visualization of what the completed Casino/Hotel would look like. Two minutes into the presentation they had landed the project, due to the stunning visualizations created on 3ds max.
With the help of 3ds max, Oceanic flight 815 crashes onto ‘The Island’, changing the lives of “Lost” characters Jack, Sun, Kate, Sawyer and Hurley forever, and wins an Emmy for best special effects on the way down.


Discreet released 3ds max 8. Main new features were asset tracking with support for 3rd party solutions and Autodesk Vault shipping with the package; MAXScript Debugger; Hair and Fur; Cloth; major improvements to Polygon modeling, Skinning and UVW unwrapping, including a pelt mapping system; Motion Mixer support for non-biped objects.
Microsoft’s Halo 2, created using 3ds Max and Maya marks the biggest game debut of all time.
3ds max is inducted into the Front Line Awards Hall of Fame by Game Developers Magazine
Autodesk renames Discreet “Autodesk Media & Entertainment.”
Harmonix creates Guitar Hero, and people all over the world are now able to live out their rock star fantasies, even if it is just in their own basements.
Gopher Broke created entirely in 3ds Max is nominated for Best Animated Short at this year’s Oscars®.


The concrete for the new One World Trade Center is poured. Using 3ds max for design visualization alongside AutoCAD and Revit, this new building will be the tallest building in the United States and will stand proudly next to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
Autodesk re-names the software “Autodesk 3ds Max.” and releases Autodesk 3ds Max 9. This is the first release to include both 32- and 64-bit builds of the software. Major new features include Proxy Textures Manager; .NET support in MAXScript; ProBoolean and ProCutter; better mental ray 3.5 integration, with support for physical sky and sun and Arch&Design shaders; faster screen redraws in Direct3D mode; Animation Layers; interactive Hair styling in the viewport; and better interoperability via the FBX data-interchange format (resulting from Autodesk’s acquisition of Alias earlier in the year).
3ds Max wins the Editor’s Pick Award from
Heartwood Studios uses 3ds Max to visualize the world’s largest domed structure, the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington Texas. The visualization is so perfectly done that the official plans for the stadium are altered to include an exact replica of a suite that Heartwood designed for the digital model.
Gears of War is Gamespot’s Readers Choice winner for 2006, a game created using 3ds Max. They say, “Shockingly good visuals make Gears of War grab you right from the start”.


Autodesk releases Autodesk 3ds Max 2008 – the first release to adopt an annual naming convention rather than a version number. Major new features include core performance optimizations with large number of objects; new Adaptive Degradation system with view-dependent per-object culling; Scene Explorer; Selection Preview in EPoly mode; Review; Sky Portals and Photographic Exposure Control; and MAXScript ProEditor.
Harmonix, creators of Guitar Hero, release Rock Band, using 3ds Max. There was something for everyone with guitar, bass, drums and microphone options!


3ds Max wins The Technology and Engineering Awards in the Gaming Category of “Visual Digital Content Creation Tools” and Their Impact from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Autodesk releases Autodesk 3ds Max 2009 software and debuts 3ds Max Design 2009 software — a tailored 3D application for architects, designers and visualization specialists. 3ds Max Design 2009 includes all features offered in 3ds Max 2009, with the exception of the software development toolkit (SDK). Both versions of the software offer a new Reveal rendering toolset; a ProMaterials material library; numerous biped enhancements and new UV editing tools; and improved interoperability with Mudbox, Maya and MotionBuilder software. 3ds Max Design 2009 further provides lighting simulation and analysis technology.
Using 3ds Max for modeling and animation in the film W, Frantic Films turns Josh Brolin into George W. Bush in a biopic of the then-current-President’s life. This feat includes using pasting techniques to get Josh Brolin’s face into the iconic “Mission Accomplished” banner footage.
3ds Max is used on the first feature-length 3D movie shot with the Cameron-Pace camera also used on Avatar – Journey To The Center Of The Earth 3D
Autodesk technology helps game developers execute their creative vision from start to finish. This season, 3ds Max has been used by numerous developers to create games that offer believable characters, wondrous environments and enthralling game play, such as: Fallout 3, Far Cry 2, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Rock Band 2, Wheelman™, TNA iMPACT!, Blitz, Prince of Persia and Shaun White Snowboarding.


With Autodesk solutions present in all the films nominated in Best Visual Effects category, The Curious case of Benjamin Button, takes home the Oscar®, and Matte World Digital, tasked with re-creating the early 20th century through Hurricane Katrina, uses 3ds Max as its primary software. Other films using 3ds Max nominated that year include Iron Man and short animated feature This Way Up.
2012 is released, and is one of the highest grossing films of the year. Uncharted Territory, the lead visual effects (VFX) house and co-producers of 2012, created over 400 shots using mainly Autodesk 3ds Max software for modeling, UV mapping, rigging, effects and animation. Scanline VFX, also created over 100 complex water shots for 2012, and over 95% of the shots were fully CG and created with 3ds Max, most of them, right out of the box.
In February, the lighting simulation and analysis technology in 3ds Max Design was validated in a collaborative effort between the National Research Council Canada (NRC), Harvard University and Autodesk.
Autodesk releases Autodesk 3ds Max 2010 and Autodesk 3ds Max Design 2010, offering more than 350 new features. In addition to being the first animation package to integrate mental images’ mental mill technology, the 2010 release includes render-like effects in the viewport display, such as soft shadowing, exposure control and ambient occlusion; over 100 new Graphite modeling tools; Containers; a new Material Explorer; xView mesh analyzer technology; and enhanced support for software interoperability and pipeline integration.
It is announced that construction will start on Parsons Brinkerhoff’s design for the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle. This project will cost $4.25 billion, and will improve safety concerns with the current road. PB uses 3ds Max not only as a visualization tool, but to pull together different design elements and to find potential problems with the design in order to save time and money once the project launched.
3ds Max wins Front Line Award for Best Art Tool from Game Developers Magazine.
3ds Max is used in the creation of the Watchmen, a story about a group of superheroes who are watching over humanity in 1985 during the Cold War.
In Planet 51 an astronaut discovers a new planet, only to find out that he’s not the only one there. Using 3ds Max, animators create a whole new world for him to discover, one with people very similar to his own, only smaller and greener.


Autodesk products are front and center at this year’s Oscars®, with over 11 nominated films employing Autodesk solutions. On Avatar, the highest grossing movie of all time and winner of the Visual Effects Oscar, 3ds Max is used both by Industrial Light, Magic’s Matte Department and Prime Focus VFX. Animated films The Secret of Kells and Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty both used 3ds Max as their tool of choice, and so did Best Picture Winner, The Hurt Locker.
3ds Max, Mudbox and MotionBuilder are used to create Alan Wake, a psychological action thriller game. Gamers rely on the power of light to navigate the game’s eerie dynamic forests and defeat “the Taken”.
3ds Max wins Game Developer Magazine’s Front Line Award for “Best Art Tool”
Autodesk releases 3ds Max 2011. The first release to fully support the Windows 7 operating system.
A new node-based material editor, innovative hardware renderer and full-featured compositor are new features offered in the 2011 release to help accelerate the creation of compelling imagery and entertainment content. With this new release, Autodesk looks to the future and releases Project Excalibur. Check out the AREA for details.