The Spillway

11-17-17 _ I came across a gentleman named Andrei Dolnikov, the CEO of Binyan Studios at Autodesk University. Over the years I’ve thought about something I heard once a lot: that a persons work tells a story. It never clicked until I heard this man speak about his teams work and the process they use.  It’s easy to see why he is successful. I’m twisting it a bit when I say this as they apply the concept in a form that matches visualization specifically, but in short the part of providing good, clean, accurate data is taken care of. It’s not easy, but easy enough and become easier every day. The key to being the best is being able to provide “that something special” that’s above and beyond, that reaches the client and their customers. Of course entrepeanuers strive for this every day, regardless, its been ticking in my head for years, and for me seemed an easy concept to comprehend, but difficult one to really grasp.  I have no idea why I get it now.

1) Jeff Bartel produced probably my favorite, simple video of how to get data from Civil 3d into Infraworks 3d.

2) Routine to move labels in Civil 3d

3) Check out Steve Hill’s article about his Pipe Production Tools for Civil 3d:

4) Sincpac has some great tools for use with Civil 3D:

5) Jason Leinberger, one of my favorite coders, presents a useful .net trick: Inheritance with Autodesk API

6) Eric Chappel and George Hatch with Autodesk present Site Capture, Drones to Infraworks 360

7) QGIS is an open source GIS application.  With hundreds of addons, plugins and tools it’s as powerful an application for GIS as anything out there. By installing just a few plugins users can export georeferenced Google Earth or Bing Map images with it’s associated TFW (world file) for import into Autocad Map or Civil 3D.

8) 3d visualization is made easier every day. A primary example is software called Lumion. Lumion basically creates the Sim City for designers, where we can drag and drop high quality vegetation, people, cars, water, landscape materials, street equipment, signs, and hundreds of more objects onto our scene. With a few clicks they are all animated, any time of the day (or night) with wind even factored in. Check out this example here:


9) It was a huge pain but I finally found a method of exporting imagery for use with CAD that I can live with. I tried multiple software applications. First ArcMap, then QGis, then Global Mapper, finally back to ArcMap.  I should note that none of the conventional processes made me happy. Every one of them took too long to export.  So here’s what I ended up doing. First, I created a grid in ArcMap using the fishnet tool.  I was able to size them exactly how I wanted. When I created the fishnet, I chose the “create polygon” option over “create polyline”. This allowed me use the “Data Driven Pages” tool to automatically generate pages based on those polygons. Finally, with a relatively simple python script, I was able to efficiently, and very quickly export all the images I needed (497 in a few minutes to be exact). The script is below:

... mxd = arcpy.mapping.MapDocument("CURRENT")
... df = arcpy.mapping.ListDataFrames(mxd)[0]
... for pageNum in range(1, mxd.dataDrivenPages.pageCount + 1):
... mxd.dataDrivenPages.currentPageID = pageNum
... arcpy.mapping.ExportToJPEG(mxd, r"E:\Folder\Subfolder\imagename{}.tif".format(pageNum), df, df_export_width=3200, df_export_height=2400, world_file=True)
... del mxd

3ds Max Articles

I’ve been the content manger for the 3ds Max section of AugiWorld Magazine for several years now.  During this time I’ve produced numerous tutorials and articles for the AugiWorld Magazine:

Tips that Never Get Old – A few tips and tricks with 3ds Max.


Tips for Beginners (Modifier Editor) – Exploring some of the uses of the modifier editor.


Advanced Tips for More Realistic Visualization – Covering more advanced settings inside the VRAY frame buffer.


Realistic Interactive Realtime Rendering – Presenting 3ds Max to Unreal workflow.


Education and Training – Non-traditional methods to educate yourself.


Customization with 3ds Max 2018 – Discussing Custom start-up files, templates, toolbars, and materials.


Level Up with 3ds Max – Presenting hard-surface scene construction concepts.

level up

Online Collaboration for 3ds Max – Presenting four useful sites that can be used to share and review 3ds Max content.


Managing Assets for 3ds Max – Discussing version control and more.


Four Favorite Plug-ins – Discussing some plugins for 3ds Max.


Creativity Unleashed – Discussing new features in 3ds Max 2019.


20 More Tips and Tricks for 3ds Max – Expanding on the first 50 Trips and Tricks posted a few years before.


Professional Presentation for Designers – Discusses animation timing, blocking, motion, keys, composition, and content.


Advanced Techniques – Covers manipulating textures using the Slate Editor and nodes, Advanced Data Manipulation and the Particle View, Particle Systems, Substance Painter with 3ds Max and using maps for alternate scenarios.


3ds Max Interactive – Introduction to the new powerful tool for VR and visualization for 3ds Max and Maya.


Education Triumvirate – Discussing how to use available resources to learn 3ds Max.


Customize 3ds Max – Working with color schemes, expanding rollouts, and customizing quad menus.


Expanding on Details – Demonstrate using work paths, subdiv, and displace modifier to add details to scenes.


Tools for Collaboration – Using non-destructive options with xrefs, File Link Manager for Revit connections and the design workspace.


Covering Details – Demonstrating how details can add character to scenes.

hair and fur.jpg

Implementation of Arion Renderer – Discussing Arion Renderer and basic implementation.


3ds Max 2018 Highlights – Introducing updates with 3ds Max 2018. pic

Manage Still Image Post-Production Elements – Using render elements and PSD Manager with Photoshop for post-production work. bildings

Introduction to MassFX – Working with MassFX to add interest to a scene. lollipops

Advanced Lighting: Light Balance with 3ds Max – Applying light balance to scenes in 3ds Max.  lightbalance

Reflections on Lighting – Introductory to lighting setup and analysis.  image1

Reach Out with 3ds Max – Focused on encouraging the use of art and 3ds Max to communicate, teach, and understand one another. egypt

Max Creation Graphs – Using and creating Max Creation Graphs (MCGs) for 3ds Max


Max Efficiency – Article discussing how to manage 3ds Max data effectively


Collaboration with 3ds Max and Stingray Article introducing Stingray as a realtime solution for visualization purposes. stingray

Future of Visualization Article discussing how the visualization industry is impacted by today’s

Third-Party Options Helpful, affordable plugins for 3ds Max.Brian_Chapman-AW-0616-03_452_229

New Release, Packed with Improvements teapot

Material Management Proper use of materials in 3ds Max Brian_Chapman-AW-0416-01

Tricks with Scripts (Time-saving tricks using the MAXScript language in 3ds Max)1

Retopologizing a Mesh in 3ds Max (Digital sculpting with 3ds Max and other software)2

Constructing an Interior Scene in 3ds Max (Creating an interior scene using 3ds Max, VRay, and Photoshop)Main

Keeping it Civil in 3ds Max (Using 3ds Max with Civil View and Civil 3d)Figure 1

The Digital Artist (Design Fundamentals)Figure 3 - Shapes in Complex Parts.png

Creating Custom Textures with the Viewport Canvas (Working with textures, color and contrast)Figure 11 - Brush Images

Bringing Characters to Life (Manual character construction)
Figure 1 - Bot Needs Karate Lessons.png

Creating Visual Effects with Atmospheric Apparatus and Rayfire (Working with 3ds Max effect tools) Figure 1

Manage Large Scenes in 3ds Max (Tools that help manage large, detailed scenes) Fig 1 - Housing Development in 3ds Max

50 Fast Tips & Tricks for 3ds Max (Quick timesavers for 3ds Max users) Figure2

Intro to 3ds Max (Getting started) FIGURE1

3ds Max Versatility (Explores how to use 3ds Max in unconventional ways) Brian_Chapman-AW-1214-01.jpg_452_369

Make Game Development Child’s Play (Demonstrating game development with 3ds Max and the CryENGINE 3)  FinalFigure

Max Management Tips (Variety of usage tips for 3ds Max 2015) Brian_Chapman-AW-0714-01

Powerful Para 3d (A plug-in for controlling arrays in 3ds Max) Brian_Chapman-AW-0614-02.jpg

Performance, Productivity Increases (Introducing 2015 features) Brian_Chapman-AW-0414-01

Interview with the Artist (Q & A with Jose Alves da Silva) Figure 1

Quality Content with Max Plug-ins (Introducing Vray, CityTraffic, and Forest Pack Pro) CityTraffic Example

Not Just for Games (Q & A with Seid Tursic and presentation of hair and fur module) Mouse With Fur

Autocad / Civil 3d Tips

The ESRI plugin for Autocad / Civil 3D allows us to connect to Esri maps, services, and more.



1) Combine the transparent command ‘CAL with MME to get a point in the middle two selected locations


2) For 64-bit computers an optimal setting for virtual memory can be 2X your physical memory. If you have 8 GB of ram set your virtual memory to 16 GB

3) Turn off Dynamic Tessellation to help speed up Civil 3D


4) Values in the toolspace can be copied to the clipboard values

5) Export Civil 3d files to native Autocad formats using “ExportToAutocad” command

6) View corridors can be analyzed using the “Zone of Visual Influence” tool and some creativity


7) Assign aliases using the alias editor for AEC commands you use a lot. Assign them to your left hand to be more productive (maintaining one hand on your mouse at all times)

8) Civil 3D can be used for much more than just civil applications,  check out the commands “extrude”, “slice”, and “revolve”extrude

9) Explode parcels to extract the parcel polylines, useful for multiple applications

10) Explore the “mapclean” command, which can be used for a multitude of tasks such as weeding polylines or checking line workmapclean

11) Not only can viewports be split, but they can be joined as well. By splitting and joining viewports, we can configure them in virtually any format we want

12) The modify option to insert PI works with featurelines, polylines, parcels, and more modify.png

13) With “paste special” we can insert lines and text from an excel file

14)  To help clean up a surface’s boundary experiment with the the max triangle length option


15) XML files can be opened with notepad and can contain useful data

16) SYSVDLG command contains short descriptions of all variables in Civil 3d


17) To convert a volume surface to a tin surface, simply create an empty tin surface and paste in the volume surface

18) In the xref manager, the name of an xref can be changed. This allows us to xref the same drawing twice, giving us layer control over each xref

19) The daylight from a grading object can be offset to create a 3d polyline

20) Fields can be used to read object data, be formatted to display with various units and precision, and be updated dynamically.

21) Customizing CAD using Autolisp and applicable programming languages can simplify life and streamline workflow. If you have a task you’d like to see automated, feel free to give me a shout, I might be able to help.


22) Autolisp is a common language to customize Autodesk drafting and design applications.  Creating one is simple. Here’s an example:

(defun c:anycommandname ()

(setq anyvariablename 1)

(setq anothervariablename 1)

(setq total (+ anyvariablename anothervariablename))


That’s it. If this was loaded and we typed “!total” in the command line it would list “2” as the result.

23) Are you aware that for many cases you can modify a surface’s contours by drawing your own then adding it to the definitions? Simply add it as a “user contour” and it will adjust appropriately.

24) Civil 3d has a series of ‘transparent’ commands useful for a multitude of tasks. For example, ‘stae used with polylines or points allows user to locate a position in a profile based on selected locations in plan view.

25) Download this routine to move basic Civil 3D labels as shown in the video located here:

26) Autodesk developed a way to create a pipe catalogue with custom parts for use with Civil 3D using Inventor and Infraworks. It’s cumbersome and inefficient but essentially the steps are: Construct the part in Inventor (or in Autocad then import them into Inventor), assign parametric dimensions.  Use the plugin for Inventor to export for Infraworks (only available when Infraworks is installed).  In Infraworks, export the catalogue to use with Civil 3D.  The workflow is pretty painful and feels clunky (especially since Autocad already has a 3d-capable modeling system) but it’s there.  To go from Inventor to Infraworks watch the video here:  Inventor to Infraworks To go from Infraworks to Civil 3D catalogue a tutorial was provided by Civil 3d Plus that I’ve stored here: Infraworks to Civil 3D

27) Every once in a while I run into a pretty nasty bug with Civil 3D installations. Essentially, the pipe networks don’t work and it has to do with the msscript.ocx file.  Autodesks’ guide to fix it has it about 20% right.  In order to fix the bug, overwrite the files in the shared directory first, then register the 64bit version of the msscript.ocx file located in the syswow64 folder, not the 32.

3ds Max Tips

Design Doll software allows you to create a generically posed mesh quickly.  Makes it simple to block our character poses and begin design.


A site I subscribe to posted a generous list of links to download demo or free 3d models for 3ds Max.  Here they are below:

3ds max

1) A script crashing your session? Increase “heapSize” allocation to give scripts the ability to work with more memory


2) These scripts can help to clean up memory in 3ds Max “gc()”,”freescenebitmaps()”, and “clearUndoBuffer()”

3)  Debris maker by Aaron Dabelow is a quick way to add tons of debris to a scene: Click Here


4) Use the semicolon to repeat the last command

5) Create buttons with scripts to quickly apply modifiers used often

6) The cloth modifier can be used to simulate leaves, paper, and more

7) Objects can simulate animation using Trajectories


8) Utilize the display panel to globally control the display of objects and manage a scene more effectively


9) The preview for materials can be customized. Double-click the material to open the preview, then right-click over the preview and select options


10) The Track View located under Graph Editors can be an efficient tool for animating objects

11) A good way to work in real world dimensions is to set your grid at even and snap to it

12) Shapemerge can be used to cut shapes out of a mesh whether it’s text, a circle, or random spine

13) Extract edges to create a wireframe by selecting an editable poly and using the “create shape from selection” button in the command panel


14) Use statesets to present design iterations. Statesets store light, modifiers, viewport settings and more

15) The transform toolbox has great tools for controlling the pivot, and even a button to quickly reset xform

16) With layered cloth animations (such as coats over clothes, stacked sheets, curtains, etc), line up your quads and maintain a similar density in each mesh to insure better calculations for better animation results

17) It can be obvious to recognize when an image used default 3ds Max camera settings. Adjust them with real lens size and settings to get better results

18) Consider freezing CAD references, but remember to add “snap to frozen objects” in snap settings to take advantage of the file

19) You can establish the angle the sun will rise and set on your projects during summer and winter months using the Sunlight tool. You can use that information to create a north arrow unique to your project and analyze your site in more detail. northarrow

20) If you are producing a 360-degree video where the camera remains at a static position, to get the best results, render out a single image at high resolution and use quality video editing software to stretch out its time.

21) 3ds Max allows us to create custom quad menus. Additionally, while users are used to the typical menu, we can access more with various key combinations.  Hold Control + Alt and click the right mouse button to access render options.

22) An easy way to remove the character’s weapon in 3ds Max Interactive is to simply select it in the Asset browser, open the Unit Editor, and uncheck the “Visible” box.

23) Key to 3ds Max’s Vray plugin is to work with realistic values.  Part of that is insuring we choose the correct camera settings. The primary settings for visualization in the AEC industry that need to be considered are shutter speed, f-number, and ISO, all which are part of a real DSLR camera. Below is a chart demonstrating how Aperture (F-number), shutter speed, and ISO work to help make those determinations and get the best quality you can from renderings.


apertures of f-2.8 and f-16 by Mohylek