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  • David Sparks

Ornatrix for Hair and Fur in 3ds Max

Started working with the Ornatrix plugin for Max a few weeks ago. It's quite robust and is (as far as I can find online) the only way to get hair and fur out of 3ds Max and into Unreal Engine, my final destination. I note that there is a plugin now for Unreal but I figured I'd get my feet wet working in the software I'm most familiar with. I wanted to share a few updates as I work through this process.

I began with some of the sample files. Frankly they all need updating. Some don't open and virtually all assume you are rendering with Vray. Very little help if you're sticking with stock Max as far as materials and shaders. There is a good deal of info to be found scouring the forums and the internet but that's not the friendliest way to learn something. I'll note that even the documentation (.chm) is a bit scanty in places with features and settings found throughout the Max plugin that are not mentioned. You're mostly left to open sample files and experiment around with them to figure out what everything does. And in fact, this is what the sample help files say to do. After some initial frustrations I feel like I have a grasp of the main features and how to use them.

One of my first experiments was with the "Teddy Bear" tutorial. Since my final goal is to get realistic fur on a marmot model, this was a good little place to start.

My teddy bear test with settings better suited to realtime. A minimal hair count with hairs having a reduced poly count along the hair length and cross-section.

Teddy with a more robust hair and poly count, more suitable for VFX. There's a quick modifier you can place near the top of the stack for adjusting the hair segment count.

I've moved on after several sample files to the marmot model I purchased online. This model was done in Maya using Substance, Yeti for the fur and renderings in Arnold. The original creator's model is excellent. The geometry is not overkill with about 28K polys. The hair work is superb. The artist obviously has good experience in this area, unlike yours truly. Though Yeti was used for the fur, my research says that Ornatrix is the new king on the block for hair and fur. And especially with the Unreal tie-in. I did try using Max's native Hair and Fur and as powerful as that may be, I was not able to get the results I wanted. Plus, though Max supports Alembic export, hair and fur intended for Unreal requires a slightly different form of Alembic not available in native Max. So export to Unreal is not possible without the additional, more robust Alembic Export offered through Ornatrix.

The original Marmot model rendered in Maya with Arnold and Yeti for the hair. Several texture versions of fur coloration are provided depending on the exact local species of marmot you're trying to imitate. My goal is to approach this level of excellence with the fur grooming. The purchased model comes with all the texture files, including those used for setting the groom parameters like "Frizz", Length, and "Clumping" of the hairs. Some of these were transferable over to Ornatrix in Max.

Early rendering of marmot using Ornatrix in 3ds Max

Marmot close up rendered with Ornatrix in 3ds Max

Above are several of my recent renderings of the marmot model using Ornatrix in 3ds Max. Currently trying to limit myself to no more than 400K hairs but I feel like too much of the exposed skin is still visible at transition spots. Plus, I need a lot more work on the hands and feet. Still learning.

Sample Ornatrix Modifier Stack

Here is a screen cap of my current modifier stack for the marmot using the Ornatrix Hair and Fur plugin.

The plugin installs a long series of new Modifiers making the workflow very parametric and consistent with Max's existing workflows. I'll note that if you intend to render with the native Scanline Renderer, you need to add the "Mesh From Strands" modifier at the top of the stack or you get nothing in the viewport. I will add that this little step is not clearly documented anywhere. One of a list of small frustrations with the plugin. Rendering with Vray, you add a different modifier to the top of the stack, though perhaps this one works then too. I don't intend to bother myself with best rendering practices, Vray or extensive Material work since my final product will be done in UE5. A little harder to get those best results then with final renders in Max.

More coming.....

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