Join Steve Nelle for an in-depth discussion in this video Navigating the Particle view, part of 3ds Max: Particle Effects 2010.
A particle flow incorporates a very step-by-step add pieces to the puzzle methodology in creating its effect. Let's add one to our scene, and we'll see what we can do. On my right we'll go under Standard Primitives, choosing Particle Systems. The top left entry labeled PF Source is our particle flow. Let's drop one into the middle of our Perspective view. In the controls on the right under the Emission tab, you have your Icon Type. This controls the shape of your emitting icon.
Your options are Rectangle, Box, if you want to go a little more three-dimensional. You can choose to emit particles from a circular shape or from a Sphere. As a side note you can also use Instanced Geometry from your scene as the emitter, which comes an awfully handy in certain situations. Now, for this example I'm going to change the Icon Type back to Rectangle. The Quantity Multiplier settings control the percentage of visible particles in both your viewport and during a render.
Now this ones a big one to keep in mind when your system starts slowing down because of running out of gas, something that unfortunately happens quite often when dealing with particles. When scrubbing the timeline, you'll notice the particles spit out of the emitter, traveling in the direction of the icons arrow. So the PFlow in that instance works like most of the other particle systems in Max. Okay, when constructing your flow, you'll be working in what is called the Particle view. You've got a button for that about halfway down the right-hand side or you can use the hot key, the number 6.
This is the main interface for setting up a PFlow effect, where things called events are built and wired together to control a particles behavior. Now, the Particle view has five main elements or areas. The largest area on the upper left is referred to as the event display. This is where the particle diagram appears. That's what Max calls what you currently see. The event display is the real meat of particle flow. It's where the adding and organizing takes place. What you see at the moment is the default particle flow setup, which contains a particle emitter and the minimum necessary components, in other words the minimum number of events in order to create the most basic of PFlow systems.
Those two separate boxes are the events. One is listed as PF Source 001; the other is named Event 001. Now those are just their default names. Both though are considered events. The second box named Event 001 contains a series of what are called operators that control the particles. You've got an operator called Birth that controls the particles emit, start and stop times. There's a Position operator that determines where the particles actually emit from. You've got Speed and Rotation operators, a Shape operator that controls the actual shape of your particles, and the final entry, a Display operator, which dictates the display within your viewport windows.
Now, something important to know. Max calculates the operators in an event from the top of the list down. So the higher up in the list, the earlier that particular operator will be put into effect. Now sometimes that can be important, where an operator is positioned in the list. At other times though, an operator's position makes no difference whatsoever. You'll get a better feel for all that once you've played around a little more. So the default setup consists of two events. One called PF Source, the other called Event 001.
Now that top of that is always referred to as a global event, meaning that anything, any operator in that event, will effect every particle in the system. The global event takes its name from whatever you type in as the name of your PFlow icon on the screen. It'll be called PF Source unless you rename it. Now, by default the top of that consist of a single operator that simply specifies the rendering properties for all the particles of the system. That operator as you can see is called render. Now if you click on it or any other operator name in the flow, the settings or parameters for that operator are going to be displayed over on the right-hand side.
That area is called the Parameters panel. Now take a look at that second event. That event is referred to as the Birth event. It gets its name from the fact that it must contain a Birth operator, which controls both the number of particles emitted and as mentioned earlier, their start and stop times. That Birth operator should always be at the top of the Birth event, as it describes the actual emission of the particles. Now below the event display is an area called the depot, which holds all the available particle flow actions.
An action is simply a general term that Max uses to identify a PFlow operator or what we'll be using quite often, something called a test. You can think of the depot as the particle flow's supply or part store. Where you'll go whenever you're looking to add something, a new part into the flow. Operators are displayed as either blue square or green circle icons, while the tests are shown in the list as gold diamonds. If you click on either an operator or test, the Description panel on the right will display a description or summary of what that particular operator or test is designed to do.
So you'll see the Shape operator, for example, being in the creation method for both 2D and 3D particles. A Speed operator, controlling the initial speed of your particles, and an Age Test, being used to control when a particle might pass from one event to another. Lastly, at the top of the dialog you've got your menu bar, which contains the options you'll use for adjusting and analyzing the PFlow. So that will give you a general overview of some of the things you need to know when using the Particle view.
- Controlling particle timing, quantity, and rotation
- Comparing particle system types, such as PArray, Super Spray, and more
- Using instanced particles to customize a particle's shape
- Understanding how to set up a particle flow
- Wiring PFlow operators and tests to change particle behavior
- Creating realistic-looking particles using maps
- Adding Gravity and Wind
- Using Space Warps like Vortex, Motor, and PBomb
- Making particles follow a path
- Spawning particles
- Creating realistic smoke