How to save storage space in 3ds Max

In this 3ds max tutorial we’re going to cover several methods to save hard disk or storage space when working with 3ds Max. We’re going to cover 3 things, file compression, instantiation and proxy.

File compression

The first method is file compression. It's hard to believe that a lot of 3ds max users don't know that there's a file compression feature built into 3ds max. And it is turned off by default. To turn it on you have to go to the "customize menu", then "preferences" and then click on the "files" tab. Down here you'll find the "compress on save" option. Click the checkbox to enable it.

Now when you save the file, it looks like 3ds max saves it as a normal ".MAX" file just like before, but if you look closely, the file size of it will be significantly smaller than before. For example, I have a scene from one of my projects. When I save it without compression it takes about 17 MB, but with "compress on save" option turned on 3ds max is able to save the file to only about 6 MB file size. This is almost a third of the original file size. For a single file, this may not be a significant benefit. But imagine if you have hundreds of Max files that used to take up to 3TB of disk space. Now you can store them in only 1TB of space, which is a saving of 2TB of disk space. That's a huge difference.

The nice thing about this method is that you don't need to use or install any other file compression software, and your 3ds max file is still in dot MAX format, not any other format.


If you have identical objects scattered throughout your scene, it is best to use "Instance" instead of "Copy". By using instances, you are essentially telling 3ds Max to store the object's geometry once in memory, but render it multiple times. In addition to the impact on RAM usage and render time, the impact on file size is also significant.

Lets take a look at an example. In my scene I have 1000 teapots, they are editable poly objects, and they are all independent objects, meaning they are not instances. When I save the file I have this 83MB file size.

If we have the same scene setup with 1000 editable teapot objects, but right now they are all instances to each other. When I save the file, it only takes about two megabytes! That's a lot different if you're working with a lot of objects in your scene. This is because, as I explained earlier, instances allow 3ds Max to save the geometry information only once, even though it is being displayed multiple times.

Okay, so how do we create instances? Well, we create them when we clone objects. Let's say we want to make a bunch of trees out of 1 tree object. Just click on it, select it, hold Shift and move it to another position. Now look at the options we have: "Copy", "Instance" and "Reference". If the geometry of the tree is going to be identical from one to another, we always want to go for "Instance", not "Copy".

Later we can scale, rotate or move each instance independently. Each instance has its own unique transformation. So we can use that to our advantage, we can move them and rotate them a little bit and give them different scale values so we have more variation and the scene looks more natural. There are scripts and plugins that can do this for us, but that will be for another tutorial, in-sha-Allah.


Our next method in this 3ds Max tutorial is "Proxy". In terms of CG or 3D animation, proxy is a dummy object in our scene that is used to represent the real 3D model from external sources. We usually use proxy together with instancing. So we use it for the things that are repeatable in our scene and we use them over and over again for different projects. For example, in architectural visualization projects, we use proxies for 3D trees, 3D people or crowd, cars, etc. Usually we set the proxies to appear in the viewports as low resolution objects such as box or point clouds, but when you press the render button they appear as the original high resolution objects. So, proxy is mainly used to save RAM usage, but it also works very well to save storage or disk space. This will be beneficial when saving to a single file. But the benefit effect is multiplied when working with more than one project file, because we don't need additional storage space for saving the 3D objects again.

To make things clearer? Let us say we have a 3ds max file, inside it a scene with a lot of 3d objects needed for a finished project. Now the total size of the 3ds max file is 100 mb, the number is just an example. With proxy we can take out the tree geometry, put it in the library folder and replace the object in the scene with a proxy object. We do this for all other 3D objects that are repeated throughout the scene. Please note that "proxies" are mostly a technology provided by rendering engines. So if you are working with VRay, you can create a "VRay proxy" feature. Or if you are using Corona renderer like me, you can create "Corona proxy". I think every rendering engine has its own way of creating proxies. I won't go into the technical details of how to create this proxy, just enough for us to see the big picture.

If you want to learn 3ds Max from the very basics until you can model a complex furniture or an interior scene, check out my courses on Udemy, or Skillshare. You can also check out my other courses here.


Widhi Muttaqien



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