DreamScape and AfterBurn
Issue: Volume: 27 Issue: 1 (Jan 2004)

DreamScape and AfterBurn

Sitni Sati upgraded DreamScape to Version 2.0 and AfterBurn to 3.0. Available for purchase from Turbo Squid, both new editions are tightly integrated into the Discreet 3ds max core program, working hand-in-glove with its many components.

DreamScape offers a suite of modeling and animation tools for building complete environments with realistic skies, 3D clouds, and beautiful bodies of water. The program comes with such objects as DreamScape Terrain and SeaSurface, lights, atmospherics, materials and maps, space warps, and daemons (helper objects that affect the objects and volumetrics in DreamScape, as well as in AfterBurn).
AfterBurn Version 3.0 includes several new and enhanced features with which to create eye-catching effects.

Among DreamScape's new features are enhancements to the Terra editor, including instant mesh preview inside the viewport and support for MAX script and pressure-sensitive digital tablets. The new Terrain Map includes a falloff parameter for smooth transitions between regions defined by altitude and/or slope. The sky and cloud tools have been upgraded to include 3D clouds, full sky and cloud anti-aliasing, and a reduction in rendering time of up to 50 percent. DreamScape Terra also uses new rendering technology that occupies less of the computer's RAM, enabling users to render very large, detailed terrains.

New daemons make it possible to write a helper object that can communicate with SeaSurface and perform various calculations using internal data. This feature enables ship models, for example, not only to interact with the ocean perfectly, but also to cause secondary effects, such as wake and spray.

Always a fan of terrain-generating tools, I found DreamScape to be intuitive, powerful, and able to generate excellent results. In comparison to other terrain-creation tools, Version 2.0 is much easier to use, and I was able to produce the results I desired in less time. Yet, if I were to compose a wish list for future features, I would request the ability to create waterfalls and to add surface vegetation. For anyone who needs to build realistic and fantastic terrain models, DreamScape 2.0 should top the list of must-haves.

Another new release, AfterBurn is a popular and powerful advanced volumetric particle effects engine plug-in. Used in such films as Armageddon, Dracula 2000, and K-19, AfterBurn turns standard 3ds max particles into realistic smoke, clouds, explosions, and other organic fiery and gaseous effects. The software is designed to work in concert with the integrated 3ds max particle systems to augment the effects and allow users to create stunning visuals for film and games that could not otherwise be created with native particles.

Using volumetric "puffs" that surround each individual particle, AfterBurn can turn a simple Superspray into a fiery rocket exhaust, or a Snow particle system into an atomic explosion, easier and quicker than ever before.

New features in Version 3.0 include the addition of Bézier curves to Animation Flow Curves, providing users greater control over how the flow curves appear. The Gradients dialog includes new TCB (tension, continuity, and bias) controls, which are used to affect the color of the volumetric puffs. As a result, users can set fewer flags and still achieve incredible results.

In previous versions, Animation Flow Curves were based on the individual particle's age. Now, users have the ability to choose from Particle Age, Velocity, Emitter Distance, Object Distance, and Expression based on interpolation methods, freeing them to create amazing effects that would have been impossible before. The Explosion Daemon now offers a number of new color-blending options, including Add, Multiply, Replace, and Intensity Blend, so that users can achieve greater realism.

Version 3.0 offers so much more, including speed and performance enhancements and reflections for rendering particles as convincing fluids. As with DreamScape, most of the work done in AfterBurn is completed inside the Render/Environment/Atmospheric dialog. Anyone familiar with this dialog will find both programs easy to learn and use. Upon opening an AfterBurn Atmospheric effect, the user is presented a seemingly endless rollout of options. It might prove daunting at first, but the controls are intuitive and, with a little experimentation, easy to use. For those who work with particles and need to create realistic effects, AfterBurn is an excellent choice. It's simple to use and understand, but offers enough controls for users to create stunning unique visual effects.

Doug King, a contributing editor based in Dallas, Texas, develops animated projects for his company, Day III Productions.


Price: $595 and $495, respectively
Minimum System Requirements: Discreet 3ds max, 256mb of RAM, and 5mb to 20mb hard-disk space

Turbo Squid