Any 3D graphics artist will tell you that you NEVER render direct to video; instead, ALWAYS render to sequential still images instead. There are numerous reasons for this:
- Should your computer crash while rendering, you will need to re-render the entire video
- If you detect that there are problems with the video (perhaps incorrect lighting, materials, etc.) again, you will need to re-render the entire video
- If your utilizing network rendering in 3D Studio MAX to speed up your render times, you MUST render to sequential still images
- Rendering to sequential stills allows you to easily encode the video to multiple file formats and compressions
When you render to sequential still images, 3D Studio MAX will name each frame by appending the frame number to the end of the filename. This will give you the following filenames as an example:
teapot_100.jpg, teapot_101.jpg, teapot_102.jpg ..... teapot_xxxx.jpg where each frame of the animation is a seperate file.
Now that you have these series of still images, the question becomes "how do I stitch them together into a single animation?" For that, I use a GREAT piece of free software called Rad Video Tools.
From within Rad Video Tools, simply select the first still image in the series and click the button labelled "Convert a file".
Rad Video Tools will present a dialog box asking if you would like to treat the series of images as a single animation since it will automatically detect that there are multiple images with the same name; say "yes" to this prompt. After this, you will be presented with a new dialog box from which you can specify the filename of the video including a multitude of output settings (frame rate, scaling, etc.) and then hit the "Convert" button to produce an AVI file of your video.
Not only do the Rad Video Tools have a multitude of options for creating your video file, but you can also do batch conversion, convert video files back into a series of still images (the reverse of this tutorial) and a number of other things.
One other aspect of the Rad Video Tools that is really useful is the ability to create an EXE file of your video. This guarantees that your video will playback on any Microsoft Windows machine since both your video and the player are embedded into a single executable file. To do this, you need to encode your video using the Bink codec (a proprietary codec developed by the creators of Rad Video Tools) which you can do by choosing the "Bink it" button, rather than the "Convert a file" option mentioned previously. After creating the Bink video, you can select it from in the application and choose "Advanced Play" from which you can create an EXE file.
*Click the screenshot images to see a larger version*