Matching the Environment - Part 7 - Populating a Scene

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  • Design Visualization
  • 2014
  • Lighting
  • Shading
  • Lighting and Rendering
  • Workflow
  • 3ds Max
Skill Level
  • Intermediate
3 min

Matching the Environment - Part 7 - Populating a Scene

?This is Part 7 of the Matching Environment series. In this tutorial, you will leverage the Populate tool to add animated pedestrians to your scene. ?


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

Recorded in: 3ds Max 2014

This tutorial is intended for use with 3ds Max version 2014 or higher.


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In the last movie of this series, you use the Populate tool to add animated pedestrians to liven up the scene.

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In order to use the Populate tool, you need to have 3ds Max 2014 or newer.

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This movie doesn't cover the Populate tool in-depth, just a basic workflow to add a few characters here and there.

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We will cover the details in a future tutorial, in a scene with a bit more space than just a narrow sidewalk.

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For now, we'll do with what we have.

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If you need to, open the file Env_populate.max to continue where the last movie left off.

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First you need a couple of pedestrian flows, on either side of the kiosk.

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Right-click the top view to make it current, it's easier to place flows in that view.

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If you need to, zoom back a little.

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To access the Populate tool, expand the ribbon, and then click the Populate tab.

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Click the Create Flow button and hover over the Top view. A brush appears where the cursor is.

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The brush defines how wide the flow would be. The Width of the brush can be changed.

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Even though you're using meters as Display Units, the brush width value is defined by your system units, currently set to inches.

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Here you need a flow that's about 4 m-wide on either side of the kiosk.

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4 meters is roughly equal to 160 inches.

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Change the brush size to 160 and maximize the top view.

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Press G to disable the grid, it makes it a bit easier to see.

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Click a point to the left of the scene,

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and then hold Shift and click a point to the right to create a flow.

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Holding shift ensures the flow is horizontal or vertical, much like it works on splines.

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Right-click to end the flow.

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If you need to, you can move the flow to adjust its position.

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You can make other adjustments such as Lane Spacing or Density,

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to increase or decrease the number of pedestrians.

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Create a second, similar flow on the other side of the kiosk.

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

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You are ready to simulate the walks, simply click the Simulate button.

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By default, the simulation takes place over 300 frames or 10 seconds using an NTSC 30fps default signal.

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That's fine for our needs.

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When the simulation is done calculating, play or scrub the animation.

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If the original positions of the people at frame 0 is not to your liking, you can select a flow and change its Positions value and run the simulation again.

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The types of people and their textures are simulated at random, and sometimes, you get too many of the same characters or same clothes.

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If you want, you can select any character and regenerate it. This creates a bit more variety.

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In addition to walking pedestrians, you can also create some idle areas as well, people waiting about or chatting together.

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Zoom in a bit in the top view and then click the Create Free Idle Area button.

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Using it as a lasso tool, create a roughly oval shape between the two flows, to the right of the kiosk.

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Adjust the Density and other values before you simulate the behaviors.

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You can set your preferences to favor individuals or groups of people chatting together.

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If you need to, regenerate specific characters until you get a result you like.

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You can also change the general motion of a group of people sharing the same flow.

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Remember to run the simulation again to update the results.

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Typically, you need to be careful when you create your flows and idle areas because the Populate tool always works in AutoGrid mode.

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For example, if you attempt to create a rectangular idle area to simulate people inside the booth, you will notice that it gets created on the roof.

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You will then need to move it down to the correct height.

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Run the simulation and make any necessary adjustments you need.

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Before you run a final render, consider the Matte/Shadow plane you have been using so far.

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It's large enough for the booth, but not to collect shadows from all the walking pedestrians.

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Select it and make sure it's wide enough to accommodate the walking flows.

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Select a frame you like and render it out to see the results.

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Ultimately, you can render out an animation or view the one that's been provided to you.

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In this tutorial, you learned to integrate 3D elements into a real-world environment.

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You learned to match the 3D camera's perspective to that of a real-world camera.

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You also learned to use different lighting scenarios and the potential problems that come with them and how to overcome them.

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Finally, you learned how to liven up your scene with walking pedestrians using the Populate tool.

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We hope you have enjoyed this tutorial, thank you for watching.
Posted By
  • 3ds Max
  • 2014
  • Lighting
  • Shading
  • Lighting and Rendering
  • Workflow
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