Converting A Mudbox Model To 3DSMax
By Neil Blevins
Created On: Sept 21st 2009
Updated On: Sept 28th 2013

Here's a tutorial on how to transfer a model from max to mudbox, export a mesh and a displacement map, and then render it in max using a bunch of different displacement methods (depending on what renderer you want to use). I'll be using 3dsmax 2009 and mudbox 2010, but the process is quite similar for any recent version of max and mudbox.

Here's a list of methods we'll be using to displace the geometry in max...
Making the Mesh in Max, and Exporting as Obj

Importing and Displacing in Mudbox

Creating A Displacement Map

Your next task is creating a displacement map, which serves as the difference between your Level 1 and Level 4 mesh. You may ask, why are we using a level 1 mesh, and not the original level 0 mesh? In general, I have found using the level 0 mesh doesn't give you enough mesh detail to allow the displacement map to do its job. The more detail in the actual mesh, the less detail your displacement map has to provide, and the better the final result. However, the more detail in the actual mesh means higher polygon counts in your 3d app's viewport, so there's a balance to be struck here. You don't want to export a level 6 mesh if your final mesh is a level 7, that will probably be way too many polygons to navigate properly in the 3d app, even though the final rendered result will look almost identical to the one in mudbox. So I generally export the low poly mesh at either a level 1 or 2, in an attempt to add more mesh detail without going too far.

Avoiding UV Smoothing Artifacts

While creating the displacement map CAN be done in mudbox, a word of warning. The way max and mudbox smooth their UVs is very different from each other by default. Mudbox defaults to linear UVs, and max's meshsmooth and turbosmooth modifiers default to partially smoothed uvs.

So if you have a lot of seams in your UVs or the UVs aren't lined up in a simple grid (like in the example below), you will see a lot of ugly artifacts in your displacement map unless you use max to extract the displacement map, or unless you modify max's uvs to use linear interpolation.

If your object doesn't have any UV seams and the UVs are nicely lined up (like in our example below), you will have no smoothing artifacts, no matter how you make your displacement map.

For a more detailed explanation, go here.

So I will show you two m
ethods to make your displacement map, 1) Creating A Displacement Map in Mudbox, and 2) Creating A Displacement Map in Max. If you choose to make your disp map in mudbox, you either have to use the max linear uv trick I will show you below, or you have to have a simple uv case like the grid above. Or you can choose to make your displacement map inside max, and that works for all cases automatically, but it's a more complex process. Feel free to choose whichever technique you want to use on a case by case basis.

Creating A Displacement Map in Mudbox


Creating A Displacement Map in Max
Now lets go into max.
This dialog has many sections. I'll show you what to do for each section.

Make sure to write down your min and max height values. And thanks to Eric Craft for some help with this technique.

Importing Back into Max

Rendering using the Scanline and Displace Modifier

Rendering using Mental Ray

Highres iterations - Lowres iterations - Turbosmooth iterations + 1 = Max Subdiv

Rendering using Vray

Note: I found a really great tutorial similar to this one called Akin Bilgic's Accurate Displacement Workflow, which also contains info on vray for maya and zbrush, well worth checking out.

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