We seem to finally be at the tail end of this project with oodles of that most useless yet relied upon asset: hindsight. And so, that somebody might benefit from our toils beyond ourselves, it seems correct to share these lessons, hard learned, with the endless internet to be someday hopefully stumbled upon.
3DsMax is an incredibly powerful tool. In that sense, you can sometimes find it doing things you don’t need or want it to do. This is not the software’s fault, it is yours. So my advice in relation to this is: experimentation is fine but knowledge is better. A lot of time can be spent clicking and trying and ctrl-z-ing before something begins to work the way you want it to. And trust me here, that feeling of satisfaction you get when it does finally create something like what you intended, will be eclipsed when days or weeks later you discover how easy the actual way to do it is. So, before reinventing the software on your own terms by coming up with convoluted ways to get to where you want to be, ask the web. There are video tutorials for everything in 3DsMax it seems, and not once did I not come away with a method or trick which would have saved me heaps of time if I’d only checked earlier. Often the tricks improve your knowledge laterally, not necessarily related to your problem, but helpful in other ways and simply watching somebody who is expert with the software navigating it is a quicker way to discover it than hacking away at it yourself.
So, try and find out how to do things properly and benefit from other’s expertise. Simple advice to take and easier to ignore. That was a theme for me with this software and brings me to my next point of advice: once you know how to do things properly, do them properly. Naming conventions for elements, controlling instances and copies, using colours to identify elements – the layer manager is your friend, use it often.
These are tools that exist for a reason and they may feel like an unnecessary extra step for over engineered workflows but they are not and they will help you as your project develops. The very first thing you create, name it, give it a layer and continue in that vein: it will pay off.