3ds Max/Particle Flow



Particle Flow is a sophisticated non-linear, event-driven particle system built in 3ds Max. It lets the user design the behavior of a particle based on a series of user-defined Events in a streamlined and intuitive GUI using mostly drag&drop operations. Particle Flow displays all emitters and events in a single node-based editor called the Particle View.

Short History

Particle Flow was developed by Autodesk (then Discreet) as an Extension to 3ds Max 5 which shipped to subscription users in Spring of 2003 and was integrated into 3ds Max 6 half a year later. Particle Flow was programmed primarily by Dr. Oleg Bayborodin of Orbaz Technologies, also author of Particle Studio, an earlier 3rd party particle plug-in for 3ds Max. The experience of some of the best 3ds Max particle users was also used during the design and development of the system.

System Modules

Particle Flow is a highly modular system and can be extended via the SDK by Autodesk or 3rd party developers with new actions and channels.

At the User Interface level, Particle Flow consists of the following elements:

  • Emitter - a geometry class object which is the representation of a particle system in the viewport and also defines the shape of the (optional) emitter icon, some system properties like Viewport and Render particle counts and max. particle limit, provides means to select particles and run scripts per update or per frame.
  • Event - an event is a container of particles and actions which can operate on particles within the container. Events can be wired together using Test actions which can send particles out from one event to another. Emitters can also be wired to events. Two types of events can be distinguished:
    • Initial Event - an event that contains a Birth action. Its input can only be wired to an Emitter.
    • Secondary Event - an event that does not contain a Birth action can be wired to any other events.
  • Birth action - a modular element which generates new particles. The shipping Birth actions are Birth and Birth Script. More Birth actions are available via 3rd party extensions like Orbaz Particle Tools Box 1 and 3, FumeFX etc.
  • Operator (often used as alias for "particle action", but Particle Flow itself makes a distinction between the two - the Select>Actions command selects all actions in a flow, Select>Operator selects all actions except the Tests) - a modular element which can modify either particle channels (like position, velocity, rotation etc.) or an event (like changing the Display, Render etc. properties of a whole particle container).
  • Test action - a modular element which can perform tests using particle channels and send particles out when the particle value in the respective channel matches certain criteria. Tests are the only action type that can be wired to other events.

In addition, Particle Flow provides a Wire element which is used to connect Emitters, Events and Tests. It is technically an object that can be selected and deleted.

All actions are implemented as Helper class objects. Most of the object instances are invisible to the 3ds Max UI but are accessible via MAXScript and TrackView (as a side effect, creating a new Particle Flow action resets the Hide By Category>Helper flag).


Particle Flow/FAQ

External Links

Tutorials by Allan Mckay

Tutorials by Borislav "Bobo" Petrov

CG-Academy 3ds Max training videos

Orbaz.com Forum

Pete Draper´s Educational Site

ParticleFX Tutorial Videos the particlefx.com page appears to not exist anymore!


Additional content resourced from the Particle Flow Discussion Thread

The Society

The CGSociety is the most respected and accessible global organization for creative digital artists. The CGS supports artists at every level by offering a range of services to connect, inform, educate and promote digital artists worldwide

Contact | Privacy | Advertising | About CGS