✱ Playing with Maxwell 3 - Scatter

These are recent images I've made (click/tap for larger versions) since learning some of the new features in the newly released Maxwell version 3. The ability to use Scatter to randomly place (and scale and rotate) objects is a big deal. This scene also makes use of the MXI Place tool which allowed me to place referenced files into my 3d scene without any file size penalty. There are actually only two objects in the scene: both  the ground planes made from a single NURBS surface - one for the underlying grass placement map which determines where the grass blades grow and another copy directly above it for the ground texture itself. All of the other stuff is coming into the scene at render time via referenced external files.

Maxwell Scatter

Scatter was a much-needed development and these images show why. Previously when doing our renderings, placing true 3d trees, plants, grass and rocks was painful. This makes it easy. Through the plugin interface in FormZ, I told Maxwell to randomly scale the trees within 20% of their original size in any direction and randomly rotate them along the Z axis on my single NURBS surface. This gave me the variety I was looking for while only referencing a single tree model. With the medium and small rocks, I gave Maxwell more latitude to use it's random magic both in scale and rotation for even more variation. All of those rocks are actually the same rock model

Then I used the MXI Place tool to specifically place my larger rocks (again, externally referenced models) exactly where I wanted them to appear in the scene.

Maxwell Grass

Last, I didn't want a default thick blanket of grass covering the hills. I made a quick placement map in Pixelmator to specify where one the grass presets from my Maxwell Grass Preset Pack would show up in the scene in a natural looking way. I simply loaded up the preset into the Maxwell Grass extension in FormZ, and it gave me the look I wanted for the ground plane itself.

With a few adjustments of the camera settings I was able to achieve a subtle depth of field in the rendered view.

Here are some fun scene stats:

  • 10,000 small size rocks via Maxwell Scatter (a single rock model randomly rotated and scaled)
  • 2,000 medium size rocks via Maxwell Scatter (the same single rock model randomly rotated and scaled)
  • 7 large rocks - hand placed as MXI references
  • 350 3d trees - modeled in the TreeSketch3 iPad app (free on the iOS App Store, and I have another tutorial here on how to get them into FormZ/Bonzai3d)
  • 1200 medium grass blades per square foot with placement map - placed using the Maxwell Grass extension (via my Maxwell Grass Preset Pro Pack)
  • 500 small grass blades per square foot with placement map  - placed using the Maxwell Grass extension (via my Maxwell Grass Preset Pro Pack)
  • 2 NURBS surfaces for the ground plane - once for the placement map and one slightly above it for the ground cover texture.

By my calculations, there are 23,744,359 objects in the scene (give or take). Twenty-three million! Of course each tree is a 45 MB FormZ file with 150,000 faces totaling another 52 million polygons all by themselves, but the scene is very fast (see the wireframe image at the bottom) because of the file referencing introduced in Maxwell 3. 

All of this to show that the new features in Maxwell 3 are awesome, and I've only used a few of them.

Behind the scenes

Here's a screen shot of the simple scene that shows the NURBS ground plane and the referenced large rocks which are placed individually using the MXI Place tool. It doesn't get any simpler than this as far as scenes go. All of the magic happens at render time, saving us designers tons of time by keeping the project light. If all of those rocks, trees and grass blades were to actually be inside the model, it would be an unusable mess. 

Above image: The NURBS ground plane (actually 2 of them stacked right on top of each another), and the 7 individual rock models (which are actually only 2 models rotated and scaled differently for variation). It's hard to see here, but the referenced rocks (black blobs) are represented in the program with points, which again, keeps the display very fast. More polygons = slowness.

The Verdict

I like it, and can't wait to get into the other new features, some of which I wrote about here. I'll be using this a lot.