Experiments with tyFlow: Populating Mossy Environment

Experiments with tyFlow: Populating Mossy Environment

The team of RealtimeUK talked about their experiments with tyFlow, a plugin for 3ds Max that replaces Particle Flow, and explained how they used it for scattering.

About tyFlow & Experiments

tyFlow is an amazing 3ds Max plugin developed by Tyson Ibele. 3ds Max users all across the globe have been very excited about it. The goal of the plugin is to enhance and basically rewrite 3ds Max native Pflow and bring it in the future as a modern tool. You can check tyFlow Facebook group to see all the amazing stuff people are doing with it as well as tyFlow's own Instagram page that showcases the abilities of the plugin.

tyFlow a node-based particle system that is able to deal with usual particle-related tasks and dynamics, such as destructions, rigid and soft body simulations, grains and bindings, crowd simulations and so on. All of tyFlow's functionalities are multithreaded and are fully capable of interacting with V-Ray. tyFlow also brings new useful modifiers to 3ds Max and is able to deal with voxel creation.

We became interested in experimenting with this plugin first of all because of its native integration with 3ds Max and V-Ray which makes it fit in our pipeline, and for the possibility of creating setups that could be reused each time for different projects. Even though it is mostly an FX tool, we explored it in the context of our modeling workflow to add dynamics to it.

The possibilities are almost endless, so we came up with many useful setups, from making destroyed structures and modeling simulated cables with proper gravity to covering objects with snow. In the end, we could generate meshes using the powerful tyFlow's own particles exporter and tymesher (tyFlow's native "blobmesh" system capable of generating surfaces from points).

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Scattering

Scattering is an important and crucial aspect of cinematic environment creation, especially for natural kinds of scenery. While many options can be found on the market for this task and our studio already uses Forest Pack in the pipeline, we still wanted to test tyFlow's scattering capabilities. Our goal was to create a detailed scene in a small time frame using the plugin. Only trees, vines, and rocks were sculpted.

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Scattering tools gave us the ability to generate huge numbers of objects in the scene while keeping it agile and flexible. tyFlow ships with a lot of operators that can help art-directing the setup, such as scale and rotation nodes, the ability to normalize or randomize point positions and distance, the possibility of using textures to drive particle positioning, in-built forces like gravity and wind, and much more.

We could use scattering principles in any area where we needed to have a huge number of objects positioned in a natural fashion, such as trash on the ground, pebbles, dust, etc. In our case, we scattered the moss on top of everything, the plants on the ground, the trees, the leaves on the trees, and some other stuff. Basically, any environment where a number of objects need to be placed around the space can benefit from using a scattering tool.

Moss

The moss setup is quite simple and consists of giving birth to a number of particles that are then positioned on an object using a Position Object operator. This operator existed in Particle Flow, too, but has been changed in tyFlow to provide options for normals detection and texture-driven positioning of particles.

The look of the moss is achieved by using the z-axis of the object normals to drive the position of points and then telling tyFlow to treat each particle as a chunk of moss using a shape operator.

Color variation was done by assigning random IDs to the particles and a related multi-sub object material using a material static operator.

We also made a tool that is able to instantly fill different kinds of shelves or bookcases, for example; we used the same technique to generate simple static snow on top of our objects.

Read more about RealtimeUK's tests with tyFlow here.

Conclusion

tyFlow, as well as any other particle-based software, is just a tool. Although we can fulfill certain tasks easier using a particle approach, we have to keep our end goal in mind which is creating more believable, eye-catching and polished images to attract and entertain our audiences. Proceduralism is great for many aspects of a CG production, but we always strive to infuse our hand-crafted details and bespoken "feeling" to something in order to properly express our artistic vision. Yet, we should always be open to learn and expand our knowledge in the fast-growing world of 3D and VFX.

As a mere example, tyFlow has been a breath of fresh air for us; it inspired us to create more cool things, forced us to think outside the box when dealing with certain aspects of modeling, and simply added a dose of fun to the process. We tested it for metal damaging and bending, terrain creation, cables, set dressing, snow, destruction modeling, rock generation, and many other things. As a result, we were able to create setups that can be passed on to other artists and customized if needed. For example, our moss setup can easily be converted into a snow setup; our cable system can be turned into a goo generator with thick filaments of slime instead of cables.

If you want to start experimenting with tyFlow or any other software, there's a lot of educational material on the internet. Once you get the basics, you can turn your imagination on and come up with alternative ways to use the tools and create something different.

Team of RealtimeUK, VFX & Animation Studio

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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