I’ll admit it, I don’t use layers much in 3ds Max for architectural visualization. A new feature of release 2010, however, will most likely get me to change my ways. As I’ve mentioned before, the quality of lighting, shadows and exposure control within the viewport is greatly improved over version 2009. You can now use the Layer Manager to enable and diable the viewport rendering effects of groups of lights (it will also effect your renderings). In the following scene – I’ve got three rooms, each with 2, shadow-casting, photometric lights and a cylinder:
The above image is from the viewport and not a rendering. It can be achieved by turning on the settings in the following image:
Each of the lights, for each room, were placed on their own layers (the targets for those lights were separated out onto a single layer called lightTargets):
Now, by clicking the teapot icon in the Render column of either the Layer Manager or the Layer pull-down menu, you can control whether or not those light are active in the viewport (as well as in renderings). For example, if I turn off the rendering feature for the lights within room 1, I get the following result:
This feature can be particular helpful to speed up viewport response time as well as render length. Also, by applying this technique to lights imported from Revit (via FBX), you can have greater control over those lights as well.