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Taylor & Francis
Deconstructing the Elements with 3ds Max: Create natural fire, earth, air and water without plug-ins / Edition 3

Deconstructing the Elements with 3ds Max: Create natural fire, earth, air and water without plug-ins / Edition 3

by Pete Draper


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 2900240521267
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Publication date: 10/24/2008
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 344
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

a UK-based visual effects animator and artist with 10+ years experience on large and small screen projects. Starting out as a fine artist and designer, his shift to CG animation led to key roles such as Lead and Senior Artist, Head of Media and, more recently, Visual Effects Supervisor / Director. Pete's work covers a broad range of disciplines and genres from visual effects to reconstructions, commercials to in-house training. He currently writes for 3D World magazine, providing tips, tricks, reviews and tutorials for 3ds max and other animation and graphics tools.

Read an Excerpt

Deconstructing the Elements with 3ds Max

Create natural fire, earth, air and water without plug-ins
By Pete Draper

Focal Press

Copyright © 2009 Pete Draper
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-08-092710-7

Chapter One

Ball of fire


In this tutorial we're going to tackle one of the most common simulations performed with fluid dynamics, that of a metal ball emitting fire. There are several reasons behind this – from the amount of "fuel" the simulation has, its explosive properties, color, and whether or not the system is set to generate smoke. In our system we're going to simulate this type of effect using 3ds Max's native kit, namely Particle Flow, with multiple systems to affect each aspect of the flame shape. The resulting particles will then be surfaced with a Blobmesh Compound Object with a material assigned before rendering.

Analysis of effect

(a) For this particular type of fire effect, we'll base our simulation on a gas-fuelled fire, specifically a non-oxygenated fire and one with a large emission point, which reduces the force and ferocity of the flame. As this flame is gas-based, it leaves very little or no smoke, and as a result it's, aesthetically, very clean burning. The flame is a trademark yellow-orange color with a white core (depending on camera exposure) and a subtle orange perpendicular effect with a fluid-like waveform pattern. (b) This pattern has three main parts – the initial influence being the collation of fire plasma into small pockets that make up the distinctive internal detail of the flame; the second influence breaks up this uniformity and adds larger masses of collation which are then torn off by turbulence (the third influence). It's this turbulent motion that gives this large body of flame its distinctive shape, folding over itself and interacting gracefully with the external environment. (c) Additionally, as the gas burns, we see a occasional lick of flame at the top, with some parts being "torn off" or detached from the main body of the flame. (d) The resulting flame design appears much smoother (aesthetically) than in any other fuel source (wood, oil, etc.).

Okay, first things first. Tutorial number one and we're encountering our first major challenge: the effect we're trying to simulate is totally based on fluid dynamics, that of the motion of flame in relation to its surrounding medium: air. Unfortunately, at this current time of writing, we don't have a fluid system native to the software (20 quid said that by Christmas we've got one, just to put egg on my face!), though there obviously are some excellent plugin solutions out there (see the Appendix for more information on this). However, we can create a convincing result using the base software. Due to its motion effect, we're obviously going to use a particle system to generate the dynamics of the flame system; however, simply emitting the particles from a single source and exerting a Wind Space Warp on them isn't going to be enough, purely because the Space Warp in question doesn't simulate the desired turbulent motion. It's, however, good enough in this instance to affect the entire simulation to suggest a subtle external force to break up uniformity, creating a light breeze on the flame causing it to distort somewhat and also to be used to drag the particles vertically. The main body of simulation will lie in multiple particle systems. The initial Flame system will be used to position and scatter particles around the Geosphere primitive in the scene, with an SDeflector preventing these particles from intersecting the geometry as they pass around the surface. These particles will be attracted to one another within a small threshold radius, producing collations of particles. These particles will then be affected by a reduced number of particles born from the same location(s), which will produce larger collations and also interact with the main body of the system. Finally, to break up the effect and to design the turbulent refined patterns as seen in the reference material, a time-offset instance of the large influence particles will chase the flame particles, causing them to displace, simulating air rushing in, and producing loops and arcs akin to the reference. The simulation aside, the main crux of the design is shading the particles correctly. Actually we aren't going to render the particles but surface them using a Blobmesh Compound object, which will have a material assigned that uses fog density based on object thickness to drive the brightness of the flame as it progresses through the animation. In the "Taking it further" section, I've adapted this material even further, creating the falloff effect around the edges of the flames. Once you've finished this tutorial, feel free to have a look at this section and the accompanying Taken Further 3ds Max scene file.


PART ONE: First we'll load the start scene and add a basic Space Warp before designing our initial particle system.

1 Open the 01_Ball_O_Fire.max file included with this tutorial and accept any file unit change if prompted. In the Top Viewport, create a Wind Space Warp and relocate it to the origin – XYZ coordinates (0 cm, 0 cm, 0 cm). Navigate to the Modifier tab in the Command bar and set Turbulence to 1. Set its Frequency to 5 and Scale to 0.01

Information: Don't forget to accept any file unit change so that any inputs we give can return uniform outcomes. Otherwise you may experience different results from that in this tutorial. We've added some Turbulence to the Wind Space Warp to simulate external forces not generated originally from the fire itself. The Scale value has been set low so that the resulting waveform is quite large (yes, you read that right ...!). I've mentioned about relocating the Wind Space Warp to the origin as we're using the Turbulence setting; the resulting pattern is based on its position in the scene, so by ensuring that it's at the origin we'd get virtually the same resulting effect.

2 Still in the Top Viewport, create an SDeflector Space Warp and relocate it to the origin as before. Set its Diameter to 6 cm so that it's exactly aligned with the Geosphere primative in the scene. Set the SDeflector's Bounce value to 0.

Information: This SDeflector will be used to sculpt the particles around the Geosphere primitive in the scene so that the particles that are born from the PF Source 01 icon in the scene (which is set slightly larger than the SDeflector to give the particles a chance to interact with the surface, else it's possible that some or all of them pass right through it) flow around its surface. The Bounce value is set to 0 so that the particles simply travel over its surface, not bounce off it.

PART TWO: With the Space Warps set up, we'll use the existing Particle Flow icon to build our flame system.

3 Select the PF Source 01 icon in the scene and click on its Particle View button in the Command bar. In Particle View, rename the PF Source 01 icon to PF Source Flames. Click on the Render operator in this event and set its Type to Phantom.

Information: We're using Phantom as the particle position and shape size need to be visible to the renderer so that the Blobmesh object we'll create later on can derive its surface; however, we don't want the particles to be visible in the render.

4 Drag out a Birth operator to the Particle View event display, wire its input to the output of the PF Source Flames event, label the event Flame Shape, and set its Emit Stop value to 300 (the length of the sequence). Set its Amount value to 60 000. Add a Position Icon operator to the event, and in the Location group, choose Surface. Add a Shape operator to the event and set its Size value to 0.3 cm.

Information: We need a fair amount of particles to create a nice effect, hence cranking up the value. We've changed the Location group to Surface so that the particles are simply born over the surface of the Particle Flow icon, not within it, else they'd be born inside the Geosphere! The Shape operator drives the size of the particles referenced by the Blobmesh object, though they won't be rendered.

5 Add a Keep Apart operator to the event and label it KA Flames. Set its Force value to 1 cm and set Accel Limit to 20 cm. In the Range group, set Core Radius to 0.2 cm and Falloff Zone to 0.8 cm. In the Scope group, choose Selected Particle Systems and choose PF Source Flames in the list (the only one currently available).

Information: This initial Keep Apart operator has a negative Force value, thus attracting the particles instead of repelling them. This particular operator makes the flame particles simply attract each other, creating small collations (derived from the Core Radius and Falloff Zone values) and folds in the geometry when surfaced, thus generating small detail in the resulting flame; when the particles collate together, the resulting surfaced geometry will be wider, yielding a brighter color as derived from a material we'll design later on.

6 Copy the PF Source Flames root event three times. Label the first copy PF Source Small Influence, the second copy PF Source Large Influence, and the third copy PF Source Turbulence. Back in the Flame Shape event, add another Keep Apart operator and label it KA Small Influence. Set its Force to 1 cm and Accel Limit to 25 cm. In its Range group, set Core Radius to 0.2 cm and its Falloff Zone value to 3 cm. In the Scope group, choose Selected Particle Systems and choose the PF Source Small Influence in the list.

Information: We've set up root events at this stage so that we can get the Keep Apart operators built up in the original system, referencing these new root events (systems). The second Keep Apart operator to be added drags the original Flame particles upwards, creating additional folds in the geometry. The particle system that drives this will have a reduced number of particles so that the attractions are defined as in the reference material.

7 Add another Keep Apart operator and label it KA Large Influence. Set its Force to 1 cm and Accel Limit to 20 cm. In its Range group, set Core Radius to 0.4 cm and its Falloff Zone value to 4 cm. In the Scope group, choose Selected Particle Systems and choose the PF Source Large Influence in the list.

Information: As said before, this new Keep Apart operator affects the motion of the Flame particles further by attracting them towards the particles in the named system, thus resulting in the flame to appear to fold and spiral as the multiple Keep Apart operators fight for influence.

8 Add another Keep Apart operator and label it KA Turbulence. Leave its Force at 1 cm (note the positive value 1 cm this time as opposed to –1 cm previously) and Accel Limit to 20 cm. In its Range group, set Core Radius to 1 cm and its Falloff Zone value to 2 cm. In the Scope group, choose Selected Particle Systems and choose the PF Source Turbulence in the list.

Information: This final Keep Apart operator is unlike others in that it has repulsion instead of attraction. The system it references will have a time offset, a clone of the Large Influence system but with a 5-frame offset and a negative influence to simulate air rushing in behind the flame, partially displacing it.

9 Add a Force operator to the event and add the Wind01 Space Warp to its Force Space Warps list. Set the Influence value to 610. Add a Delete operator to the event and set it By Particle Age. Set the Life Span value to 50 and Variation to 5. Add a Collision test to the event and add the SDeflector to its Deflectors list.

Information: The Wind, as mentioned earlier in this tutorial, is added simply to introduce an illusion of external air turbulence from wind, someone breathing, closing a door ... take your pick ...! The Collision test loads in the SDeflector so that the particles flow over the surface instead of passing through the Geosphere geometry.

10 Ensure you're at frame 0 and instance the Flame Shape event. Label this new event Flame Small Influence. Make the Birth operator unique and set its Amount value to 350. Remove the Shape operator and make the Delete operator unique. Set its Life Span value to 100 and Variation to 0. Wire the input of this new event to the output of the PF Source Small Influence event.

Information: You must ensure you're at frame 0 as you may have particle updates while duplicating a lot of particles affected by multiple Keep Apart operators. Also ensure you amend the settings before wiring to prevent any system lag if you aren't at frame 0. This new event has the same particle emission points, yet a reduced particle count as mentioned before, for the Flame particles to be attracted to, creating small collations of particles/fire. The Shape operator has been removed as we don't need it in this system, but only in the original one. We've made the Delete operator unique so that the trailing Flame particles are continuously dragged vertically at the top of the flame, creating licks of flame and also ensuring that the flame doesn't try to slow down and attract particles beneath it.


Excerpted from Deconstructing the Elements with 3ds Max by Pete Draper Copyright © 2009 by Pete Draper. Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

About the Author; Introduction; Fire: Ball of Fire; Sun Surface - extreme UV solar imagery; Angle Grinder; Afterburner Water: Ice aggregation; Icicles; Condensation; Soap bubbles Earth: Mountain weathering; Atoll; Snow drifts; Mars Air: Bubble stream; Large bubbles; Galaxy; Ray of dusty light Appendices: The next step and further reading; Plugin solutions; Index

NEW Video tutorials: Fire: Electrical sparks, Fire strip; Water: Swimming pool caustics, Paint spillage, Bucket of water, Whirlpool; Earth: Geode, Island, Snowscape;
Air: Contrail, Barn tornado, Foam

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Deconstructing the Elements with 3ds Max: Create natural fire, earth, air and water without plug-ins 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author definitely knows what he is talking about. I wish I can say that to every author that writes a book - especially about technical subjects like 3ds Max. As huge as the features in 3ds Max are and as numerous the so-called "experts" out there that write about a book about it, this book is definitely "it". Can you realy create realistic elements without 3ds Max plug-ins? The author made it all possible in this book.

The streaming tutorial videos as well as the downloadable avi tutorial videos and exercise files are invaluable resource as well.