Creating stereoscopic images in 3ds Max

Creating stereoscopic images in 3ds Max

Stereoscopic images have been around for years now and are an ever-popular aspect of visualisation and film, featuring in the recent box-office hit Beowulf.

Stereoscopic images are used to create 3D images that give the illusion of depth.

They work by filming the same point of focus from two points, two inches apart. Using traditional cinematography it can be really tricky to set up two cameras focused  on exactly the same point. However it can be done very simply in 3D applications such as 3ds Max 2008 and then imported into any scene.

We’ve come up with a quick workflow that illustrates how to set up cameras and helpers and add them to your scene to create stunning stereoscopic animations.


This walkthrough will presume that you have an understanding of how to create basic objects, move and rotate them, and also how to navigate around the Create and Modify tabs in 3ds Max 2008+.

Firstly, we need to set up the correct unit scheme for our blank scene. To do this, select Customize->Unit Setup from the menu and set this to US Standard, Fractional Inches. It is easier to set this up now so when you place the cameras  they will be exactly 2 inches apart – you can always change back to your preferred unit setup.

positioning cameras in 3ds Max

The next step is to place our first target camera into the scene. For now it doesn’t matter where the target is pointing as we’re going to add helpers to control the camera later. Once the camera is in, select the Move tool and set the co-ordinates of the camera to 0,0,0. Then select the target and set the X to 60 and Y/Z to 0.

Select the camera again. This time we’re going to change the Y co-ordinate to 1. Now make a clone of that camera by pressing the keyboard shortcut CTRL+V which will give you a dialogue box asking you if you would like to create a Copy, Instance or Reference. In this case we want a copy. Then click ok. As we already have the new camera selected, change the Y co-ordinate to -1. You have now created two cameras that are 2 inches apart from each other.

Creating a stereo rig in 3ds Max

We’re now going to add the helper objects that will allow us to move and control the camera/target. This will make your life easier when trying to set up the camera view in your scenes.

What we want is to set up an object from which we can control the camera completely, while also keeping the cameras’ focus on the same point.

The best way to do this is to create a 3D spline that surrounds the cameras, which is easy to grab and manoeuvre.

Firstly, let’s draw a Circle Spline on the scene with a radius of 3 inches, and set the co-ordinates to 0,0,0 so that it sits around the two cameras.

circle splines in 3ds Max

Next, create an Instance of the spline by using the keyboard shortcut CTRL+V, and rotate it 90 degrees on the X-axis.

Repeat this process till you have made circles with the following co-ordinates:

1. 0,0,0
2. 90,0,0
3. 0,90,0
4. 90,0,45
5. 90,0,-45

Now that we have our circles, convert one of them to an editable spline (right click one of the circles, and select Convert to Editable Spline) and from the Modifier tab select Attach Mult to attach all the splines together.

attaching splines in 3ds Max

At this point, I would recommend that you change the colour of the spline to blue, purely to have some consistency with the 3ds Max colour scheme, as blue is associated with cameras.

changing colour schemes in 3ds max

Next we need to link both the cameras to this control object. Select both the cameras either by holding CTRL and clicking on them, or by using the keyboard shortcut H to bring up the Scene Selection window.

The problem with this is that if we move the camera around, the target stays locked in its place, which means the angle of the cameras will not generate the correct image – the target needs to be directly in front of the two cameras. This can easily be solved by adding a helper object.

From the panels on the right-hand side, select the Helpers tab and drop in a Point helper. Again, change the colour to blue.

using helper tools in 3ds max

Use the Align tool to centre the helper into the camera targets and, using the same method as before, link the two targets to the helper.

linking targets in 3ds max

You can now quickly check that when you move the helper both the targets move, and also that if you move the camera helper, the cameras move. Link the point helper to the control object and we’re done!

Part 2 coming soon…
We will add this camera rig to your own 3D scene and show you how to composite the images for your final render….

For further tips and advice call the 3D team on 03332 409 309 or email Visit our website


The Rise in Virtual Photography

The Rise in Virtual Photography

The answer to impossible angles, expensive photo shoots and difficult lighting.

The traditional methods of photographing objects for marketing or promotional material are rapidly becoming a technique of the past and are being replaced by many with the rendering of 3D models and the production of computer graphics.

Rapid increases over the past 10 years of 3D effects in everyday day life, from magazine adverts to TV shows and even fully 3D generated feature films, have seen the use of 3D become the norm. Anything you can’t do in the real world can be created in a CG environment and even things that can be created using traditional methods can often be made quicker and cheaper using 3D.

Due to this many firms are now not only asking about the possible use of 3D models to represent their product across a variety of media, but they’re demanding it. Using a 3D workflow allows for striking imagery to be generated and manipulated to show exactly what the client wants in the right environment and under the right lighting conditions. No more impossible angles, no more impossible sets – just the perfect shot!

On top of this, marketing material for new product launches can be produced and signed off before goods have even left the factory. Artists can produce promotional images using computer-generated 3D content from around the globe without having the actual product in front of them!

“Some art directors think if they can’t photograph something they can’t do it. Well that’s not true any more. If you can dream it up, we can figure out a way to do it.”

Rob Magiera – Noumena Digital Case study Courtesy of Autodesk.

Leading 3D software such as 3ds Max from Autodesk and hyperShot from Bunkspeed, are taking full advantage of this growing trend. Integration of typical Digital SLR settings such as exposure, depth of field and lens type means that when setting up images for render, photographer familiar settings are at hand so that images can be produced and set up quickly as if working on a shoot in a studio or on location. Resulting in the elimination of the endless and often technically cumbersome menu systems often associated with photo-realistic rendering.

This type of image creation has become so popular it’s increasingly common for 3D artists to now be asked what sort of digital camera do they own, rather than what 3D software they know, when applying for new work!! With visualisation agencies understanding and appreciating the crossover between the two skill sets and how a photographer’s eye for composition and set up of a frame is the key to producing the life-like 3D images being demanded by clients.

For all your 3D needs, call the 3D team on 03332 409 309 or email Visit our website

MotionBuilder: Out of the box character animation

MotionBuilder: Out of the box character animation

Real-time, out of the box solution for your complex character animation needs.

We understand that meeting strict deadlines in any production environment is paramount, something that is often tough when dealing with the complexities of character animation and its integration into the whole pipeline. Thankfully, help is on hand with MotionBuilder – a specialised real-life animation tool that provides unrivalled productivity and interactivity for any artist dealing with volumes of 3D character animation.

By adopting MotionBuilder, any character animator can instantly harness its unique real-time environment, providing them with instant scene playback… No waiting for previews, no waiting for renders….Simply press play and it plays – imagine the amount of time that can be saved through this feature alone!

MotionBuilder works hand-in-hand with your current 3D animation tools such as 3ds Max and Maya by utilising the FBX file format. Import existing characters and use MotionBuilder to quickly and easily do complex animating, rather than struggling to animate them in your authoring application. After all you wouldn’t use a steak knife to cut down a tree… you could do it if you wanted to but would it be efficient?! Probably not and it would take you all day! You’d probably need a chainsaw…In essence, MotionBuilder is the chainsaw of character animation – the right tool for the job!

Looking for pre-visualisation and/or animated storyboards?

MotionBuilder provides a non-linear editing environment where timings and sequencing of shots can be planned, created and re-created in real time. No need to describe or try to portray how you want the next shoot to go, run though the whole scene on-screen, in real-time… no mix-ups, no miss-communications!

Using Motion Capture?

MotionBuilder simplifies the process of working with motion capture and its complex data sets. Instantly move your animation data seamlessly from one character to another, regardless of size or proportion. It allows your artists to reuse animation data quickly and easily without having to re-capture or source more capture files.

Live data from most motion capture hardware can also be streamed and recorded directly into MotionBuilder. Set up a modelled and textured character and watch how it reacts and moves in real time to the live motion capture feed, for instant feedback and review.

How MotionBuilder can boost your animation pipeline:

  • Quick and simple animation of your 3ds Max and Maya Characters with effortless integration of 3D data between Motion Builder, 3ds Max and Maya via the FBX file format.
  • Avoid costly preview rendering with real time scene playback
  • Save time on setting up characters with semi automated rigging that builds based on a characters skeleton
  • Integrated and dedicated facial animation tools, as well as automated audio to voice conversation
  • Available on multi-platforms, supporting whatever your system needs – MotionBuilder can be run on either Microsoft Windows of Mac OSX

For more information, get in touch by calling 03332 409 309 or emailing Visit our website

Compositing Explained

Compositing Explained

Composite Car

Photographers have been “fixing in post” for years but it is still not uncommon for new and old 3D users alike to be using rendered frames as a final output. Here we discuss how a compositing application can save you time, improve efficiency and produce amazing effects.

From a photography point of view, it’s very rare to find any photographer taking raw images and then using these files without any post processing. As such, the standard workflow would consist of photographing the subject, taking images into a photo-editing package (like Photoshop or Aperture) then making adjustments to things like tone, saturation, colour or composition, to ensure the perfect image. In the same way, a good 3D compositing application will ensure that the final output of any rendered frames is as intended. As good as our 3D applications are, it’s still very rare for rendered footage to be perfect straight out of your authoring application. Despite this, many 3D users fail to use even the simplest of post- processing programmes.

A good compositor, such as Adobe’s After Effects, is an essential part of any CG workflow. Many 3D applications allow for the export of rendered out frames into the varying compositing applications native file format, making for easy integration and an uninterrupted pipeline.

By altering the way in which scenes are rendered, the true extent and capabilities of a compositor quickly become clear. If rendering out a scene into layers isn’t something that you are already doing, it is a vital step that should be integrated into your workflow. From the early days of 2D hand drawn animations on acetate, working in layers has been a standard practice, and any one that uses Photoshop will appreciated the sort of benefits this type of work flow will bring.

Now, depending on your 3D application, there are varying options here but the general principles are the same: you decide which parts of your scene you want rendered out, and on what layers you want them rendered out to. For example, you could split your render up into layers such as shadows, secular and diffuse, or into dedicated layers for each object in your scene.

When taken into your compositor, these separate layers mean that the effects and touch-ups can be quickly made to individual parts of the scene without the whole scene being affected. For example, after rendering out a sequence of frames it would not be uncommon for rendered shadows to be to harsh, or not harsh for a given environment. Rather than having to alter the lighting settings in your 3D modelling app and do a re-render, just take the rendered files into your compositor and simply adjust the brightness on the shadow layer until the desired effect is achieved! Simple!

Compositing in stages

No need to wait for a re-render, something that can save hours, especially if we’re talking about 5 minutes of rendered footage for HDV. This opens the possibilities to quick fixes and colour changes to objects, as well as the application of special effects like motion blur, to specific items within your scene! Its complex effects like this that really do save hours – the thought of having to replicate motion blur in any 3D app, even for the most experienced artist is a nightmare! Your client now wants his car in green, not red – a quick click of the Hue/Saturation slider in your compositor and you’re good to go… No re-render, no wasted time!

I hear what you’re saying – it takes to render each layer. Now, here lies the key: rendering out as a multi pass should take no longer than if you were doing one pass! You application will automatically separate each pass or layer as it processes the render at no extra time cost!

And you’re not just limited to adjusting individual layers. Render your scenes in multiple passes and then post processing them into a compositor, instantly provides depth for the addition of other clips or special effects. For example, if you wanted to add an explosion to a non-layered flat video render, any effect would only be applied on top of the video, i.e. in the viewer’s foreground. By splitting the render into multiple passes, you have the option of your main scene background on one layer and a parked vehicle on another. The explosion effect or clip that is then applied, can be added between these two layers so that the car in the foreground hides any of the explosions that are occurring behind it.

Compositing software will also allow for the simple and effective addition of rendered out 3D frames into pre-shoot video footage, for the interaction of actors with 3D animated characters or objects as well as the ability to use green screens for virtual sets and studios. Empowering directors with the tools to create scenes and visuals previously unachievable with traditional methods. Want to quickly add a CG generated logo to the bottom corner of some video? Not a problem… model the logo in 3D, render it out on an individual layer or using an alpha channel, and then simply add the layer over existing footage in your compositing application and voila, you are good to go!

For more information, contact us by calling 03332 409 309 or emailing Visit out website