Workflow 3D

Here you can find and share useful input regarding our 3D setup and software.

Folder and file organization

Folder System

Organizing a visualization project with a clear folder and file structure is crucial. The following organization will allow a clear and consistent way of working, especially in teams.

The standard folder structure of a project is organized as follows:

Example: 000_Projectname

. / archive
. . /yymmdd folder (date folder with input from client; briefing and remarks)

. / image
. . /jpg (final jpg files from Photoshop)
. . /psd (Photoshop post production files)
. . /render (raw render output with rendered elements/channels)
. . /tiff (final losless file from Photoshop)

. / model
. . /cad (3D model CAD files)
. . /max (3dsmax Scene file, contains only camera’s, lighting and xrefs)
. . . /maps (project specific textures used by 3dsmax model)
. . . /parts (garbage directory max files for use in working files)
. . . /proxy (proxy representation of object, often decoration)
. . . /work (working files with serial no, base for xref files)
. . . /xref (external reference files, contains only relevant layers and layer coloring, no empty layers, other xrefs, camera’s and sunlight)

Scene file

The best way to make the Scene file is to copy the template file called !template_000_project_scene01.max from the root of the project drive Z:/ to your project/models/max directory. As said before the main project file contains only camera’s and lights. All geometry will be added from Xref files (see below). The default format of the Scene file is:

000_projectname_scene (serial no.)

The Scene file will always have three base layers:

  • !cams
  • !lights
  • !sun

In the next chapter these contents will be explained.

Work and Xref files

All project geometry is referenced in the Scene file from external files, known as Xrefs. Xref files may not be edited, but are derived from the corresponding Work file in the Work folder. Because each Work file has its own category, working together becomes very easy. From the Work file an updated state can be saved to the corresponding Xref file by selecting only relevant objects and Save Select these to the Xref file (overwrite on existence).

The naming format for a Work and Xref file is similar, only change work to xref:

ProjectNo_work or xref_category_serial no.
Example: 450_work_trees_01
Example: 980_xref_building_02

The following Xref categories are very common examples:

  • 000_xref_building (or building name)
  • 000_xref_situation (the situation or groundlevel)
  • 000_xref_props (all decoration objects)
  • 000_xref_int_furn (furniture inside)
  • 000_xref_trees (all trees, could also be vegetation)
  • 000_xref_cars
  • 000_xref_people
  • … etc.

Render Output

Rendered raw imagery is always saved in the lossless 32-bit Targa (TGA) file format, by default with encapsulated alpha channel. The ‘smartest’ way to save these files in versions is to save them from the 3dsmax Batch Renderer to the root of  the render folder. Once outdated by a newer version, the old renders are, if necessary, saved in a render folder with the following format:


Feel free to clean up this folder, older or wrong render files to save disk space.

Camera’s and Lighting

As mentioned above, the Scene file contains only camera’s, lighting and Xrefs./p>


Camera’s are present on the !cams layer and always has the following format:

FrameNo_Cam_Subject (optional image aspect ratio)
Example: F01_Cam_Aerial_16:9

The first part, the camera number, is essential. It allows you to use multiple camera’s in the scene with sequenced numbers, F01, F02, F03, etc. These numbers must correspond with the frame animation timeline in 3dsmax, starting from frame 1. It allows you to animate what ever you want on the frame number corresponding to the camera number. So every camera view can have its own animated content, for example:

  • Sunlight (Vray sun and HDRI composite)
  • Lights on or off (street lights, internal lights)
  • Objects (cars, people, etc.)
  • Scene states (layers turned on or off)

The amount of views defines the amount of animated frames.

The last (optional) part of the camera name, the aspect ratio, is always defined by the horizontal image dimension related to the vertical dimension (X:Y). The aspect ratio defines the image size and composition. Because each separate camera view can be rendered in different aspect ratio’s or resolutions, the use of this addition is extra helpful as a reminder. Of course all camera’s with corresponding rendering resolutions are set in the Batch Rendering tool.


In the Scene file there are two layers containing lights, !lights and !sun.

The !lights layer has all atmospheric and local lighting, like room lights, street lights, etc. It does not contain lights for general scene lighting.

The !sun layer contains the direct sunlight and global illumination (GI). In the template file a daylight system is already present. This daylight system consists of a VRaySun and a Compass for the right time setting of the direct sunlight. The global illumination is set-up through a VRayDomelight with an attached HDRI composite file (can be edited in the material slot).

Layer Naming and Sorting

Organizing layer names provide a better sorting and more efficient workflow. The following symbols are used as first character in the layer name to filter different types of objects or geometry:

  • ! = camera’s, lights, sun system and hidden ( for ex. !cams, !lights, !sun, !off)
  • # = shapes (for ex. used as sweeps, boundaries etc.), help objects (guides, grids, etc.)
  • X = 2D content (often CAD data)
  • Z = 3D content (optional)

Sorting the layers goes beyond the first character. A category breakdown in the English named layers will provide a better sorting, starting from the main category to the smallest part. The following breakdown format is used, based on 3D geometry:

Example: ZBuilding_facade_frames

Subject names and part names may be swapped.Common Category names:

  • Building (or building name)
  • Ground (all ground level elements)
  • Props (decoration objects)
  • Etc.

Common Subject names:

  • Asphalt or Road
  • Balcony
  • Bikepath
  • Cars
  • Ceiling
  • Con (construction)
  • Ext (exterior)
  • Facade
  • Fence (fencing and balustrades)
  • Field
  • Floor
  • Furn (furniture)
  • Int (interior)
  • Lift, Staircase or Escalator
  • Paving
  • Roof
  • Sidewalk
  • Wall
  • Etc.

Common Part names:

  • Brick
  • Chairs
  • Columns
  • Doors
  • Glass
  • Grass
  • {Material}
  • Misc
  • Panels
  • Trees
  • Etc.

Layer Coloring

The use of layer colors improves efficiency and the visual workflow, especially when working in a team. Layer colors are always based on the 6 default colors: red, yellow, green, cyan, blue, magenta. This system helps in creating automatically generated masks from the different objects in post production.

Per exterior subject:

  • facade: red
  • asphalt or road: red
  • paving or sidewalk: magenta
  • curbs: cyan
  • columns: magenta
  • window frames: magenta
  • glass: cyan
  • water: cyan
  • vegetation: green
  • people: yellow
  • props: blue
  • black: misc, or in case of overlap

Per interior subject:

  • facade: red
  • floor: green
  • ceiling: yellow
  • columns: magenta
  • window borders: magenta
  • glass: cyan
  • vegetation: green
  • people: yellow
  • props: blue
  • black: misc, or in case of overlap

NOTE: avoid overlapping colors, instead make layer black and use the optional Object ID (see render elements)


Render Elements

Always use the following list of Render Elements in VRay:

  • VRayDenoiser: Use for noisy output, applies a denoising operation to the image after it is rendered
  • VRayExtraTex: Renders the entire scene with one texture mapped on all objects
  • VRayGlobalillumination: The diffuse surface global illumination (only present if GI is enabled)
  • VRayLighting: The diffuse direct surface lighting
  • VRayObjectID: for creating separate, additional channels
  • VRayReflection: The reflections on the surface (use the RAW variant for 100% reflection)
  • VRayRefraction: The reflections on the surface (use the RAW variant for 100% refraction)
  • VRaySelfillumination: for creating channels of illuminating objects
  • VRaySpecular: The surface specular highlights
  • VRayWireColor: The wire color of the layers as set in the scene (used to generate masks for the objects)
  • VRayZdepth: for creating a depth mask of the composition

Batch Rendering

{will follow}

Revit Conversion

{will follow}

Tips and Tricks

Corrupted 3rd party geometry

When face flipping or smoothing problems occur, it is most likely due to imported, foreign geometry. In order to fix this issue, the object has to be ‘reset’. This is possible with a quick trick which you can apply to one or multiple objects:

Under ‘Tools’ tab apply a ‘Reset Xform’ and collapse to mesh (scale, move and rotation values will be set to zero!)

  • Add an ‘Edit Patch’ modifier to the object(s)
  • Add an ‘Edit Mesh’ modifier to the object(s) and do the following:
    * Select all vertexes and weld with value 0,001 (if working in meters)
    * Select all edges and press ‘Auto Edge’ to make all intermediate edges invisible
    * Select all polygons and under section Smoothing Groups press ‘Clear All’ followed by ‘Auto Smooth’
  • Right-click and convert the object(s) back to mesh(es) or polygon(s)
  • You’re done! Clean geometry to work with.