3dsMax 2021 unofficial what's new + list from 3dsMax 2017

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3dsMax 2021

* No SDK Break – Plugins compiled for Max 2020 are supported in Max 2021

Full MikkT Space Support for Normal Map

  • Baking -Scanline Renderer can output normal map in MikkT sapce
  • Rendering – Normal map in MikkT space can be rendered in Scanline Renderer
  • Viewport – Physical Material supports MIkkt space normal map in viewport
  • API – Normal bump mode is now exposed as a part of 3dsMax API

New BakingToTexture

  • Brand new tool for baking maps and surfaces offers streamlined workflow with full queue control
  • Extensive renderer support including Arnold
  • Error validation and compatible map filtering
  • Faster performance
  • MikkT normal map baking
  • Override map
  • Extensive renderer support including OSL and Blended Box Map
  • Bake element viewing in VFB while baking

New Simplifed PBR Material

  • Two simplified frontends to Physical Material has been added, that are intended to mimic shading models commonly used in game engines
  • PBR Material (Rough/Metal)
  • PBR Material (Spec/Gloss)
  • Drag and drop downloaded PBR maps straight from Windows Explorer into the Material/Maps Browser.


  • New dynamic UI generation – Simple Gradient and 1-of-N supports dynamic entry
  • Qt based custom ui support
  • New HDRI Environment map – Environment shader with exposure adjustments, ground projection mode, and separation between Background and Environment.
  • New HDRI Lights – Allows using a set of HDR photos of light sources as an environment map.
  • New Environment/Background Switcher
  • New Camera/Object/Spherical Projection map
  • New Curve(Color), Curve(Float) map – Transform an input using a arbitrary curves. Can be used for gradients or as a color correction tool. Each color channel is mapped individually by the curve.
  • New Uber Noise map – Combines many noise functions in one. Can do classic Perlin, Fractal, Cell as well as fBm noise and multiple flavors of Worley noise.
  • New Wireframe map
  • New 4-Point Gradient map
  • New Spect/Gross to Physical map
  • FBX export will embed OSL code
  • “Version” metadata support
  • Proper UDIM support for AssetTracker
  • Paths in OSL shaders can be edited in Asset Tracker
  • OSL compilation at startup runs on separate thread
  • Fixed OIIO file lock. Bitmap files used in an OSL map can now be edited outside of 3ds Max, as the file no longer locks (PU3)

Physical Material and Arnold as Default

  • Physical Material and Arnold as Default
  • Previous defaults is still available by MAX.Legacy market default
  • Physical material for imported model
  • Support PBR Wavefront MTL extention from Exocortex for Obj import
  • API support for 3rd party for new default
  • VRayMaterial to Physical Material support
  • CoronaMaterial to Physical Material support


  • New “HDAO” mode – gives a “tighter” AO apperance revealing smaller details.
  • AO (when enabled) is always on, and does not disappear while navigation
  • New Progressive Skylight viewport menu option can turn on/off the progressive mode (really same as the old “Skylight as Ambient” but with the opposite polarity of the switch and a better name)
  • New Progressive Skylight visible option in the Per-View Presets viewport menu dialog
  • New slider for the fading factor in the Per-View Presets dialog
  • Physical Material Coating support in the viewport
  • Custom Per-View Settings
  • Synchronize with Display Mode (PU2)
  • Image-based lighting (IBL) is now automatic when an environment is added to the scene. This saves time as there is no need to add a skylight to the scene to have to enable this feature
  • Roughness for physical materials is now supported in the viewport in “Realistic” mode (PU2)
  • improved shadows supported in “Default” lighting mode (PU2)
  • Floating viewports (PU1)
    Float up to 3 viewport windows
    Provides more flexibility in how you work by leveraging your multiple-monitor setup
    Floating viewports are fully functional and can be configured separately


  • Substance plugin
  • QT re-write of Physical Material UI to increase performance.
  • New 2K UV template image(color/Grayscale)
  • Single click map select in Slate Material Editor

Python 3

  • Python 3.7 integration(3.7.5,)
  • Python 3 is the default. Command line is -pythonver <2|3>, and env var is ADSK_3DSMAX_PYTHON_VERSION=<2|3>
  • 3rd party Python module compilerd with different version of compiler support
  • Both Python 2.7( 2.7.17) and Python 3.7 interpreters are supported.Python 2.7 can be enabled through a command line switch or environment variable.
  • PySide2 was updated to 5.12.5 for both Python2 and Python3
  • qtmax helpers – GetQApplication() returns PySide2.QtWidgets.QApplication, GetQMaxMainWindow() returns PySide2.QtWidgets.QMainWindow
  • Connect VS Code to Max’s python and debug scripts
  • Virtual Environment support
  • Startup script support with package entry-points
  • MAXScript global variables can be created from Python through pymxs.
  • New items can be added to MAXScript arrays and dictionaries directly from Python.
  • improved handling of passing parameters (arguments) by reference (as opposed to by value) to pymxs APIs
  • ability to pass functions to callbacks.addScript() as opposed to passing their names as a string
  • Python 3 Alert Mode (PU2)
    Will assist in preparing for the Python 2.7 to 3 transition. With mode enabled, users will be informed of exactly which scripts needs to be updated. Both users and automated tool are easily detected as warnings are logged to the MAXScript Listener, the 3ds Max system log file (Max.log) and the console when running 3ds Max Batch.”

New Weighted Normal Modifier

  • Improves the shading of models by altering the vertex normals to be perpendicular to larger flat polygon and generates explicit normals for meshes better and faster than ever
  • Area/Angle/Largest Face based
  • Full control over smoothing and blending values.
  • Hard edge detection by smoothing group/UV/edge angle
  • Snap to Largest Face (face aligned normals) – allows for coplanar faces contribute to the weighting. When active it will snap the normal to the face with the highest weight, among the faces sharing that particular normal vector based upon the detected hard edges. This option can be used in combination with Area and Angle weighting
  • Using the existing UV seams (and channel) – as an additional hard edge detection option to generate smoothing results for weighted normals.

New Installer

  • Supports online and offline installation. Simpler and faster.
  • Material Library installation is optional

Explicit Normal Preservation

  • Editable Poly – Detach to Clone, Detach to Element, Detach to Element as clone, Clone to Object, Clone to element, Attach
  • Edit Poly – Detach to Clone, Detach to Element, Detach to Element as Clone, Clone to Object, Clone to element, Attach
  • Editable Mesh – Detach to Object, Detach to Element, Clone to Object, Clone to Element
  • Edit Mesh -Detach to Object
  • XForm modifier Preserve Normals option – ensures that normals are maintained when the XForm has a negative scale.


  • Accelerated the data structure for AnimHandles
    speed up on Max loading, scripts that deal with large scenes, interacting/loading large scenes, working with many animatable things, etc
  • Modernization of TrackView utilizing new AnimHandle data structure. Faster and more stable TrackView
  • Speed up selection of object while TV open by caching all animatables of a scene
  • Improved multithreading of asset resolution on scene file load, implemented multithreading of asset resolution on scene file save, and disabled asset resolution on hold and autobackup
  • Improved selection performance with many instances
  • Intersectray has been reworked. Subsequent raycasts are now multithreaded and can be up to ~3x faster (depending on CPU)
  • Deleting helpers with many object selected faster (PU3)
  • Further optimization of  duplicate message (PU3)
    The new improvements accelerate all message propagation in Max, which should improve overall interactive and playback speeds. This optimization gives us many small gains (roughly 20% of message costs), so results will vary. Should be noticeable on bigger or very complex scenes
  • Optimization of  duplicate message (PU2)
    3ds Max now avoids sending duplicate messages to plug-ins using the 3ds Max referencing system. This improves performance in many areas of the software, including: Creating keys, Trackview, Slate UI, File Reset
  • List controller evaluation is now 15X faster with average weight on or off (PU2)
  • Better handling of REFMSG_CHANGE for TrackView to prevent unnecessary TrackView update caused by non-scene object (PU1)


  • Improved hit detection when using Swift Loop
  • improved the distribution of Vertex Paint, improved the efficiency of the calculation, and apply blending between approaches when a brush overlaps only some of the vertices of a particular face. This should now allow vertex painting to be applied more consistently to an object
  • Bitmap sampling for the Edit UV window has been multi-threaded to help improve bitmap file loading times
  • Fixed performance issue with Snap in scenes with Body Objects
  • Fixed TextPlus performance with lots of text
  • Improvements to selection when using backface culling, which make it easier to select what you need and avoid accidental selections (PU2)
  • Editable Poly Command panel display further speed up (PU1)
  • Doubleclick element selection (PU1)
    faces, vertices, segments, etc. Supports Editable Poly, Editable Spline, EditSpline and EditPoly modifiers, Unwrap UVW Editor. It also supports modifier hotkeys to add/subtract selection and works in Maya Interaction mode
  • Nearest Preview Selection (PU1)
    When SubObj preview selection is enabled in EditPoly, the nearest edge/vertex will be highlighted and selected when clicking. When shaded – only the front facing/visible items will be highlighted and selected. This also disables ‘ctrl’ paint selection behavior to avoid changing hotkey behavior in preview mode


  • The triangulation of the chamfer output has been updated to produce better non-concave results when applied to faces with concave/co-linear vertices.
  • 0 segment Chamfer
  • Supports new Chamfer features in Edit Poly
  • Data Channel modifier support for Vertex weight channel(PU3)
  • Supports new Chamfer features in Editable Poly (PU2)
  • Vertex Chamfering (PU2)
  • Patch and Radial mitering (PU2)
  • By Weight chamfer amount type (PU1)
    allows you apply an absolute weight to an edge rather than interpolating between vertices
  • Chamfer Depth (PU1)
    can be set on a per-edge basis
  • Radius Bias (PU1)
    blends the chamfer size to the radius amount to help handle sharp corners
  • Data Channel modifier support for Edge Weight and Edge Depth (PU1)


  • ProSound now supports 24-bit wav files.
  • Fixed ProSound issue causing audio to play at 50% volume after frame 100.
  • Removed 100 audio clip limit with ProSound.
  • Removed ProSound popup dialog when changing animation range.

ATF Import (PU3)

  • JT 10.5
  • CATIA V4 files created from CATIA V5-6R2019

New SketchUp Importer

  • Preserve Layers
  • Import Hidden Objects
  • ATF based new importer allows any version of SketchUp files to be imported into 3ds Max, whereas the legacy importer can only import files up to SketchUp 2014 (PU2)
  • Able to maintain compatibility with future versions (PU2)

New Hot Key Editor and Hot Key (PU1)

  • New Hotkey Editor tool replaces the Keyboard tab in the Customize User Interface dialog
  • Search for action by keywords or by current hotkey assignments
  • Clear current assignments and conflicts with undo history
  • Filter actions by current customization status, and by groups
  • Migrate legacy keyboard shortcut files without missing out on updates to the defaults
  • User hotkey settings are saved separately from defaults in a dedicated and accessible User Settings folder
  • Configuration selector allows easy and quick switching between hotkey sets


  • OSL and AMG shaders will now also be loaded from the directory C:\ProgramData\Autodesk\ApplicationPlugins
  • All message boxes pause auto-backup, real-time animation playback, and viewport refresh until dismissed, bringing consistency and predictability to the user experience (PU2)
  • Decimal separator improvement (PU2)
    Users from various geographic locations (geos), can now trust 3ds Max to use the decimal separator symbol specified in their Windows regional settings when displaying floating point numbers in the user interface.
  • standardized file extensions (PU1)
    file extension will be always lower case unless user specified


    • Main menu bar contents no longer appear white and inconsistent with dark UI styling.
    • PU3 Upgrade Qt component version to 5.12.4
    • PU3 Restore Dialog on off desktop space in main window
    • PU2 Lock UI fix
    • PU2 Fixed spinners jumping when wrapping screen borders
    • PU1 Command panel multi column speed up include Editable Poly


  • Added ability to modify scripted attribute definitions during scene file load
  • Fixed MaxScript accessess python modules with wrongly capitalized identifiers (PU3)
  • Maxscript edittext support multiline (PU1)
  • Autocomplete for MAXScript (PU1)
    Autocomplete is now on by default in the MAXScript editor. The new generateAPIList<stringstream> MAXScript API makes it easier for users to enable autocomplete for MAXScript in 3rd party editors.
  • Maxscript edittext support multiline (PU1)


  • Update to Arnold
  • Help isolating materials with void or invalid connected textures
  • Improve the material editor preview performances
  • MaterialX operator updated to support material assignments
  • New USD procedural
  • New string_replace operator
  • Supporting the physical camera’s tilt correction and lens distortion
  • Controllable auto-instancing on ASS procedurals
  • Faster procedural initialization
  • Reduced noise on smooth transmissive thin-walled surfaces
  • Autodesk analytics program available for Windows
  • OpenEXR updated to version 2.4.
  • Better animation support UI for procedural and volume
  • Support normal maps space and orientation parameters
  • Use the Arnold’s viewport API for procedural display
  • Arnold GPU
  • New AOV and Light Groups interface
  • Extend the Arnold Properties modifier for cameras
  • OSL version of the physical sun and sky shader
  • Export/Import materials as .ass/.mtlx files
  • Expose aov_write_vector.
  • Arnold core (PU3)
  • Arnold procedural and alembic objects now have a viewport representation (PU3)
  • Arnold alembic object supports layer information (PU3)
  • You can change render settings while in ActiveShade (PU3)
  • shader_override node (PU3)
  • Baking normal and height maps is now supported (PU3)
  • Exposed the clip_geo shader (PU2)
  • Arnold lights viewport support (PU2)
  • Initial OSL OpenVDB support on GPU (PU2)
  • Most lights supported on GPU except IES (PU2)



  • Mark Dygert
    Autodesk also put out a few videos about their new bake to texture tools. 

    Baking normals

    Bake to texture, from box map 

    Baking vertex color and mesh data

    Baking Arnold lighting

    Baking PBR Shaders

  • Obscura
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    Obscura veteran polycounter
    I really like the voice and style of the guy in the videos :'D
  • oglu
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    oglu sublime tool
    Why is that not the official list? 
    Autodesk is not good at marketing. 🙄
  • gandhics
  • oglu
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    oglu sublime tool
    Thanks thats good info!
  • cptSwing
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    cptSwing polycounter lvl 8
    Decimal separator improvement (PU2)
    Users from various geographic locations (geos), can now trust 3ds Max to use the decimal separator symbol specified in their Windows regional settings when displaying floating point numbers in the user interface.

    hahaha I never thought I'd see the day..

    (and weighted normals finally.. could it be true?)
  • Wesley
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    Wesley Polycount Sponsor
    I don't understand this thread title.

    The new baking features are cool. Does Max have any bevel shaders that can then be baked, too?
  • musashidan
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    musashidan high dynamic range
    @Wesley you can use the old RTT to bake Arnold rounded corner shader(new BTT doesn't support Arnold normal baking), but the Arnold shader is broken so the workflow is a dead end - Arnold devs know about this since last year, but I doubt they'll bother fixing it any time soon.

    I posted a thread about baking using RTT a while back on here.

    Also, from the list above, new Osl hdr and hdr lights aren't fully supported with Arnold GPU, and the progressive shadow slider is a hacky workaround(can't believe this is being marketed as a feature) to lessen the light/shadow flickering nightmare that is inherent in Max's viewport. Devs have no control over the ancient Microsoft shader compiler) The viewport looks decent now, but it's hacked together.

  • gandhics
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    gandhics polycounter lvl 3
    OSL on GPU renderer issue is fundamental issue of OSL being CPU based. Each GPU working renderer dev's are on solution for this. But, AFAIK, no one has complete solution yet.

    Progressive shadow has nothing to do with Microsoft compiler.
  • guitarguy00
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    guitarguy00 polycounter lvl 2
    Have they fixed the botched Maya control system where it prohibited you from being able to double click more than one edge loop? I talk about it here:

  • musashidan
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    musashidan high dynamic range
    @gandhics come on, Changsoo, you know what I'm talking about. The microsoft compiler(which Zap said he can do nothing about) is a massive issue when compounded with all that light/shadow flickering. It ruins the whole experience. He even said that it's all hacked together from 'legacy code archaeology' Nitrous is not future-proofed at all. This is like putting xmas decorations on a 10 year old xmas tree.
  • musashidan
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    musashidan high dynamic range
    @guitarguy00 No, they haven't. I doubt they ever will. It was raised, I was told it was hard coded, end of story. This completely broken implementation is actually still marketed as a feature. 
  • guitarguy00
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    guitarguy00 polycounter lvl 2
    @guitarguy00 No, they haven't. I doubt they ever will. It was raised, I was told it was hard coded, end of story. This completely broken implementation is actually still marketed as a feature. 

    Ohhh man lol. So much faster using left click to navigate the camera instead of middle mouse button. Thanks for the confirmation, least this way I won't expect it to change ever lol. 
  • gandhics
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    gandhics polycounter lvl 3
    @gandhics come on, Changsoo, you know what I'm talking about. The microsoft compiler(which Zap said he can do nothing about) is a massive issue when compounded with all that light/shadow flickering. It ruins the whole experience. He even said that it's all hacked together from 'legacy code archaeology' Nitrous is not future-proofed at all. This is like putting xmas decorations on a 10 year old xmas tree.

    I'll ask dev. But, the compiler issue was OSL > HLSL comversion.
    I'm not sure why light would need compiler.
  • coven
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    coven polycounter lvl 4
    Yeah the HLSL is the  compiled version of the OSL in order to get it to show in the OGS viewports. Acronym attack!

    It doesn't have anything to do with the lighting. That is being generated from the HDRI environment because it's sampling different points of it over time. If you set the slider to the left, it looks flickery because it's calculating the points as fast as it can to get you the result as quick as possible. I personally like it to fade in more gradually, so I set the slider about the half way point.
  • musashidan
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    musashidan high dynamic range
    I'm not saying the lighting has anything to do with the compiler, I'm saying that the overall experience of the shadow/light flickering and the long/checkerboard compiling is painful. I think we all know that Zap is doing his very best, but is also being forced to hack these things together(by his own admission)
    Behind all this there is still a legacy skylight and an ancient compiler that Zap has no control over.
  • coven
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    coven polycounter lvl 4
    Yeah you are talking about the HLSL compiler I guess. The OSL shaders compiling is happening when you see checkerboards. As for the skylight and lighting, I find it much better in this release. I always switched back to standard before 2021, but I really like the new changes, and that is my personal opinion. All that said, things are always changing ;)

    The AO shader for example is not the old shader. Better quality and not a progressive effect. You play your animations and it's always on.
  • PolyHertz
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    PolyHertz sublime tool
    @coven Any details you can share on the boolean improvements AD is working on (read an article saying the Max team intends to converge/streamline the boolean tools somehow)? I'm hoping we'll be seeing something like Keyhydras Lazercut built into Max at some point, but the stuff I read wasn't specific enough to get too excited for.
  • Cathodeus
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    Cathodeus polycounter lvl 10
    @PolyHertz  I don’t have the details yet. But I think that Lazercut will benefit of the researches and dev from Autodesk crew. They are more on the systems and robustness. While we are working on ultra effective user experience. We should benefit from each other.

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