Creating Fire Using the Combustion Apparatus
This lesson shows you how to
create a realistic fire effect using the
Combustion Apparatus. You also learn how to make
the fire's glow appear on surrounding objects
using projector lights. If you have been having
difficulty creating a realistic fire effect,
this lesson is for you.
Realistic fire is extremely
difficult to reproduce on a computer. Kinetix
has created a really good solution with the
Combustion Apparatus. This plug-in software was
not included on the original Max disks. If you
don't have it, you can download it from the
Kinetix website. Not only can you make fire with
it, but you can create good-looking explosions
There are two parts to making
combustion work. The first is to create the
Combustion Apparatus, and the second is to apply
the Combustion environment effect to it. You can
find the Combustion Apparatus in the Create
command panel under the Helpers drop-down list
of object types. In the following tutorial, use
the Hemisphere checkbox to create the apparatus,
and only make very small changes to the
Combustion Environment parameters.
This project involves
creating fire by using the Combustion Apparatus,
but it will also demonstrate how to make the
flame's glow appear on the surrounding objects.
Combustion does not emit light; you therefore
have to be a little creative to display the fire
glow on the surrounding objects. You can
download the self-extracting executable file
containing the (small) project file max58.max.
This file is the basis for this tutorial,
finished project and its animation .avi. If
you want to create your own objects, please do
so. You will need surrounding objects to see the
Creating a Combustion
You will find the Combustion
Emitter button in the Helpers drop-down list.
1. From the Create command
panel, click the Helpers icon.
2. Click the words "Standard Helpers" to open
the drop-down list.
3. Choose Combustion Apparatus from the list.
4. Click the Emitter icon.
5. In the Top viewport, click and drag to create
the combustion emitter object.
6. In the command panel, change the Radius to 50
and check the Hemisphere checkbox.
7. Move the apparatus to the center of the logs
in the fireplace, as shown in the following
Before you can see the fire
and smoke caused by the Combustion Apparatus,
you must assign an environment effect to the
apparatus. You do this from the Rendering main
menu, in the Environment dialog box. You must
add combustion as an environment effect, but you
must also use the Pick Object button and select
the apparatus from the viewport.
1. From the Rendering main
menu, choose the Environment option.
2. In the Environment dialog box, click the Add
button to add an effect.
3. Choose Combustion from the list.
4. Move the bottom-half of the dialog up so you
can see all of the Combustion parameters.
5. Click the Pick Object button, then place your
cursor over the Combustion Apparatus and select
it. After you have selected the Combustion
Emitter, its name should appear in the list next
to the Pick Object button.
6. Render the Camera viewport on frame 50 at 320
x 240 resolution.
Simulating Fire Effects
Professional animators will
appreciate your animations because they know
what went into the project. Non-animators may
not be so forgiving, however. They are used to
seeing world-class, film-quality animations in
the movies. Those animations are often produced
by teams that have access to state-of-the-art
hardware and software. In most cases, you can
make your renderings look better if you know
which parts of your image need enhancing. For
instance, the combustion system that you created
in the previous steps does not emit light, so
the fireplace looks quite dull without the glow
from the fire. Your audience may not know what
is missing, but they will appreciate you going
the extra mile to add the effect.
The next section leads you
through rendering the flame to an .avi file,
then placing that .avi file into a projector
light. If you use the combustion effect in the
scene and render it to a file, you can render
the scene so that the fire and the background
flicker with the same timing. Note: Even if you
hide the Combustion Apparatus, it will still
render. If you need to keep it, but don't want
it to render, open the Environment dialog box,
choose the combustion effect, then uncheck the
1. Hide everything except the
2. Create a Perspective viewport and zoom in
close to the combustion effect.
3. Render the active time segment to an .avi
Creating a Projector Light
You could use the rendered
flame animation as a material on the wall behind
the fire, but it won't look as effective as
projecting it through a light. You can cast
shadows through the light, as well.
1. Select the light called
2. Launch the Material Editor.
3. In the Modify command panel, click the Assign
button in the Spotlight Parameters section.
4. Choose Bitmap as the type of material to
5. Click the Map: button in the command panel to
open a dialog that represents the Sample Spheres
in the Material Editor.
6. Choose the gray button where there is an
unused material in the Material Editor.
7. Select the chosen Sample Sphere in the
8. Click the long, gray, blank bitmap file
selector button and choose the .avi file that
9. Unhide all objects and
render a frame to see the effect.
10. Move the projector spotlight, if necessary,
then render the entire animation.
To enhance the animation
even further, you could try copying the
projector light to light the fireplace from
behind. This will create a backlight effect
on the edges of the fireplace that can look
If you want to improve
the shadow colors that the light projects,
you could create a copy of the light and
move it to one side, so that the shadows
from the original light are filled in.