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Spline Refiner Basics – Tutorial

General Considerations

Spline Refiner is a 3dsMax productivity tool thought to automate and speed-up the tedious task of subdividing all the segments of a shape manually, trying to achieve a general uniform vertex distribution along the splines.

This is not a normalization tool, like 3dsMax’s Normalize Spline modifier. It’s a Smart Subdividing tool.
The goal of this plugin is to get an even segmentation of the splines while preserving all the original vertices and shape intact.

Since this tool was ment to use at a final stage of the curves edition, it works better when provided with clean shapes, without overlapping vertices or other problematic issues, that may cause undesired results.

Spline Refiner works on any type of shape but will convert the base object to Editable Spline (keeping all the modifiers intact). It supports shapes with modifiers assigned (even geometry builders like Extrude modifier), because it works on the base object level.

The plugin can operate on multiple shapes simultaneosly, fast and efficiently. It takes only a few seconds to process hundreds of splines.

To start working with your selected shapes in Spline Refiner, the first thing we suggest is to turn on ‘Show vertex ticks’ (at the bottom of the plugin’s UI). This way you will be able to see all the changes in segmentation in realtime.

Start trying Spline Refiner and play with the parameters of Equalize Subdivision tool. The following is a description of all the tools in the plugin’s UI.

Equalize Subdivision

This is the key tool of this plugin. It analyzes every segment of the spline/s and, according to the provided parameters, determines the best way to get the most uniform subdivision possible, without altering the existing shape and vertices.

It doesn’t use a fix segmentation value. Instead, it takes an approximate (average) segment length, wich you can choose to be calculated automatically (using the length of the shortest segment in spline) or set a custom value.

If you are working with multiple splines and you want to have a uniform subdivision across all splines, then choose the options shortest seg. and absolute.
If you want the script to calculate a specific subdivision for each spline, then choose the options shortest seg. and relative.


The image above clearly shows how the parameters of Equalize Subdivision work. (‘Automatic’ refers to choosing the option ‘shortest seg.‘ as the average segment length.)

Increase Subdivision

This tool divides every segment of the splines in 2 halves, doubling the general segmentation.
The Iterations parameter sets how many times the function will be recursively applied.

The ‘Affect curves only’ checkbox it’s an important feature that affects both Equalize Subdivision and Increase Subdivision functions.
If active, the tools will subdivide only the curved parts and leave straight lines intact. Very powerful feature!

Additional Tools

Optimize Straight Lines (button)
Removes all unnecessary vertices from straight lines. It’s a cleaning tool.
Threshold Angle (spinner): establish the maximum angle allowed between segments for removing vertices.

Make Linear Segments (button)
Convert all segments in selected shapes to linear and vertices to corner type.

Basic Shape Parameters: Spline Interpolation
In this section you can control the basic shape interpolation for all the selected shapes. They are the same parameters you can find in any shape, but here you change them for all the selected shapes simultaneously in a single place.

Show vertex ticks (checkbox)
This option expose all the vertices of the selected shapes on screen. Very useful to see the changes in the segmentation while you apply the subdivision functions.

Undo / Revert Actions

These 2 buttons at the bottom of the UI help you revert the changes you recently made with Spline Refiner.
This is a custom undo system, since 3dsMax does not natively support undo for spline operations.

Undo (icon button): undo the very last action.

Revert Actions: reverts all the changes made with Spline Refiner on the selected shapes since you ran the plugin.

This is a simple yet powerful plugin to speed-up your workflow and make your life easier.

For further information please see Spliner Refiner’s Manual.
If you need help or have any consultations or suggestions to make us, please don’t hesitate to write us through this Contact Form.

Enjoy Spline Refiner!

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Spiros tutorial: Morphing spirals

In this tutorial we are going to explain how to make a transformation animation (morphing) between 2 shapes created with Spiros.

At Spiros‘ introductory video, there’s an animation in wich a spiral shape morphs into a spherical helix that becomes the Earth globe (see the image above). That animation was made in 3dsMax with a little used technique: using the Morpher modifier to morph between splines.

This modifier is very powerful and it’s capable to make transformations not only between 3D meshes, but also between splines (and FFD lattices). The only restriction is the same as for meshes: splines must have the same number of vertices/knots.

Since Spiros let you set a specific number of knots for the shapes you create or modify, you can make any transformation between any shapes created with this script. Just make sure they have the same number of knots. Also consider to change the order of the knots in the spline (reverse it) if necessary, for getting a better result.

The better way to make this kind of morphing is to work on a single channel in the Morpher modifier. Just add all the shapes that will participate in the transformation to a single channel, then arrange the order of appearance and adjust the tension parameter to zero.

Try ity! There’s a lot of cool animations and effects you can do by morphing splines. Imagine you have many objects whose position or rotation depends on a path (path constrained) or they are wrapped to a spline (path deformed). If you animate (or morph) the spline, they will act in consequence. It’s an incredible tool for Motion Graphics animations.

That’s all for this tutorial. I hope you liked it and make great animations.

If you have any doubts or consultations you can leave a comment down here or write us through the Contact form.

Cheers!

 

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Spiros tutorial: Making jewelry

In this tutorial we will learn how to model some ornaments, based on spirals and torus knot shapes, to make jewelry objects.

First, we’ll see how to create a bracelet with a triangular spiral shaped decoration. Secondly, we’ll learn how to make two different kind of pendants from torus knot shapes.

Before starting, let’s see which are the most common methods in 3dsmax to turn a spline curve into a volumetric mesh:

  • Make the spline renderable (Editable Spline properties)
  • Apply a Sweep modifier
  • Use Loft compound object
  • Use Path Deform modifier
  • Extrude Along Spline (tool from Editable Poly)

In this tutorial we use a different method for each of the three cases, but you can use the method that better fit your needs, or the one you are more comfortable with.

Making the bracelet

As you see in the image above, the bracelet’s triangular decoration was made starting with a simple spiral object created with Spiros.

Here’s the process:

1. In 3ds Max, open Spiros and create a spiral shape on the top viewport, with the size you like.

2. At the script’s UI, set the following values: Turns = 4.0; Knots = 13; Curve type: Line.

3. Now you will have a triangular spiral. Rotate it so that the triangle points upwards.

4. Edit the spline as shown in the image, to make all the sements perfectly parallel and delete the extra segment on the left.

5. Add a Sweep modifier. Use the built-in section called “Half Round” as the profile shape. This will turn the spline into a volumetric mesh.

6. Adjust the Sweep radius so that the mesh does not overlap itself, until it looks similar to the image.

7. Convert the mesh to Editable Poly to clean the geometry, remove undesired parts and add detail wherever you like.

8. Subdivide the mesh or add tesselation to increase the mesh resolution for applying later deformation.

9. Model the tube for the bracelet.

10. Place the triangular mesh on top of the tube and apply a Bend modifier to make the triangle conform to the tube’s surface.

11. Add any necessary details to finish the bracelet, apply materials and you are done!

Making the pendants

Celtic Knot

The first pendant, a celtic knot similar to a flower with 4 petals, was made the following way:

1. In 3ds Max, open Spiros and create a torus knot shape on the top viewport, with the size you like.

2. At the script’s UI, set the following values: Foils = 4; Variant = 2; Star/Ring = 6.

3. Scale down the shape in Z axis to make it flatter.

4. Create a rectangle shape to use as the profile section.

5. Apply an Extrude modifier and make a very tall box, with 100 segments for starting. (The advantage of this method over using the Box primitive, is that you can set the number of height segments to a very high value)

6. Apply a Path Deform (WSM) modifier to the box and pick the torus knot as its path. Press “Move to Path”.

7. Go down in the modifiers stack and adjust the Rectangle dimensions to give the knot mesh a reasonable thickness and proportions.

8. At the Extrude modifier parameters, adjust the Amount and Segments until the knot looks closed and with a nice mesh resolution.

9. Zoom in the part of the mesh where the start and end of the knot meet. You will need to make both ends of the mesh match perfectly.
For that, go to the Path Deform modifier and adjust the Twist amount.

10. With 3dsMax snapshot tool, take a snapshot of the mesh. Then convert it to Editable Poly.
Now you can delete or hide the old mesh and path. You will work with the new object now.

11. Weld the start and end of the mesh. Perform some cleaning if necessary and then model any extra details you desire to finish the pendant.
Apply materials/textures and you are done!

 

5-Pointed Star

The making of the second pendant, a 5-pointed star (or pentagram), will be explained very briefly because the procedure is very similar to the previous objects.

1. In Spiros, draw a torus knot with the following values: Foils = 5; Knots = 5; Curve type: Line. (or choose 5 Point Star preset from the dropdown list)

Tip: You can make Star shapes with the Torus Knot tool by setting the same number in Foils and Knots, and set the Curve Type to line.

2. At the spline parameters, make it renderable in viewport and renderer. Set the section shape as Rectangular and adjust its dimensions as desired.
Now you have the star mesh.

3. Convert it to Editable Poly. Perform some cleaning and then add the necessary detail to the mesh.

4. Model the ring to complete the pendant and then put both pieces together. Apply materials/textures and you are done!

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial. If you have any doubts or consultations you can leave a comment down here or write us through the Contact form.

Cheers!

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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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