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Enlarge Screenshot The issue with creating these types of effects are two-fold. Firstly you would normally have to produce a ton of particles within the scene so that the camera could fly through them. Then there’s the issue of motion blur; currently the Image Motion Blur method in 3ds Max doesn’t work properly with animated cameras (the direction and strength is incorrect), so we have to resort to sampling the geometry with a Mesher Compound Object, which cranks up the calculation times. Plus you have to matte out the particles with scene geometry where applicable. There is, however, an easier solution.
Enlarge Screenshot And that solution is by using a basic non-object-illuminating volumetric light. Sound pretty odd I know, however bear in mind two things: Firstly you can set up the light so that it is situated directly over the camera by dialling in the same FOV values into the light from the camera. Secondly, the Volume Light effect has the option to display Noise. Now this is a pre-set noise which you can’t add multiple nested maps, however it is a 3D effect, which means it is (by default) locked in world space. Which means we can fly through it.
Enlarge Screenshot The trick is to generate a fine particular-based dust effect which can be achieved by clamping off the Noise Threshold value’s High and Low settings while using a relatively small Size value (something like 10 will suffice). Obviously you need the effect to fade off into the distance which is achieved by attenuating the light, however to get motion blur trails (with the light linked to the camera) you will have to render out with multiple passes and then comp the effect in your favourite compositor program.
Download the max file! Zip file to accompany.

Initially published: 3D World magazine, Issue 110, December 2008.

Copyright Pete Draper, December 2008. Reproduction without permission prohibited.