Company: Electric Rain
Purpose: Converting 3D models into 2D Vector Illustrations
My boss recently purchased a new plugin for me. It is called "Swift 3D MAX 4." It has many different applications packaged together that do not come standard with 3ds Max. There seems to be some valuable uses for it such as creating export options for .SWF and Flash to make embed-able turntable renders for websites; however, there is a specific application that I am using it for. Swift 3D MAX enables you to take a 3D model, fully textured and lit, and convert it to a 2D Vector Illustration and Illustrator file (.ai) This is what I will be giving you insight on.
Swift 3D MAX works like Mental Ray and Vray in the sense that it is a stand-alone Render Engine. It automatically converts objects, textures, and lighting into a 2D Vector rendition with a few clicks. So far, I have found that when attempting to take a Vray scene and convert it into a Swift 3D MAX (.ai file) scene, the plugin does not seem to be cross compatible; however, Scanline and Mental Ray scenes seem to work fine.
The quality of the results of this 3D to 2D conversion are mixed depending on how complex you want the illustration to be. For example, the results seem to be pretty strong if you just want an illustration using 1-2 shades. The more shade passes you want, the more complex the illustrator file becomes and the harder it becomes to get a satisfactory illustration with this method.
Up to 4 shades seems to work pretty well although the illustrator file becomes quite complex and flat. A major problem I have encountered is when I want to do a full color conversion, or start using gradients instead of just flat colors. When doing a full color conversion, for some reason the wire frame translates into the vector image which looks terrible. The gradient looks okay for the "area gradient" render but it is not the quality my superiors expect out of the work. There is another gradient option for "mesh gradient" which looks great in preview mode; however, the file will not open at all in illustrator making it useless if you need a vector file instead of just a JPG render. Here are some renders so you can see my results for yourself :)