Today after several years of continuous development cebas released thinkingParticles 6, a major upgrade to one of the company’s flagship 3ds Max plugins. thinkingParticles is widely used and known for its procedural and physically accurate real world destruction and special effects simulations in the movie, television and game cinematics industries.

thinkingParticles 6 lets users build particle systems so they are not event-based, but rather, they are based on rules and conditions and not tied to other time-based factors. This is a significant point for many users. The new version has a new multi physics fluid dynamics system to simulate water or other incompressible flowing volumes. The basis of the fluid solver is a Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) method. thinkingParticles uses its own version of a SPH solver that is specifically developed to perform with larger time steps (or sub-frame samples for greater accuracy) and integrates into the fully procedural workflow of thinkingParticles.


It also, interestingly, for the first time includes an Analyser tool that allows users to know where sim time is being used. This is a great tool for optimization and finding bottlenecks, and as such opens the black box of the sim compute budget with also the real-time DynamicSet wire network analyzing tool.

We were keen to find out more and spoke to Edwin Braun, CEO of cebas Visual technology.

particlesFXG: The Analyzer tool is new and very interesting, just how much info do you get about bottlenecks and in what form?

EB: The Analyzer tool gives you Time spent on a single operator, memory used, particles created. This information is also available per Dynamic set (so all operators in a branch). The analyzer is a real-time DynamicSet wire network analyzing tool. It shows each single node used and how much time it eats up along with the particles it created or processed.

FXG: How long ago was the previous Version 5 of thinkingParticle released?

EB: It was announced and released on: 2012-06-27

FXG: How does the simulation time compare – is there serious algorithmic speed improvements (vs. general GPU improvements)?

EB: We did a lot of Multi-Threading optimizations. Still we are confined to 3ds Max’ poor multi threading architecture.

FXG: The physically based buoyancy and especially variable density multi-liquid solutions seem great! How hard were these to implement?

EB: All I can tell you is it is a big torture! Fluid dynamics are not fun and not even close to simple to implement. We use our own SPH solver approach and we managed to get one of the most stable Full Frame fluid simulation solver on the market. Not many SPH solvers can do what we can do in full frame. SPH solvers usually demand higher sub-frame samples to work stable and accurate. We are proud to say that we could keep it most of the times in full frame steps! It is also designed such that if “Hollywood” calls you can still add more sub-frame samples to get an even smoother simulation! Another important goal we achieved is we stayed fully procedural! All physics effects are integrated in a tP workflow which means everything is possible at any time. You can turn a liquid into a softbody or rigid body and back! To answer your question: once we got our SPH solver that solid and working it is a natural side effect to support proper fluid dynamics. So it was not complicated to offer fluid mixing or volume based buoyancy.

FXG: Your use of the term Multi-Physics – are you using the general concept of solving coupled systems of partial differential equations, and thus allowing rigid and soft body interactions.. I ask as you claim the “first integrated multi-physics for 3ds Max”?

EB: Yes multi-physics that’s how we mean it, proper coupling and solving multiple physics effects in one big “loop” everything can influence everything. Fluid can affect rigid and softbodies and soft-bodies at the same time affect rigid bodies and fluids. Actually it is a big mathematical iteration mess and nightmare. With tP6 we achieved a big step forward to a world simulator which we are joking all the time about internally (!)

FXG: What is your fluid solver, still an SPH solution?

EB:  It is our own SPH solver, after trying to get a solid and stable particle only based fluid simulator working for over 3 years we finally achieved the goal. We now have a pretty stable and fast fluid solver that works with particles only. SPH has some advantages as it does not need any boundary or fixed resolution. It also has some disadvantages that lie in the method itself and that is when you try to create tall water columns which are ugly to achieve with SPH solvers. However, try doing an endless stream of water and you are back in the game with a SPH solver.

FXG: Is your Bullet Physics Lb ,is it 3.x ? or 2.83? Version 5 had 2.81 Bullet Physics, if I recall.

EB:  We are on the latest 2.8x build. However, there is not much left of it internally. What we can do now is not possible with a plain vanilla Bullet Physics. Bullet was meant for Gaming and hence it has immense issues with real scenes our artists create and want to process. I guess as of now we have redone maybe 50% of the Physics. There is a reason why all of our Hollywood FX studio clients still use our ShapeCollision Rigid Body physics it is the most robust and most forgiving Rigid Body dynamics ever developed. It was essential in the movie 2012 and still is used throughout the latest movies. We are slowly bringing back the original ShapeCollision but with more speed and full support of multi-physics.

FXG: What are you personally most excited about?

EB: The most exciting for me is that we are finally able to ship the product after such a long hard journey. You would just not believe how many Water Tank simulations I did over the time of 3 years! It is about time that the users get their hands on it and create amazing stuff. We already hear that tP6 is used in several movies and our new fluid system plays an integral part.


FXG: What is the new pricing – I have seen only some rough % quotes, can you be more specific about the move to subscription please?

EB:  This is the new deal: we are going subscription only. There will be no more Major updates coming just continuous enhancements. Our price is US$55 per month (when you order a year that is $660) So that is actually 2.7x times cheaper than our old tP5 pricing. New users will love this price reduction for sure! As they will be now able to enjoy tP6 much cheaper! We think we have something amazing here with 660 per year only the user will get constant maintenance and upgrades instantly! Instead of waiting more than two years to get fluids; users will now be able o get it the minute we find it stable for production! There will be more smaller steps but important instant enhancements. Users will never have to worry about upgrades anymore. Also the subscription model offers a much better tax write off possibility for companies that the old licensing model. So it is cheaper on that side as well! So there will be one price: 660/year. And this includes all updates and new features. As long as the user pays the yearly fee. Just a reminder: tP5 is priced at US$ 1,795.


For more information go to cebas’ web site.

Recent films that have used  cebas software drives include “White House Down”, “After Earth”, “Star Trek: Into The Darkness”, “Oblivion”, “Die Hard 5: A Good Day to Die Hard”, “Spiderman” Sequels 3 and 4, “Snow white and the Huntsman”, “The Avengers”, “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn II”, “Battleship”, “Red Tails”, “Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance”, “Final Destination 5”, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I and II”, “Transformers 3D”,“Green Lantern”, “Thor 3D”, “2012”, “Alice in Wonder Land” and “Iron Man 2&3” and many others.

Major game titles in which cebas products were used include “League of Legends”, “The Witcher 2” movie intro, “Classic Transformers”, “Command and Conquer”, “Diablo”, “MX vs. ATV”, “Star Craft”, “Tomb Raider”, and “Wolfenstein”.