Groundwiz Plugin for 3ds Max – Quick-Review

Looking for procedural noise for large scale scenes ? Groundwiz might just do the trick!

In a nutshell: What does it do? Landscape-Shading! Look at the banner image: Most of the snowshader and the rockdetail has been done in Groundwiz. Look at the desert sierras in the images below – groundwiz was used to do the indefinite detail.

Groundwiz by Gugila for 3ds Max has been around for a while and I guess has lost most of its awareness within the 3d-community. Still we at xoio keep on using it – let me tell you why!

To see the benefits of this plugin, let me tell you some personal insights.


0. About landscape 3d-rendering:
If you ever tried to generate largescale terrains in CG you certainly have stumbled across certain issues, that prevent a heap of polygons to turn into a convincing landscape. Tools like VueDEsprit or Terragen deliver nice landscapes out of the box, but if you want to get nice results from your 3d.package of choice (3ds-Max, Modo, …) things are more difficult. You have more flexibility, but you have to bring a deeper understanding what makes a landscape convincing in appearance and to loose that cg-ish look:


1. Endless detail
Imagine you are zooming down onto a desert sierra from stratosphere until your face literally touches the ground. No matter how close you get, you will always see detail! Detail will never stop! There is no point where your surface starts to become blurry – there are no “blurry texturemaps” in reallife – sorry :). When doing convincing 3d-terrains this is a big issue: Making your textures small enough does not help in the end, because on a bigger scale you will then get texture tiling – not very natural, too.

So you have to work in Foreground and Background separately, which may look nice, but then you have no flexibility to move around your terrain freely.

Groundwiz generates sharp detail at every level!

That’s where Groundwiz kicks in. Opposed to bitmap texturing it is fully procedural. No matter how close or far you are from the surface, you will always have detail in your texture. And even in animation it does a great job to have a seamless transition between different scales.


2. Surface imperfection
Obviously no natural surface is perfect. Even here Groundwiz is useful. One Groundwiz Texture can be used in various other texturing slots – especially the bump slot. Corresponding issues (strength, amount of detail, etc.) are all adjusted within the core-groundwiz-map.

The same node has been reused for bump and diffuse. Other nodes are possible

3. Planting – mass instancing
Groundwiz also comes with an integrated massinstancing tool, which is actually quite impressive. Honestly we can not tell too much about this tool at this point, since our studio switched to Forest a long while back because of its massive performance with millions of instances. But the groundwiz instancer is quite powerfull in itself and even the demo version has some great features, which is timewise unlimited. Check it out yourself if it suits for you!

The terrain in the distance is an easy setup and delivers convincing level of detail.

4. Speed
Another great feature – it is fast! Heck, it is even that fast, that the developers have been implementing it into some sort of realtime version. You can check it out as their second product on their website.


For the moment that is what we wanted to share. In conclusion we think groundwiz is still a very valid plugin that comes in handy in various situations. Setting up the layers can be a little confusing, but since it renders very fast, iterations are not an issue. Not to be forgotten the noncommercial light version already has a lot of impressive features that already allow to use the plugin to major extends. Grab yourself the lite version at the Gugila website, and maybe you feel compelled to invest in the full version later, this one also allows to use texture maps instead of colors, more layers and more.

Hope that gave you a little insight in this great little tool!


Best regards, xoio


+ scale independent, with unlimited detail
+ renders superfast
+ good connection with other shader nodes especially “bump”
+ terrain functions as slope, height, etc.
+ a lot of features in the trial version.
+ integrated mass instancing tool.
+ works on many renderers (Vray, Mentalray, Scanline, …)

– few noise options, somewhat similar look.
– no more real further development.
– pro version with few extra features and complicated to set up for mulitple users.


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