HDRI and how to make one

This is going to be very brief as there are lots of websites that can explain it a lot better than I. Basically an HDRI contains all the details from the dark shadows to the bright highlights in one image. The range from dark to light will typicaly be greater than can be displayed. The best thing to do is to check out Paul Debevec's website which describes the advantages of these type of images. Paul also has a tool for download called HDRShop which will allow you to create your own HDRIs.

To create a HDRI you take a series of photographs at different exposures, HDRShop will import them and create a HDRI file, which you can then use with Max as long as you have a plugin that will support the HDRI format, you use it pretty much the same as a normal bitmap.

It's not as easy as you might think, once you've taken pictures of a mirrored ball you have to turn it into a spherical map and remove the photographer, one of the biggest problems I've had is maintaining registration between the images before I prosess them into a HDRI, outdoor images can be tricky as clouds and trees etc will move and be in different places in each image, which is not what you want. I will leave it up to you to experiment and get the best results..