Creating Water Ripple Effects in 3ds Max - Part 7 - Animating the Connectors

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11 min

Creating Water Ripple Effects in 3ds Max - Part 7 - Animating the Connectors

In this final tutorial, you animate connect lines for your rings with a simple workflow.


  • Recorded in: 3ds Max 2014
  • This tutorial is intended for use with 3ds Max version 2014 or higher.


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With the upper rings in place, you now create and animate the lines that connect them.

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If you need to catch up, use the scene named flex_connectors.max you downloaded for this tutorial.

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Make sure you reload the ripples Point Cache file that's associated with the modifier.

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You animate the lines by animating their vertices.

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There are various ways you can achieve this; and you'll learn three possible approaches.

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The easiest way to animate line vertices is to do just that!

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This means that with a line selected, you simply go to vertex sub-object mode and you animate the vertex location while in Auto Key mode.

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For a simple scene like we have here, this should be enough.

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However, when you want more control, you should rely on animation helpers since you can select them without accessing the line's vertices.

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Helpers are also useful if and when you need to include some advanced manipulation such as wiring and custom attributes.

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This is not the case here but strictly for learning purposes, here's how you can connect vertices to helpers:

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Say you have two point helpers in box mode and a line that goes from one to the other.

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You can link the line vertices to the helpers in the following way:

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With the line selected, add a Spline Select modifier. This enables you to select a sub-object such as a vertex and pass it over to other modifiers.

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As you select one of the vertices on the line, you can now add a Linked XForm modifier that will only affect that selected vertex.

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Using Linked XForm, you can now select a Control Object, the appropriate point helper in this case, that will only affect the previous selection.

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You can now repeat the procedure by adding another set of Spline Select/Linked XForm modifiers for the other vertex.

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Finally, add one more Spline Select modifier to give back control of the whole spline to the modifier stack.

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With that, you can now move the helpers around to animate the line vertices without having to access or select them.

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Another way to achieve the same results is to use the Skin modifier.

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If you're used to working with the Skin modifier, this will probably be easier to set up.

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With a similar scenario to earlier, with two helpers and one line connecting them, you can apply a Skin modifier to the line.

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Using Add Bones, you then add the two point helpers to act as control objects.

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This should be enough,

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although you can adjust the envelopes, or even better vertices for a better fit.

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Each vertex should have and Abs. Effect of 1 or 100% to follow the closest point helper.

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All three methods are valid,

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but since this is a fairly simple scene, you'll simply animate vertices directly.

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If you added any unwanted objects, delete them now.

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Also, hide the water surface and the pool floor. It will be easier to work without them cluttering the viewports.

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In the Top view, go to a frame where you can see the first two rings and draw a line between them. The line should go from one edge to another.

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Make sure the rendering is set in both viewport and at render time, and that the thickness of the line matches that of the rings, 0.002m in this example.

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Also ensure the line is moved to 0 in Y and -0.07 in Z to match the YZ coordinates of the rings.

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The first ring is fully built at frame 9,

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the second ring at frame 23. That will be the animation range for the line.

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Go into vertex mode. With the Move tool selected, take note of the X value position of the left vertex.

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Even better. Copy this value to the clipboard using Ctrl+C.

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Now select the right vertex and paste the X value (Ctrl+V) and then press Enter. Now the two vertices are sharing the same spot and the line doesn't render.

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Enable Auto Key mode and go to frame 23. Move the still selected right vertex to the left edge of the second ring.

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The animation runs from frame 0 to 23.

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Relocate the first keyframe to frame 9 to synchronize with the animation of the first ring.

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Exit Sub-Object mode and Auto Key mode when done.

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As you did with the rings, copy the line and adjust the keyframes to synchronize with every subsequent ripple.

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Be careful if you need to make slight adjustments to the vertex positions.

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In this example, the right vertex on the second line needs a small nudge to the left.

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Because it's an animated vertex, in this case between frames 23 and 37, make sure you are at Frame 37 and in Auto Key mode.

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You can now adjust the vertex position, updating the keyframe.

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Make sure you exit Vertex mode and Auto Key mode when done.

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Repeat the procedure to create a third connector between the third and fourth rings.

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You will also need a line after the last ring,

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and one before the first ring.

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All should be properly synchronized and adjusted, so take your time working on the finer details.

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Remember to rename the connectors adequately.

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Also make sure all rings and connectors have the same material applied to them.

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Unhide the water surface and the pool floor,

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and render a test frame around frame 55.

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Once you're happy with the results, make instances of all rings and connectors and place them a little below the current set.

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You will probably need to bring down the pool floor slightly.

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In the Material Editor, under options, ensure the option Propagate Material to Instances is disabled.

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This way, instanced objects will not automatically have the same single material applied to them.

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Make a copy of the Rings_Upper material you created earlier by Shift-moving it.

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Double-click the new material and rename it: Rings_Lower.

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In the Self-Illumination rollout, reduce the Luminance value to about 2 and apply the material to the lower set of rings and connectors.

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Render the scene again to see the effect.

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It looks good. The top-right edge seems a bit off where the edge of the water surface casts shadows on the pool floor.

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We could have made the water surface larger earlier, prior to applying Flex and Point Cache to it.

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Making it larger now means having to rework that simulation.

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Instead, you can simply create a smaller water extension and apply the water material to it.

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This should be enough to fix this issue.

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The scene is done and ready for render.

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As always, you have a final scene available and an animation to view if you do not wish to wait for a full render.

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The tutorial, as it relates to how the trailer was made is now finished.

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However, you may be interested in the topic of the next and last movie.

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In it, you learn to change the ripple effect into a wake effect, simply by changing the collision object currently represented by a bouncing sphere.
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  • 3ds Max
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  • Simulation and Effects
  • Workflow
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