3ds max 4 Ground Rules
is not, despite its name and the picture of a green-lawned golf course on the cover, about creating terrain and landscapes with 3ds max 4, Discreet's 3D CG animation package. It's a new series from Autodesk Press, and its charter is to lay the groundwork for new users on which they can build their own projects.
Michael Todd Peterson is an experienced writer and 3ds max user, and the breadth and depth of his experience shows in this book. More than 600 pages and 17 chapters cover everything from the absolute basics to advanced and complex features. Sections cover installing and navigating the interface of 3ds max 4, and there is a bird's-eye view of the workflow in a Max project--using basic shapes to build a model, using models to build a scene, adding detail with textures, lights and particles, adding and animating a camera, and rendering the finished animation to a movie.
Later parts of the book are about modeling. Techniques are discussed for surface modeling, patch modelling, using splines and compound objects, creating editable meshes and using modifiers and how they work with the stack paradigm. The last third of the book is all about animation: an introduction to animation, using Track View, character animation and special effects animation using particles, space warps and more.
For anyone climbing 3ds max 4's learning curve, this is probably one of the better books available. The author's easy style, the use of screenshots, and the rich material on the CD make this book a valuable asset to any Max user. --Mike Caputo