Creating A Missile Animation in Maya Using Instancers

In this tutorial we will animate a group of missiles being shot towards the sky using the 'Instancers' features in Maya. Play the animation below to see an example of what we are going to create in this tutorial. This is an intermediate level tutorial, you are expected to be familiar with the fundamental tools in Maya.
Start a new Maya file, access the preferences and change the Menu Set to Dynamics and the the Playback Speed to Real-Time (24 FPS). This should make our animation smoother.


I am going to provide you with the missile model to save time as this is not a modeling tutorial. You can create your own model if you would like to do so. Insert the model into the scene and make sure that it is laying along the X axis as it so much easier to deal with instancers that way.
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Scene and Missile Setup
Select the missile on the stage, this should make you see the transform pivot "X Y Z" in the center of the missile. We are going to move this pivot to the tail of the missile.* To do this hit the Insert key on your keyboard to be able to move the transform pivot online without moving the missile itself. Move the pivot now to the tail as illustrated in the image below. Exit the transform pivot mode by hitting Insert once again.

The transform pivot was moved to make the rotation of the missile an easier process, you can see the difference from the image below. The pivot had to also be moved to the back so that the particles that we will create later to simulate smoke are going to be generated from the position of the pivot.


We are now going to lock our pivot at the ******** 0,0,0 so that we do not accidentally move it anywhere. This is done by going through Modify>Freeze Transformation as illustrated in the image below.

Creating and Setting The Particles
Select the plane present in the scene and then go through Particles>Emit from Object and hit the small rectangular box to open the property panel.

You will need to make the changes highlighted in the image below. Click Create when you're done.

You can now hit Play to see the small particles emitting from the surface. You can change the shape/size of the particles if you think that they are too small. Hit Ctrl+A on your keyboard while the emitter is still selected to open up the Attribute Editor. You will need to select the tab labeled ParticleShape1 and then scroll down to Render Attributes, select the shape you want the particle to take from the drop down list and then hit Current Render Type and set its properties. I selected Spheres as the type and set the radius size to 0.200.

Instancer "Geometry Replacement"
Select the missile and all particles while holding down Shift. While the particles and the missile are selected, go through Particles>Instancer (Replacement) and click on the small box next to it.

The previous step should open up the Particle Instancer Option, under the General Options, set Position to worldPosition, and then under the Rotation Options, set the AimDirection to velocity and click Create.

You can now hit Play to watch the missiles come flying from the surface!

Enhancing the Missile Motion
We will make our motion a little bit more realistic by adding a gravity effect to the missiles. To do so, we will first be required to select all the particles. Go through Window>Outliner and then choose Particle1 from the list as illustrated in the image below.

Now that all the particles are selected, we could add gravity to them going through Fields>Gravity and selecting it as the image below shows.

This should do it. Playback the scene to see the difference.


We are going to use the Emitter Options again to create a smoke tail by generating another set of particles. Start off by select particle1 from the Outliner window the same way we did last time. Go through Particles>Emit From Object and hit the small box next to it to open the Emitter From Object properties ******** Make the changes illustrated in the image below and hit Create.

Note: You should always make sure that you keep the Rate of Particles low, as the higher the rate the slower your computer gets and this could increase the render time by a great amount.

You can click Play at this moment to preview how are animation is going.

Select the small set of particles coming out of the tail and then hit Ctrl+A to open up the Attribute Editor. Click on the ParticlesShape2 tab and then scroll down to Render Attributes. Choose Cloud [s/w] from the dropdown menu and then hit the Current Render Type button to change the radius of the particles as illustrated in the image below.

Cloud: a render type that displays particles as blurred or cloud metaballs which are used to simulate smoke tail.

Scroll down to the Per Particle (Array) Attributes section, click on the Opacity button, and then check the box next to it to Add Per Particle Attribute in the small window that pops up, click Add Attribute to close the ********

Now that we have the new OpacityPP field added to the Per Particle (Array) Attributes, right-click inside it and then select Create Ramp as illustrated in the image below.

You can now click Play to see the new particles fade away with time. Ramp on OpacityPP gives a grayscale colour to the particles that changes with time, i.e. age. You can refer to the Maya help file for more details on Grayscale Ramps.

We are now going to add the fire effect, open the Attribute Editor (Ctrl+A) and click on the ParticleShape2 tab. Go down to the Per Particle (Array) Attributes section, hit Color button and the Particle Color window shall open up. Check the Add Per Particle Attribute box and then hit the Add Attribute button as illustrated in the image below.

Now that the new rgbPP field has been added in the Per Particle (Array) Attributes, right-click inside it and then select Create Ramp as illustrated in the image below.

You can now click on Play to see the particles change color with time. Ramp on rgbPP gives a colorscale to the particles that changes with time.

Before we go ahead and render the scene, we need to hide the original objects to create a nice and tidy scene. To do this, you will have to select the plane first and then reference the missile and then go through Display>Hide>Hide Selection as illustrated in the image below.

Here is a render view of the result that I got after using some advanced techniques that I hope to write a tutorial about in the near future.

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