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The following is a very basic tutorial on how to create a realistic laser for use in your 3DS MAX scenes.

(a). Instead of building the laser using a geometric model, trying to map it in different and clever ways, we'll simply use a beam of light like a real laser. The idea of a laser in the real world is that light particles/waves leave an emitter in such a tight, linear beam that it will stay virtually parallel for an extremely long distance. The ideal laser will never "cone out" the way 3DS MAX's spotlights do. Even if we squeeze the cone down to a very tight angle, the spotlight will never realistically represent a laser beam (a.).

Luckily 3DS offers the direct light (b.)--its beam extends parallel, unlike the spotlight. We'll use one of these for our laser.

The light should be set to a narrow beam. I used the following settings:

Since a laser is generally recognizable in its red wavelength (other laser hues exist), I used red for the color of the light. And setting the multiplier higher will give the laser its characteristic blaze--a laser's source and reflection are much brighter than your average light. I used the following settings:

You'll want to add lights to the scene. 3D Studio uses default lights for new scenes, but once you add one light (as you have with the laser), the default lights are turned off and you must add your own to light the scene. If you don't, only the laser will be lighting things up and it only illuminates a very small area.

Once rendered, the laser's effect should look something like this (c.).

This is good for the typical "forehead shot," in which someone has got a high-powered rifle aimed at them, and there is no sign of the laser other than the little red dot. But say we want more; say we want the beam as well. For this we use the Environme nt settings. Add a Volume Light effect to the Environment:

Pick the direct light for this effect:

Set the color of the fog to straight red, like the light itself, and set the density to magic number 13 (this worked well for me):

Now the beam is visible (d.). This looks great... if you're going for the computer-generated look. But if you're aiming for realism, you'll have to admit that this is really cheesy-looking. Laser beams are never visible in pure air--there must be some amount of dust or smoke in the environment. (I seem to remember my ninth-grade chemistry teacher slamming two chalkboard erasers together in the beam of a laser.) Accordingly, dust and smoke never fill a space as evenly as this laser would seem to indicate.

Turn the noise on. I used the following settings:


(e.)This looks much better. Don't you think?

That's basically it for the laser. And the great thing is that it's actually light and not a visual trick, so you can treat it like light, passing it around and through different reflective and refractive objects with the intended effects (see below).


[ laser hitting a marble of sorts ]

[ laser passing through a glass orb ]

Okay, so you read this laser tutorial. If you're like 80% of the people who have read it, going by the feedback I've received, you're more interested in creating this glass orb than the laser itself.


Tutorial by: Brian Hauge
Created: 12-16-1999
Website: http://www.mrs.umn.edu/~haugeb/index.html
Email: haugeb@mrs.umn.edu


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