A greatly overlooked method in 3d modelling is displacement. Many newcomers to the wide world of 3d graphics attempt to model highly detailed geometry, either with standard poly-modelling techniques or more recently sculpting with the success of highly popular software packages, such as ZBrush or Mudbox.
Typically, in a sculpting software package, the artist is required firstly to model the object, and then manually sculpt enough detail into the object to make it believable. A displacement map in ‘bitmap' form is then created, and placed onto a UVW unwrapped mesh. This method can become extremely tiresome, with copious amounts of effort required just to make it believable.
With a 3d procedural map, the need for unwrapping is minimised in basic objects, and details can be controlled and implemented easily with sliders and numerical data.
This tutorial was originally created as a ‘vent of frustration' with all the questions from 3d beginners wanting to know which sculpting package is better for modelling an object that can be thrown together in 5 minutes in Max, without the need for any third party software (that, and because I really wanted to make a 3d model of poo!).
The procedural maps are also able to be animated.
Step 1: The Setup
Although I will attempt to explain the process as thoroughly as I can, it is advisable that you have basic knowledge of the 3ds Max interface before continuing with this tutorial.
When working with procedural mapping, it's always important to be fully aware of the scale of your scene. For the purposes of this tutorial, you should use the same scale as I use, along the way, in order to achieve a similar result. As you become familiar with the techniques discussed, you can use whatever scale you need.
You should also build a basic studio scene to base your object in, as extensive test rendering will be required throughout this tutorial. There are hundreds of tutorials on the internet on creating a studio setup. Choose whatever method is easiest for you.
I will use VRay for the test renders as that is how my ‘studio' scene is set up. You may use any render engine you like. They'll all give similar results if set up correctly.
I will use a conventional setup like so (Top View) (Fig.01):
You can read the tutorial on how to create this exact setup in the 3dtotal forums:
Step 2: Map Creation
Here is an expanded tree-view of the procedural map we are going to create. Being the diligent and highly organised individual that I am, I didn't think about naming the maps (I created the original image on the fly and didn't know I was going to write a tutorial about it!).
You may wish to print this image out, as I will be referring to it constantly throughout the tutorial. It is not necessary to name the maps as I have them named here, so long as you are aware which map I am referring to applies to your mapping tree. (Fig.02)
Begin the setup by placing a teapot in your scene with a radius of 12 to 15 and 16 segments. Add a VRayDisplacement Modifier to the teapot. If you don't have VRay, a standard displacement modifier above a turbosmooth modifier with 2 subdivisions will be fine.(Fig.03a & 03b)
In the 'texmap' slot of the VRay displacement modifier (or ‘Map' slot of your standard Max displacement modifier), add a new 'smoke' map. This smoke map will play the major role in our material, so it's important we get this one right if nothing else. Once you have created it, open your material editor and drag it across to a blank slot (instance) so we can edit it.
You should change the settings to look like the image below. This map is the base of our displacement, and is aptly named ‘Displacement' in my scene (refer to mapping tree).(Fig.04)
Also, edit your displacement modifier by putting the amount to 4, and Shift to 1. Make the edge length 2 pixels. This will make the displacement nice and crisp.
You could even increase the max subdivisions, but the edge length is enough just for test renders. If you are using the standard displacement modifier, then simply increase the strength to 2 or 3.
Let's give it a test render! (Fig.05)
Now you can see that the displacement didn't really turn out how we wanted, so we will tweak the settings and add some more depth to the map.
We'll begin by dropping the displacement amount and shift. I set mine to 2 & 0.5 respectively. If you are using the standard displacement modifier, you can just leave the settings as they are.
Hit F9 (Quick Render) for another test. (Fig.06)