Raytraced Shadows and Projection

Have you ever been modeling something out of half transparent tinted plastic or glass and wondered how, without a shadow map, you would make the color of the material project onto the surrounding objects? Well, with Raytraced Shadows, you can do just that.

Along with projecting "Filter Colors" as they are called, Raytraced Shadows can be used instead of the Standard. Although a slightly longer rendering time results, Raytraced Shadows are more accurate, more versatile, and can make the difference between looking like CGI and looking Photorealistic.

For this tutorial I assume you know the basics of the 3D Studio Max Interface. Until - and possibly after - the material section, your colors will vary from those shown in this tutorial.

PHASE ONE: Modelling

This scene uses only two meshes; a tube and a box. Here's how to create them like I did.

Fig. 01

Make a tube to about this size (or whatever size you want for your ring) in the Top view, but watching the Perspective.

Fig. 02

Add a Meshsmooth to the tube. Change the standard Iterations to 1 and Render Iterations to 2

Fig. 03

This is what your ring should look like with the meshsmooth applied. Note that when rendered it will be even smoother - an iteration of 2. We don't need this in the viewport though, so we will keep the standard one at 1.

Figs. 04/05

Zoom out in the Top and Front views to about the size shown, and create a box with the mouse to the size of the white outlines.

Fig. 06

To the box, add a Normal modifier, and check Flip normals. This will make the normals point inwards, so we can use the box like a small room around the ring, and it will have something to reflect. Let's get on to the Lights!

PHASE TWO: Cameras and Lighting

This lighting setup differs slightly from the standard 3-point scheme.
I first made this scene before I had learnt placement for the lights, so though there are three, they are slightly differently placed.

Figs. 07/08

Add three omni lights in the Top view, with the positions shown. Raise them up a bit in one of the side views, so they are near the roof, to give them more overall coverage.

Fig. 09

In the Light Lister (Tools Menu => Light Lister) change the back left light (the one farthest away in the Perspective view) to Raytrace Shadows, and turn shadows on for that light only. Change the Multiplier on each of them to 0.75, otherwise the scene is too bright.

Figs. 10/11

Add a free camera in the bottom right of the Top viewport. Move it up above the box (Left view) and rotate and scale it so it's view distance looks like this one. Right click on the word Perspective in the Perspective view, then click on Camera01 (or whatever you have called it). Oh no! There goes lovely the perspective view you made. Not to fear.

Fig. 12

Make sure the Camera view is selected, then use the buttons in the bottom right hand side of the 3D Studio Max window to rotate, pan and zoom the view until it gives a shot like this. Once you have that, it's time for the Materials!

PHASE THREE: Materials

I know you are probably dying to get to the final render, so I will get through this section quickly. Only because it is the smallest section though. The material(s) I used for the ring are from the 3D Studio Max 4.2 Raytrace MatLib (Material Library). I don't know if earlier versions have the same materials (though I'm sure the later ones do), so if you have an earlier version, just download the MatLibs at the end of the tutorial. Let's get on with it!

Fig. 13

We'll start with the material for the box - the simplest one, though for the ring you won't have to do anything. In the Material editor (you can push the M key to get into it), make the Diffuse Color of one of the materials pure white: R255.G255.B255. The Specular color and level can stay as they are.

Fig. 14

Scroll down and open the Maps rollout. Click on the Bump map button, and in the box that pops up, double click the Noise map.

Fig. 15

In the noise map options, scroll down and change the size value to 0.25. That's all you need to do for that.

Fig. 16

Click on another material now, so you don't lose the one you just made. Then click on the button down the left hand side to load a material from a MatLib.

Fig. 17

In the box that popped up (haven't we seen this before?) click on Mtl Library in the Browse From area, then click the Open button. Now here's where you find out whether you have got the right materials or not. Go to the 3ds max folder (usually in Program Files).
Now - if you can answer No to any of the below questions, you need to download the MatLib from this site (the link is below).

  • Is there is "matlib" folder in the 3ds max folder?
  • In that matlib folder, is there a file called "RayTraced_01.mat"?
  • If, by double-clicking on that file, does a list come up with "GlassYellow" in it?

If you answered yes to all those, double click the name GlassYellow and continue. Otherwise, download the file below.

Fig. 18

If you haven't already, drag'n'drop the white material to Box01 (or whatever you called it) and the yellow material to Tube01 (or is it Ring?). What a drab picture in the Camera viewport. Not to worry. Now you can do a final render (it may take a while) and see your ring project yellow light towards you.

Here is the MatLib mentioned before. It has all the 3D Studio 4.2 MatLibs in a zip file. Uncompress it to a folder ("C:\Program Files\3ds max\matlibs" would be a good one), and then load it in to the Material editor as described above.

Some other suggested ideas for the ring are: GemstoneRuby (RayTraced_02.mat), MetalGold (RayTraced_02.mat), Ice (RayTraced_02.mat) with a Melt modifier added :). Have fun with all of them. Some require pictures as textures which I have been unable to find, so those will not work, nameably the wooden ones. But the RayTraced_0X ones all work, and those, in my opinion, are the best in the Zip.

To download the finished .max file, click here.

I hope that this tutorial has given you what you were looking for. Thank you for your audience.

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