Tutorial 3: Sky and Clouds Animation

Now that you have a good idea of how to create a DreamScape Sky, we're now going to take that knowledge and put it to use by creating an animated environment.


In 3ds Max, select File->Open, and from your \Scenes\DreamScape\Tutorials folder, select the Tut3-start.max file.



This file contains a camera, a DreamScape Sun light and several 3ds Max primitives.  If you scrub the frame slider, you'll see that the DreamScape Sun light is already animated rising into the sky.


We are going to create the sky and see how the geometry in the scene is affected.


First we need to create the DreamScape environment entry.


Go to the Rendering->Environment menu, then from the Atmosphere rollout click Add.

From the Add Atmospheric Effect dialog choose the DreamScape entry then click OK to add it to the Effects list.

Inside DreamScape, click on the Preview    icon to open the Preview window.

Inside the Preview window go to the Views dropdown menu, and make sure all of the options have checkmarks next to them.



Activate the checkbox below the <- mark between the two preview panes so that the Left preview pane will update automatically when we move the clouds in the Right pane.

Next, click on the Refresh menu option to redraw both panes within the Preview window.



That's not exactly what we wanted. The rendering in the Left Preview window is completely black although we would expect to see some light from the Sun even though it's just below the camera's horizon line.


This reason that the entire Preview is black is because the Realism slider within DreamScape is set to Flat Earth+Reddening. This rendering mode assumes that the Earth's surface is calculated as one big plane and since the DreamScape Sun light is below the camera's horizon line, it is essentially invisible, therefore no light bleeds over the horizon itself.


Under the Atmosphere Parameters rollout, move the Realism slider within the Rendering group of controls to its rightmost position; this will change it to read Real Earth + Reddening.



You should also see that once you've set the slider, you'll see an update within the Preview window where you'll see a subtle, red glow coming from the horizon.



Select the Sun01 light, then from the Modify panel, go to the Shadows rollout and active the checkbox next to Geometry->Geometry within the Shadows group of controls.

Next make sure the Antialias checkbox is active as well.



This will cause the DreamScape Sun to compute object shadows as well as anti-alias them. Now we want to render a frame to see what our shadows will look like, but as the Preview window is open currently, if we drag the Time Slider with it open, it will update automatically, and slow our ability to move forwards or backwards in time quickly. So we want to close this window first.


Close the Preview window. By clicking on the Preview icon while having the Preview window open, it will not close it.

Next, drag the 3ds Max Time Slider to frame 100 and then render a single frame within the Camera01 viewport.



You should notice that the shadows for both spheres are hard-edged and totally black and that the shading on the spheres is too dark in comparison to what you would expect to see in an outdoor environment. Fortunately, DreamScape can create a more appropriate effect.


Back within DreamScape go to the Daylight Control rollout and activate the Render Daylight checkbox.


This option will force DreamScape to calculate the light coming directly from the sky to the objects in the scene and calculate shadows for each sample in a style that simulates a radiosity effect.


Re-render the Camera01 viewport.



You should see that the box and spheres illumination is much better now.


Go back to the DreamScape Environment interface and re-open the Preview window by clicking on the Preview icon.

Within the Cloud Parameters rollout, turn on the Use Layer checkbox. The Preview window should automatically update.



Turn on the Auto Key button within 3ds Max 5 (or the Animate button in 3ds Max 4). Be sure you're still on frame 100.


 You're now going to animate your clouds layer so that they appear to drift across the sky.


Click the left mouse button at the top left corner of the Right Preview window and drag it diagonally to the low right corner. This will make the clouds move across the sky.


NOTE: Another way to achieve this effect is to animate the Offset X and Offset Y spinners under the Clouds Parameters rollout, however, dragging directly within the Preview window is a much simpler and intuitive method.



In the DreamScape menu, under the Motion group of controls set the Phase spinner to 30. Animating this parameter will animate the clouds formation.

Turn the Auto Key (or Animate) button off.


The last thing we're going to do is tweak the shape of the clouds a bit so that the scene doesn't appear quite so overcast.


Set the clouds Coverage spinner to 0.65.

Set the clouds Scale spinner to 0.5 to make the clouds smaller.

Set the Scale X spinner to 0.3.



When the Scale X parameter is lower than 1.0, the clouds will elongate vertically. and will be compressed along the X-axis. Conversely, if the Scale X spinner value is higher than 1.0, the clouds will stretch horizontally and will be compressed along the Y-axis.


Under the Shadows group of controls, activate the Ground shd checkbox.  This will instruct DreamScape to make the clouds cast shadows on the other 3ds Max objects.

Now, render frame 100 again.



Finally, you will want to set up and render out the complete animation to your local hard disk as an AVI or MOV file, so you can see how the clouds move and turbulate over the course of 100 frames. When the render is finished, use File->View Image File or Rendering->RAM Player to play back the .AVI or image sequence file. You should notice how fast the moving clouds affect the ground illumination and how the sky, clouds and objects' illumination changes automatically as the Sun rises.


As you've seen, building and animating DreamScape skies is not a difficult task, and gives you plenty of opportunities to create a wide variety of looks and effects. From crystal clear mornings to overcast or rainy afternoons, the Sky atmospheric is able to deliver.


Moving forward, we're going to look at some of the other components of DreamScape 2.0. First on that list is the Sea Surface.