Sunday, December 13, 2015

3DS Max Backburner error "3dsmax.exe no response" - 3DS Max 2016 SP2

Geeze, what a journey!

So, on submitting a job through backburner after the update to 3DS Max 2016 SP2 (but see later!) I was getting an error from all 3 of my network machines, saying "3dsmax.exe no response" with an error code of -2 unexpected error.

This had me scratching my head. A message would have been something like "Mismatched version" as the update had NOT run on those 3 machines.

Some way of knowing what version was installed would be good (anyone know of one?) 3DS Max only runs direct as an expired trial on the servers, so I have no way to run it there and click on About to see what version is installed.

Anyway, turns out the update program had not run. Not sure why. It ran, then vanished from my remote access screens, and I shut everything done thinking "Success!" So today I deleted the "Autodesk" folder on the C drive of every machine (just installation files, redundant once install is done) as I noticed they were all old and not from the recent run of updates.

Then I re-ran the update... only this time I noticed a "Do you want this program to make changes on this machine?" dialog that I hadn't seen before. Had I not noticed as I'd minimized or closed out the remote access and it had vamoosed down to the task bar? Not sure, can't say how I missed it THREE times, once on every machine.

So this time I confirmed yes, of course I bloody do, that's why I ran the program. Big clue is that it takes about an hour to run the update, and if it finishes pretty quickly, something is wrong!

Documentation on Backburner and it's problems are a bit scant, along with the error messages being unhelpful - "Wrong version" would have told me straight away what was up.

Anyway, this seems to have resolved it - now to see if Scanline and MentalRay are working at normal speeds over the network! UPDATE - they do! Thank goodness!

Friday, December 11, 2015


Now those are a good combination of letters and numbers! The accompanying entry in the 3DS Max 2016 SP2 release notes is "3ds Max 2016 Render from command line adds 9 seconds to a 1 second frame" (I swear that is the wording I used when reporting the problem!)

This was causing me to be unable to use MentalRay or Scanline rendering on the network, as submitting through Backburner is basically the same, and the upshot was it was slower to render using the four machines than to just kick off the render on the one main one!

I am glad that is resolved - I love the Corona Renderer and will be using it in most of my renders still, but, there are times when quick and simple is all I need, no GI etc, and now I have the option back to use the native Max renderers when they are best suited. And the weekend is a good time to get it installed on all four machines, perfect!


I recently relocated, and as it happens all four of my machines are now nicely in one location! My little creative corner where 3D, video and music are all brought into being!


Just wrapped up a video, all done with 3DS Max and the Corona Renderer, explaining the technical features of the Hamar Stealth laser alignment system - check it out on their YouTube channel:

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I need more time!

As useful as anti-virus is (sadly - why is it people feel the need to be destructive, or to steal, so that we need this kind of software?), it is irritating when I have 72 hours or so of rendering going on, and the maximum option for "remind me about the update and restart in" is 60 minutes...

This is the machine that controls all the others in the network, I can't go restarting it, and I am still working on it, I don't want to see your dang box pop up and tease me with three digits for 999 minutes, but only let me pick up to 60! And run the risk that I hit "Restart Now" because I am in the middle of doing stuff and pressing keys.

I don't know, no consideration for the 3D artists out there! What do you mean it is only a small minority that has their machine working flat out for days at a time and can't reboot? Nonsense!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Upgrades and Updates

Windows 10 ongoing

So Windows 10 remains a success for me. In fact, I added a a dual Xeon E5-2660 to the network and upgraded that to Win 10 too, and no problems yet on any of the four machines.

MSI 980 Ti Gaming

Will be updating the graphics card on the main work machine. The current set up chokes on real-time previews in 3DS Max with some scenes I am working on, and I also want to explore the possibilities offered by the GPU based renderers in Max, Quicksilver and iray.

Tests so far have not lead me to trying GPU based renderers for production work, but I do suspect that is just my current GTX 6800 and the limited memory but have no way to know for sure.

Contemplated a Titan X, The 12 Gb of memory was tempting, as real-time engines have to load the whole scene into the graphics card memory all at once, but in the end couldn't justify the price tag as I am not sure the current disappointments in real-time rendering stem from limited memory.

Instead went for the MSI 980 Ti Gaming, seen here. Not an inexpensive option either but one that current workloads can justify. Will report back on whether that opens up real-time engines as valid options!

Network Expansion

The network may expand yet again shortly - so much work and a lot of it featuring photo-real style renders. Some stuff will be on a client's QVC segment, for instance,

Once I've tested what real-time rendering can offer, I'll see about adding more to the network. If I do expand, it will be with one or two more dual Xeon X5650s as best price performance ratio - the E5 2660 machine was twice the price, but not twice the speed.

All the Xeons have been refurbished ones from The Server Store. Every time I research prices and options, it keeps bringing me back to them! The latest Dell T5600 was a nice addition, did almost double the speed of the network in terms of number crunching renders!

Did look into the option of adding a blade server, but I don't know enough about configuring and running one and in the end elected against that route as too many unknowns,

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

More Windows 10

After a successful test of rendering across the network to my third, oldest, slowest machine now that it was on Windows 10 (while the other two were still Windows 8.1), I upgraded the second machine (a dual Xeon processor machine) to Windows 10 too.

It too passed the key test, that I can fire off a render across the network to it (that's what it's for), and I was able to move on to firing up Premiere and After Effects, again so I can keep working on 3D or music while the Xeon is off rendering a movie - success there too, other than the absence of Quicktime which I am fixing up just now.

The only thing to deal with now is the head-dizzying control of 3 machines from one central location! The screen shot above shows 3DS Max 2016 on my main machine, the window on the right is my Xeon.

Liking the new Movies and TV app on Win 10, much better than clunky old Media Player. Not really put too much else to the test. Intriguingly I could use ChomeCast to send the Xeon desktop to the TV behind me, if I wanted to keep an eye on it without having to take up any real estate on my main machine!

I do love technology!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Deep Dream and back-ups

Haven't put Windows 10 through the tests I need (basically, do Max 2016, Backburner and Corona work well with network rendering, when the master machine is on Win 8.1 Pro) but will look into that today.

Meantime, for when I do upgrade the main machine, I am running a back-up as I do every so often, which takes something crazy like 28 hours as the machine is so choc-a-block (this means sleeping to the loud whirr of its many cooling fans!)

For fun, also ran one of my "for fun" renders through Deep Dream, and got a result that is actually pleasant to look at! No crazy dogs or birds!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hurrah for hard work

As a freelancer, you live with feast or famine at times when it comes to workload.

What most people don't get is that we prefer feast! Many would assume that slower times are the best, all the freedom, but not the case! Far better to have much work to do.

I find that in slow times, I never feel totally at ease, even once work is over for the day I find myself still thinking about it, uncomfortable that there wasn't more done, and so never really feel free from the nagging voice that says "Oh no, you should be doing more!"

When work is plentiful, I can sit down in my free time with a feeling of genuine freedom, knowing all is done and on track - and I much prefer that feeling!

I suspect anyone who feels the other way round, just may not be cut out to be a freelancer....

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Electronics Kitbash Kit 1

It can be good to save a little time while working on a project, and that's where kitbashing comes in - grabbing pre-made components that you can arrange and assemble to make something quick!

I've just released the Electronics Kitbash Kit 1, which features sliders, knobs, buttons and more, for quick assembly of control panels. Duplicate the elements with arrays, and you have your own mixing desk! Quick positioning will let you make your own medical equipment, or add detail to a cockpit.

The renders here were done in 3DS Max 2016 with Corona 1.1.

Get it over at TurboSquid and save yourself some time!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Corona in Max 2016

UPDATE: As a note, the latest versions of Corona now all offer the option to install to 2016 direct, so no need for the workaround below!

Hello Corona owners!

3DS Max 2016 came out, but the Corona installer only has options for up to version 2015. What to do?

Rejoice, Corona is usable in 2016! Here's how (if you are on Windows, anyway)

- Run the installer and choose Unpack Only, you can turn off all other options (unless you are installing to an earlier version of Max at the same time.) I uncheck "clean up previous versions" just in case it decides to clean up my 2015 install, which I still need.

- Wherever you unpacked it, you will find the Corona files in the "Corona Unpacked" folder - head into that folder, and open up the "3ds max 2015" folder.

- Take all the dlls in that folder and move them to your root Max install directory (..Program Files/Autodesk/3ds Max 2016)

- Inside your root Max install, you'll find "plugins" and "scripts" folders, and the same folders are in the "Corona Unpacked" folder - just copy the contents of those folders from inside the "Corona Unpacked" folder to the same folders in the root Max folder.

- And that's it.

Couldn't find this written up specifically anywhere, so thought I'd share! Happy Coroning!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Stuff and things, things and stuff

Continued practicing with Corona, updating my "end credits sequence" with what I feel is nicer lighting:

And also have begun reworking a 2013 Modo scene in Max with Corona, still want to do more work on this, but already I feel I am more quickly getting the results I wanted first time around!

Then set to work experimenting with Sketchfab from Max, for a particular idea I am playing with - that included getting something generated with particles and then uploaded there. Needs more added though, so exploring more about particles, looking to try and make some paint splashes!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


In the ongoing search for more, new or better tools, have been testing out the Corona renderer for 3DS Max

So far, so good, though I am still learning my way around it to get the best from it, plus to find out when it is best applied. And since everyone loves bullet points. some initial thoughts on my experiences these last few days -

- Interactive Rendering
This I like. Set this running, and whenever you change something in the scene, the render updates. Great for tweaking materials, no need to change, hit render, wait, change, hit render, etc and so on.

With the non-bucket approach to rendering, you can usually get a very good idea of how something looks within a few seconds (at least in the non-heavy test scenes I've been using), which is a blessing for speeding up workflow.

I'll add another thing to that, even with a full render running, 3DS Max remains responsive. Running any Scanline or MentalRay render locks up Max, but with Corona you can keep working - unless it's an interactive render, you won't see the results of the changes in the ongoing render, but it's still a boon to be able to start tweaking things as the render emerges and not have your program paralyzed during the rendering process.

- Inbuilt Distributed Rendering for single frames
This is nice, no need to call up backburner, just run the Corona DR Server application on each slave, enable DR in the options in Max, and it will use all those machines on a single frame just from clicking Render.

I've not created a heavy enough scene with a long enough render time to see just how time-saving this can be, but it is a nice transparent approach to getting all your machines working on a single render.

- Nice lighting
I do like the look of the lighting from the engine! Check out their gallery to see what I mean (I haven't done anything close to these myself yet, though will try to do a side-by-side comparison one of these days, workload permitting!)

- Set a time for each frame
I like this for test renders of animations, just set how long each frame is allowed to run for. This gives you control over just how long that test render will take! Very useful for when you want to test motion, and don't care about seeing details and materials.

- Completely different controls
I come from Modo, and the Max Scanline and MentalRay renderers, so can't speak for how the transition is from others like VRay, but some controls are very different. For example, there is no actual direct Anti-Aliasing control, but rather this is a product of the GI vs AA Balance and the Light Samples Multiplier settings (see this article about it on the Corona site)

There are also no controls for things like "number of caustic photons" and other settings that I was used to from MentalRay, so it takes a shift in mindset to navigate around the engine and know what to adjust for particular situations. Still learning!

- Helpful pop-ups!
Mouse over any of the settings and you get a pop-up that tells you a bit about it, usually mentioning the default settings (so that when you muck about with the values, you can find how to get back to what the Corona team think is the best value!)

- Handy Conversion Script
It comes with a script you can run that will convert materials and lights over to Corona-compatible ones, a great way to swap an existing scene over to the new engine.

- Not yet compatible with 3DS Max 2016
Which isn't bothering me much, as Max 2016 runs more slowly through Backburner than it does on a single machine by up to 10 times as much, totally negating the benefits of setting multiple machines working on it; so until that is fixed, I'm still using 2015 only anyway.

- Hiding a light turns it off
Hide the light in the scene list, and it doesn't render. Maybe I just missed some setting with the other engines, but I always had to go to the light properties and disable it there to stop it rendering.

- Awesome approach to ownership
You can buy it outright, or you can pay a monthly fee to have access to it, which you can start or stop at any time (about $30 at the time of writing). I like that approach, rather than spending thousands upfront - I can have it when I need it, leave it to one side when I don't (though I am expecting I won't be leaving it to one side from what I've seen so far!)

Heck, there is even a free version, a pre-release version for sure, but it's free. Completely free, and always will be. I like the way they think!


So, that's it for now. Still exploring, will post stuff when I get something worth showing! So far though, hats off

Friday, May 15, 2015

Farewell BB King

BB King passed away today, very sad. I'd post a link to an epic, seminal performance by him, but that was pretty much all of them so choose any you like. Heart and soul were expressed through his music, but you could also see it in him as a person too - something about him just seemed so bright, warm and light.