Schematic Daylighting Analysis with 3DS Max

Simulating daylighting can be complex, though rewarding process.  However it’s complexity can be a barrier for using it in design, especially early in the design process where complexity can slow the iterative nature of creative thinking.

The following tutorial shows you how to quickly and easily create a schematic level daylighting analysis.  This analysis isn’t appropriate for validation of the design or for calculating exact lighting performance.  While based on validated methods, the tutorial takes a very general approach to favor speed over accuracy.  The results will get one a good impression of how daylighting is performing the a building, but more concentrated study later in the design process would be needed.

  1. Download Daylighting-Tutorial zip file
  2. Unzip to find the following files:
    1. Daylight Analysis Schematic.max
    2. Daylighting Material Library.mat
  3. Open the template file “Daylight Analysis Schematic.max” in 3DS Max
  4. Click the 3DS Max icon in the upper left -> “Save As” -> “Save As”
  5. Note that a light meter, daylight system and conceptual materials are already included in the template file.  In addition, the  render and environment settings have been calibrated for conceptual daylighting analysis.
  6. Verify Units
    1. “Customize” menu -> “Units” -> Verify lighting at the bottom is set to “American”
    2. This sets the lighting units to foot candles.
    3. 1 foot candle = 10.764 lux
  7. Import Geometry
    1. Import geometry by clicking on the 3DS Max icon in the upper left -> “Import” -> Select the appropriate option listed below:
      1. If linking a DWG file
        1. Select “Link AutoCAD”  -> Navigate to the DWG file -> Click “Open”
        2. In the “Manage Links” dialog box, accept defaults for “Presets” -> Click “Attach this file”
      2. If linking an FBX file exported from Revit, Maya or other software
        1. Select “Link FBX” -> Navigate to the file -> Click “Open”
        2. In the “Manage Links” dialog box, change the “Preset:” to “Autodesk Revit – Combine by Revit Material” -> Click “Attach this file”
      3. If importing rather than linking
        1. Select “Import” -> Navigate to file (DWG, SAT, OBJ, FBX are all good choices) -> Click “Open”
    2. Verify that the geometry imported to the correct scale by creating a tape measure -> In the “Command Panel” on the right, go to the “Create” tab -> “Helpers” sub-tab -> Click “Tape” -> Click and drag between two points to measure their distance -> The distance is displayed at the bottom of the “Command Panel” on the right.
    3. If you are having scale issues with linked files, try importing instead. (Sometimes importing -> deleting the imported geometry -> linking the geometry fixes scale issues)
    4. Delete any extra Daylight systems that were imported into the file
  8. Assign Materials
    1. Open material editor by clicking on the checkered sphere in the upper right
    2. There are a number of materials already created that are calibrated for different real-word reflectance and transmittance.  Both opaque and glazing materials are available.  Please note the relevant reflectance and transmittance noted in the material names.
    3. To see the properties of a material, double click on its title.
    4. Assign a material to geometry by selecting the geometry -> Select a material in the material editor -> [Right-click -> Select “Assign Material to Selection”] or [just press “a” to assign the material]
    5. Assign materials to all your geometry.  If in doubt use the 50% reflectance material, it provides a good baseline.
  9. Setting up the Daylighting System
    1. Select the “Daylight System” it may be hiding inside your geometry so you may need to look around or you may have accidentally deleted it.
    2. Change the location
      1. With the Daylight System selected -> in the “Command Panel” on the right, go to the “Motion” tab ->  Enter Latitude and Longitude of the site or click “Get Location” and select a city.
    3. Changing the time and date Manually
      1. Set the time slider at the bottom of the viewport to frame “0” (Critical, don’t change the time and date on any other frame)
      2.  With the Daylight System selected -> in the “Command Panel” on the right, go to the “Motion” tab -> Change the time and date as needed.
    4. Using the animated sun positions
      1. Starting at frame 1, the sun has been animated across three days of the year, the summer solstice, the fall equinox and the winter solstice.
      2. With the Daylight System selected -> in the “Command Panel” on the right, go to the “Motion” tab -> To change the time and date, one drags the time slider at the bottom of the viewports frame by frame.  Each frame will advance the time by 30 minutes as shown in the “Motion” tab on the right.
      3. Using the time slider, set the sun to the desired time and date.
  10. Environment & Exposure Control
    1. In the “Rendering” menu, select “Environment” or press “8”
    2. Scroll down to exposure control
    3. If rendering an Illumiance study, verify Exposure control is set as follows
      1.  Exposure Control = “Pseudo Color Exposure Control”
      2. “Active” is checked
      3. “Process Background and Environment Maps” is checked
      4. “Quantity” = “Illuminance”
      5. “Style” = “Colored”
      6. “Scale” = “Logarithmic”
      7. “Min” = 0.0 fc
      8. “Max” = 11000.0 fc
      9. “Physical Scale” = 1500.0 cd
    4. If rendering a pretty picture set exposure control as follows
      1. Exposure Control = “mr Photographic Exposure Control”
      2. “Active” is checked
      3. “Process Background and Environment Maps” is unchecked
      4. Click “Render Preview” (This will render a small image with the current render settings)
      5. Change the “Exposure Value (EV):” up or down till the preview displays as you wish.
  11. Rendering
    1. In the main toolbar, click on “Render Setup” on the right side of the toolbar (icon of a teapot with a little box in the lower right).  Or in the “Rendering” menu -> Select “Render Setup”.  Or press “F10”
    2. Set the “Renderer” to “NVIDIA metal ray”
    3. Change the output size as desired
    4. Click render

Additional Resources
Daylight Simulation in 3ds Max Design 2009 – Getting Started
Daylight Simulation in 3ds Max Design 2009 – Advanced Concepts

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