Creating Light Cycle Effects in 3ds Max - Part 6 - Light Trails with Materials

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6 min

Creating Light Cycle Effects in 3ds Max - Part 6 - Light Trails with Materials

Now that the lofts are created and animated, in this tutorial learn how to map them with streaking light beams based on gradients.


  • Recorded in: 3ds Max 2012
  • This tutorial is intended for use with 3ds Max version 2012 or higher.


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In this movie, you create and apply materials to the light trails.

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Go to the Slate Material Editor and make sure you are in the "Cycles" view.

00:00:13 --> 00:00:18
Create a new A&D material and name it: "LC-Trail_Blue"

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Choose the Matte preset from the drop-down list,

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and then apply the material to the blue light cycle loft (green in the viewport)
representing its trail.

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In order to map a loft, you need to activate mapping coordinates at the mesh level.

00:00:35 --> 00:00:38
Make sure the loft is selected and go to the Modify panel.

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In the Surface Parameters rollout, enable Apply Mapping.

00:00:43 --> 00:00:50
Here you can define how many times a map tiles itself along the length of the loft,
or around the cross-section.

00:00:51 --> 00:00:55
To see it better, use a temporary bitmap as a Diffuse map.

00:00:55 --> 00:01:01
For all intents and purposes, you can use the stadium logo image.

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Make sure Show Map in Viewport is active at the material level.

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Change the Length Repeat from 1 to 20 and notice the difference.

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Try it at 400 and notice the effect.

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The Width Repeat defines how many times the map tiles around the cross-section
in what is mostly a cylindrical process.

00:01:34 --> 00:01:42
Since the cross-section here is essentially a very thin rectangle,
a value of 2 will map the image on both sides of the cycle trails.

00:01:43 --> 00:01:50
However, what we are interested in here is not a bitmap file,
so go ahead and disconnect the image from the Diffuse channel.

00:01:51 --> 00:01:54
In fact, delete the bitmap node altogether.

00:01:55 --> 00:02:03
What we need is a stylized effect of a light trail, basically two light streaks
separated by a semi-transparent middle section.

00:02:03 --> 00:02:08
Attach a Gradient Ramp node as a Diffuse Color map.

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Instance the gradient to the Self Illumination map

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Double-click the Gradient Ramp node to view its properties.

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You need to edit the gradient to show two streaks of blue at the top and bottom ends
of the trail.

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Set the gradient to have 4 flags, with the middle ones at about positions 25 and 80 respectively.

00:02:38 --> 00:02:41
You can always change these values later if you need to.

00:02:42 --> 00:02:45
Set the two middle flags to a black color,

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and the two outer flags to a blue color that you like.

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Adjust the position of the middle flags if you need to.

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At the material level, enable the Glow option and set the Luminance value to about 2.

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Test render the scene.

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The parallel blue beams look decent but the center section needs to be more transparent.

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In the Slate Material Editor, select the gradient ramp and all its children nodes.

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Shift move the selection to make a copy.

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Connect the new gradient map node to the material's Cutout Map channel.

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Double click the cutout map gradient to edit its properties.

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Make the blue flags fully white to make that section of the trail opaque.

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At this point, the middle section being black is fully transparent.

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You may want to tone it down a bit to make it semi-transparent.

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Make the middle flags a dull gray instead of full black, using a value of 25~30.

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Test render the scene again. This looks much better.

00:04:29 --> 00:04:35
To map the second trail (that of the yellow light cycle), it is now a fairly easy task.

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Select the second loft and in the Modify panel, enable Apply Mapping.

00:04:40 --> 00:04:45
As you did earlier, set the Length Repeat to 400 and the Width Repeat to 2.

00:04:46 --> 00:04:54
In the Material Editor, select all the nodes that make the blue light trail material
and Shift+Move them to make a copy.

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Double-click the new material node and rename it "LC-Trail_Yellow".

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Before you apply it to the second loft, change the gradient's blue color
to a yellow or a bright orange that you like.

00:05:30 --> 00:05:37
In the next movie, you make the blue light cycle disintegrate as it hits the yellow light trail.

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