3D Water – The Ocean

20 Apr 2010

Magical 3d ocean render in 3ds maxIn this 3ds Max tutorial we’re going to create a 3d water surface that could be a lake, a sea, or an ocean. The 3d water is illuminated with the Daylight system. It might sound complicated but it’s actually pretty simple (at least in 3ds max 2010) since the default settings work so well.


Step 1 Mental Ray Renderer

We’re going to render the 3d ocean with the Mental Ray. By default 3ds Max uses the Scanline renderer so we have to change that. Change the renderer to the Mental Ray ( Rendering > Render Setup… > Common tab > Assign Renderer > Production ).

Step 2 The Basic Geometry for the 3D Water

Create a Plane ( Create panel > Geometry > Standard Primitives > Plane ) in the top viewport . Modify the Plane ( Make a selection > Modify panel ) according to the following parameters :

  • Length: 500
  • Width: 500

Plane object dimensions

Step 3 Camera Above the Water

Create a Target Camera ( Create panel > Cameras > Target ) in the top viewport to the center of the plane. Go to the right viewport and place the camera and the camera target according to picture below.

Placing target camera

Activate the Perspective view and press C in the keyboard to activate the Camera view.

Step 4 Material to the 3D Water Surface

Open Material Editor ( Rendering > Material Editor… ) and create an ocean material:

  1. Click “Get Material” button and select ( doubleclick ) ‘Arch & Design (mi)’ from the list.
  2. Select the ocean plane and assign the material to it.
  3. Select template from the drop-down list: Water, Reflective Surface

Arch & Design Water

Step 5 3ds Max Daylight System

We’re going to illuminate our 3d ocean scene with the Daylight system. Daylight is a system that mimics real world sun. Create the Daylight system ( Create panel > Systems > Daylight ) in the top viewport. A new dialog appears. 3ds Max suggests that you use mr Photographic Exposure Control with EV=15. Just click YES. ( If the dialog doesn’t appear, apply the setting manually (Rendering > Environment… > Exposure Control )). Modify the following parameters of the Daylight:

  • Daylight Parameters
    • Sunlight: mr Sun
    • Skylight: mr Sky(A new dialog appears. 3ds Max suggests that you use mr Physical Sky. Just click YES. If the dialog doesn’t appear, apply the setting manually ( Rendering > Environment… > Common Parameters > Background > Environment Map ))
    • Position: Manual ( this setting allows us to place the sun manually, instead of using real world location and time )
  • Place the daylight so that it shines straight from the top like in picture below.

Daylight system over the 3d sea

Step 6 First Render of the 3D Ocean

We have the ocean and the daylight system so it’s a good idea to check how the rendered image looks like. Your image should look similar to picture below. In the background you see the mr Physical Sky environment map which was added automatically in the previous step. The brown line represents the ground in the background map. Thanks to Metal Ray’s lume shader the plane looks like and 3d ocean already. However, there are some things I’d like to change:

  • Horizon should be lowered to hide the ground
  • Smaller Waves
  • More blue and saturated colors to both ocean and the sky
  • Little brighter image

Standard ocean shader in 3d max

Step 7 The Horizon

The horizon can be lowered in the parameters of the Daylight ( Make a selection > Modify panel ):

  • mr Sky Advanced Parameters
    • Horizon
      • Height: -0,1 ( you might need higher value. It depends on your camera angle. )

-Calm sea without any land

Step 8 Smaller and Bluer Ocean Waves

Open Material Editor ( Rendering > Material Editor… ) and make the following changes to the ocean material:

  1. Main Material Parameters
    • Change the color to blue ( for example hue: 0,62 )
  2. Special Purpose Maps
    • Click on the (Ocean (lume)) shader and make the following changes:
      • Largest: 2,5
      • Smallest: 0,12( These values change the size of the sea waves )

3d sea

Step 9 Color, Saturation, & Brightness

Color, saturation, and brightness of the image can be adjusted in the parameters of the Daylight:

  • mr Sky Parameters
    • Multiplier: 1,1 ( increases the intensity of the sun )
  • mr Sky Advanced Parameters
    • Red/Blue Tint: -0,1 ( changes the hue of the light and sky )
    • Saturation: 1,3 ( changes the saturation of the light and sky )

( Notice that the default colors were more realistic, these color changes are purely for artistic reasons ; )

Deep blue water

Step 10 Antialiasing of the Ocean Waves

If you look closely you might see minor aliasing problems in the distant waves. To fix this, just increase antialiasing quality by increasing Mental Ray’s sampling values ( Rendering > Render setup… > Renderer > Sampling Quality ):

  • Samples per pixel:
    • Minimum: 4
    • Maximum: 64

Create a Torus Knot ( Create panel > Geometry > Extended Primitives > Torus Knot ) to see how standard objects look in the water. Go to the Modify panel and apply the following parameters:

  • Base Curve
    • Radius: 23
    • Segments: 300
  • Cross Section
    • Radius: 2,5

3d water

And if you feel like it, do some color correction in Photoshop:

  • Brightness: 35
  • Contrast: 25

3d ocean

Now our 3d water is complete. Next we’re going to see what else we can get out of the daylight system.

Step 11 Sunset Render

Let’s explore further the power of the Daylight system. Let’s simulate sunset by placing the sun near the horizon. Now we can actually see the sun and notice how the daylight system changes color and intensity based on the angle of the sun. ( you might want to decrease the sampling values ( Minimum: 1/4 and Maximum: 4 ) temporarily to speed up the rendering ).

Tip: you can see the sun and illumination before rendering the image if you do the following:

  • Activate the camera view and press SHIFT+F3 in keyboard
  • Go to viewport background settings ( Views > Viewport Background > Viewport Background… ) and apply the following settings:
    • Use Environment Background: ON
    • Display Background: ON

Sunset with the default settings

Step 12 Colors of the Sunset

Let’s make the rendering more interesting by changing the colors to more orange. Select the Daylight. go to the Modify panel, and apply the following parameters:

  • mr Sky Advanced Parameters
    • Red/Blue Tint: 1,0 ( changes the hue of the light and sky )
    • Saturation: 2,0 ( changes the saturation of the light and sky )

orange sunset

Step 13 Sun Glare

Next we’re going to add some glare to the sun to make it more interesting. Apply Glare Camera Shader ( Rendering > Render Setup > Renderer > Camera Effects > Camera Shaders > Output > Glare ) Just turn the output shader on, the glare shader should be selected by default.

Glowing sun

Tip: If you’d like to adjust the Glare shader you can just drag and drop it into a material slot in Material Editor ( make sure to select “instance” when asked ) and adjust it there. Make sure to select ‘Instance’ when asked.
Tip: Another way to adjust the sun glare is to drag and drop ‘mr Physical Sky’ ( Rendering > Environment… > Common Parameters > Background > Environment map ) into a material slot in Material Editor and adjust it there. ( Make sure to select ‘Instance’ when asked. )

Step 14 Fog / Haze in the Sea

Let’s add some Fog/Haze to the scene to blend the horizon with the background. Select the Daylight, go to the Modify panel, and apply the following settings:

  • mr Sky: Haze Driven (mr Sky)
    • Haze: 2,0 ( adds haze/fog to the scene )
  • mr Sky Advanced Parameters
    • Aerial Perspective
      • Visibility Distance: 50 ( makes the haze appear close )
  • mr Sky Parameters
    • Multiplier: 3,0 ( increases the intensity of the sun to shine stronger behind the haze. You might need to use different value depending on the angle of the sun )

Fog in the ocean

Step 15 Color Correction in Photoshop

I’ll do some color correction in Photoshop to make the image more dramatic:

  • Brightness: -10
  • Contrast: 70

water in 3ds max

Step 16 Moonlit 3D Water

The final thing we’re going to try with the 3ds Max Daylight system is a moonlit night scene. We can’t get perfect blue color out of the Daylight system so let’s remove the color from it. Select the Daylight, go to the Modify panel, and apply the following parameters:

  • mr Sky Advanced Parameters
    • Red/Blue Tint: 0 ( changes the hue of the light and sky )
    • Saturation: 0 ( changes the saturation of the light and sky )

Those values are well suited for subtle changes but now we need a radical change so we’re going to change the mr Photographic Exposure Control settings ( Rendering > Exposure Control… > mr Photographic Exposure Control ):

  • Image Control
    • Color Saturation: 1 ( saturation of the colors of the whole image )
    • Whitepoint: 3000 ( color temperature of the light source )
    • Vignetting: 7 ( adds vignetting effect to the image )

Moonlit ocean scene

Step 17 Some Magic Over 3D Sea

Now I’m tempted to add fireworks over the 3d ocean to create some magic to the image but for the sake of the length of this tutorial we’ll settle with some floating light sources. Create a sphere ( Create panel > Standard Primitives > Sphere ), go to the Modify panel, and apply the following parameters to it:

  • Radius: 0,3

Open Material Editor ( Rendering > Material Editor… ) and create a new material for the sphere:

  1. Click ‘Get Material’ button and select (doubleclick) ‘Arch & Design (mi)’ from the list.
  2. Select the sphere and assign the material to it.
  3. Main Material Parameters
    • Diffuse
      • Color: pure white
  4. Self Illumination (Glow)
    • Self Illumination (Glow): ON
    • Luminance: 1000

We’ll create standard lights so we should change the mr Photographic Exposure Control settings ( Rendering > Environment… > mr Photographic Exposure Control ):

  • Physical Scale: Unitless: 1500

Create a standard Omni light ( Create panel > Lights > Standard > Omni ), go to the Modify panel, and apply the following parameters to it:

  • Multiplier: 20
  • Decay
    • Type: Inverse Square
    • Start: 10

Place the Omni to the middle of the sphere. Now one light source is ready. Make several copies of it and move them around.

Finally we’re going to create a stronger glare to the moon and the spheres by modifying the glare shader:

  • Drag and drop the Glare shader ( Rendering > Render Setup > Renderer > Camera Effects > Camera Shaders > Output > Glare ) to an empty material slot in the Material Editor ( make sure to select “instance” when asked )
  • In Material Editor, change the Spread value to 4. ( this makes the glare stronger )

Darken the moon to create a little more convincing image. Select the Daylight, go to the Modify panel, and decrease the multiplier value of the Daylight system:

  • mr Sky Parameters
    • Multiplier: 1,5

Render the image and you should get something like picture below.

Glowing lights over the water

Step 18 Color Correction in Photoshop

You probably guessed it. I’ll do some color correction in Photoshop to make the image pop:

  • Brightness: 15
  • Contrast: 80
  • Hue: -8

Magical water in 3ds max

And that’s it for today. I hope it helps and you’re able to create something beautiful. Let’s continue in the comments!

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203 Responses to “3D Water – The Ocean”

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  1. fonz says:

    is it possible to hide the sun from the render, but keep the reflection on the waves??

    thanks
    fonzio

  2. Babette Gonterman says:

    Thankful you did not remain silent … God’s word reigns!

  3. Lizzie says:

    I’ve been looking for this type of information for my research. Thanks

  4. Henock says:

    that’s so nice where can we get other tutorials of you

  5. Xavier Brown says:

    Okay I’m using this tutorial, and I found out one thing. . .
    The sun will not appear in my render scene; I’m trying to figure out what I did wrong, but could someone please help me?
    Thank you!

    • polygonblog says:

      Please make sure your camera is pointing towards the sun.

      • Xavier Brown says:

        I’ve still pondering what I did wrong as I set up my daylight system, mental ray render, but the illumination/sun will not show up.

      • Bogdan says:

        go to the top view, select the sun, select the move tool and drag it in front of the camera view, then test the render, if it still doesn`t show up go to a sode view and drag it down, the point is to drag it to the camera until it appears in your renders. Hope it helps!

  6. Xavier Brown says:

    Yeah, I figured out what I did thank you!

  7. fulcon says:

    in step 6 I render the camera screen….but the result is white pic
    ????!!!!

  8. fulcon says:

    plz help in step 6, i use 3dsmax 9;

  9. bassmania says:

    My sphere remains black in the depiction why?

  10. rait yuki says:

    this is the best (text and image) tutorial i have ever saw on the net.
    very easy very simple yet very clear and effective.
    thank you very much.

  11. Jay Jay Fraher says:

    Legendary

  12. JustACookie says:

    Best Tutorial out there!! VERY DETAILED AND EASY TO FOLLOW….Thank you so much for taking the time to help others :) God bless you!

  13. Faz says:

    (CLAP)(CLAP)(CLAP)Superb Tut…….

  14. Calvin says:

    The sun doesn’t render :(

    I’ve tried moving the thing all over the place and it doesn’t seem to be it’s placement that is the problem. What else could it be?

    • Calvin says:

      Never mind, it was because of the placement. I had the sun too close to be visible.

  15. Zack says:

    Nice tutorial one of the bests. My only question is: is there a way of making it transparent so we could you it in shallow waters like near the cost with some coral reef ?

  16. Gurpreet Singh says:

    WOW…… awsome tutorial.!
    thank very much :-)

  17. Kingsley says:

    hi Sorry i totally understand all of the 3d max side of things how do i do colour correction in photoshop? doi import the whole scene ? can you please elaborate ?

    • polygonblog says:

      Hi, you do the color correction for the rendered raster image such as JPG or PNG.

  18. Livi says:

    How do you get the sun or moon in view, i just cannot find it plz help. Thank you

  19. Adarsh says:

    Great tutorial, best step to start 3dsMax, Thanks a lot :)

  20. Ali Pourahmad says:

    Superb tutorial

  21. B.Mohan says:

    Automatic Exposure Control” is not supported.

  22. RealSpace says:

    You always have such great scenes to learn on. Thanx!

  23. Andrés says:

    Hey, your tutorial is awesome, thank you, really, i wish i could find more tutorials like this. Keep it up!

  24. Vines says:

    great tutorial..with awesome result..thanks

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