Join Steve Nelle for an in-depth discussion in this video Using a scene object as a particle, part of Particle Effects in 3ds Max.
When creating particle effects, you'll sometimes find that the standard off-the-shelf particle shapes that Max offers fall just a little short in giving you the exact particle shape you need. Now in situations like that come up, you'll be glad to know that any scene object, as long as it's 3D and can render, can be used as a particle shape. It's easy to set up using what Max calls Instanced Geometry. Now I'm going to be using a file named Instanced Geometry Particles to show you how things work. If we scrub the Timeline, we'll see that currently our particle system, which in this case is a Super Spray, is emitting standard type triangular shaped particles.
If we wanted to change that particle emission to a custom shape, as long as we had a 3D mesh object on hand, we'd be ready to go. Now you'll notice in the view, in the right-hand corner, we've already created two objects: a light blue cylinder, and a yellow teapot. Let's start by getting our Super Spray system to emit the cylinders. We can do that by selecting our Super Spray, then turning our attention to the Modifier column on the right. Now in the commands, we're going to need to go a little further down to a category called Particle Type. What we're going to want to do is change from Standard particles to Instanced Geometry.
Now to make the change over to the cylinders as being the particles, we have to go a little further down in our settings. In the category called Instancing Parameters, notice the big button that says Pick Object. What we'll do is we'll turn that on. Then carefully click on the original cylinder in the lower right corner of the view. Now that's all there is to it. If we now scrub our Timeline, you'll see the Super Spray emitting not the original triangles, but actually the larger now sized cylinders. Now the reason the particle size cylinders are larger than our original cylinder shape is more than likely, because of the size value that we've set on the Super Spray system.
Let's go see if that's in fact the case. We'll find the size setting under Particle Generation. There it is under Particle Size. You'll see the Size currently set at 2. If we take that value back to 1, you'll notice the particles are being emitted at the same size as the original cylinder. Now if we instead wanted to use the teapot for our particle emission, we basically repeat the steps over. Let's go back down to Particle Type. We'll again leave things set to Instanced Geometry and go a little further down. Okay, under Instancing Parameters, click on the Pick Object button.
Then in the lower right corner, let's go ahead and select the yellow teapot. Now for this example, let's go ahead and get the teapot looking a little bit larger as far as the emission of the particles. To do that, we'll want to go back up the Size settings. Let's say crank it up to 1.5. So now, something to note, what you can select for a particle can be either an individual object, some kind of linked or a parented hierarchy, or even a series of objects that have been grouped together. Each and every one of those examples can be used as Instanced Geometry. Now if you're instanced object was animated, that animation would actually carry over to the particles.
Let's see if we can't have a little fun there. We're going to turn on our Auto Key. We'll take our Timeline back to the first frame. We can do that by tapping the Home key on our keyboard. Okay, let's now open up the Materials Editor by tapping M. I'm going to be using the compact version of the Materials Editor for my example. Let's take the currently selected sample slot in the upper left-hand corner and apply it to our original yellow teapot. Okay, now we'll go ahead and animate that color. I'm going to open up the Diffuse Color swatch. Why don't I go ahead and start with that original bright yellow? I'm going to go about 50 frames in my Timeline.
I'm going to change that color to let's say Red. I'll then go to frame 100. From there, we'll convert the red color over to bright green. Now if we scrub the Timeline, we'll see the original teapot in the lower right-hand side of our view indeed changing color. What we won't see though is the particles making that same color switch. To make that happen, we'll go back to the Super Spray settings on the right, again, entering the Particle Type category. Right now, are particles are being driven off the wireframe color of our Super Spray icon. To make the change over to the animated color on our original teapot, under Instancing Parameters, we'll drop down to the Material Mapping and Source section.
From here, we'll leave it set to Instanced Geometry. Then click on the Get Material From button. Let's see what happens now. As these play through, there is our color change. Now back on original teapot, if we applied and animated a modifier, that too would travel on to our particles. Let's see we can do there. We'll select the teapot, the original one in the lower right-hand corner, applying a Stretch modifier. Let's now return to the first frame of our animation. Okay, back in the Stretch modifier, let's adjust the Stretch amount. Now you'll see how that's affected our original teapot.
Let's now scrub the Timeline and see whether or not that also carries over to our instanced particles. Now check that out. It indeed does. Let's again go around Frame 50. Why don't we this time take the Stretch down to a negative number, kind of flattening things out? Okay, now because of the amount of geometry on our screen, you'll notice that from time to time, I've been going into Box mode. The reason for that is the Adaptive Degradation setting has been left on. Let's turn that off. We'll go to the Views pulldown. We'll simply uncheck Adaptive Degradation.
Now over to the right, you see we can also use the keyboard shortcut, the letter O. Okay, now we scrub the Timeline irrespective of how hard we've got to push our system, we will remain out of box mode. Okay, let's continue animating our Stretch. We'll go little farther down in time. I'm going to go to maybe frame let's say 85 or 90. I'll remove the Stretch, taking it back to original value of 0. Let's scrub that through and see how things look. So we've got things stretched out and then flattened out. Then the teapots return to their original shape. Now the timing of the animated effect on each particle can even be offset.
Here is how we'll do that. We'll go back and select the Super Spray, returning to the right-hand column. Back in the Instancing Parameter section, you'll notice directly below the Pick Object button, we have a category named Animation Offset Keying. We're going to change that setting from None over to Birth. With this change, each animated particle is no longer synchronized or tied to the project's timeline. Using the setting of Birth, the animation will now be timed up to the actual frame at which the particle is birthed. So as you can see on the screen, we now have various shapes at our particles at any given frame.
Each particle is now being animated as to its birthrate, and not the original frames that we see down on the timeline. So that's pretty nice, being able to not just pick an object from our scene as our type of particle, but to also be able to use the object's animation to play out over the course of that particle's life. That's some of the options available when using Instanced Geometry. Now I'm going to save this out as Instanced Geometry Particles Completed, if you'd like to look it over.
- 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