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In this tutorial you'll learn how to create a cool animated muzzle flash in 3D Studio Max. You'll start by creating a simple proxy model of a minigun, then move onto create the muzzle flash mesh using various modifiers to get a true 3D result. Although a minigun is the subject of this tutorial, the techniques shown can be applied to virtually any weapon.
1. Modeling a Basic Minigun
First of all we will make a quick model of a minigun in 3ds Max. We don’t need to a make detailed one for this tutorial, a basic model will do.
Create a Cylinder (Create > Standard Primitives > Cylinder) in the viewport.
Make two instanced copies (Edit > Clone) of the cylinder with a small gap in between.
Add one more Cylinder, but with a larger Height amount. Place it some distance from the first three and in the line with them.
Create a long Tube (Create > Standard Primitives > Tube) and place it as shown in the following image. This will act as one of the barrels of the minigun.
With the Tube selected, make several copies (Edit > Clone) of it and distribute them to make the barrels of the minigun.
Create another bigger Cylinder and place it in the center of the surrounding barrels. The basic modeling is done. Now we will make the muzzle flash.
2. Creating the Muzzle Flash
Make a Sphere (Create > Standard Primitives > Sphere ) in the viewport and position it around the mouth of minigun.
Right Click on the Sphere and convert it to Editable Poly (Convert To: Convert to Editable Poly).
Go to Vertex selection mode (or press 1 key on the keyboard to jump in the Vertex selection mode.) Then select the tip vertex of the sphere.
With the tip vertex of the sphere selected, enable the Use Soft Selection option and then increase its Falloff value to something like 200.0. This value may differ in your case.
Drag the selected tip vertex in the X-axis to make the shape oval.
Disable the Use Soft Selection option.
Apply a Mesh Select modifier to the mesh from the Modifiers list.
While in the Vertex selection mode of the Mesh Select modifier, enable the Use Soft Selection option and increase its Falloff value. Then select part of the muzzle flash mesh (the Falloff value may differ in your case.) Actually you should try different Falloff values to get different results.
Now apply a Noise modifier. Keep the Scale value at 25, turn on the Fractal option, and set the Strength value of X to 250, Y to 200 and Z to 100. This makes the muzzle flash mesh zig-zag.
Turn on the Auto Key button. Animate the Seed value from 0 to 100 frames.
Turn off the Auto Key button after setting the animation keyframes. With the muzzle flash mesh selected, go to Graph Editor > Track View-Curve Editor.
Go to the Noise parameter for the muzzle flash. You will see the animated keyframes interpolation is curved. This will cause an ease in-ease out type of animation.
To overcome this problem, select the keys of the animation and then click on the Set Tangents to Linear option. This will straighten the tangents curve and hence the ease in- ease out problem will be gone.
Next, add a Mesh Select modifier to the muzzle flash mesh again.
In Vertex selection mode of the Mesh Select modifier, select the indicated part of the muzzle flash mesh as shown in the following image.
Now apply a Noise modifier. Keep the Scale value set to 10, turn on the Fractal option, and set the Strength value of X to 200, Y to 300 and Z to 100. This will make the back part of the muzzle flash mesh more of a zig-zag shape.
Once again, apply a Mesh Select modifier to the muzzle flash mesh.
Then apply an FFD 4x4x4 modifier.
Go to its Control Points section by expanding the FFD 4x4x4 rollout, and then modify the control points of the FFD box in the viewport, as shown in the following image. Basically we need to squeeze the tip area and expand the back area of the muzzle flash.
Now apply a TurboSmooth modifier with an Iteration value of 2.
Apply a Displace modifier. Click on its Map channel and select Smoke from the list.
Keep the Strength value at 175 and set the Decay amount to -0.5. Also turn on the Spherical mapping option.
Expand the Displace modifier rollout and select Gizmo. Drag the Gizmo using the Move tool to the starting point of muzzle flash.
3. Applying Materials To The Muzzle Flash
Press M to open the Material Editor. Select an empty slot and apply it to the muzzle flash.
Click on the Diffuse channel tab and select Gradient Ramp from the list.
Enter the same values for the colors and parameters shown in the following image. You can play with the values to get the different results.
Go back to the root level of the shader and increase the Self Illumination value to 100.
Render the scene (F9) to see what it looks like. It looks cool, but we still need to tweak lots of other things.
Now click on the Opacity channel and select Gradient Ramp from the list.
Enter the same values for the colors and parameters, as shown in the following image. You can play with the values to get different results.
With the muzzle flash mesh selected, Right Click and go to Object Properties. Here set the Object ID value to 1 and hit OK.
Next, go to Rendering > Effect. Click on the Add button and select Lens Effect from the list.
First of all, turn on the Interactive option so that the effect will update itself at every change. With the Glow effect selected, move it to the active list by clicking on the arrow button. Go to the Options panel and enable the Object ID option. It must be set to a value of 1, as we have assigned 1 to the muzzle flash mesh.
Go to the Parameters panel and enter the same color and values for the parameters, as shown in the following image. You can play with the values to get different results.
The muzzle flash texturing is now finished. Lets quickly texture the minigun. I have applied an iron texture image to the minigun. It’s quite basic, nothing fancy as it’s only for demonstration purposes.
4. Finalizing the Scene
I have applied several Omni lights in the scene. You can play with the placement, settings and parameters of the lights to get your desired results.
Select all the cylindrical barrels of the minigun and group them (Group > Group) as Barrels.
Turn on the Auto Key button and rotate the Barrels group a couple of times with the Rotate tool.
Turn off the Auto Key button after adding the animation keyframes. With the Barrels group selected, go to Graph Editor > Track View-Curve Editor.
Go to the Rotation parameter of the Barrels group. You will see the animated keyframe's interpolation is curved. This will cause an ease in-ease out type of animation.
Once again to overcome this problem, select the keys of the animation and then click on the Set Tangents to Linear option. This will straighten the tangents curve and hence the ease in- ease out problem will be gone.
Now select all the lights and minigun objects in the viewport and group them (Group>Group) as Minigun.
Go to Helpers> Dummy and make a Dummy object in the scene. Position it exactly behind the minigun.
Link the Minigun group to the Dummy using the Select and Link tool. Now if you rotate or move the dummy, the minigun group object will follow it.
This is the final look of the muzzle flash. Animate the frames and enjoy! Hope you liked the tutorial.