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Water Surface




SIMPLE WATER SURFACE Part 2 by Pål Vågsæther Karlsen


This tutorial can be somewhat compared to a previous tutorial I wrote on how to do water with standard 3D Studio MAX features. This tutorial deals with creating water surfaces in MAX with a ray tracing renderer, such as Ray Studio or RayMAX. As of now, I have only had the chance to try Ray Studio with this, but from what I've heard, RayMAX works in a very similar way. They both require the artist to use a specific material on the objects you want raytraced. The objects with normal materials render almost as if you use the scanline renderer (the differences are minimal, and I won't go into them here). This means that we can use a raytacing material on our water surface instead of the reflection map used in the previous tutorial. This means that when applying waves/ripples, the reflection will be more accurate, and the effect can be quite stunning.


I will in this tutorial, as in part 1, use a bump map to create the waves/ripples, because they look equally as good as using a mesh (such as a hi-polygon box with the noise modifier), and it saves up on the amount of faces. This means that the water will completely rely on the material to make it act like water. It's also possible to animate it, which I will deal with later. The water material I make through this tutorial will also be included in a separate material file at the bottom of this page (with instructions). I will not go into how to use the raytracing plugins themselves, since this will be a general tutorial, and you should be able to find that out through manuals. Also, the use of these plugins are very alike (and you only have to switch renderer to make it work properly). So dive in and have a swim.....


Step 1: First off, we need an environment. Using the technique described in the landscape tutorials found elsewhere on this site, I'm creating a small "pond", and put a standard MAX map on it, so that you also can render it (I will include the finished MAX file). I will not put much effort into this landscape, since it's only an example, so no flame mails, ok? The map will be the standard "Dirt - gray", so let's think of this as a dry, rocky area with the occasional lake. I will also put some standard primitives into it, to "show off" the reflection effect. Here is a perspective view of the landscape:



This is our landscape. This is a "merged" image of a shaded and a wireframe screenshot to show the contours.


I will also add a cloud background, and will again pick a standard MAX map, so it will render correctly without adding more maps in the ZIP-file (included at the end of this tutorial). So now we have a landscape. The mesh for the water surface is just a box, and I'll add that too. In your scene, position this in the level you want the water to be. Let's put in a camera and render it:



Well......looks kinda boring, but who cares. It's just an example ( flame mail!).


So much for the environment, let's move on to the water itself.


Step 2: This is where you pull out your raytracing plugin. In this tutorial I use Ray Studio, but the technique should easily be applicable on other plugins as well. I've included the water material I make here, both in a separate .mat-file and in the scene. Create a Ray Studio material with these values (if you use RayMAX, you will have to find a set of parametres that result in the same effect):



The parametres for the raytracing material. The colours are not very important in this matter.


Note added aug. 16th: Also try higher values for Metalness. This will make the water darker, and not so "quicksilvery". Thanks to Håvard Anthonsen.


Now, let's create the waves/ripples for our water surface. We have two choices for this. Either do it by mesh (with noise or spacewarps), or by a bump-map. I will use the latter. In the raytracing material, find the Bump-slot, and add a noise map in it. I should have these parametres (these work for this tutorial, and might not be very good for other scenes. Try out what you want):



The noise-parametres


The size makes sure the bumps aren't to large, and the fractal setting is the best one for this purpose (in my opinion). Remember to set the strength of the noise to 7, or something in the area. The Ray Studio material has a default of 100, and that will be overkill. Again, try out what fits your purpose. For this tutorial, I use 7. And that's it ( is). We now have a reflective surface with ripples, which will look like water. I will also for this tutorial add some primitives to show the power of the reflections (this scene is just getting better and better.......). Take note that this is not some sick figment of my imagination, but just a very weird example. Keep in mind that this is meant to be didactic, not estetic. Let's render the sucker:



Although twisted motive, the detail in the reflections really show the power of raytracing.



I said I would get back to animating this water. If you look in the setting box for the noise (the bump), you will see a slot called "Phase". By changing this value over a set of frames, the noise will also change. Remember that any parametre in 3D Studio MAX can be animated, so just turn on "Animate", go to a different frame and changed the phase-value. This way, byt doing this in sequences, you can make the appearence of movement in the water. Experiment with how much change you should apply over a number of frames to achieve a certain "speed" in the ripples. By changing the value too much, the ripples will "ripple away", while a to low number will make it look like an effect from "Sludge monsters from hell". Wether you want to animate this is another thing. Raytracing is a rather slow and time-consuming process, and while the result can be stunning, the time will drag the experience down. A piece of advice is to use as many shadow mapped spots as possible in the scene, since they render quicker.


Click here to download the max-file and the water material. Note that you will need Ray Studio to render this.


Here is a scene I made with this technique. It's mainly a "leftover" pic, meaning that it was assembeled from stuff from different scenes. None of the elements in here were made specifically for this scene, but shows the water effect preety nice:




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