Animating the Depth of Field (Procedural Blurring) in 3D Studio Max

By Conceptoo | 3D Studio Max | Intermediate

This tutorial will teach you how to create an animation in which the objects move through the depth of field of a target camera to create a blurring-in and blurring-out effect. The effect is very hard to describe in words, but it is a very popular effect that you will recognize instantly once you view the video below.

The concept behind this effect is commonly known in the field of optics. The depth of field is explained in Wikipedia as the the distance in front of and beyond the subject that appears to be in focus. It is labeled as the Focus Zone in the diagram below.

3D Studio Max generates this depth of field blurred effect by replicating the image multiple times once it leaves the focus zone making it look blurred, this number of times is called the total passes number. These images are replicated within a specified distance from the central image - this distance is called the radius. Read on to learn how to create this effect.

Starting off

Start off by downloading the 3DS file (3DSMax version 7) that has the starting scene from this link and open it. The scene contains four objects (the extruded words) placed on a plane and one target camera.

Setting the Depth of Field Effect

Select the Target Camera present on the scene and then access the Modify Panel, and find the Multi-Pass Effect options. Check Enable, and then hit the key C on your keyboard to switch to the Camera mode in the viewport. Go back to the Multi-Pass Effect submenu and select Depth of Field from the dropdown list and click on Preview. You should see all the text layers blurred in the preview.

While still in the Target Camera Modify panel, look for the Depth of Field Parameters rollout and check the Use Target Distance option under the Focal Depth submenu. This will sharpen the objects within the focal zone and will not clearly show whatever objects go beyond that.

It is possible to acquire an emphasised effect by configuring the Sampling submenu. I have set the number of Total Passes (the number of multiplications to create a blurrier image) to 20, and the Sample Radius to 5. This will create a more interesting result, but it could take a longer time to render in comparison to standard settings. You can hit F9 on your keyboard to create a test render to see the effect.

Animating the Camera

We are going to create an animation in which the camera moves in a straight line to span through all the words we have on the stage using the Auto Key animation method.

Use the Top Viewport to Select the Camera and its target and then click on the Auto Key button found in the lower interface bar.

Click on the Select and Move button and drag the time slider to frame 30. You will then have to drag the camera and its target and move it so that the camera target touches the outer surface of the second word (The).

We will now do the same for the other two words, start off by moving the time slider to frame 60 and drag the camera and its target to touch the outer surface of the third word (Creative). Then move the time slider to frame 90 and drag the camera and its target to touch the outer surface of the last word (Adventure).

We will make our animation loop now by moving the time slider to frame 100 and then dragging the camera and its target to touch the outer surface of the first word (Oman3D). To complete this stage simply click on the Auto Key button to turn it off. You can now preview your animation by switching to Camera viewport and then clicking on the Play Animation button to see the preview.

You can now render the scene to get a result similar to the shown in the video below:

This concludes our tutorial, please feel free to post at the Oman3D Forum if you have any questions.

- End of Tutorial