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Author Topic: Making trees the Mattb325 way  (Read 1243 times)

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Offline mattb325

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Making trees the Mattb325 way
« on: December 01, 2018, 10:34:52 PM »
A few people have asked me recently about some trees that I have been using. They are nice and they come from 3ds Max, but they need a little manipulation to use in a scene.

Given my 3ds license is coming to an end next month (and I probably won't renew it as the newest versions simply don't play nice), I thought it is time to disgorge a few secrets. For the sake of the tutorial, I am going to assume that you are familiar with 3ds Max and some standard terminology and functions. In other words this isn't for someone who can't yet model a simple box.  ;)

Getting foliage right is an absolute nightmare whether you are using gmax or 3dsMax and few people - myself included - have the skills of the great flora makers!

Luckily if you have a newer version of 3DS Max (2012 ->, maybe earlier versions too), thousands and thousands of trees come pre-loaded without the need to purchase any of the various plugins like x-frog. All you need to do is locate them and follow a few simple tricks to make them usable.

In 3DS Max locate AEC extended from the drop down menu (where you would normally muck around with standard primitives) and select the 'Foliage' button:

You now see that you have a scroll down menu with varying shapes of categories of tree types.

By all means, get familiar with placing the different types....but you'll find that if you simply click and place a tree type it will look awful in your scenes and you won't be able to manipulate it or texture it because the leaves, branches, twigs etc are all considered one object.

Here's how I get around this and the whole thing takes me less than 5 minutes.

1) Select your tree type. For this example, I am going with a Japanese flowering cherry.

You'll notice that I have changed a few parameters. I have made the size 15m (original = and sent the density of the foliage to 0.5 (i.e. the number of 'leaves' generated by the seed; I tend to keep this on the lower side as we are looking at trees orthographically) and the pruning to 0.5 (i.e. how high up the trunk the branches start).
You can set them as you wish, just make a mental note as you will need to revisit these values later on. You can also generate a new 'seed' until you have got a foliage shape that you like.

2) The next step is to deselect the check boxes for the trunk, branches and roots. You will just be left with this:

Right click and collapse this to an editable mesh. Then right click and under object properties select 'return black'.

3) Because we now have a piece of foliage with no structure we want to create a new tree trunk set. You could either create a new Japanese cherry (only this time with the 'leaves fruit and flowers' unchecked, or you could select a different tree trunk from the 'Generic Tree' option at the top of the list. For this tutorial, that's what I have done.

Note that I have kept the parameters height = 15m and foliage and pruning = 0.5. Regenerate the seed until you like the shape of the trunk. Once satisfied, collapse it to a mesh.

4) Next, I make a copy of the foliage and raise and rotate the second one; this gives a little more depth to the foliage and assists with texturing later on. Depending on the size and density you have selected you may want to do this more than once or twice.

5) Because 3ds Max seems to think that the bole of all trunks is flared substantially at the base, I like to scale the vertices to make the trunk a little more straight up and down.

6) Next I apply a map to the trunk and leaves. For the leaves (which 3ds Max makes as little squares) you can get yourself a cut-out map to give the leaves the shape you want, such as an elm shape or a maple shape. For the actual texture, you can either use a bit-map or just pick from the colour chart:

Remember that the SC4 palette is very desaturated and towards the redder end of the spectrum. Repeat the process for each set of foliage clones that you have, and, this is important, change the colour/hue values ever so slightly for each one. So one set will be slightly darker, lighter, etc than its neighbor... this will fake a little bit of depth.

7) Add your lods, ground plane etc (or add to your scene) and here are the results....

Literally, than was less than 5 minutes. If you want to make a tree that is more detailed, you can spend additional time in steps 1 and 2 to get the types of foliage, shapes and densities that you like.

Enjoy  :)

Offline eggman121

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Re: Making trees the Mattb325 way
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2018, 11:58:59 PM »
Great work Here Matt :thumbsup:

Nice tutorial on some flora. Your skill in the area of BATing is really valuable!

Hopefully you can share some of your secrets before your license expires. I have been cut down to Gmax ever since my student License expired.

I can't help but think that if where able to mix terrain textures with some True 3D Tree props you could get a neat effect also.

Here is the Idea...

If there where a set of trees that where just of a specific variety you could theoretically make a texture overlay like how the textures are applied to the surface area you could get literally thousands of different tree props with the same tree model by linking the foliage with the corresponding terrain type texture.

I think I will experiment and see if something is workable ;D

Thinking further ahead, With all your neat models... I wonder if exporting them into .3ds or .fbx format may be feasible so if we find a way to make models with different software you will have a vault of neat models. I use Blender and Gmax to make Models now. I usually prefer True 3D since it is easier to work with for the NAM stuff.


Offline mattb325

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Re: Making trees the Mattb325 way
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2018, 02:33:13 PM »
I like the thought! Very interesting  ()stsfd()

That method for trees, being poly heavy would probably tax the system if implemented in 3d. Trees do increase the render time in 3ds, so I can only imagine what they would do to the poor old game  $%Grinno$%

However, a less poly heavy method that I have often used for trees is the textured flag method rotated at 22.5 degrees to trick the games camera angle. It is a breeze for rendering <1s and only has a few polygons.

The jenquai alchemy file is a good example

This method has tutorials written already, hence I haven't done one up for it.