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How to Cast Shadows in 3D Studio MAX 3

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Excerpted from Chapter 11 of 3D Studio MAX 3: Visual QuickStart Guide, by Michele Matossian

This article is provided courtesy of Peachpit Press.

ANY TYPE OF LIGHT IN MAX is capable of projecting shadows from renderable objects. For most displays, you must render a scene with the scanline renderer to see the shadows that are cast and received by objects.

3D Studio MAX 3 lets you set two types of shadows: shadow map and ray traced. A shadow map is a bitmap that is projected from a light. It is created by the scanline renderer during a prerendering pass of the scene. Shadow maps give shadows a soft edge, as if they are being diffused by the atmosphere. Shadow map shadows require less computation to render than do ray-traced shadows.

Ray-traced shadows are more precise and sharp edged than shadow map shadows. They are calculated by tracing a ray from the light source to the object, which uses a lot of calculation. Consequently, they take much longer to render than shadow map shadows. Use ray-traced shadows whenever you need to precisely locate shadows, such as in shadow studies for architectural sitings. To make a transparent or semitransparent object cast shadows, you must use ray-traced shadows.

An interesting innovation in MAX 3 is the ability of lights to cast colored and bitmapped shadows. In addition, you can set the color of a light to mix with the shadow color, giving it a more natural appearance. Volumetric lights and rendering effects may also cast shadows and mix their colors with shadow colors.

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