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In Particle Effects in 3ds Max, Steve Nelle shows how to create a wide variety of particle special effects including smoke, water, and explosions. The course provides a detailed explanation of both event and non-event particle systems in 3ds Max, in addition to addressing the importance of a particle's material, the use of Space Warps and Deflectors, and creating fluid effects using MetaParticles. Six start-to-finish projects are also included in the course, which show practical techniques for creating ocean water for underwater scenes, mudslides, and more. Exercise files accompany the course.
The PArray particle system dances to the beat of a little bit different drummer than most of 3ds Max's other particle type effect emitters. PArray, short for particle array, allows a set of particles to be distributed over or emitted from an object that you pick from your scene. So unlike most other Mac systems where it's the actual particle viewport icon that forms the location for particle emission, with the PArray any 3D object in your scene can be chosen as from where the particles will originate. And that makes the PArray extra flexible for creating a wide variety of effects including explosions, where the object surface can be ripped into chunks that can then be precisely controlled to produce the explosive effect.
Let's see what we can do. Because the particles on a PArray emanate from a scene object and not the system's viewport icon, we're going to first need to create something in our scene for that particle emitter. I'm going to use a basic sphere for my example, dropping one in my Top view. Now, so you know, the PArray can generate particles from any object that contains renderable faces. Because of what I'm going to be doing in just a moment, let's right-click, converting this down to an editable poly.
Now, zooming out in the top view, I'll place a PArray directly at the side of my sphere. The particle array's placement, orientation, and icon size have absolutely no influence on the particle effect. Once in view, let's turn our attention of the controls on the right-hand side. First up under Object-Based Emitter let's click on the Pick Object button. This is our way of signaling to Max that we want to now select an object from our scene as the particle emitter. We can now click in any viewport on top of our sphere. Before going any further, verify on the right-hand panel the Object says Sphere001.
Let's now change our Viewport Display to 100%. And so we can get a better visual display of things, we'll change the wireframe color on our sphere to navy blue and the color of our PArray icon to bright yellow. Once we've done that, if we now deselect and scrubb our timeline, we'll now have a better look at how the particles are being dispersed. I'm going to also zoom out of ways in each of my four views. So there we go. As we can see, the particles are actually being emitted from my sphere object.
With the PArray reselected, let's go to the right and look under particle formation. These are a series of options that give us an opportunity to control just exactly where on the surface the particles are being emitted from. You can see we have choices Over Entire Surface, Along Visible Edges, At Vertices, and Distant Points. And a way at the bottom in that category an option for using selected subobject faces. Let's do this we'll activate Use Selected SubObjects. We'll then return to having our sphere is being selected.
Okay, let's open up the Editable Poly entry in the stack going down to the Polygon level. In my Front view I'm going to select the top of my sphere as a series of polygons. To reselect the PArray, I'll use my select by name hot key, the letter H. When the list opens, I'll select Parray from the dialog. Let's now scrub the Timeline so we can see where on this sphere the particles are now being emitted. We might get even a better visual display by deselecting the PArray and scrubbing our Timeline again.
So check it out. Now the particles are being emitted only from our series of selected polys. Let's try this. We'll reselect our sphere, getting back to the Polygon level selection. This time in the front view will window select only one or two middle rows of polys. Scrubbing our Timeline this time reveals a completely different interaction. Let's go back to dispersing our particles over our entire object, so I can show you a couple of nifty presets PArray offers. We'll get out of Polygon mode, reselect the PArray, then under Particle Formation turning off Use Selected SubObjects.
Let's scrub the Timeline to make sure the entire sphere is indeed emitting the particles. Now, let's take our Perspective view full screen. The PArray comes with a set of preconfigured presets. Let's take a look at those. Now, they are quite a way down in our settings, so we'll put our mouse inside the Modify column, turning the cursor into a hand. From here, we'll right-click then from the menu choose Load/Save Presets. Let's begin our playback by using the forward slash in our keyboard. Now, as far as something as preset options, change over to Bubbles.
Here is how things would l ook using a Comet effect. Why don't we also try Geyser? Then Shimmer Trail. So there is a bunch of different presets that you can play around with. Let's get back to our default setting and we can return to a few more setup options. When you're wanting to create something like an explosion, you'll want to change over to a different selection under the regular particle types, using what Max refers to as object fragments for the look of your particles. Let's do that. We'll right-click again on the right-hand side going back up to the Particle Type.
Now, the option we're going to work with is directly below the Particle Type tab. We're going to change from Standard particles to Object Fragments. We'll now go down to a series of settings that are called Object Fragment Controls. Before we can actually see the results of these we're going to need to take our Viewport Display over to Mesh mode. That's going to take us just for a moment back to the top. I'm going to right-click and go to my Basic Parameters. Then under Viewport Display, we'll change to Mesh. Now, we get back to the fragments.
Let's take things back to frame 1 and we'll scrub our Timeline. As you can see we now have hundreds of pieces of geometry coming off the sphere surface. Now, by the way as I scrub, take note that it's not the actual sphere that's breaking into chunks. The particles are coming off of the sphere, but being created by the Parray. Back on the right under object fragment controls, we can make adjustment for the number of chunks, and their thickness, and their overall behavior. Let's see what we can do there.
Let's take our settings from All Faces down to Number of Chunks. Then for this example, I'll take the Minimum number from 100 down to 5. This should create a total of five fragments coming off our sphere. Let's scrub the Timeline and see if that's true. Why don't we go ahead and play that back and see how things look? Let's change a couple of things real quick. The frame at which the explosion occurs and the speed at which the fragments come off the surface. Both of those settings are going to be found under the Particle Generation tab. Let's get there.
Now to begin, we'll take our particle timing Emit Start to Frame 30. This means the fragments won't blow away from the sphere until one second into our animation. Let's also change the Speed to 3. Now, if we scrub the Timeline, we'll also notice the particle chunks are hanging around only for what looks to be about 30 frames. The reason for that is under particle timing on the right our Life has been set to 30. Let's change that to 100. This will keep the fragment chunks visible for the entire length of our animation.
Let's now go back down to our object fragment controls. Once we're there we can begin playback. Now we've got a control for the thickness of each fragment. Let's change that Thickness value to 3. See how now each chunk is got little thicker? Let's instead try 5. And you can see during playback, the fragments each of them being little thicker still. Let's return that value to 3.
Now as far as the Number of Chunks, why don't we change that? We'll go up to 25. And why don't we also try 200 to see that effect? So now we have a bunch of smaller fragments totaling 200. Let's return the number of chunks to 25. The look of the geometry by the way, the pattern of each broken piece in other words, is coming from the original layout of the face as on our mesh sphere.
So when using fragment geometry for your explosions, you may need to consider the need to specifically model in a particular pattern or layout to the way the faces in the geometry break apart. Now, you'll also notice that the fragment pieces appear to just pull away from the surface, moving in a straightforward and non-rotating manner. You can give those fragments a spin or rotation by going into the Rotation and Collision controls. I'll stop the playback, re-entering my settings menu by right clicking on the right-hand side.
Okay, from the menu let's now choose Rotation and Collision. Let's go to reinitiate the playback. Under the Spin Speed Controls you'll see Spin Time. This is the number of frames to complete one 360-degree rotation. Well that would be per particle. Now the lower the number the faster the spin. So let's try a Spin Time of 30 and see how things look. Each particle is now doing a 360 degrees rotation over one frame.
Let's try a Spin Time of 60. You can see how things have slowed down. Let's also experiment with 160. So there we go with a little more acrid of Rotation Spin for our particles. Now under Spin Time, you'll see a setting called Variation. This will allow us to vary the amount of spin for each particles, so maybe things don't look quite so uniform. Let's try setting the Variation to 50 degrees and on playback, you can see the difference that that's made.
So that will give you a rundown of some of the more important PArray controls. We're going to be using those and many others as we get to the projects portion of our title. Next up, we'll take a look at the PCloud. I'll save this file as PArray particles completed if you'd like to look it over.
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