CAP 211 - Interactive Design and Game Development

Chapter 44 - Using Atmospheric and Render Effects, part 1


This lesson discusses a few special effects in 3DS Max. Objectives important to this lesson:

  1. Positioning atmospheric effects
  2. Fire - another fire tutorial, a third fire tutorial
  3. Fog - another fog tutorial

This chapter addresses some scene effects that do not appear until the scene is rendered. That explains the chapter being included with the others on rendering. That also makes the effects challenging to use, since you will not see them in the viewports. The quick render window will be helpful here.

The part of the chapter we will deal with this week covers making fire and fog effects. As we have seen before, the text tends to describe all the details of the feature in question out of context, making them difficult to remember. Let's move into the first tutorial to illustrate the points as we go.

Tutorial Notes and Questions

Tutorial 1 (Creating the sun):

  1. Open the indicated file. It contains a sphere that we will add a fire effect to. Note in the caption of the picture on the next page, the text tells us that there is supposed to be a Noise modifier on the sun. Add this modifier before going on.
  2. Create a gizmo: Create, Helpers, Atmospherics, Sphere Gizmo. Place your mouse pointer on the center of the sun and drag to the edge. The gizmo will be an envelope to contain the fire effect.
  3. Follow the instruction to add a fire effect to the gizmo. Click the Setup button to configure the efffect.
  4. Step 4 gives you the settings to customize the fire. Realize that the fire will have several individual flame components. You will want to know what some of the choices mean:
    • Tendril or Fireball - the examples in the book show little difference; tendrils should be more like wavy hair, fireballs should be less textured
    • Stretch - sets the flame length on the z-axis of the gizmo
    • Regularity - sets the percentage of the gizmo that will be filled with fire
    • Flame Size - the size of individual flames
    • Density - the brightness of each flame
    • Flame Detail - the amount of detail given to each flames edges
    • Samples - the level of detail to the entire effect

Tutorial 2 (Creating clouds):

  1. To muddle the concept, the second tutorial shows us how to use the fire effect to create clouds. Begin by opening the specified file. You already have some gizmos in the scene.
  2. This time the menu path is Rendering, Environment. Set the background to a suitable sky blue. Add a fire effect as instructed.
  3. Use the settings as directed in the text.
  4. Assign the effect to the gizmos on the page.

Two more effects for this part of the lesson: fog and volume fog. (Both are covered in the external fog tutorial link above.) The text also mentions a Volume Light effect, but it is discussed in another chapter.

Tutorial 3 (Creating a swamp scene):

  1. Begin by opening the specified file.
  2. This time the menu path is Create, Helpers, Atmospherics, Box Gizmo. Drag to create a box in the lower half of the scene. As before, think of the box as an envelope to hold the fog.
  3. Add a Volume Fog effect as instructed. Assign the effect to the gizmo on the page.
  4. Try the settings in the text, then vary them and the placement of the box gizmo for best effect.


  1. Follow the links above to more fire and fog tutorials.
  2. Pick one of the three. Work together with at least one other student to do the tutorial.
  3. Turn in notes for the tutorial along with two questions and answers about it based on your observations.