Voxel rendering in 3D Studio Max

Posted on 29. Jun, 2009 by in Blog

Recently I got involved in a movie project – doing some post production, visual effects, and compositing. One part of the assigment is to create a “in game” world, that will look very modern and high quality, but kind of old school at the same time. And then it struck me: Voxels!
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Definition (source: wiki)
A voxel (a blend of the words volumetric and pixel) is a volume element, representing a value on a regular grid in three dimensional space. This is analogous to a pixel, which represents 2D image data. Voxels are frequently used in the visualization and analysis of medical and scientific data. Some volumetric displays use voxels to describe their resolution. For example, a display might be able to show 512×512×512 voxels.

It looks pretty simple at first, but then you realize that what you want to do is to animate your characters (or whatever) in a “normal” way, and then have it rendered out as voxels… and that’s where it gets complicated. I’ve tested out several solutions: script and renderers, but found nothing that satisfied me, so I started to develop my own script. Here are some of the first results that I got.
The script converts any given mesh to a voxel based object. The shape of the voxel can also be defined as a mesh. For performance reasons there is an option to minimize processing time by building the voxel model while ignoring backfacing vertices.

After I’m finished with the script there will probably be a tutorial on FineCG.com.

20 Responses to “Voxel rendering in 3D Studio Max”

  1. David_97

    30. Jun, 2009

    Very cool tip! I love the effect.

  2. illd

    30. Jun, 2009

    Maltaannon, you are really a never stopping script-writing-machine in every aplication ;) The voxels look like those good Lego´s

  3. Ricky

    01. Jul, 2009

    amazing… I’ve always been wondering how to do that….
    Did I tell you how much I love your website now? :)

  4. Abduselam Omer

    02. Jul, 2009

    u r freakin awesome man!!! greetings from Eritrea!!!

  5. Melkoret

    02. Jul, 2009

    Freaking sick dude!

    I look forward to any movie that uses those kind of graphics! very unique!

    • Jerzy Drozda Jr

      03. Jul, 2009

      Well… it’s going to be quite a lot of time till the movie is released, but when it’s ready I’m sure to post a link. It’s still in preproduction stage.

  6. Vinnie

    03. Jul, 2009

    I am always amazed with your tutorials and things you are creating! Is there no end to your talents?

  7. Rafael Guerra

    06. Jul, 2009

    Total Genius…The Stephen Hawking of Motion Graphics.

  8. Kai

    07. Jul, 2009

    looks like a lego set.

  9. harry

    19. Jul, 2009

    eagerly awaiting for your ‘voxel’ script! btw, what a fantastic Reel you’ve got ! kudos!

    • Jerzy Drozda Jr

      19. Jul, 2009

      Thanks for the kind words. :) The reel is not “final” yet, but I thought it’s good enough. As for the script it will be a while till it’s released. There are still some problems to solve, and the movie needs to be released before I can release the script. Be patient however – the script is coming.

  10. Nenad

    22. Jul, 2009

    How did you do this?

    Cant wait to grab my hands on this :)

  11. xpez

    11. Aug, 2009

    I was thinking about this for C4d…

    Mograph allows you to use chroma and luminance values to displace polygons.. but it doesnt take long before the whole thing becomes geometry heavy and slow…

    If you made a renderer for c4d I would certainly buy it !!!

    I will be buying the AE UV plug-in very soon..

    great work!

    • Bernardo Vaz

      19. Jul, 2010

      There is a free voxel plug in for c4d made by Robert Leger out there. I have never used it, but it seems to be cool.

  12. Tuto

    25. Aug, 2009

    I really like this effect, it looks like a toy !

  13. Oliver Nürnberger

    01. Sep, 2009

    Great Stuff! But here you found real voxel volume rendering with Mental Ray:


  14. polypixel

    06. Sep, 2009

    Holy crap! That is just what I was after for a project,
    thanks a lot!

  15. Hendrik

    09. May, 2010

    Any updates on this, It would be nice to have some script snippets or a working script to learn from.


  16. David W.

    19. Jul, 2010

    Awesome, you’re making a Lego movie! :P That looks really cool Jerzy, I need to get into 3D work. Can’t wait to find out what the movie is. :)

  17. Joey

    26. Jan, 2011

    pity 2011 and no script yet,

    but the rest of the site is super great :))