Animating a Propeller in 3ds Max - Part 3 - Motion Blur with an Animated Bitmap

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  • Film & VFX
  • Games
  • Design Visualization
  • Animation
  • 2013
  • Simulation and Effects
  • 3ds Max
Skill Level
  • Intermediate
10 min

Animating a Propeller in 3ds Max - Part 3 - Motion Blur with an Animated Bitmap

In this tutorial, you create an Animated Bitmap to simulate a propeller spinning at a constant speed. This will provide you with a convincing effect and minimize the render time.

  • Recorded in: 3ds Max 2013
  • This tutorial is intended for use with 3ds Max version 2013 or higher.
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In this movie, you create an animated bitmap to simulate a spinning propeller.

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As you will find out, the effect will look convincing without taxing render time.

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Go back to the file you saved where you set up the propeller to spin at a constant speed.

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If you need to, you can use the file named p47-Propeller_PropSpin.max you downloaded for this tutorial.

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Scrub the animation and verify that the propeller is spinning at a constant speed.

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You need to render out the propeller separately; and you need a camera shot perpendicular to the propeller.

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Press Alt+W to switch back to a four-viewport configuration.

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In the Left view, create a Free Camera.

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Using the Align tool, align it to the propeller, pivot-to-pivot, in Position and Orientation.

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Right-click the Camera view and then press C to view the new camera in that viewport.

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Next use the Dolly Camera tool to move the camera back, while keeping it in the propeller axis.

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Next, go to the Render dialog and set the Output Size to a custom 512x512 resolution.

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Now adjust the dolly until the propeller fills the space defined by the safe frames without going over.

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Scrub the animation to ensure all three blades are never outside the yellow borders.

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Select and isolate the propeller.

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Go to the Environment dialog and switch off the background image.

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Replace it with a white background.

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Try a test render; the propeller is rendered against a white background.

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Actually, save this image out, you will need it later.

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Give it the name and type "propeller.png".

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Save it as a 24-bit image with Alpha channel.

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Next add a motion blur effect as you did in the previous movie.

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In the renderer tab, enable Motion Blur with a shutter speed of 3 and an offset of -1.5

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Set the Motion Segments to 10 and the Samples to 48.

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These values are given for reference; feel free to experiment with your own.

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Test render the scene. The propeller is blurred but keep in mind you're mostly interested in the transparency effect shown in the Alpha channel.

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Also, and because of how you keyframed the animation, you'll only need to render out 10 frames of the animation.

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At the start, you have a blade pointing straight up and that is repeated every 10 frames throughout the animation.

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Switch back to the Common tab in the Rendering dialog and set the Time Output Range from 0 to 9.

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That would render the first 10 frames of the animation.

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In the Render Output group, click on Files and specify an output file, such as "prop-opc_.png"

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You also need to specify a folder for the images to be saved. Choose the same one where you stored the scene files.

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Again, choose a 24-bit type with Alpha and choose OK.

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Render the animation. Even though it's using Motion Blur, it shouldn't take too long to render.

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At the end of it, you should have 10 frames rendered that are ready for use.

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Reopen the same max file without saving it.

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Double-click the plane body to select it and all its children and hide the selection.

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From the Selection Sets list, choose P47_InFlight and click Yes to dismiss the warning.

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Switch the viewport to the Camera-Fly viewpoint.

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Here you have an animated plane on a path but it has no propeller.

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Create a plane object.

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and set its Length and Width values to 200.

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Name it "PropellerProxy";

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Make sure you are at frame 0 and then align the new object to the P47, pivot to pivot, in position and orientation.

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Move it locally on the Z-Axis until it is in the correct position.

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Go to the Slate Material Editor.

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Create a new Standard material and apply it to the PropellerProxy object.

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Set its color to black for now, you can change that later if you need to experiment.

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Drag out the Opacity channel node and apply a Standard bitmap to it.

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Browse and select the first bitmap in the rendered propeller sequence, and make sure the Sequence option is selected.

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Click Open. A dialog appears that will help you create an Image File List (IFL file).

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An IFL file is a text file that will tell 3ds Max how to display a sequence of images for animation purposes.

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Click OK to proceed.

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Double-click the bitmap node in the material editor to see its properties.

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Scroll down a bit and under Mono Channel Output, set the option to Alpha.

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Also set the RGB Channel Output to Alpha as Gray.

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This way transparency will be based on Alpha information instead of pixel color.

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Do a test render to view the results.

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Of course, if you scrub the animation, the propeller doesn't follow the plane yet.

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At frame 0, use the Link tool to link the propeller to the plane.

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Try a test render at frames 40;

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and 100. Notice that at frame 100, the propeller is not visible.

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The material needs to render both sides of the flat surface.

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In the material editor, double-click the Standard material node and set it to 2-sided.

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Try it again, it should work better now.

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You can help the effect by making the propeller "circle" more defined.

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In the Material Editor, insert a composite map to the existing material, using the current opacity map in the Layer 1 slot.

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Double-click the Composite node to see its properties.

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With only one layer, the effect is identical to what it was a second ago.

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Add another layer to the composite map.

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In Layer 2, use a Gradient Ramp.

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This overwrites the propeller map. You need to set the Blending mode to Addition for a cumulative effect.

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Double-click the gradient ramp node to adjust the gradient. Also double-click the icon to see the gradient definition better.

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You may also want to enlarge the composite map icon to better study the end results.

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Switch the Gradient Type to Radial.

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You need the outside to be totally transparent, so change that gradient flag color to black.

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You are here using a greyscale effect ranging from black being totally transparent to white being totally opaque.

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Set another flag at about 95% and also set it to full black. This ensures the outer perimeter is totally transparent.

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Create another flag at around 90% and set it to medium gray.

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The positions mentioned here at 90% and 95% are given as approximations as they seem to work well with the 3-bladed bitmap underneath.

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Set the remaining middle flag to be positioned at 80% and give it a darker gray color.

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Set the first existing flag to an even darker gray that is not totally black.

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Again feel free to experiment with values you feel give you the better results.

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Render again. If you feel the effect is too opaque, you can change the gradient values.

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Even easier, you can simply tone down the opacity of the gradient layer in the Composite Map.

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Render again. Once you are satisfied, consider that you can also work the Diffuse Map accordingly.

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Try a Radial Gradient Ramp as a Diffuse Map.

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Consider a red/white outer color, gradually turning to black towards the center.

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Some propellers have color markings on the outside.

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Once you're happy with the results, you can render the animation to disk.

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You will find out that this animation will render in less than 10 minutes whereas the one with Motion Blur takes hours.

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If you decide to render this animation, a propeller sound effect has been provided for your convenience.

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As always, a rendered result has also been provided.

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You learned how to create the animated bitmap using 3ds Max only.

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In the next movie, you learn to create a similar effect using compositing software.
Posted By
  • 3ds Max
  • Animation
  • 2013
  • Simulation and Effects
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