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Local TutorialPlanetary Rings in Lightwave 3D

gpdesignergpdesigner203 MontrealPosts: 323Member
edited April 2008 in Tutorials #1
Planetary Rings in Lightwave 3D

This is a basic tutorial on how to make some cool Planetary Rings using Hypervoxels in Lightwave 7. I am not going to go into great detail on this tute as I am assuming that most people doing this tutorial are familiar with Lightwave. Note* In this tutorial I will be using Feet as the unit of measurement . . . . I am from the U.S. and that is what I use, you tell me something is a mile long and I know how far that is . . . .
You tell me something is 1 kilometer long, then I have to go "ok 1 kilometer is less than a Mile so . . ." or " 1 meter is almost 3 feet ".
I meant what's the point . . . ? We'll use the good ol' fashion foot for measurements . . . . .


Ok, the cool thing about space scapes is there are not a lot of poly's invested across the breath of your scene. Which is great for us because this means we can indulge ourselves in the planet rings themselves, using the high poly count for that. However, if you have a lot of large ships and space docks for repairing all the damage inflected by battles in a far off nebula, you may want to scale down the poly count for your rings as it can cost CPU time in the rendering.

So lets have at it shall we . . . Open Modeler and search for a planet you want to use. If you have a costume planet you made this is fine, use that. But for this tutorial I am just going to use the stock planet in LW located contentobjectsspaceplanet.lwo.

Step 1: Load the planet in the first layer. This planet comes with an atmosphere already so we won't have to worry about starting our planet belt too close to the atmosphere. The planet measures 7000 FEET across so we are going to have a nice size ring system.

Now activate layer 2 and put layer 1 in the background so we can see what we are doing. The two most important view ports here are TOP and LEFT. These are the ones we are going to be using to shape our ring system, so use whatever set up you like just make Top and Left handy to work out of. Ok now save object as planet_rings.lwo.


Step 2: Ok grab your Spray Points Tool: Create Tab Elements and click to the left of the planet in the top view to activate it. In the Numeric Tablet: n key (Mac). Set the Rate at 20 and the Radius at 450' this will give us a nice size inner system to start with.


Step 3:Take your Spray Tool and circle the planet once this is all you need to do in order to get started. You should wind up with about 1900 point or so. Don't worry about the shape of your circle, as asteroids are anything but uniform. Just make sure you have some space between your planet and the start of the first ring set.


Step 4: Ok, now that we have our first ring set, we need to make it a little more dense as 1900 rocks in an Asteroid Belt is laughable. So we copy paste the points in layer 2, into layer 3. Set layer 1 and 2 into the background. With layer 3 in the foreground grab your Rotate Tool: Modify Tab Rotate, and in the Top View "Center", rotate layer 3 about 25 degrees.
Repeat step 4 as many times as you like in order to get a dense field of soon to be Asteroids.


Step 5: I made 7 separate layers to get a nice thick Asteroid Belt going, but like I said do as many as you like but keep it within reason we have a lot of room as far as poly count goes but keep in mind that points can add up very quickly here . . . .


Step 6: Now flatten the layers with all the points so that they rest on layer 2.


Step 7: Ok, now we must clean up the areas inside and outside the first belt system. Select points along the outer and inner edges of the ring, the idea is to make a clean edge without too many stragglers. You don't have to make it perfectly clean and sharp "as asteroids are anything but uniform", but you want to be able to recognize the gap between the rings at a distance. .
Save object . . . . . .


Step 8: Open layer 3 and put layers 1 and 2 in the background so that we can see what we are doing. Select your Spray Points Tool: Create Tab Elements and in the Numeric Tablet set the rate to 30 and the Radius to 1000'. This will ensure a nice size for your Second Asteroid Belt.


Step 9: Once again repeat the steps, circle the planet once leaving space between your first asteroid belt, then copy- paste and rotate as many layers as you like. Once you have a required thickness of points, flatten the layers of the second belt and delete the points on the edges removing all of the stragglers . . . . . . . Save object.


Step 10 Keep repeating the steps until you have as many rings you want, *I made a system of 3 rings here, of course you can make whatever you like this is totally up to you . . . . . . . this is just the basic concept.


Step 11: Ok so before we go to Layout, make sure that you delete the planet in layer 1 and move all your rings down a layer so that they occupy the first 3 layers, or if you have 5 ring layers, make sure they occupy layers 1 thru 5. "You get the idea".
Important * . . . . Do not flatten your layers before saving the object. For more control over each ring in layout, it is best to have all your rings on separate layers.


*Now this next step is important so you have to decide here how you want to handle this. When we look at a planet that has a ring system, from far the rings appear to be flat, almost like a record album. But when we do close up shots we see that the ring is actually several miles if not thousands of miles thick . . . so what to do. . Hmmm
I am going to show you two different methods here you decide what you want to do.

Step 12.1: If you want a thin ring system you can select a group of points above and below your rings like in fig.12.1.
Right now what you have is way too thick, so you need to make it thinner. Just do the following, command + right-click + drag (Mac) or Left-click + drag (PC) . . . . . you don't have to be accurate or make a straight line because
. . . . . . " asteroids are anything but uniform".


Step 12.2 Once you have selected all the points you need, you can cut them away and do the same thing to all the other layers you have . . . fig 12.2.


This second method is the one that I am going to use, but you decide.

Step 12.3: Make all your Ring layers active, then select all of the points. What we are going to do here is flatten all of the points on a single y value = 0. So with all the Belt layers active and all the points selected go Detail Tab Points Set Value. .
on the Y Axis set value to 0 ft And press ok . . . fig. 12.3


*And there it is a thing of beauty . . . . Fig 12.4


Step 13: Now load your planet_rings.lwo into layout and let's work . . . At this time you should open up viper as well, because we are going to need this in order to apply texture to the Voxels. . . . Speaking of Voxels, go to Scene Tab Effects Volumetrics, and in the dropdown menu saying "Add Volumetric" *select HyperVoxelsFilter, then double click on the HyperVoxels 3.0.
When the menu launches you will see all your layers stacked neatly on the left-hand side . . .


Step 14: With Viper open place your HyperVoxel control panel right along side of it so we can see what we are doing.
Ok, . . the first thing we need to do is to convert all of our points to HyperVoxels. We do this by selecting the first layer of our object in the Object Name window, planet_rings: layer1.
Highlight this by clicking on it, and activate it with the button above that says Activate :D . . . . . . . Look
. . . round things . . How cool is that . . .


Step 15: Now we get to do our magic here . . And the first order of business is these blobs are way too big . . We need to make them smaller. In the HyperVoxel panel Geometry Tab you will see Particle Size, let's decrease the value here. The idea is that we want the objects not to blob into each other too too much.
Of course there will be some that blob together because " asteroids are anything but uniform ", However let's try to keep particales that join together down to about 5% to10%. To do this you should choose about 60 feet for the particle size, and because we want our 'roids to be different sizes, set the Size Variation to 250% . . .
Now you may not like this size, you may like something different. Be your own judge; remember this tutorial is just a guideline for you to follow.


Step 16: Now let us work on the texturing of our asteroids . . . On the viper window top right corner, change the Preview Options to Particle preview. This should load a single particle for us to work on. I usually set my viper out of Draft mode so I can see the surfaces better it is slower to render but the image is cleaner. Just uncheck the Draft Mode box in the lower left-hand corner.


Step 17: Now what we need to do is break up the smoothness of our asteroids, so under the HyperTexture Tab In the Texture menu, . . . pick one of the 8 selections there. I choose Smoky 1 and adjusted the settings, you can use these settings if you like, but search for something that suites you best. We don't want to make our asteroids too bumpy because in a far shot they will look too lumpy with too much texture, so pick something with a slight surface distortion.


Step 18: Now we get to color our asteroids, if you switch to the Shading Tab, you will see a control panel you are familiar with. In the color channel choose a base color you like for your 'roids. I choose something on the grey/blue scale as I am going to make my rings multi colored. R-88, G-102, B-115. You can also click on the Texture channel in your color channel and add some extra effect to the color if you want.


Step 19: Ok . . . Now let give this puppy some diffuse shall we? Click on the "T" in the diffuse channel and open the editor. Change the layer type to Gradient, as we want to adjust the perimeters of the gradient in this section.. Change the Input Parameter to Bump. because this is were we will add dimension to the channel. Use these parameters:

Key 1:
  • Value = 50%
  • Parameter = 0.0
Key 2:
  • Value = 75%
  • Parameter = 0.3
Key 3:
  • Value = 80%
  • Parameter = 0.6
Key 4:
  • Value = 100%
  • Parameter = 1.0


Step 20: Last but not least open the bump channel and use the settings I have here . .
  • Procedural Type: Crumple
  • Texture Value: 100%
  • Frequencies: 3
Small Power: 0.7%

This will finish off the textures for the 'roids we are using . . . Like I said this is only a guide. . If in experimenting with values on your Asteroids you see something better or something you like more, use it. . Because as our old friend Bob Ross use to say:
. . "This is your world, you can do what-ever you like".


Step 21: Now lets jump out and see what this look like in the Viper, switch back to Object Preview and lets see what we have
. . . Not bad at all . . . . . I like it OK . . Now, 3 more settings to add before we continue . . .

Remember the opening of StartTrek Voyager . . . as the camera pans up through a Ring System on some planet to reveal Voyager gliding along the outer Asteroid belt? Remember how Voyager reflected in the Asteroid Ring? . . . lets get some of that here . . . so apply these settings:
  • Specularity: 15
  • Glossiness: 7
  • Reflection: 12


Step 22: Now that we have this first layer done, we can copy paste the settings to all the other layers . . . Go to the Hypervoxel panel and Highlight layer 2, activate this layer. Go back to layer 1, and at the top of the panel left hand side click copy, go to layer 2 and click paste. Repeat these steps for all of you layers and then save the settings for this as Planet_Rings. The save button is in the same group of buttons as the copy paste buttons.


ow because we have all of our asteroid rings in different layers we have a lot of control over them. You can change the size, shape, texture, and color of any of the rings . . . feel free to do as you like at this point it is all up to you. The last thing to do here is fire off a render and check out your work . . . .

I hope this tutorial was help, if you like it let me know, if you use it in a scene, drop me a line with a link to it as I would like to see what you have done. . see ya'

Post edited by gpdesigner on


  • AftershockAftershock0 Posts: 0Member
    Nice tutorial, man! I like!
  • gpdesignergpdesigner203 MontrealPosts: 323Member
    cool . . if you use it let me see . . .
  • Paladin ADCPaladin ADC0 Posts: 0Member
    Thats freaking awesome. :) if only I can figure out how to do that in 3DS Max. ;)
  • gpdesignergpdesigner203 MontrealPosts: 323Member
    I am almost positive it can be done . . . .
    just figure out the main componenets, laying out the points and converting them to voxels, from there it should be a breeze.
  • tjmeyertjmeyer0 Posts: 0Member
    Looks like you've got all the bases covered.
  • WildeyesWildeyes0 Posts: 0Member
    Very Cool 8D
  • gpdesignergpdesigner203 MontrealPosts: 323Member
    were did this go?
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User]2 Posts: 3Member
    yes, very interesting,do you have a picture of the final rendering ?
  • gpdesignergpdesigner203 MontrealPosts: 323Member
    there is a link in the bottom of the tutorial, I will copy paste it for you . .
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User]2 Posts: 3Member
    This would be good for distant shots, too close and you start to notice all the particles in the rings are the same size and are very uniformed.

    It's an awesome tutorial but you should make it seem less uniformed.
  • gpdesignergpdesigner203 MontrealPosts: 323Member
    SencneS wrote: »
    This would be good for distant shots, too close and you start to notice all the particles in the rings are the same size and are very uniformed.

    It's an awesome tutorial but you should make it seem less uniformed.

    The good thing about tutorials is that they are guidelines to follow, not written in stone . . . as I mentioned in the tutorial itself, this is just to give you an idea of the process and not an unwavering format.
    If you need your asteroid field to be less uniform then it is up to you to make it this way I cannot do it for you . . . . The control pannels provided in your program would give opportunity to vary the size of the 'roids at your own pleasure. i too am learning something about Lightwave everyday, but i do it by trial and error not by having it handed to me.
  • EPGEPG0 Posts: 2New Member
    Thank you for posting this..

    I'm still using 9.6, but the urge is back!

  • gpdesignergpdesigner203 MontrealPosts: 323Member
    WOW! talk about Necro . . . lol
    No problems brother, glad you liked the tutorial. play around with the settlings I am sure you can come up with some better
    'roids than I did.
    Also an more importantly . . .
    welcome back to 3D :)
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