Pulldownit , the destruction plugin, is already available for 3ds Max 2023 an brings an important enhancement, Shatter it tool is now 4 times faster. This new update v 5.3 will be available for the rest of supported 3ds Max versions in the following weeks.
Max 2023 itself brings several useful improvements, Retopology tool has been boosted with a new auto remesh option allowing to get quickly good results with less preparation of the scanned model, besides Retopology now preserves important mesh features like uvs, vertex colors and such, which is a huge time saver when the model involved is already mapped.
In the modelling field Smart Extrude, introduced first in Max 2022, has been enhanced with the ability to cut partially through an editable poly, besides it can be used along with the new working pivots feature allowing to modify a polygonal surface quickly or merging other elements into it.
Other interesting features are the new glTF exporter for those working in 3d models for web visualization and a revamped autobackup behaviour that can be tracked and controlled easily in the UI.
Since several years ago Autodesk is focused in strengthen 3ds Max for polygonal modelling and visualization tasks, that’s good, however 3ds Max is being increasingly used for visual effects due to its power to handle large scenes smoothly and specially the bunch of third party plugins intended for dynamics effects tightly integrated inside it, so an update to Bifrost is highly demanded for those working in VFX.
Eloy Andaluz introduces all of these new features in a nice video you can review here:
Some of Pulldownit users has asked us how we did the stunning cathedral destruction in latest PDI reel, so we have decided to make a video tutorial explaining it step by step, and as you can see in the video below , it isnt dificult indeed,
Thank you to Esteban Cuesta for this great tutorial and final shot, please remember to “like” the video if you liked it:)
Pulldownit 5 for 3ds Max brings new destruction features and important updates in performance and usability.
Fractures solver computes around 2 times faster and gets more debris in impact areas without the need of further adjustment.
A new ability to shatter along part of a curve lets user refine cracks as many as needed in a visual way, surface cracks can be bounded to create easily nice stress effects and reversing a crack involves just one click, all of this making the creation and adjustment of surface cracks easier than ever.
Jagginess, the ability to add roughness to cut faces, receives also an important update, by default jagginess now only applies to broken areas in simulation, getting lighter meshes for rendering or when exporting it to game engines.
There are several other performance and usabilityimprovements you can review below and you can check the whole list of fixes in the Pulldownit version logs page:
Licensed users can access already Pulldownit 5 from his account and there is a demo version for 3ds Max 2022 in the Thinkinetic web site.
Shatter New Features
New Extent parameter for Shatter it tool, this new parameter allows to shrink the shatter region in a visual way, making very easy to increase the density of fragments in any area of the model.
New ability to exclude part of the curve in Shatter it, simply by dragging the mouse you can select the extent of the curve to be used for shattering, as many times as needed, therefore one single curve is enough for all reshattering operations.
Jagginess applies to broken fragments only, by default Jaggines now only applies to the areas which has been broken in simulation, getting lighter meshes for rendering or exporting it to game engines.
Dynamics New Features
PDI Fracture Solver 2x faster, scenes involving hundreds or thousands of fragments in dynamics now computes around 2 times faster with the same stability than previous version
Improved quality of Fracture solver, cracks are now more realistic, pulling out small fragments in borders of fracturing areas without the need of further adjustment.
New bounded behaviour for crackers, user can now control the distance detached fragments can move, from making them stick on the surface to let them free and falling.
New ability to reverse Cracker direction, reverse a dynamic crack is now as easy as click on the panel button.
Create fracture body 2x faster, fracture bodies made of thousands fragments now needs only a few seconds to be created by PDI solver.
Create and modify fracture clusters is an almost instant operation.
Improved visualization in Stresses View, when in Stresses View all fragments are now displayed in solid colour, regardless of its material.
Stresses view “break at frame” clusters are now displayed in green color, in this way user can quickly identify clusters set to break at frame( green) from the rest.
Andres de Mingo, author of this striking shot, kindly explains us how he did the dynamics effects using Pulldownit plugin inside 3ds Max.
I love those ancient bridges in Center Europe, with its old stones and statues plenty of history, I thought it would be dramatic seeing it being affected by a earthquake and tried to depict it in this little VFX project.
Cracking the bridge
The platform of the bridge is actually a large thin box textured with a combination of paving stones and a grass shaders, I drawed a long 3ds max spline over the box and then used Shatter it tool to generate around 1000 shards around it, I added a second set of shards but this time making shatter width smaller and changing the Shatter Seed value to get a different pattern, finally I added an Uniform Shatter pattern of around 200 fragments to get rid of too large shards appearing at both sides of the spline.
I created a PDI Fracture Body for the platform and a PDI Cracker along the spline, to speed up testing I set Local Propagation for the fractures, also to prevent fragments flying away too much I set a low value for the Cracker multiplier.
Making paving stones exploding
After I was happy with the main crack, I started adding more destruction on the bridge, for blasting group of cobbles I reshattered the platform in different areas near the spline, this time using PDI Local Shatter, 200 shards per exploding area was enough, following by creating clusters for each area, PDI Increase Selection tool is great for this, setting the cluster Hardness to 0 and adding a low break energy to get the exploding effect. Then I had just to set the break frame per cluster at the correct time to get the explosions happening one after another.
Crumbling the Statues
There are 5 statues on each bridge border, that’s makes a total of 10 models to shatter and destroy, this can be quite a lot of work, but I managed to speed up things by using some clever Pulldownit features. I started by drawing a spline over the statue surface and creating a cracker for it, then shattering the model with PDI path based style in around 300 shards, and adding an Uniform shatter pass of around 50 shards to get rid of large fragments on the model, finally I added also a couple of small PDI Local shatter shards in some borders of the statue. By creating a fracture body and setting it to static and only break I got the statue crumbling nicely without breaking it completely.
But for the statues in the background I did it much simpler, I made the model adquiring the shattering of the version in close up view, using PDI Adquire shatter style, then creating some cluster to make the statue starting crumbling at the desired frame , that’s did the trick perfectly.
This shot involved several models to be damaged and cracked, thanks to the easy of use and clever features of Pulldownit I was able to have all destruction effects done and adjusted in a short time. I like specially PDI Jagginess , this feature add detail to inner faces so cracks looks rough and more realistic when rendering the scene without having to create complex shader for them.
Pedro Ivan de Frias the author of this stunning shot, kindly explains us how he did the destruction effects using Pulldownit plugin in 3d Max.
This shot was a challenging project because of the amount of different elements fracturing and by other side, due to the close proximity of the camera to the walls, shards had to be generated less polygonal to look real in close-up cracks and detachments . My approach was to work it out in several stages, one for each wall being destroyed, then adding more elements in simulation when I was happy with the overall look and timing of the previous stage.
Cracking the walls
For cracking the front and side walls I followed the same procedure, first drawing a spline over the surface going from the bottom to the rooftop, this is very easy thanks to the great freehand splines in 3ds Max, then using PDI Path Based shatter to create shards along the spline, at first I created 250 shards, however fragments near the camera looked still too big so I did a second pass adding 200 more shards with a lower width value to generate smaller fragments along the path, finally I added a PDI Uniform shatter of the whole wall to remove any too large or too narrow fragment over the surface. I follow by creating a PDI Fracture body for each wall, setting it as static, “only break” and clusterize set to 0 in PDI fracture options.
After creating a PDI cracker object following the spline trajectory and adjusted it size to be very small, when playing the simulation the wall started to crack nicely along the spline but I had to set also local propagation in PDI fracture options to prevent fragments detaching in advance.
The simulation looked good but almost all fragments along the path got detached and falling to the ground, I preferred the broken fragments to protrude over the surface without falling, but any of the PDI fracture options seemed to perform this behavior, I solved it by adding a thin box aligned to the wall but with a small gap between them, by setting it as a PDI static body I got the fragments standing after detaching, I had just to hide the thin box to get a nice protruding crack over the wall.
Exploding the wall on the left
The wall on the left crumble in a different way than the others, It explodes and crack as a whole, not just along a defined path, to achieve the effect this time I used a 3ds max wind field to trigger the destruction. First I draw a spline crossing the wall widely from left to right and making several twist in its way to the roof; then I shattered the wall using PDI path based style in around 250 shards along the spline and adding 250 more shards, setting a smallest width value, but only in the part of the wall nearest to the camera.
I followed by creating a PDI fracture body for the wall, and set it as only breaks and clusterize set to 0 in the PDI fracture parameters, I also checked affected by force fields box, I animated wind strength going from 0 to a maximum 100 units in frame 30, then decaying again until vanishing at frame 50. When running the simulation, I’ve got an appealing destruction of the whole wall, with smaller fragments being pushed out farther than bigger ones. However, I wanted most of the wall to not move at all, for achieving this I set all large chunks as static in PDI advanced fractures getting the nice exploding effect.
Adding more elements in simulation
At this point I had all my walls being destroyed nicely but I wanted to add more elements to make the scene more massive and impressive . I added two giant debris falling from the ceiling beyond the camera, that looked definitively good. The models were taken from a nice debris package by Everlite, I used PDI to simulate the motion of these huge pieces as rigid bodies, simply adding a random initial spin for them and gravity did the rest. Once of the chunks collides with the pipes in the ground floor so included the pipes in simulation using local shatter and setting a PDI fracture body for them, again I set the parts I didn’t want to move as static in PDI advanced fractures. Finally, I shattered some windows of the facade, for achieving this nice effect I applied a radial shatter pattern to the windows but didn’t compute dynamics for it, simply animated visibility to make the shards appearing at the exact moment.
All these new elements were added after all walls destruction was already baked, so no way to affect or modify it, however added fragments could still collide with baked geometry, that’s a very nice feature of Pulldownit when you want to add more elements to a simulation already baked.
Once all the destruction was done, I made a preview of the simulation to check dynamics and timing, I cropped keys for some fragments on the left wall to make them stick on the surface while still seeing the cracks. I had the feeling timing was a little slow , so I did all destruction a 20% faster using 3ds Max re-scale time feature which works great.
I replaced the PDI cut material for a more realistic Vray material and added PDI Jagginess to all fragments except those of the pipes as they are seeing far away, I strengthen PDI Jagginess for the fragments close to the camera which looked still too flat. Definitively close-up fragments looked much realistic after adding quite a few of roughness to them and PDI does it almost automatically and very fast, that another amazing feature of this plugin.
Finally I added a camera shake effect strengthen it when the left wall explodes and making it vanishing slowly until the end.
Dust was added in a second pass using Fume Fx and I used Particle Flow in 3ds Max to guide the emission of smoke, in the left wall I set the same spline I have used to crack the surface as emitter of particles, in the other wall I emitted particles directly from the detaching fragments.
I decided to emit lot of dust from the left wall because it was kind of exploding and a soft amount of dust in the right wall to not populate the scene with too much smoke and can still see the fragments detaching and falling. I didn’t add any dust to the crack on the front wall for the same reason.
To make the particles exploding along with the fragments I simply set a pFlow speed operator with a large value and adjusted a gravity force to make particles falling quickly.
The main issue to get dust looking good was setting Fume Fx Spacing value very low, because the camera was very close to the smoke, indeed it was located inside the fluid container itself. Aside this I was testing with all Fume dissipation parameters until getting the dust behaviour I wanted for the scene. Regarding rendering I had to reduce light multiplier in FumeFx render tab to make the illumination of the smoke less brighten. I finally composed dust in Fusion adjusting Alpha gain and Burn parameters.
This scene involved quite a lot of elements being destroyed, I must say Pulldownit behaved fast and stable at all moment and the ability to can add more elements in simulation in different stages was very helpful to can focus in the destruction of one wall at a time.
I liked specially generating cracks along paths is very easy using this plugin, and you have fine control over the strength of the shockwaves but having more options to control the timing of the cracks propagation will be useful.
PDI Jagginess is a great feature to generate more realistic fragments adding the amount of roughness you like specially in close-up views.
Andres de Mingo the author of this nice shot, kindly explains us how he did the destruction effects using Pulldownit plugin in 3d Max.
My aim in this shot was to do an exaggerated representation of a chess game “capture the queen” movement. The model had to perform exactly 3 loops on scene, before breaking completely on the edge of the chessboard, these kinds of constraints happens many times in production projects.
Animating the Queen
I animated the queen in advance, doing exactly 3 loops, in this way the model should maintain the original motion while fracturing, luckily I was able to do all of this using the Pulldownit plugin in 3ds Max.
To make things easier I used a simple shape wrapping the queen model, after simulating its motion I had just to parent the queen to my proxy shape to make it acquire its motion.
I set also the chessboard as a static PDi body so the pieces can collide with it, as expected the tower only pushed away the queen when hitting it, to get the piece looping in the air I played with initial velocity and initial spin of the queen model alone until getting it looping nicely 3 times, then I had simply to set the activation frame for the queen just when being reached by the tower to start its motion at exact the impact moment.
Fracturing the queen
I wanted to damage the queen locally several times before being broken completely, for this I started applying a rude Uniform PDI shatter of around 100 shards over the model, then I reshattered the corner area near the tower in around 200 shards using local style, and finally I reshattered the top part of the queen in around 150 more shards in order to get smaller debris when this part hits the ground.
the ability to to increase fracture energy above the solver computed value was very useful to strength impacts according to artistic aims
Once the shattering was defined I created a PDI fracture body for the queen model, setting it as Static and Only Breaks to force preserving the original trajectory while fracturing it, by playing the simulation the queen broke apart nicely in the impact with the tower, however it didn’t break completely when reaching the border of the board, after setting Activation at frame and Clusterize value to 20 units in the PDI fracture options I got it breaking nicely outside the board.
To exaggerate the strength of fracturing I created 2 small cluster of fragments in the areas I wanted to break apart and set its break energy to a value around 10 units, I set those clusters to break at a specific frame aswell. Finally I added some roughness to the fragments with the amazing edge jaggines feature of Pulldownit.
Pulldownit counts with many nice features but adding jagginess to fragments is probably my favorite one
This shot was simple in its concept but very demanding regarding dynamics control, I needed the queen model to fracture at specific moments but maintaining always the original trajectory and motion of the object and I must say Pulldownit did it perfectly. Besides the ability to to increase fracture energy above the solver computed value was very useful to strength impacts according to artistic aims, and still getting a natural motion which would have been very difficult to achieve by other means, I believe.
Andres de Mingo the author of this nice shot, kindly explains us how he did the destruction effects using Pulldownit plugin in 3d Max.
It has been a stimulating experience working in this project, using Pulldownit in 3ds Max was easy and fun, PDI get along very well with Particle Flow to add more debris.
Shattering the ice floor
The ice is shattered in several stages, first I drew a large spline crossing the ice in the middle and use Path-based shatter creating around 400 small shards, then I applied a Uniform shatter on the whole ground to make all fragments rounded, 80 shards was enough for this. Finally I needed the area around the boat to have more fragments as they will break off in dynamics for this I put a thin box over the ground covering the area I wanted to reshatter and use it as a Shatterit Volume Shape with around 250 additional shards.
For the area behind the boat I simply deleted the shards in the middle manually, for the rest I created a fracture body with Hardness 20 and Clusterize 0, I wanted the ice to break only in the boat area so I set it as Only break and Local Propagation also I set the hull of the boat as a kinematic body to can collide with the ice. When playing the scene the boat was colliding with the ice but several fragments interpenetrated the hull because they weren’t pushed away with enough strength. To fix the problem I created a Pdi Cracker object following the path just in front of the boat and running at its same pace, then I tweaked the Cracker impulse direction until getting the fragments pushed up and colliding with the hull afterwards nicely.
Making the cliffs avalanche
I wanted the cliffs behind the boat to start crumbling at some moment, for this I shattered three nearby peaks in around 125 shards each one using Local shatter, then I created a single fracture far all of them and set it as Static-Only Break and reduce it hardness to 10 units to make it overall very brittle. In order to trigger the destruction I created a cluster from the farthest peak adding some break energy and setting it to start breaking at frame 90, after the boat has started to shatter the ice in front, I made the same with the second peak but this time making it starting to break one second later and so on, in this way I got the feeling of the shockwave propagating across the cliff. That worked pretty well but some big fragments of the basis start to break off as well in a weird way, to fix the issue I set all fragments of the basis as static to prevent them moving at all.
Adding more debris
I used Particle Flow in 3ds Max to add more debris to the cliffs destruction, that wasn’t difficult. I set a Position Object operator to use the PDI fragments as source for particles then I set a Spawn operator to emit more particles per frame. Finally I set a Shape Instance with a PDI fragment as source to instantiate the particles as geometry. Only trouble was some particles accelerated too much , I remove those weird particles by adding a Speed Test branching to a deletepFlow operators.
Adding a falling snow effect
The Cliff destruction already looked good but I needed to add falling snow, I reused the same pFlow particles I have created before to emit smoke with FumeFx. I didn’t want a dense avalanche of snow because this would hide the falling rocks behind, I just needed a soft covering of snow around the detached fragments.
Preventing the smoke to raise was the main trouble, I set a low temperature value, negative buoyancy (-5) and high dissipation values, finally I got a better look by setting Velocity Difusion to 50 units. The result I got isn’t perfect at all but I hope it gets the feeling of snow around.
Finally I composed the snow pass in Fusion, adding some blur and adjusting the levels with the alpha gain.
It has been a stimulating experience working in this project, using Pulldownit in 3ds Max was easy and fun, PDI get along very well with Particle Flow to add more debris, generating snow was the most difficult part, Fume is great for smoke generation but honestly getting a falling snow behavior isn’t easy, next time I would like to try a more specific tool to simulate sand -like effects in addition to Fume.
Esteban Cuesta the author of this powerful shot, kindly explains us how he made it in 3ds Max using Pulldownit for destruction.
I did this shot inspired by the destruction of Red Keep cellars in final Seven Kingdoms season, seeing all those big ceiling’s fragments falling to the ground surrounding the lovers more and more until finally got them buried and dead.
That was a dramatic end which impressed me and decided to try a similar destruction effect using PDI in 3ds Max.
Fixing the Model for shattering
Im not a modeller at all so I searched the web to find some kind of indoor model of an ancient building I could use, finally I found this nice model of the Gloucester Cathedral by ddFantast, maybe familiar to you because several scenes of Harry Potter movies where actually filmed inside this corridor. The model looked perfect for my project with all those impressive arcs and its rich decorated ceiling.
The model was very complete, with shaders and lights already set, however it happens many times models for visualization have issues when it comes to shatter them, in my case all the moldings in the ceiling and arcs where made as independent objects and came with many open edges and defects like that not noticeable because got hidden in the overlapping area with the arcs but preventing from shattering them correctly.
I managed to fix the moldings of the ceil by applying cap holes modifier to them but sadly it didn’t work for the arcs, applying cap holes I got several visible artifacts on them, luckily I found a way by baking all the moldings as a normal map, PDI support this feature and the arcs looked nice and still detailed with the normal maps in place of geometric moldings.
Fracturing the Model
The Cathedral model is built in a smart way, actually it is made of a single element like a chamber duplicated several times and concatenated so you get the whole corridor.
I wanted to create the destruction in 2 stages, the first one shattering the windows and small fragments of ceilling detaching and falling, second stage is big chunks falling and breaking heavily when hiiting the ground. The corridor was very long so my idea was I could destroy a single element in this way then apply the resulting fragments and its motion to the rest of the chambers but offsetting the animation in time , so I finally got a chain destruction effect.
I destroyed the single element in 2 different passes, first was by using a Path Based shatter combined with an Uniform shatter of the ceiling, the first pass made of small fragments falling was driven by a PDI Cracker and for the second pass I created a big hidden sphere which impact the ceiling from the top making the big fragments detaching at the moment I wanted. For shattering the windows I used a PDI Local shatter and triggered the outbreak with an animated PBomb of 3d s Max. I set every other object of the chamber as a PDI static body and bake the whole simulation as animation keys with Pulldownit.
Putting all together
At this point I had the single chamber fully destroyed, to duplicate the effect in the rest of the corridor I used the PDI Acquire shatter option, this is a nice feature which allows to apply the same shatter effect and animation keys to another instance of the same object. I did it several times until getting five consecutive chambers destroyed, to offset the animation in time I selected all animation keys for each chamber and shift them using the slider in 3ds Max. Finally to break regularity of the concatenated chambers, I simply remove all animation keys for some fragments preventing them to fall, but selecting the blocked fragments diferent in each one of the consecutive chamber.
It was a pleasant experience working with Pulldownit and 3ds max in this shot, I could navigate the viewports with ease despite the amount of geometry involved and the plugin behaved very stable for shattering and dynamics
Additional effects and Render
I added a few hundreds of very small debris emitting them from the fragments of the first destruction pass, for this I used Particle Flow with Position Object and Shape Instance operands, and I put an HD picture of a forest as an environment map for Vray, aside this I didn’t add any other effect to the scene, I rendered the shot with VRay Next, It took around 7 min per frame in a RTX 2070 card.
There are several additional effects you can add in compo to a shot like this: depth of field , motion blur, etc..depending on what you want to strength of the scene, but I just added a camera shake with Fusion, strengthen shaking when big fragments collide with the ground to increase the feeling of weight.
The major additions to 3d Max 2019 are support and editing tools for OSL shaders, a new procedural wood material and booleans operation fro splines similar to those for 3D shapes, this may look like not enough to justify a major version but the new policy of Autodesk is to include new features regularly in software updates, they dit it in Max 2018 with paramount additions like Max fluids , VR support, new spline tools and important Arnold render updates, so there will be probably interesting features to come in futher updates of Max 2019.
Booleans operation for splines is an useful addition as it is faster and safer to modify a spline with booleans and then extrude it than applying booleans directly to 3d shapes which many times fails to do it correctly.
The new procedural wood material is nice, has quite a lot of controls to adjust the wooden look, like colour, roughness, number of wood rings and shape of the ribbon stripes, but I miss controls to add grime and scratches, just my suggestion for future updates, currently you can get a nice polished wooden look but not an old spoil wood material.
OSL shaders are also worth to check, they are well integrated in the Slate materials editor and the possibilities to create procedural shaders are endless.
Important to mention OSL shaders and procedural wood material are supported by Arnold render and also by Pulldownit plugin so you can shatter objects with these procedural shaders applied perfectly.
Changsoo Eun, 3d artist, has written an interesting overview of OSL shaders in 3d Max 2019 you can read here,
These are the breaking letters demos Esteban Cuesta made as a final example of his tutorials on shattering text with Pulldownit plugin, you can find this tutorial a couple of articles below. Esteban Cuesta kindly explains some details about the making steps.
I wanted to make a video as a final demostration of my breaking letters tutorials with Pulldownit 3.7, I designed demo #1 as a classic letters intro, quick and lively, the motion of each word is animated until it touch the word below, then I activate the fracture bodies so pieces of letters start to crumble and fall, I used a Wind field to stress the debris falling effect. The final destruction was as easy as animating the word “Pulldownit” so it pass through the whole text and set it is a kinematic rigid body but I switched to “Convex hull” Bounding Volume to speed up the testing, the dynamics looked good anyway so I used it for the final shot too.
Doing the first shot wasn’t difficult at all and pretty funny, this encouraged me to make a longer one. This time a decided to add a plate showing the different shatter styles of Pulldownit with letters, all styles except “Wood splinters” as I think this style doesn’t make sense for letters.
All sets are done in the same way, using the 3D Max text tool to generate each word and making the endings fit each other simply by adjusting text size and kerning, and then collapsing all the words in a single poly object. At this point I applied the intended shatter style and create a fracture body for all pieces. For the Radial style plate I used an animated sphere to trigger the destruction, I simply hid it when rendering the scene, for the Path style I used the great crackers objects of Pulldownit as triggers, the rest of plates uses a Wind field to trigger the destruction, animating its Strength in order to get a increasing amount of falling debris.
Rendering was done using Mental ray in 3D Max, applying a high reflectance material to the letters and a less polished glossy material with the same colour to the inner faces after breaking.
Pulldownit worked very well , I haven’t any issue aside tweaking the parameters to get the dynamic behavior I wanted, It was very intuitive and fast computing using it.