In this 3ds Max tutorial we’re going to create a 3d snow scene. The focus will be the snowy hills, snow on the branches of the tree, and snow flakes flowing in the air. Additionally we’ll learn about using fog, simple lens effects, and creating soft shadows. I’m using 3ds Max 2010 but many older versions should work just as well.
This post is a collaboration with Nicholas Mamo who had the idea for a 3d snow scene and who contributed the Particle Flow / BlobMesh setup (Steps 9-14).
We’re going to render the scene with Mental Ray. By default 3ds Max uses the Scanline renderer so we have to change that. Change the renderer to the Mental Ray ().
Create a Plane () in the top viewport . Modify the Plane ( ) according to the following parameters :
Add Noise modifier to the Plane () and apply the following parameters:
Let’s prepare our 3D snow scene for the first rendering. Create a Target camera () in the top viewport. Right-click on the Perspective view and press C in the keyboard to change it to the Camera view.
Next we’re going to move the objects. We’re moving them by entering precise coordinates. First select an object with the ‘Select and Move’ tool and then enter XYZ coordinates in the bottom of the screen (). Use the following coordinates to get exactly the same camera angle as in picture below:
Now the geometry of the snowy hills is complete so let’s apply a material to it. Open Material Editor ( Press M in keyboard ). There are two different modes for the material editor: Compact and Slate. In this tutorial I’m using the Compact mode. You can change the mode in the ‘Modes’ menu inside Material Editor. So, let’s create the material. Click on the first material slot, and create the material:
Now the material for snowy hills is complete. If you want more variation, feel free to add additional bump layers to the composite map. We can’t see small bumps properly with Mental Ray’s default sampling settings so let’s increase them before test rendering: Go to the render setup and increase antialiasing quality by increasing Mental Ray’s sampling values ():
My rendering resolution is 700 x 394 pixels.
We’re going to create a strong light that illuminates the hill on the foreground. Create ‘mr Area Spot’ () in the top viewport, position it according to the coordinates:
Apply the following settings to the mr are spot:
Render your scene to get the image below.
Let’s change the background color and apply fog to make the scene more convincing. Change the background color to white:
Go to the Atmosphere settings () and add fog to the scene:
Before we render, let’s adjust environment ranges. Select the camera, go to the modify panel, and apply the following settings:
Now we see the environment range in the viewport. It’s the area between beige and brown line. The fog will appear between these lines. By default the density of the fog is 0% at the near range and 100% at the far range. Adjust the values or camera position if necessary.
Render the camera view to see the fog! We didn’t even have to illuminate the background hills because the fog makes them visible.
At the moment we’re missing a point of interest. What we have is just a landscape. Let’s create a simple tree on top of the hill.
Skin Parameters > Options > Path Steps: 0
Now the trunk of the tree is complete. Use the same technique to create 2-3 branches to the tree. Create a new line for each branch, but use the same circle for them all. It’s a good idea to save all the lines and the circle so we can easily modify the branches later. You can, for example, move the vertices in the line and the loft object adjusts automatically. When the branches are complete, select all the loft objects and make a group out of them. ().
Finally apply a black material () for tree, position it on top of the hill, and render the image.
The tree looks a little cartoony. If you want more realism, you should add some curved segments to the lines and probably some variation to their scale deformation curves.
Next we’re going to improve the scene by using Particle Flow to add some snow on the branches. This setup was contributed by our first guest writer Nicholas Mamo.
Let’s open particle view to modify the particle system we just created (). Particle view is the main user interface for creating and modifying particle systems in Particle Flow. The main window contains the particle diagram which describes the flow of the particle system(s). By default there are two events wired together. The first is global and named after the PF Source. The second (Event 001) is a local event that has set of actions that describe the initial properties of the particles. For example the ‘Birth’ action describes when and how many particles will be generated.
Below the particle diagram you see the depot that contains all the actions available for the particle system and on the right you see the Parameters Panel that lets you modify the selected action.
Now we are going to adjust the Particle Flow to suit our needs.
So we want the particles to land on the tree. This can be achieved easily by using UDeflector. UDeflector lets you use any object as a particle deflector.
Go back to the Particle View (). Drag ‘Collision’ action from the depot into the Event 001 and below the ‘Display 001′ action. Drop the action when you see a blue line. Select the ‘Collision’ action and apply the following parameters to it:
Now you should see some of the particles sitting on the tree.
Next we’re going to use a BlobMesh object to merge the particles into larger objects.
Now if you render the scene you see both the BlobMesh and the Particle Flow. We should hide the Particle Flow particles. To do that, open Particle View, select ‘Render 001′ action and apply the following parameter:
We’re looking the tree from the shadow side so the snow is pretty dark. Let’s create a fill light to make it stand out more:
Now the point of interest ( the tree ) stands out better.
Now we’re going to add sun to the sky:
We made these changes because we don’t want this light to illuminate anything. It will just serve as source for the lens effect we’re going to add:
Glow Behind: NO
Radial Color: White White
Now you can close the dialog and render your scene to see the glow effect. You can move the omni to change the location and you can change the Omni’s multiplier to change the intensity of the effect.
As a last thing we’re going to create falling snow flakes. Let’s use legacy particle systems to keep things simple. Create Particle Cloud in the top viewport () and apply the following parameters to it:
Position the particle cloud so that it covers the camera view. Some particles will fade into the fog. Now let’s create a simple material for the snow flakes. Just create and apply white material and set Self Illumination to 100.
Now the snow flakes look too round. Let’s add motion blur to create lots of variation. Since each particle has a random speed and direction, each particle will look different with motion blur. Add motion blur to the snow flakes:
The motion blur will really slow down the rendering, but is, in my opinion, worth it.
Render your scene to get the image below.
That’s it. Thank you for reading!
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