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Autodesk 3ds Max Turns Twenty

The story of 3ds Max software starts in 1988 when Autodesk teamed up with the Yost Group to create 3D Studio, a new kind of 3D animation software. Yost and his team had a vision of making 3D animation accessible to everyone, taking it out of the rarefied environment of ultra-expensive Sun and SGI systems and bringing it to the PC. When we published the first version of what would become 3ds Max, we had no idea just how far that program would come, nor the amazing voyage it would take us on. But here we are today celebrating the software’s 20th Anniversary. It is clear that the contributions 3ds Max has made to the computer graphics industry are immense. Here is the story of how 3ds Max revolutionized the entertainment industry:

It all began with The Yost Group, pioneered by Gary Yost, who had begun a project in 1998 called THUD, named after the project’s sole developer, Tom Hudson. THUD was not a complete animation program, as it only covered modeling and rendering; however, it evolved into a fully functioning 3D animation application once Dan Silva joined the team and introduced keyframing. THUD then became known as 3D Studio, the first fully 3D animation system for the PC platform.

Tomb Raider. Image courtesy of Exmachina Core Design Ltd.

After two years of long days and sleepless nights, Autodesk, in collaboration with the Yost Group, was ready to release 3D Studio. On Halloween of 1990, the first ever affordable and integrated 3D modeling, rendering and animation system was released. 3D Studio could perform right out of the box the way other more expensive and more complicated animation systems could, but it sold for only $3,495 while all other alternatives cost upwards of $10,000. The price point completely revolutionized the industry as it gave more people the opportunity and ability to learn and create in 3D. 3ds Max had changed the game and the course of entertainment history.

Battlefield Earth. Image courtesy of Computer Cafe.

The software was quickly industry approved and in its early years many Hollywood films including “Johnny Mnemonic” and “The Craft” used 3D Studio for their special effects. The software was also used to create legendary games, including “Tomb Raider” and “World of Warcraft”. During these years many landmark features were introduced, and with each release 3D Studio became more and more capable and competitive in the industry.