OBJECTIVE: Students will learn how to create the look of 3D mountains, using the 3DS Max DISPLACE modifier, along with NOISE MAPS.

3DS Max Learning: How to create mountains in 3DS Max. No video tutorial on this one, but there is a walkthrough with detailed pictures below. There are a TON of different ways to make mountains in 3DS Max, this version allows us to make them from complete scratch, without the use of any outside texture files or plug-ins.

Before you get started: You will be creating this mountain airport scene in your CHALLENGE folder. Call the file "MOUNTAINS.max.

The Tutorial on creating mountains in 3DS Max:

STEP 1: In 3DS Max, set your UNITS to be GENERIC (CUSTOMIZE>UNITS SETUP>Check the GENERIC box) and your workspace UNITS to be 1 UNIT PER INCH (CUSTOMIZE>UNITS SETUP>SYSTEM UNITS SETUP> Set 1 unit= 1.0 INCHES.) Then, set your workspace to TOP view and create a PLANE from the STANDARD PRIMITIVES panel. This will be the base for your mountains, so you will need to set this plane to be very large. You will also need a large number of polygons on your plane to create your mountains. Set your size for your PLANE to 1000 by 1000 with 200 segments for your length and width. I recommend coloring this object blue and naming it MOUNTAINS. (See figure below for all details.)

STEP 2: With your MOUNTAINS object selected, switch to PERSPECTIVE view and click the MODIFY tab in your Control Panel. Add a DISPLACE modifier to your MOUNTAIN object. DISPLACE allows you to set up contours on your object, based upon black and white textures. (See figure below for all details.)

STEP 3: With your MOUNTAINS object DISPLACE modifier selected, click on the IMAGE>MAP>NONE button. This will bring up the Material/Map Browser window. Click on the NOISE MAP to insert your black and white texture into your modifier. (See figure below for all details.)

STEP 4: Now we have to enable editing of this black and white NOISE MAP. To do this, we will use the MATERIAL EDITOR. Click M to bring up the editor and make sure that you are in COMPACT MODE by clicking the MODES MENU and selecting COMPACT MODE! CLICK AND DRAG the MAP BUTTON from your modifier and DROP IT on the first MATERIAL GLOBE for editing. (See figure below for all details.)

STEP 5: The Material Editor will ask if you want to make a COPY of the Noise Map or an INSTANCE. You want to be able to adjust the map in the Material Editor and have it automatically update in the DISPLACE MAP, so you will click INSTANCE and OK. (See figure below for details.)

STEP 6: Now, we are going to start creating some of the base contours of our mountains. First, click on the LUMINANCE CENTER button in the Parameters panel of the modifier, back in the Control Panel. This will allow you to adjust the contours of your mountains from top to bottom. Second, INCREASE THE STRENGTH of your contours for your mountains upwards. Because of the size of your object, you will likely need to go up to 100-150 or so before you start seeing "mountains." Note that your PLANE object now is getting contours. (See figure below for all details)

PART 7: As your mountains sit now, they are pretty small and closely packed. We will use the Materials Editor to adjust this. Back on that editor, click to increase the SIZE of your NOISE MAP. (Essentially, we are zooming in on the noise map that you created, which updates the DISPLACE modifier to show fewer, more gentle contours.) Adjust upwards to the point that you see a number of larger mountain shapes emerging. Do not worry about shape or placement, we will adjust that soon. (See figure below for details.)

PART 8: So far, our mountains all look pretty "regular" and even. To adjust this to a more random pattern, try clicking on the FRACTAL button in the NOISE PARAMETER section of the Material Editor. This will mathematically introduce more random patterns to your mountains. You can use this setting if you wish, or stick to REGULAR. You can try the TURBULENCE setting, but this will tend to drastically shrink the number of mountains in your map. ADJUST THE height of your mountains as needed from Step 6 above. (See figure below for details.)

PART 9: So far, all of our mountains are contoured, without any flat areas where a town might be. To fix this, we are going to adjust the LOW of our NOISE PARAMETERS. In essence, we will be adjusting the "floor" of our noise to allow some level areas at the base of our mountains. Adjust the LOW spinner upwards until you get a pleasing amount of flat area around your mountains. (See figure below for details).

PART 10: Now we are at the point where you can do some "Mountain Making." Use the STRENGTH and LUMINANCE CENTER parameters back in your Control Panel to adjust the size and shape of your mountains. You can also continue to adjust the NOISE MAP LOW and HIGH parameters back in the Material Editor. If you wish to further adjust the size and shape of your mountains or even get a whole new set of mountains from a different part of your NOISE MAP, try adjusting the OFFSET, PHASE or TILING parameters on your Material Editor. If you wish your mountains to be more rugged looking instead of smooth, adjust the LEVELS of your NOISE MAP in the Material Editor. This is where you get to be creative and experimental! (See figure below for some details.)

PART 11: At this point, your mountains are just about completed. you should use your 3DS Max skills to add some color to your mountain environment. You can either use EDIT POLY and MULTI-SUBOBJECT Materials to colorize your mountains and ground or you could introduce another plane as the ground and color it green. (See figure below for details.)

PART 12: THE AIRPORT- At this point, you will need to zoom in to one of your flat areas of your mountain landscape and create an airport. There should be a runway at your airport, as well as a few small buildings around the grounds. These can be simple, but should show a little detail. Here is a photograph of a small county airport in rural Alabama for reference, if it is helpful to you:


This will be a 30 point assignment, based on the look of your mountains and the detail of your airport.