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animator
24th Jan 2009, 02:23
Smoke Trails in 3DS Max 2009

In this latest addition to my tutorial collection, I shall be detailing how to create realistic-looking smoke trails. These can be used for missile trails, plasma-venting effects, and in a variety of other situations where a quick to render method is required. Tutorial requests are being taken as of now, so if you are trying and failing to create a certain effect, send me a PM and a new tutorial will be uploaded as soon as I can type it.

So, let’s dive right into it. Open up 3DS Max (I used Max 2009, though most recent revisions should be quite capable) and reset your scene just to be sure nothing is out of place. On the create menu to the right of the screen, click the drop-down menu which reads “Standard Primitives” and select “Particle Systems”. Select the “Super Spray” emitter and drag it out in the perspective viewport. Before changing any settings, we are going to create a really simple animation. This will allow the “Super Spray” to draw the trail behind.

Switch into “Auto-Key” mode by clicking the option to the right of the image of a key. Place the frame counter on the last frame of your animation, and select your emitter. Drag it forward as far as you’d like your trail to reach. After finding something you like, give the animation a quick play-through to make sure there are no problems. If all is good, now is the time to configure our trail settings. We will be creating a particle material for the emitter, so open “Material Editor” by pressing the “M” key, or alternatively by selecting the “Material Editor” option under the “Rendering” drop-down menu.

In the editor, click the box to the right of the “Diffuse” colour selector and choose the “Particle Age” material. You will now see three colour selectors. Set the first two to white, and the bottom to a very dark grey. Click the “Go To Parent” button, and check the box under “Shader Basic Parameters” which reads “Face Map”. Next, expand the “Maps” rollout and click the “None” button in the “Opacity” section. Choose the “Mask” material and add a “Gradient” to the “Mask” slot, while adding a “Noise” map to the “Map” slot. Open the “Gradient”, and set its type to “Radial”. Then open “Noise”, and give it a size of 10. As you become more experienced with the principal of this effect, you will find yourself tweaking these settings depending on the scenario.

Now let’s click the particle emitter and adjust a few of its settings. Expand the “Basic Parameters” section and tick the click the “Mesh” radio button. Then expand the “Particle Generation” rollout and set the rate to 5. Experiment with different numbers until you find something to your liking. Set “Emit Start” and “Emit Stop” at the points where you wish the particle emission to begin and end. Set the “Life” to whatever amount of time you would like the particles to like. This defines how long the trail will become before it begins to fade. “Display Until” should be set to the length of your animation for best realism. Set “Particle Size” to 15. Set “Grow For” and “Fade For” to 0. Expand the “Particle Type” rollout next, and set the “Particle Types” option to “Standard Particles”. Under the “Standard Particles” section, choose “Facing”.

Finally, apply your material to the emitter, and render the scene. If all was done correctly, you should now have one good-looking smoke trail. Thank you for taking the time to read this tutorial, and I sincerely hope it was of some use to you.

Until next time! :D,

Animator out.