Creating Particle Trails with Animation Offset in 3ds max

In this tutorial, I am going to teach you how to create particle trails with animation offset in 3ds max with the help of particle flow.

This tutorial will cover the detailed formation of the particle trail, adding animation offset to the particles and optimization of the effect for the better viewport playback.

You can use this technique to create different types of trails having different shapes and behavior. Let’s go and get into the process.

Step 1

Creating the Object

Let’s start off by creating a sphere primitive having Radius: 10 and Segments: 12. I am naming it as Sphere_Emitter to make things easy to understand.
You can use any other geometry of your choice for this effect.

Step 2

Creating the Particle Source

Create particle flow source through Create » Particles » Particle Flow Source. You can also create it directly from the Create panel.

Step 3

Icon as Emitter

Press 6 key on the keyboard to bring up the Particle View window. In the particle flow, we have PF Source icon assigned as current particle emitter. This is due to the Position Icon operator working in the Event 001.

Step 4

Geometry as Emitter

Delete Position Icon operator and add Position Object operator to the event from the depot. Under the Position Object rollout, click on Add button and pick the Sphere_Emitter to use it as the emitter object.

Set the location as Pivot from the Location group. Scrub the time slider to see the sphere object emitting the particles.

Step 5

Changing the Particle display

Currently, we have our particles represented by ticks. Select the Display operator and set the Display Type to Geometry.

Notice, how particles have switched from ticks to a cube geometry. Display operator fetches the shape information from the Shape operator to display the particles. You can choose any other shape from the Shape operator.

Step 6

Let’s first remove the Speed and Rotation operators from the event. These are the operators that we don’t need in the process, so select them and press delete key to delete them.

Particle Birth Settings

Select Birth 001 operator and set the Emit Start value to 0 and Amount parameter to 1.0.

Emit Stop value doesn’t really matters for this case since we have only one particle that will emit at 0. You can set it to 0 or leave it untouched.

Step 7

Particle with Static Behavior

Now, we have a particle that emits at frame 0 but if we move the emitter object, the particle stays at the same position as the Speed operator has been removed from the event.

We have to make our emitter object to carry this particle along with it.

Step 8

Locking Particle on Emitter

Select the Position Object 001 operator one more time and turn on the Lock on Emitter checkbox from the rollout. It will align and lock the particle to the pivot point of the emitter object.

Now, whenever the emitter object moves, particle will move along with it. Since, the particle is now fully in control of the emitter object, I will call it Slave particle.

Note: If the particle size is smaller than the object you are using, you can increase the size of the particle from the Shape operator.

Step 9

Adding the Spawn Test

Add the Spawn test to the Event 001 and choose By Travel Distance option from the rollout. Set the Step Size to 10 and Offspring to 1.

Under Speed group set the Inherited value to 0 as we don’t want any spawned particle to inherit the speed of the parent.

Lastly, turn on the Restart Particle Age option located just above the Speed group. Now, the slave particle will spawn rest of the particles based on the distance it will travel.

Step Size is the distance that a particle needs to travel in order to spawn a child particle.

Offspring value decides the number of childs a particle will spawn at a time. We have set this to 1 so we will get only one particle at the time of spawning.

Step 10

Adding the Display Operator

Let’s create the next event that our particle will follow after hitting the spawning process. Drag and drop a Display operator on the Event Display panel to create a new event and set the Display Type to Geometry.

Drag the connector of the Spawn test to the Event 002 to create a connection between Event 001 and Event 002.

Now, whenever spawning starts it will trigger the Event 002 and change the display of the spawned particle to the geometry.

Spawned Particle Display

Currently we don’t have any shape operator added to the Event 002 so Display operator is fetching shape information from Event 001 and displaying the spawned particles as cube.

Instead of using cube, we will use a primitive as a particle shape.

Step 11

Create a sphere having radius of 10 and segments 12. Let’s name it as Trail_Shape. Go back to Particle View window and add a Shape Instance operator to the Event 002.

Adding Shape Instance Operator

Click on the None button inside the Particle Geometry Object group and pick the Trail_Shape Object from the viewport.

Here is the trail with new shape / geometry.

Step 12

You can make it even more interesting just by tweaking few things. Turn on the Auto Key and go to frame 15. Now, select the Trail_Shape geometry and set it’s radius to 0.5.

Adding the Animation Offset

This will create a short animation of sphere radius decreasing from 10 to 0.5. Go to Particle View window, select Shape Instance operator from the Event 002 and turn on the Animated Shape option.

Under Animation Offset Keying group, set the Sync by option to Event Duration.

You should get something like this.

Step 13

Now, whenever the object moves, it spawns particles that smoothly shrink down and disappear. It seems like these particles have been deleted from the event but they are still there. You have to zoom-in a bit in order to see them.

Extra Trail Particles

This could be a problem if the animation is too long, so we have to get rid of these extra particles. Let’s learn how to do it in the next step.

Step 14

Right click on the Event 002 and select Append » Test » Age Test from the pop-up menu.

Through Age Test, we can track the age of a particle and send it to the next event when it reaches the certain age.

Adding the Age Test

Under Age Test rollout, set the Age Type to Particle Age, Test Value to 15 and Variation to 0.

Turn on the Is Greater Than Test Value option from the Test True if Particle Value group.
I have set the Age Test Value to 15 as the particle geometry object we are using has 15 frames of animation.

Step 15

Now drag and drop a Delete operator from the Depot to create Event 003. Under the Delete parameters, select All Particles from the Remove group.

Adding the Delete Operator

Now, whenever a particle will hit age 15, it will be sent to the Event 003 for the deletion.

Note: Now, we don’t want the Slave particle to be displayed as the geometry, so you can turn off or even delete the Shape operator from the Event 001.

That’s it, now you have an object that emits particle trails on moving. I hope you liked this tutorial and if these tutorials help you learn something, you can show your appreciation by following MakeItCG on Facebook and other Social Media. Thanks!