Afterburn Clouds


Before we start with this tutorial, clouds are known to be one of the most difficult but challenging task till date. Many mid-level to large companies have their own toolkits for such effect. There are many proprietary application been constantly getting either upgrade or developed from scratch to amend their in house pipeline. Applications like Zeno , Ringmaster, Marionette, Quill and many other has been used in feature films.

Afterburn is an plug-in developed only for 3DS Max. Yet ther are no news for Maya. Since Maya have their Ray Marching System in build.

About Afterburn :- AfterBurn is an advanced volumetric particle effects engine plug-in that works exclusively with Autodesk Media & Entertainment’s 3ds Max program, and gives you the ability to create realistic smoke, clouds, explosions and other organic fiery and gaseous effects. AfterBurn is designed to work in concert with the integrated 3ds Max particle systems to augment their effects, and, in many cases, to create visual effects that you could not achieve easily using the 3ds Max program’s native tools. AfterBurn makes it possible for you to create convincing exhaust trails from rockets and missiles, fiery explosions that rival the real thing, swirling tornados that can rip buildings to shreds, gooey lava flows and much more. Just think of this tool as your organic effects generator within the 3ds Max environment. AfterBurn is an incredibly powerful plug-in, used currently by major film effects companies, computer game developers, and ”boutique” video production houses to create amazing visual results. We are glad you’ve invested in this powerful application to enhance your work, and we hope you’re eager to get started. But before you dive into the tutorials, we strongly recommend that you read this section first, to understand exactly the way AfterBurn works. It will give you a better understanding of the way you set up an AfterBurn effect, the way it behaves, and what sort of advanced controls you will have at your disposal. As an effects artist and creator, you can use this knowledge to consider how AfterBurn will affect and interact with your scenes, and how you need to prepare your 3ds Max particle systems to take best advantage of this astonishing plug-in.

AfterBurn 4.1 is the latest update of this award winning plug-in. Since its first introduction back in 1997, AfterBurn has been used in numerous movies, IMAX films, games and commercials. This all-in-one solution enables rendering of ultra-realistic effects ranging from clouds, pyroclastic smoke, dust, superb explosion effects, liquid metals, water and various procedurally defined solid objects. High quality output and flexibility are hallmarks of AfterBurn that makes it a perfect solution for any production pipeline.

Now, let’s get started.

As clouds can be simulated with Afterburn of course but also with FumeFX and Cebas Pyroclusture plug-in. But since Afterburn and Pyroclusture is not like FumeFX which works with and without particle system. Afterburn cannot work until particles get set up. We’ll be using Afterburn plug-in which is an Environmental simulation plug-in….lot can be achieve from Afterburn. Here we’ll concentrate over designing clouds with very basic steps using 3DS Max native Particle Flow kit.

So in order to get everything right , our first concern will be our Unit Set-Up…a vital part while starting any project….Even in production while working on any project , we have to go with multiple applications as well as cross platforms too , but when you talk about loading files into multiple applications the first and foremost thing it will ask us is match the units .

Time to start sculpting clouds.

  • Just fire up 3DS Max and kindly load up the file in Max as “Clouds_Start” and accept the Units if prompted or our result may differ.
  • Now you see that my camera has been already locked down in scene.
  • We just need to set up particle system and use Afterburn to shape our cloud.
  • For all those you can directly start this tutorial with your own unit set up and loading camera angle in your scene.


  • Hit 6 from keyboard or go to Graph Editor menu and hit Particle View option. It will open an another dialogue box…… is what we ‘ll start setting up the base of clouds set up.
  • And then drag out the standard set up of particles. Remove or delete speed , Rotation , Shape node from the standard view , as we no longer want them. Since we are not simulating clouds dynamically but this time for statics season.


  • Now its time to change some parameters , little tweaking can get our desired result. Select the Birth node and amend the following values…………

Birth = [emit start = 0 , emit stop = 0 and amount of particles = 40 ]

While that of Position icon will remain the same. Note that if you want only selected sub-levels to get affected we ‘ll required a geometry in poly mode. You can also use objects to design clouds as per your or clients requirement.

  • Now keeping PF Source selected ( both the events at one time ) SHIFT=LMB DRAG to make clones of it a couple of time and change the amount of particles you needed here and there. I have made a 6 copies of them.


  • Try to place them where ever you like but remember one thing we have got camera which will eventually render out our entire shot at once.
  • Now what we are doing here is , we are trying to get a tighter shot of clouds at once.
  • But if you want a dissipating clouds your use wind and drag space wrap and after particular age give a little speed and make it kill by using delete operator .


  • Well just drag your time liner to the end frame 300. And then try to adjust your placement , once your done with it, time to set clouds settings .
  • Hit 8 from keyboard to open up Environment dialogue box to start with our effect. Afterburn is an Environmental Effect plug-in which works with and without Particle
  • Hit the add button and select Afterburn option and hit OK again to make it active. You’ll notice that along with Afterburn you’ll also get FusionWorks Render too.
  • Go to Afterburn manager and add all PFlow’s n there small container. Hit display button to visualize the look of your clouds. Circle is pretty good and an optimized system to make your viewport level down and work faster .


  • Looks pretty whitish…….right…well there are few settings which we have to command afterburn to do it for us.
  • But first of all we need light to light up our scenario to give a convincing look.
  • So in order to do that just add spot light and enable Ab Shadow map. Add this spot light in source light section of Afterburn.
  • Go to the Rendering roll-out and give the following settings………………….


2=Enable self-shadows , or else it won’t render out the shadows even if they are enabled from main source of light.

  • Go to the shading roll-out and amend Ambient color to 87 , 102 , 189.
  • Time to define the shape of clouds…….so in order to do that go to the particle shape and give this settings…..

Sphere radius = 27.0 and variation to 10% and change the regularity as per your need.

  • Go to the noise animation and set up these settings noise size = 15 and density = 1 and set noise type to Fbm Turbulence. And finally set Fbm Turbulence values of detail = 4 and levels = 10.


  • Now its time to make changes inside Afterburn parameters.


  • Now all the marking a box you see are the changes from default parameters.
  • Make sure you hit these changes to get the right effect.
  • Now let’s test render to see what we have covered so far.


  • Alright we are nearly getting it . just needed to add some BG.
  • Lets add some very basic gradient system in our scene.
  • Again fire up your Medit [ Material Editor] and hit “G” from keyboard to open Maps / Medit browser and choose “Gradient Ramp” . Drag drop into one of the Medit slots

Change the following settings………

  • Go to Coordinate Rollout and select “environment” radio button and choose “screen mapping”.
  • Just stay there in the same rollout and choose W = 90 in the angle section. Here W = Z Axis
  • NOTE:- In any application whether its CG based applications or any other …….once any character is provided a value during compiling of binary processing you cannot give the same character same characteristics.
  • Back again in Gradient Ramp Map parameters………………….Noise Rollout remains unchanged.
  • Finally go to the Gradient Ramp Parameters Rollout……………..and amend the following settings………………….
  • Select the flag one at position 0 and provide him 30,35,67 value.
  • Delete the middle flag or you can simply drag the middle flag and get back its position from 80 to 24 and amend 20,27,60 values.
  • And the flag at position 100 shall be pure white 255,255,255 .
  • Remaining all the values remain unchanged. And the same goes to the Output rollout.
  • Drag drop this newly created map into the Environment tab and choose “instance” property so you do not have to drag-drop again and again.
  • Back to Medit and select the last flag at position 100 , right click and choose edit properties and choose another bitmap and hunt for any stars map you have. Add the star map and hit render once again.


  • In Mapping Coordinate system make sure you switch from Texture mode to Environment mode.
  • Turn to 90deg angle of our map.
  • Make Gradient type to Linear mode.


  • Now once your sky map is ready time to place it.
  • Open your Environment dialog box , rag-drop this map.


  • Now what about stars, OK , just go to newly created gradient map “skyline map” in yopur medit. Inside Gradient Ramp parameter, select the last flag on the ramp which holds purely white color information, select it and right click over, you’ll get 4 options (Edit Properties , Copy , Paste , Delete) . Then hit Edit Properties, again here   you’ll      be getting a small box. This box contains 5 entities [flag name , interpolation , texture (where you can add maps) , color and position(position of current flag over hat         gradient ramp)].


  • Now let’s render off our scene.
  • Below are the two render one with gamma on and other with gamma off.


Below is the rendered IMG of “GAMMA” mode “OFF”



Below is the rendered IMG of “GAMMA” mode “ON”