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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.
Max's PCloud or particle cloud particle system works by forming particles in a couple of different ways. They can be dispersed and delivered in all directions, in a single direction that you can define, or its particles can be restricted or confined to the shape and size of the systems emitting icon. And that gives the PCloud system an extra edge up in some instances over its other particle system brothers and sisters. Creating cloud formations, space nebula, even soldiers marching in tandem or a school of fish can all be recreated with the use of the PCloud.
If we create a PCloud in the Top view, it could be drawn out like a box. In other words, a three dimensional shape that has an inside volume. Now once in view, let's take our Perspective view full screen. In the right-hand side controls, you can change the shape of the particle emitter, using either a sphere, cylinder, or an object that you pick from the scene. In each instance, your particles can be configured to remain or stick within that viewport icon. Using an object-based emitter can come in particularly handy.
I am going to create a cone to the left-hand side of the emitter icon. Reselecting the PCloud Emitter, I can now pick that cone as my 3D container. If we now change our Viewport Display to Wireframe by typing F3, we can now see how the particles are now being contained inside the cone. Now to get a better look at this, on the PCloud, let's change our Use Rate, the number of particles per frame, to 2000. Now once you do that, you will more easily see how the particles are indeed contained inside the cone.
Now, a couple of different examples on where you could use this. Let's say we have a crystal ball that we would like to fill up with smoke or maybe we have some kind of fluid effect that we would like to confine to a bottle or other similar type of vessel. Now to continue on, let's select the cone and delete it from our scene. This automatically takes us back to using a boxed shape emitter. We can now center that emitter on the screen by simply typing Z key. For a few more settings let's reselect the PCloud, getting back to the right-hand column. We might also want to lower our Use Rate. Why don't we take that down to about 50.
Now in the Particle Generation category, under Particle Timing, we will take the Emit Start time to 30 and the Emit Stop to 90. If we now scrub the timeline, we will see that currently our particles are now forming over two seconds. Let's reduce the number of particles being displayed a little further, taking our Particle Quantity back to a Use Rate of 10. By scrubbing the timeline, you will see the particles are still being confined to the Emitter icon. We are simply now using a fewer number of particles. Now, I am going to Hold right here.
If you run into a situation where you want all your particles to be there from the first frame on, you would simply want to set both your Start and Stop times to zero. Let's try that. We would probably at this point also want to crank up the number of particles. So under Particle Generation, we will switch over to Use Total and we will change that value to 1000. This sets the total number of particles over the entire course of the animation to 1000, which will serve to more aggressively populate our confined area.
If you scrub the timeline, you will see that now the particles are just there, not specifically forming over a specified period of time. Now a setup like this would work perfectly in the case of let's say forming a star field or maybe an underwater scene where you wanted to have some particulate matter floating in the water. In each of those instances, we would have a set number of particles confined to a specific space. Now I am going to return back to where I was originally working by fetching my scene. Scrubbing the timeline, you will see our Particle Timing is back to a Start time of 30 and a Stop time of 90.
By giving the particles a speed, we can now have them break away from their confined space. Under Particle Generation let's change our Speed value to 2. Now when you play things back, watch the way things now look different. So now the particles still form over those two seconds between Frames 30 and 90 but now they are no longer confined to the space inside the actual Emitter icon. How would things look if we change the speed instead to let's say 5? Now, here you can see the particles are breaking away in a more rapid fashion.
Let's take our speed back to two. You can even restrict the direction of your particles. In the Particle Motion section, we will change the Direction Vector. This would come in handy for maybe a school of fish or let's say a flock of birds. Leaving the Vector setting of 1 in the X- direction, let's go ahead and scrub our timeline. If we took X to zero and Y to 1, you will see that simply now moves our particles in a different direction. I am going to change that back to the particles moving across my screen left to right.
Now what could do in a situation like this is to build let's say a fish or bird using it as instance geometry. If you then animated your instance fish, swinging its tail from side to side, or maybe your instance bird, flapping its wings up and down, you would then be able to create either a school or flock, either way, on its way to their next destination. It would be that easy. So that's the PCloud. Think of it as a volume or container of particles that can either stay restricted to a confined space or have the flexibility to shoot out in one or all directions.
I am going to go ahead and save our scene out as PCloud Particles Completed if you would like to look it over.
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