Ancient Bridge earthquake by Andres de Mingo

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.

Patio of Lights by Pedro Ivan de Frias

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.

Final Adjustments

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.

Adding Dust

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.

Chop the Queen by Andres de Mingo


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.

Ancient Hall destruction by Esteban Cuesta


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.




Pulldownit for Maya 2019

Pulldownit plugin is already available for Maya 2019,  you can download it from the users area if you have licensed the plugin or download demo version from the web site in case not. You can review latest features and demos of Pulldownit 4.5 here:

Pulldownit 4.5 for Maya new features

There was a great expectation about Maya 2019 because it was taken much longer than usual to be released, many users’ thoughts were about some big new feature was coming, but finally Autodesk has focused this release in usability of the tool and performance by presenting an impressive long list of bugs fixes and a few but important improvements when using the software in production.

The major enhancement in Maya 2019 is the new cached playback feature, by using it you can speed up the playback of complex scenes or get a sustained frame rate  directly in the viewport removing the need to playblast the scene to review  issues, in addition you can modify keys freely and the cache auto updates quickly taking in account the changes so you get indeed a faster workflow specially for animation. Cached Playback is intended to be used with keyframed characters or some types of cached animations so all the dynamics solvers inside Maya: Nucleus, MASH, XGEN etc.. doesn’t support it. The same happens with Pulldownit, you cannot activate cached playback while computing dynamics however after baking keys and delete all PDI bodies you can enable it to speed up the playback in viewport, in our tests with scenes including around 1000 fragments this new Maya cache double the viewport FPS running at near 70 FPS, and if you export the destruction to Alembic the playback is even faster reaching a speed to around 90 FPS in average. Here a quick tutorial about using  Maya 2019 cached playback with Pulldownit simulations:


There are other improvements regarding animation keys, two new filters has been added, Butterworth and Key Reducer, the first one is intended to clean noise in animation capture data and the second is useful to remove needless keys in the animation.

Besides the integration of Arnold Render in Maya is becoming deeper with each update, in version 2019 you can use Arnold render inside one Maya viewport or render regions directly in the viewport 2.0

Autodesk also claims complex scenes now load faster and interactions with viewport 2.0 are quicker, in our experience that’s true so far, so even if some people is disappointed for the lack of brand new features in other fields we think Autodesk has done it right making Maya faster and more reliable in this release, users should notice it in his everyday work.

Pulldownit for 3d Max 2019

Pulldownit , the destruction plugin, is already available for 3d Max 2019, this update includes also a number of bug fixes you can read in the Pulldownit version logs pages,

Visit Pulldownit version logs

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,

read Changsoo OSL shaders review

And In this video, Zap Andersson from the 3ds Max rendering team explains clearly how to use the new Advanced Wood material.


Pulldownit 4 for Maya released!


Pulldownit 4 for Maya has been released and comes with several new powerful features you can see explained in the video.

But this release is not only about new features, the whole plugin has been updated and tuned for better performance and usability, there is now one single window gathering all fracture tools and one single window for all rigid bodies stuff, alleviating the burden of many open windows in previous version, new seams view in Shatterit mode and improved performance of fragments selection in advanced fractures, besides fracture solver is around 30% faster and much less memory is needed to cache simulations, and many other little things you surely will notice when using the tool, all of this makes this new release more responsive and with faster iterations when working in Maya.

Below listed the most relevant highlights in Pulldownit 4.

Shatter New Features 

New Adquire Shatter style, new style to transfer a current shatter pattern to another object including animation keys, by using it you can apply the current shatter effect to a version of the model with different shaders applied or to a hi-poly version of the same model.

New Shatter option for using a volume shape as source, now you can use any polygonal shape to constraint the shatter effect to its volume, this is especially useful when shattering based on an impact object.


Jagginess( v2.0) independent of tessellation.  New Jaggy method  is independent of the original mesh tessellation, getting much lighter jaggy fragments when the object is hi-poly, and removing the artifacts caused in borders of high tessellated models


New soften edges UI parameter for Jagginess. New parameter to adjust soften of jaggy edges to get the amount of roughness desired in inner faces. In addition new soften method removes visible seems on inner borders from previous method.

New option to apply jaggines to broken fragments only,  using this option for non-moving fragments you can apply jagginess only to the areas which has been broken in simulation, getting much lighter meshes for rendering or real time games.

Dynamics New Features 

Speed up Fractures solver 30%, PDI dynamic solver has been very fast since its first version, in this latest release you will experiment faster iterations when working in dynamics.

50% less memory needed for caching simulations. PDI cache is now 50% lighter in CPU memory , that makes massive cached simulations running faster in viewport.

New ability to pull apart pieces of an animated object at desired frame, besides activating rigid bodies at first hit you can now set the frame when they become active, this works also for rigid bodies linked to an animated one.

Added a bake selected option, you can now bake keys only for selected fracture bodies, letting the rest to continue being driven by simulation, baked fractures can still interact with other objects by setting the animated fragments as kinematic bodies.


Improved performance of fragments selection in advanced fractures, selection of individual fragments in viewport is more responsive, especially when Stresses View is enabled.

Cluster break energy is now independent of body mass/scale, break energy dependence on body mass made cumbersome to understand its behaviour as the same threshold will trigger a blast or not depending on the size of the object, because of this we have removed this dependency and the threshold you set will be valid forever independently of mass or scale.

First hit bodies which eventually doesn’t move are excluded from caching and baking, fracture bodies set as “break upon impact” only caches its broken or moving parts and fragments set as static aren’t cached at all , making in this way the size of PDI files smaller specially when you are collapsing only parts of large structures such as buildings.

Read the full list of fixes in the Pulldownit web site version logs

War Reign Cinematics by Lee Soo In

Lee Soo In, FX artist at  Penxel, has uploaded several great cinematics and breakdown for the game War Reign using extensively Pulldownit plugin for destruction effects.

Lee Soo some words about his experience with Pulldownit plugin:

I’ve been using a lot of fragments tools. Among all the advantages of the PDI plugin,
the credibility of the results is very high and during the simulations access to objects is very easy.

Since we’ve done a lot of work with PDI, we’ve been able to do it very

“Bake simulation” is a good feature. Because I can change the timing and
speed freely , many times It is convenient to perform detailed tasks with keyframe modifications.

below another great War Reign cinematics with some PDi destruction effects, and lots of smoke using Fume FX and Krakatoa,

Thank you for showing those great  videos  and your testimonial Lee.

Pulldownit for Maya 2018

Maya 2018 has been finally released by Autodesk, and Pulldownit plugin is already available for it, you can download Pulldownit Pro for Maya 2018 from the users area if you have licensed the plugin or download demo versión  from the web site in case not.

Apparently legacy viewport has been removed from Maya 2018, you can enable it again by setting the environment variable MAYA_ENABLE_LEGACY_VIEWPORT, anyway Viewport 2.0 seems to be the future for Maya so Thinkinetic has made an effort to fix several issues of the plugin when using it in VP2 and now it is fully supported, along it other annoying issues reported by users has been fixed in this latest update ( 3.8.8) you can read the full list of fixes in the version logs page of the Thinkientic web site,  besides you can review latest features and demos of Pulldownit 3.8 here:

Pulldownit 3.8.6 new features

Maya 2018 doesn’t count with overwhelming new features but with quite a lot of fixes and useful improvements; this time Autodesk has preferred to fix  several issues which sadly were doing  Maya 2017 not usable in production  and improve  tools and solvers already present like the UV editor, Bifrost  or XGen, the Maya built-in hair solver, which is a great tool indeed and now has new useful capabilities as the Clump modifier, better  interactive grooming and ability to make hair and fur collide physically with other objects in the scene.

And don’t forget the new versions of Arnold and MASH included,  these plugins  are developed by external teams and now count with new features, here a pretty impressive demonstration by Steven Roselle about rendering a dense forest of 10000 trees with millions of polygons  combining  Arnold and  MASH capabilities in Maya 2018.

Export PDI dynamics from Maya to UE4

In this excellent tutorial Esteban Cuesta shows us how to destroy a pile of tubes using Pulldownit in Maya and then export it to Unreal Engine 4, but not only this, he also teaches us how to trigger the destruction in UE4 when a bullet hits the model during the game. Exporting broken models and dynamics to UE4 works with either Pro version and free version of Pulldownit, just follow the tutorial to learn how to add quality destruction effects into your game.


thank you Esteban for the amazing tutorial