I’ve been wondering for a long time what is the deal with ThinkingParticles and in what way(s) it is “better” then Particle Flow or other standard particle systems.
Well, the deal is that it is rule-based and not time- or event-driven. So the particles isn’t just controlled by their age or whether they collided with an object or not. You can design your own “rules” for how the particles should behave. Here is an explanation and a simple example for how ThinkingParticles can be used (quoted from the developers website):
Here’s an example why ThinkingParticles is superior to other particle solutions. Imagine that you have to create a 3d space scene and you need to animate a space ship flying through an asteroid field. This field is full of everything from the most enormous rocks to the most intricate pieces of debris, all of it hovering around. Now imagine that your boss says, “The spaceship should avoid the big rocks but the smaller ones are allowed to collide and bounce off the hull of the spaceship.” This would be an animator’s nightmare. An event-driven particle system would fail to handle this kind of task because you would need to define a path through the asteroid field and then look for the exact key frames where things should happen. But what happens when you need to change the path of the ship or the amount of rocks or the balance between the big and small rocks?
ThinkingParticles makes it easy to solve such a situation with ease. Two rules will solve the rock collision and avoid problems. Conceptually, the rules would look something like this:
If SPACE SHIP GETS NEAR (VALUE) A ROCK
BIG (VALUE) ROCK THEN AVOID IT (move around)
SMALL (VALUE) ROCK IGNORE AND DO COLLISION
Of course, the above is not the real code fragment. In ThinkingParticles, you do not need to type any code at all. This is only the logic flow diagram of the ThinkingParticles operators and conditions. As you can see, there is no TIME related variable in it so this will always work. Regardless of any path or amount of frames. Whenever the space ship gets near a rock the rules control its behavior.
But I also found this video presentation that gives a very good idea of what it can be used for—and it is mighty impressive I’m telling you! 8)
For more information check out Cebas.com
Autodesk has posted their Masterclasses from 2009 for free over at The Area. Just sign up (it’s free) and enjoy some tips and tricks from real masters of Autodesk softwares; including 3ds max, Maya, Mudbox, Softimage (nope, it is not called XSI any more), Motion Builder and mental ray. Here is the link; http://area.autodesk.com/masterclasses.
I personally find these two classes to be very interesting, in 3ds max:
Non-Photorealistic Rendering Techniques in Autodesk® 3ds Max® with Gary M. Davis
Giant Robots: Using mental ray shaders to integrate CG elements into real shots with Håkan “Master Zap” Andersson (Swedish guy! )
And I think I have a look at this one as well, its in Maya:
Fracture: procedural, collision event-driven destruction with Kevin Mannens (I do like destruction )
I’ll have a look at the Mudbox class as well if I got the time.