3D Studio MAX R2 - T1 - Creating Solids
This first tutorial will introduce 3D Studio MAX and then explain how to create some simple solids. I am assuming that you have no experience with a CAD system, but have some understanding of basic computing concepts.
I'll also include notes and commentary in paragraphs like this one (as well as most of the images). During these tutorials you should notice that I will give less detailed instructions as we go further. In addition, once a particular topic has been covered once, I am likely to say "to something" without explaining how...
The Interface
Firstly, we'll have a very quick introduction to Max's interface.
Start Max by clicking on the Windows 95 "Start" button (in the bottom left corner) then select "Programs" and "CAD & Modelling" and finally "3D Studio MAX R2". If these instructions prove incorrect, then search!
Once Max has started look on the right hand side...
The Create command panel (the hand icon) is open with the 'geometry' (cylinder & sphere icon) button IN. The buttons for the standard primitives are shown in the Object Type "rollout" (a "rollout" is a collection of commands or options, it has a button at the top with a minus "-" on the left if the rollout is open or alternatively a plus "+" if its closed).
Click on the Utilities command panel (the hammer) - this totally changes everything below...
Click on the Create command panel again, then click on the Camera icon on the 'row' behind the command panels. Once again the bit below is totally changed - though this time there isn't much there!
Click on the Geometry icon again, then click on the down-arrow of the selection box that currently shows "Standard Primitives", choose "Extended Primitives". This will change the contents of the Object Type rollout.
Go back to the Standard Primitives, then click on the minus "-" on the left of the Object Type button. This should shrink the rollout, hiding its contents. Click on the plus "+" to expand the rollout.
This, I'm sure, seems messy and really complicated at present. Don't worry! Once you start to learn what all the various things are for, it'll start to become simple and straightforward!
Before I explain more, it's worth noting that (like most CAD related applications) Max uses standard Cartesian coordinates, with the X-Y plane being the ground.
Notice that the perspective viewport has a white line around it, this indicates that it is the active viewport. To the left of the command panel are the four viewports. In the top-left is the Top (plan) view. To the right is the Front (X-Z) view, under the Front is the Perspective view. Finally, in the bottom-left is the Left (Y-Z) view.
To change the active viewport, right-click in the viewport.

To complicate matters, Max "changes" the labelled coordinate system according to which view is active...

When you draw on any of the three 2D views the object will be 'based' on the "0 height". In other words, if you draw in the top view the X and Y coordinates are visible and the Z coordinate is 0. If you draw in the Front view the X and Z coordinates are visible and the Y coordinate is 0.
I'll explain more about the interface as we continue.
Create a Box
If the Perspective viewport is not the active viewport then make it so!

If you don't like the box's colour, click on the colour in the "Name and Color" rollout and then select another colour.

Click on the "Box" button. Notice that a "Parameters" rollout is displayed. Move the mouse cursor into the Perspective view, press the mouse button down to enter the first corner point, then "drag" the cursor to enter the other corner point of the base (release the mouse button). Move the mouse up - the box height will dynamically change - press the mouse button when you're happy with the result! Create a few more boxes, using the other viewports. Notice the differences in how the boxes are created.
Zooming about the place...

There are a number of other 'zoom' related commands whose icons are located to the right and below this icon. Investigate...
Before we go any further, it's worth understanding how to change what the views are showing. Click on the "Zoom" icon, then "drag" the cursor UP in one of the viewports - the objects in that view will appear to get bigger. Drag DOWN to zoom out (which reduces the apparent size of the objects in the view).
The second zoom command (Zoom All) operates like Zoom except it zooms all the (non camera) views at once. "Zoom Extents" changes the current view to display all the objects in the scene. "Zoom Extents All" changes all the (non camera) view to display all the objects. "Region Zoom" is used to zoom in on a selected area of the view (2D views only). "Field of View" zooms perspective and camera views. "Pan" changes the view centre. "Arc Rotate" changes the viewing angle for the view. Finally, the "Min/Max Toggle" changes between seeing four views and one view.
You should be aware that the undo command does not undo zooming...
Create a Sphere
Click on the Sphere button, then click to set the centre and then "drag" to enter the sphere. When the object has just been created it's possible to change the object's parameters. Change the radius (in the Parameters rollout), for example round it off to the nearest 10.
Investigate the other Standard Primitives - they're all pretty straightforward!
Simple Editing

To select more than one object - hold the Ctrl key down and click on the (next) object.
Click on the "Select and Move" icon (it's located at the top of the application's window near the Help menu), then click on one of the objects you've created - the cursor should change into a shape like the symbol on the icon. You can now drag the object to a new position!
Click on the "Select and Rotate" icon (beside the Move icon), then click on a box. Rotate is rather strange! Instead of having the mouse movement equal rotation. Movement up and down (the screen) equates to rotation!
"Select and Scale" is very similar to Rotate, click on the object(s) and then drag up or down to enlarge or reduce the object size.
To delete a shape, pick the "Select Object" icon (under the "Views" menu) then simply click on the shape (to select it) and finally press the "Delete" key.
Changing the Perspective
While there's nothing wrong with the default perspective view, I'll let you know how to change it - in-case you get bored .

If you drag the cursor when it is outside the circle the view is tilted!
Right-click in the perspective viewport (if it's not the active viewport). Click on the "Arc Rotate" icon (near the bottom-right of the application's window). Move the cursor inside the green circle hold the left mouse button down and drag it around...
Render the Scene
Click on the "Render Scene" icon (near the top-right), the dialog box that's displayed is a bit intimidating at first! Click on "640x480" in the "Output Size" group and click on the "Render" button at the bottom.
Once you've set-up the rendering parameters to your satisfaction you can use "Quick Render" or "Render Last" Max will display a new window and render the active viewport (hopefully the perspective view!), the background should be black and the lighting will be the two default lights. Click on the "X" to dismiss the window.
Other Shapes
Click on the Shapes Icon (beside the Geometry Icon), then select the Rectangle button and draw a rectangle! This is a 2D shape, but it can be edited...
If the buttons in the Modify command panel's Modifiers Rollout are inactive, click on the rectangle - to select it. Click on the Modify command panel, then select Extrude : set the Amount value (in the Parameters Rollout) to 50. I know this isn't very interesting, but be patient!
When you do this the box should disappear and the rectangle should be redrawn. In the "Modifier Stack" rollout, click on the drop-down list with "Extrude" showing and then select "Rectangle" and the select "Edit Spline" from the Modifiers Rollout.
Click on the "Select and Move" icon then, in the Top View, right-click on one of the corners and then select "Bezier" from the menu, then drag one of the green squares and watch what happens...
Repeat this process on one of the other corners - except use "Bezier Corner" instead of "Bezier". When you're happy with the resulting shape, go back to the drop-down list in the "Modifier Stack" rollout and change "Edit Spline" back to "Extrude".
Have a cuppa
In this section you'll create a simple cup using a similar technique to that used above. Select File - Reset, this will start a new "scene", don't save your first effort unless you really want to keep it!
The figure to the left shows a side view of half of a cup - the centre of the cup is at the left of the shape.
Right-click in the "Front" view then, click on the Create command panel (and if necessary, the Shapes icon), then click on the Line button and draw a shape similar to that to the left! The shape you draw doesn't need to be exactly the same as the example. Then use Edit Spline to add some curves to the cup's sides.
HINT: set the corners to "Bezier Corner" (not "Bezier").
You'll need to scroll the command panel up to find the button. Do this by moving the cursor around until it changes into a hand and then dragging up! When you're happy with the profile, click on the Lathe button. This spins the shape around (by default through 360o), but 3D Studio MAX uses the centre of the shape as the rotation centre. To change this click on the "Min" button in the Align section of the the Parameters Rollout.
Use "Box" to create the box! Start in the top-view make it (about) 1 x 1 grid in the top-view and 10 "grid" units high... There are a number of interesting commands in the Modify command panel, in this section I'm going to introduce "Bend"...
Create a tall box with comparatively small width and depth.
Select the Modify command panel (if necessary select the box) and then pick "Bend". Move the mouse down to the Parameters roll-out and then press (and hold down) the left mouse button over the "up arrow" of the Angle entry area. With the button still down, move the mouse up and down, watch the viewports to see the effect on the box. Let go of the mouse button, you should see the box is now "leaning over" but it is not "curving over".
To make the box "curve over", click on the drop-down list in the Modifier Stack and change the value from Bend to Box, then change the "Height Segs" value from 1 to 10 - the higher the value the smoother the curve.
Attics !?
Actually, we're not going to create an attic, we're going to look at "lofting"!
In 3D Studio MAX that's called "lofting"! One common question that people ask is: "how do I create (something like) a pipe" - that is how can I extrude a shape along a path!?
To end the line series, press the Esc (escape) key or the right mouse button. Click on the Create command panel, then on the Shapes icon at the top of the command panel. Draw a circle in the Top viewport and then (in the Front viewport) draw a group of lines (they will form the path).
Edit the spline to create a "smooth-ish" line, then click on the Create command panel and the Geometry icon, finally change the drop-down list from "Standard Primitives" to "Loft Object".
This ensures that the surface created will be visible in wire-frame views! Select the path (the lines) and then pick the Loft button. Click on the "Skin Parameters" roll-out and click on "Skin" in the Display section.
Click on "Get Shape" and pick the circle. MAX should create an object made from passing the circle along the path!
Anyone for Coffee?
The techniques introduced above (together with the simple primitives) can be used to create most of the simple shapes that are common in architectural models!
If there's any time left, have a go at creating a coffee table with some glasses and maybe a bowl of fruit...
If you do create the coffee table, you should save it!