What's New in Autodesk 3ds Max 2011

Autodesk 3ds Max 2011 offers compelling new techniques for creating and texturing models, animating characters, and producing high-quality images. Incorporating tools that accelerate everyday workflows, Autodesk 3ds Max 2011 software helps significantly increase productivity for both individuals and collaborating teams working on games, visual effects, and television productions. Artists can focus on creativity, and have the freedom to iteratively refine their work to maximize the quality of their final output in the least amount of time.

NoteThis topic lists all significant new features, but does not include every change in 3ds Max. As you proceed through the documentation, keep an eye out for the icon, which indicates a new feature.

You can also use the index in this help to find topics that contain information about new features. For topics that describe new program features, check the index entry "new feature." For changes in existing features, check the index entry "changed feature."

Following are lists (high-level, then detailed) of major new features with brief descriptions and links to the relevant reference topic:

Online Resources

The following Web-based resources have changed or are new:

General Improvements

3ds Max Composite

You can install the 32- or 64-bit version of 3ds Max Composite to use with Autodesk 3ds Max 2011 from the Tools and Utilities section of the installer. 3ds Max Composite includes:

  • Raster and Vector Paint
  • Image Processing
  • Color Correction
  • Keying and Rotoscoping
  • Stereoscopic Production Support
  • Motion Blur
  • Advanced 2D Tracking
  • Camera Mapping
  • Depth of Field
  • Node and Layer-based Compositing Options
  • Spline-Based Warping
  • Enhanced Render Passes
  • Data Managing and Collaborating

Refer to the Installation Guide for complete details on specifications for this release (Click Documentation in the bottom-left corner of the Installer).

Windows 7 Support

Windows® 7 is a supported OS for Autodesk 3ds Max 2011. Refer to the Installation Guide for complete details on specifications for this release (Click Documentation in the bottom-left corner of the Installer).


Modeling Ribbon

The modeling ribbon boasts a new Object Paint toolset, a significant new customization utility, and a number of refinements that streamline modeling workflow. These include:

  • A command to switch the ribbon between horizontal and vertical orientation is available from the ribbon right-click menu.
  • You can now minimize the ribbon to panel buttons, each of which includes a descriptive icon.
  • A number of ribbon tooltips include new ToolClips: short videos that show how to use the tool.

Caddy Settings Controls

Most editable poly settings now use the caddy, a new “in-canvas” interface that comprises a label and a set of buttons superimposed on the viewport. The caddy replaces the old settings dialogs, leaving a greater portion of the model visible and accessible.

Control-key Behavior

In versions of 3ds Max prior to Autodesk 3ds Max 2011, holding down the Ctrl toggled an object’s selection state. That is no longer the case. To add an object to a selection, use Ctrl. To remove an object from a selection, use Alt. See Basics of Selecting Objects.

Snap Improvements for the Move Tool

A new snap handle located at the axis center gives you more accurate control over snapping when you move an object, with better visual feedback. See Snap Handle When Moving an Object for details.

Scene and Project Management

Container Expansion

The Container feature has been significantly expanded with new rules and locking tools, proxy containers, and more. For details, see What’s New in Containers.

File Link for Revit FBX Files

With the File Link Manager, you can now link FBX files exported from Revit 2009, Revit 2010, and Revit 2011. File Link lets you create high-quality renderings in 3ds Max while maintaining a single design database in another application such as Revit, AutoCAD, or AutoCAD Architecture.

For details about how to link Revit FBX files, see File Link Settings: FBX Files Dialog.

Save As Previous Feature

The Save As Previous feature allows you to save Autodesk 3ds Max 2011 scenes as 3ds Max 2010 scenes. You can also save Container (MAXC) files in 3ds Max 2010 format.

Not all features supported in Autodesk 3ds Max 2011 are supported in 3ds Max 2010. See Save As Previous for details.

Improved Inventor File Support

You can now import Autodesk Inventor files (IAM and IPT) without needing to have Inventor installed, and you can keep the data in ACIS-solids format by importing as Body Objects. See Importing Autodesk Inventor Files.

SAT File Import and Export

Import and export solid models in the SAT format supported by Autodesk Inventor and Revit as well as applications from other vendors. Imported geometry takes the form of Body Objects, which you can modify and render just like standard objects; you can even combine Body Objects with 3D Boolean operations. You can also convert standard objects to Body Objects and export them as ACIS solids. See SAT Files.

SketchUp File Import

You can now import 3D data in the Google SketchUp format (SKP), including cameras and materials. Imported objects take the form of editable polys. See SketchUp Importer.

Improved OpenEXR Support

The OpenEXR plug-in from previous releases has been replaced by a plug-in that offers improved performance and feature support.

The improvements include:

  • Better performance
  • Unlimited number of layers in one EXR file
  • Ability to save Render Elements
  • Ability to save G-buffer data
  • Available to MAXScript applications

Improved Support for SGI Image Files

The SGI Image File plug-in has been updated to support all formats. It now includes an option to turn off Compression when you save an SGI Image File. The new plug-in is compatible with SGI Image files used by OpenFlight (FLT) files, and the option to use a special RGB file loader has been removed from the Flight Studio utility.

Materials and Mapping

Slate Material Editor

The Slate Material Editor is an alternative Material Editor that provides a visual, node-based interface for creating and editing materials with complex networks of maps and shaders. It includes aids for managing the large numbers of materials required by today’s productions.

MetaSL Shaders

Autodesk 3ds Max 2011 provides a number of MetaSL shaders you can use in the Slate Material Editor to create shader trees. In addition, with the Map To Material Conversion material node MetaSL shader trees can be visible in viewports and renderings.

Material/Map Browser

The Material/Map Browser has been redesigned to feature a simpler and more accessible interface that is also an integral part of the Slate Material Editor.

Autodesk Materials and the Autodesk Material Library

Autodesk Materials replace ProMaterials, using a new interface that allows you to share materials with models from AutoCAD, Autodesk Revit, and Autodesk Inventor. (Scenes from earrlier 3ds Max versions that use ProMaterials continue to render in Autodesk 3ds Max 2011.)

In addition, the Autodesk Materials form the basis for the Autodesk Material Library, which provides over 1,200 ready-made materials you can use in your scenes.

Viewport Canvas Expansion

Viewport Canvas has been significantly enhanced and improved to the point that it is, in effect, an entirely new feature. For example, you can now paint directly onto any 3D object with any map in any material. And new painting tools include Blur, Sharpen, Dodge, and Burn. But perhaps most important, you can now paint in multiple layers that can interact with one another the same way as in Adobe Photoshop.


Quicksilver Hardware Renderer

The Quicksilver Hardware renderer is an extremely fast renderer that uses your system’s graphics hardware (GPU) to produce high-quality images.

Bitmap Pager Changes

In Autodesk 3ds Max 2011, you can disable or enable bitmap paging from the Asset Tracking dialog Bitmap Performance And Memory menu, or the Global Settings And Defaults For Bitmap Proxies dialog.

Preview Animations

“Preview” has been renamed “Animated Sequence File,” and the commands for preview animations are now grouped with Create Still Image File in the Grab Viewport Group on the Tools menu. See Create Animated Sequence File.

Character-Animation Improvements


CAT provides a complete toolset ideally suited for rigging and animating multi-legged characters as well as humanoids. It includes numerous built-in rigs such as a dragon with four legs and two wings, a spider, and a centipede with 18 legs. These can easily be animated along paths with no foot sliding using the graph-based CATMotion editor. CAT’s easy-to-use layering system supports color-coding of layers so you can see which layer is contributing to the motion at any given moment. See CAT, and for a comparison of CAT and character studio, see Character Animation.

mental ray Improvements

mental ray 2011

mental ray 2011 is supported with 3ds Max. For further information about mental ray 2011, view the help file from Help > Additional Help.