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TurboSplines: Making Light Trails

“Mystical Explosion”. Art by Rodolfo Rodríguez, CG Artist & Animator.

Hi guys!

In this tutorial we will see how to recreate this cool VFX work, called “Mystical Explosion”, using TurboSplines 3dsMax script.

Although this kind of special FX (light trails and light rays) are usually made with 3D particles, VXF plugins or directly in postproduction, the power and versatility of TurboSplines allows you to easily create them as 3D meshes, so you can have a fast realtime representation of the whole thing and control every aspect of the final shape. Let’s start.

First, we need to create the nucleus. It’s like a magical gem about to explode.

Create a geosphere. Then add an EditPoly modifier and extrude all its faces a bit outwards to make it look like it’s cracking because of the internal pressure.

To make the paths for the light trails, you can use circular shapes and place them like orbits around the nucleus. Another way is to make a torus knot object (Control Panel > Extended Primitives) and extract one of its edge loops to use just a single spline as the path. But the better and easier way to get a cool path for this, is using Spiros script. It’s as simple as creating any primitive shape in 3dsmax. The one in this tutorial was made with that script. Look at the image below.

Now open TurboSplines. At the Creation section, load the path/s and create 5 or 6 cylinders along the path/s to make the light trails. Use the extra feature Taper to make the trails look more dynamic and appealing.

To make the bigger end of the cylinders look smoother, change the basic geometry of the meshes from cylinder to capsule (with rounded end). Go to CreationMesh Type and select Capsule. Then press ‘(Re)Buil Geometry’.

Adjust the meshes’ radius, segments and height at the Edition section.

Once you are happy with shape of the light trails, hide them to start making the radial light rays coming out of the nucleus.

For this example, instead of using a post-render effect, we will build the light rays as 3D geometry (for the same reason we did that with the light trails).

Although there are other methods to create objects like spikes on the surface of another object, we recommend you to try this great free script called Vertices to Splines.

Download the script and do the following.

Make a copy of the geosphere, scale it down a bit and delete the EditPoly modifier. This way you can use its vertices as starting points for the radial light rays.

Using the script and the second geosphere, generate the radial splines with some length variation to make like the bright of a star. See the image below.

Then use TurboSplines again (cylinders with taper) to quickly create like spikes, emerging from the geosphere. Delete this second sphere.

Unhide the light trails meshes and check the general shape and volume of the final model. Make the necessary adjustments.

Create a camera and set a nice view for the final composition.

Assign some nice materials for the light trails, the nucleus and the radial light rays.

Render the image, with all the channels you need to have enough freedom for compositing (diffuse, reflection, z-depth, transparency, etc.)

Finally, in your favorite image-editing or post-production software, retouch the image/s, add glows, smoke, bright and additional effects to your final render.

That’s all! I hope you liked this tutorial. If you have any doubts or consultations, please post them down here on the comments section or write us through this Contact form.

Cheers! 🙂

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TurboSplines tutorial: Creation, Edition & Animation

Here are 3 videos that will show you tha basic procedures for creating, editing and animating your path deformed meshes with TurboSplines 3dsmax script.

This video will show you how to use the tools in the Creation section to quickly make path deformed meshes.

  • Load your paths
  • Use different mesh types (cylinder, box, capsule, ribbon, custom profile, custom mesh)
  • Create multiple meshes per path
  • Add extra features to your meshes: Taper, Tip, Slice start/end

This video shows how to use the tools in the Edition section.

  • Change basic parameters (radius, sides, segments, height)
  • Edit and animate Path Deform properties
  • Copy/Paste parameters between meshes
  • Apply variation to get a more appealing look.

This video shows how to use the tools in the Animation section.

  • Set Animation type: move, grow, reveal
  • Configure Animation start and length
  • Apply Offset and set animations order
  • Adjust Path Percent values
  • Set an Easing

For further information about TurboSplines, please check out the other tutorials or go to the TurboSplines Manual.

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How to get interesting splines to feed TurboSplines

There are many ways to get appealing spline curves to work with in 3ds Max.
Here’s a bunch of ideas to boost your imagination:

3dsMax parametric shapes

The standard parametric shapes of 3dsMax are generally not interesting enough to make nice splines for animation. However, with a little of creativity, you can get very nice-looking curves from them.

For example, a combination of overlapping circles or concetric circles arranged to fit a specific design or porpose can make an outstanding animation with very little resources.

Another powerful method is to use text shapes with interesting typography. Just convert them to splines and add some fillet on the corners to get a smooth deformation when using TurboSplines.

Import them from vector software

You can design your curves using a 2D vector software such as Adobe Illustrator and then import them into 3dsMax.

If your splines are imported with a lot of unwanted knots, gaps and other common errors, you can use our great Spline Cleaner to clean and repair them easily.

Trajectories

Natural and harmonic movement is an amazing source of beautiful splines. 3dsMax comes with a tool to convert any trajectory to a spline (see the Motion Panel). So if you already have animated objects or characters in your scene, use them as your source of splines.

If you want a tool capable of extracting trajectory splines from many animated objects, bones or even particle systems, try our free script called Trajectory to Spline.

Edge Loops

Meshes with a smooth surface and clean topology are also a good source of splines. You can select edge loops that surround the mesh and use the Create Shape from Selection tool from the Editable Poly parameter interface.

Some 3dsMax primitives, such as the Torus Knot (in Extended Primitives) can produce mathematically perfect and beatiful intricate splines.

Shape sections

Another way of extracting splines from meshes is to perform a cross-sectional slice through them, using 3dsMax’s Section Tool, located at the Splines creation section.

Plugins and scripts

There are a lot of nice plugins and scripts for making gorgeous splines. Many of them are free.

Go to Scriptspot.com and make a quick search in there. You will find plenty of useful spline generators.

A great tool for this our SuperHelix Free. Try it!

Draw your own splines

Of course you can draw your custom splines directly in 3dsMax. Just make sure they flow smoothly through your scene’s space.

You can use the Array tool to make interesting arranges of splines if you need to.

 

That’s all for now. If you have specific doubts or consultations, you can contact us through the contact form or leave us a message at our Facebook Page. Cheers!

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TurboSplines: Quick Start Tutorial

Welcome to the wonderful world of TurboSplines! 😉

With this quick start tutorial you will learn how to work with this script and begin to familiarize yourself with its tools. For that, we will create a simple scene with some growing splines.

You can access the following image from TurboSplines Help section, clicking the Quick Start Tutorial button.

The instructions in the image guides you through the typical steps required to create a “growing splines” animation.

These are basically the steps to follow, even simpler:

  1. Draw or prepare your splines (they will work as paths for Path Deform modifiers)
  2. On TS Creation section, go to Source Paths area and load your paths. They will be listed there.
    (The steps 3 and 4 in the image are not necessary for this example, but you can do them to learn a little more about TurboSplines tools)
  3. Press (RE)BUILD GEOMETRY button. This will create one path-deformed cylinder for every spline. They will look the same as if you created renderable splines. The big difference is this way you can make them grow!
  4. Go to TS Edition section and change the Radius parameter to adjust the width of your meshes as desired.
  5. Go to TS Animation section and change Animation Type to GROW (stretch).
  6. Finally, press CREATE/MODIFY ANIMATION button (at the bottom of the section).

Now play your animation and you will see your cables growing.

This is just a quick sample of the power of TurboSplines. Play a while with all the script parameters and you will be able to make your scene and animation as complex as you like.

Maybe at some point of this tutorial you wondered this: why can’t I directly animate my renderable splines??

Well, here’s a good news: you can! 🙂

The porpose of this tutorial was to show you an overview of TurboSplines’ workflow, but if you only need to make growing splines, there’s an extremely simple way to do that:

  1. Just start directly with your renderable splines.
  2. With your splines selected, go to the TS Tools section and press Convert from Renderable Splines.
  3. Go to TS Animation section, set the Animation Type to GROW and finally press the big button at the bottom to create the animation.

You we’ll get the same result in less steps, leaving to the script only the animation part. Then you can modify the meshes with TurboSplines since they will be now TS meshes.

We hope you enjoyed TurboSplines. Check out the other tutorials and videos for further learning.

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