This tutorial will teach you how to create an animation of a missile that flies targeting an object and then explodes when hitting that target. Our animation will be created using the Particle Flow Source (PF Source). PF Source is a powerful multi-purpose particle system that lets us manipulate a large number of particles to create effects such as fire, rain, snow, and smoke. We will PF Source in this tutorial to create our missile animation by doing the following:
  1. Duplicate our missile to launch four missiles.
  2. Make the four missiles track the target objects as they are shot.
  3. Create smoke trailing behind the flying missiles.
  4. Create the explosion when a missile hits a target.
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We are not going to cover any modeling in this tutorial, in order to follow this tutorial easily you need to download the starting max file from here.
Open the .max file to see that it has a simple scene with a biplane, a missile, and four pre-animated teapots. By the end of this tutorial our biplane should fire four missiles that will fly towards the teapots and explode when they hit them.

1 - Creating the Particle Flow To Duplicate Our Missiles

We are going to start off by creating a PF Source object, which is basically an object that emits particles. We will use this object to emit, i.e. launch, four missiles. To create a PF Source access the Create Panel, open Geometry, select Particle Systems from the drop down menu and then look for the Object Type rollout and select PF Source. Now you have to click once on the scene to create your PF Source.

The arrow on the PF Source object shows the direction from which the missiles will be emitted. Align the PF Source so that this arrow faces the same direction as our biplane. Head back when you finish to the Modifier panel, look for the Setup rollout, and click on Particle View.

The Particle View window that should now be visible to you is the place where the majority of our work in this tutorial will be done. The particle view window provides the main user interface for creating and modifying particle systems in Particle Flow. Our project will consist of events, which are combinations of operators that specify the particle's characteristics over a given period of time, and operators, which are the basic element of the particle system that let us describe parameters such as particle speed, direction, shape, appearance and others. We will be adding an event by righting clicking an empty space in the Particle View window and then select New to select any event or operator.
Start by selecting Birth 01 - the birth operator, the function of this operator is apparent from its name, it sets the manner in which our particles are to be produced and the number/rate at which these particles are to be produced.
Set the Emit Time to 30 (this means that our particles will be emitted from the PF Source at frame 30) and the Emit Stop to 100 (this means that the PF Source will stop emitting at frame 100). Set the Amount to 4 to produce four particles only - which is the number of missiles we need. An alternative emission method that we are not going to use is production by rate in which we can specify the number of particles to be produced for every frame. We only need 4 missiles, so we only put the number four as our amount.

By default, a PF Source emits particles from the position of the PF Source object itself, this is managed by the Position Icon operator, however, we do not want our missiles to be shot from the position of the PF Source object, but from the missile launch pads attached to the airplane. To do this we will have to replace the Position Icon with a Position Object Operator. Right-click on the Position Icon operator and go through Insert>Operator>Position Object.

Select the Position Object operator and check the option to Inherit Emitter Movement. This lets each particle inherit the speed and direction of its emitter object, which will be in our case the airplane. This means that our missiles won't look funny if we decided to move and animate our airplane.
We are going to set the Emitter Objects by selecting By List and then picking Biplane from the list. We will now specify the actual ******** from which our missiles are to be emitted, so under ******** pick Selected Faces and click on the faces of the back of the missile launcher on the plane to select these as the emitting source.

We will now configure the speed at which our missiles will fly. Select the Speed Operator and set the Speed to 1200 and the Variation to 24. The Speed is the speed at which our particles move, the variation on the other hand is the range at which the speed will vary from one particle to the other. In our example, by setting the variation to 24 makes it possible for our particles to have any speed value between 1176 to 1224 (1200 + or - 24).

The next option will let us control how our missiles will rotate in space as they fly. Select the Rotation Operator and set the Orientation Matrix type to Speed Space Follow. This option makes our missiles face the direction that they are travelling through. You will have to set the Y axis to 90 though to actually make its head face that direction.

We have not made our particles appear as missiles yet, by default a particle's look will be managed by the Shape Operator but we already have our object, so to make it without dealing with the Shape Operator we can replace it with the Shape Instance Operator. To do this go right-click the Shape Operator and go through Insert>Operator>Shape Instance.

Select the Shape Instance Operator now, look for the Particle Geometry Object section, click on the None button and then select the missle object on the scene. This will make our particles look like our missile. We no longer need the original missile on the stage, so simply right-click and select Hide Selected Object.

We are going to test our missiles now, to be able to see them in the viewport we will need to configure the Display operator and set the Type to Geometry. This will let us see our missiles the way they are and not as dots or some other generic shape.

We are done with this part, you can play the scene to see that:
  1. Four particles have been produced.
  2. These particles are emitted from the missile launch pad of the airplane.
  3. These particles travel at different speeds.
  4. These particles have the shape of a missile
am sure that you have noticed that the missile flies in a straight line, while our objective is to target it at the teapots as they move. This section will explain how to do that.Right-Click an empty spot below the Display operator and go through Insert>Test>Find Target as illustrated in the image below. Make sure that you do not right-click on it because that might replace Display by mistake.

Select Find Target then and apply the following: set Speed to 1200, the Variation to 24 - those are the same values we set in the Speed Operator earlier. You will also need to set the Accel Limit to 7200. Look for the Target section, select the target as Mesh Objects, click on By List and select the teapots from the list to set them as targets. Finally, make sure you enable the Follow Target Animation option to allow the missile to track a moving target.

You can test your animation now by clicking on the play button on the animation playback controls.
Creating the Missile Smoke Tails

The tool that we will use here is the Spawn Test. Spawn creates new particles from exising ones at the same ******** as its parent and in the same orientation and shape. To add a Spawn Test, click below Find Test Operator and go through Insert>Test>Spawn, then select Spawn and apply the following changes: Under the Spawn Rate and Amount group of settings select the option for By Travel Distance, this lets you spawn new particles at regular intervals of distance as the parent particle moves. Set the Step Size to 3, this means that your parent will spawn new particles in every third step. On the Speed group of settings, select In Units and set it to 50, this specifies the speed of spawned particles, then set the Variation to 10.

We also need to define the shape and texture of our spawned objects. This will require defining another event to do that. Right-click an empty space on the Particle View window and go through New>operator>Shape Facing to create new event with shape facing operator in it. Now to change the configures of Shape Facing, click on the button labeled None under Look at Camera/Object and select the Camera from the scene. This will make all the new spawned particles face it all the time. Now in the Size/Width group, select In World Space, set its value to 5. Go down to Uniqueness and set the Seed to 235, this will add a randomization element to the variation of size and width.

Our smoke is supposed to grow bigger in size as time passes, to do this we will add a Scale Operator. Right-Click under Shape Facing and go through Insert>Operator>Scale. We will make the changes to scale with time, so we will use Auto Key Framing to specify at which frame the particles should grow, move the Time Slider to Frame 120 and then Activate Auto Key Framing by clicking once on the Auto Key button.

Select the Scale Operator and apply the following changes:
  • Set the Type to Relative First. - This makes the particles scale sequentially.
  • Under the Scale Factor group set X, Y, and Z to 200%.
  • Under the Scale Variation group set X, Y, and Z to 10.
  • Enable Constrain Proportions for both Scale Factor and Scale Variation to retain the current ratio for these settings.
You now have to turn off Auto Key by clicking once on it again.

We now have to assign a material to our smoke tails. Add a Dynamic Material Operator by going through Insert>Operator>Dynamic Material. On its parameters rollout, click on the None button below Assign Material, select Mtl Editor radio button and double click Smoke Material to select it.

Select Display Operator and change type to Geometry.

Our smoke should not stay forever, to remove our smoke we are going to add a Delete Operator to our event. Right-click below our display operator and go through Insert>Operator>Delete. Access its properties and select By Particle as the Remove type. Set the Life Span to 120 frames and the Variation to 10.

We now need to connect the new event we created to a Spawn Test. This is a necessary step to ensure that our particles satisfy the conditions we required. We need to connect the new event we just created to the Spawn Test operator and also rename it to Missile_Smoke_Tails. I also suggest you rename event01 to launch_Missiles.

Create Explosions

Creating the explosions will require using Events and Operators just like the previous part of our tutorial. I am going to provide you with the general outline on how to do this and you will have to supply your own values for these operators as an exercise. If you get stuck at any part from here you can ask for help at the Forum. Here you go:
  1. Start off by creating a new Event with a Shape Facing operator. Set its parameters and make sure not to forget to assign the Look at Camera/Object option to the camera on the scene.
  2. Add a Scale Operator and sets its properties, turn on Autor Key before changing the Scale Factor and Scale Variations and turn it off when you are done by clicking once on it. You will also need to use the Time Slider to know what frame to start scaling at.
  3. Texture the particles by adding a Material Dynamic Operator, follow the same procedure we did for the Smoke Tails Material Dynamic Operator, however, this time assign the Explosion Material that can be found in the Mtrl Editor.
  4. Add a Delete operator to remove the explosion smoke after the impact, use a short life span.
  5. Again, Delete the missiles right after the impact, to do that add a Spawn test and change the Spawn Rate and Amount group to Once and enable the Delete Parent option to do the trick.
  6. Configure the Display Operator in the event by changing the type to circles.
Once you are done you have to link the last event to Find Target Test in our first event. And rename it as Explosion.

That's it. You can now test your movie to see the missiles exploding!
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This concludes our tutorial, I hope that you learnt something new