Zookeeper

When working in 3D files for production, it isn’t unheard of to get scenes that have hundreds or even thousands of objects in them. It’s also not unheard of for thoughtful artists to hand you files that have very descriptive names like ‘object768′ and ‘sphere8458.’ These hurdles are one reason why Zookeeper for 3D Studio Max is a fantastic tool.

Zookeeper is, at its foundation, an organizational tool. The scenes can be viewed in a tree-view or a more visual, schematic view. Objects can be moved into layers, and even groups of layers. Either tree or schematics can have numerous tabs with different filters or selections for easy access to frequently accessed objects. Furthermore, the properties of the objects are accessible from Zookeeper, which allows for property manipulation of not one but many non-instanced objects at the same time. Renaming objects can be done in batches, and filtering objects for viewing uses a PERL-ish pattern method to allow pretty sophisticated search and replace functions.

Now, you might say ‘This seems like a fancy version of the scene explorer (or Outliner to you Mayaphiles),” and if it ended there, it would still be worth the price of admission. However’

In the schematic view, it opens Max up to scene manipulation that would be more familiar to Houdini, ICE or Thinking Particles users. This is no mere hypergraph. The node interface gives you control over each of the attributes of the objects (or make custom attributes if you like) in the scenes and quick setup relationships or animation controllers. And this doesn’t end with the objects; the methods propagate to the materials as well–so those of you ICE peeps who are used to node-based shade trees will feel at home.

I’m running out of space and I haven’t even touched on building composites for materials, controlling Particle Flow or utilizing the Synoptic view to control complex animation rigs. It may take some getting used to, because Max people aren’t used to thinking in terms of nodes, but once you ‘get’ it, productivity is going to increase exponentially because you’ll spend less time hunting around and more time creating.

Website: www.ephere.com/plugins/autodesk/max/zookeeper

Price: $199