Thinking Particles vs Particular Flow



I have been researching about max particles and I found Thinking Particles, Are this similar in concept and funtionality to Particular Flow. What are the strong point in each one. And there weakness ??

thank you in advance



What is Particular Flow? Or do you mean Particle Flow?


Sorry is “Particle Flow” of course, NOW Help meee !?


They are just a bit similar.
Thinking Particles is RULE-BASED system.
Particle Flow is EVENT-BASED system.

TP Pros:
*Very Powerful (creating complex systems is easier than in PFlow)
*Great Dynamics
*Supports Fracturing
*Good caching system
*Very good Material-based control over particle properties (Matterwaves built-in)
*Being rule-based it is a lot more flexible to react to things happening in the scene.
*New version 3.0 coming soon, I hear it will be amazing :wink:

TP Cons:
*With Great Power comes great… complexity. Creating simple things in TP is harder than in PF. A PhD degree is a bonus :wink:

PF Pros:
*Very simple to use, probably the best balanced power vs. ease of use of any particle system available.
*Very good scripting support (whetever cannot be done with the built in tools can usually be scripted, but would run much slower)
*Additional packs available from Orbaz, PF + Box 3 makes it very similar in flexibility to TP

PF Cons:
*4 years later still no interparticle dynamics (coming soon in Box 2 though, I hope)
*No fracturing either (Box 2?)
*Rather slow calculating complex flows, caching not very good.
*Additional power has to be purchased from 3rd party at extra cost and Autodesk has not touched the built-in system at all since Max 6.


! ! ! WOW ! ! ! Bobo in person answer a little question from a little cuban 3Ds MAX guy ! ! ! this forum is amazine.

Ok I now understarn almost everythink about the two softwares, alone there are four things that I have left pending:

1- one is that Bobo said that thinking particles is Ruled Based?, please what is that?

2- PF interparticle dynamics ?

3- PF No fracturing either ?

4- I suppose but neither I do have left clear, is particle flow with box 1 and 2 similar of powerful that thinking particles??

thanks again Bobo I’m fan of your talent! on scripting too



1 - Read this, it explains the difference between Event-Driven and Rule-Based.

2 and 3 - yep, PFlow particles cannot collide with each-other at mesh level, nor can you turn a solid object into a bunch of chunks without some heavy scripting.

4 - PFlow with Boxes 2 and 3 would be potentially very similar to TP, but Box 2 has not been released yet and I have no internal knowledge of what will be in it, although it is expected to provide dynamics and fragmentation and they are the only things missing.
Box 3 provides similar to TP per-particle mathematical operations using Data Operators you can wire together instead of programming in a language.


Bobo Thanks to you NOW I understand !




I want everyone to remember this statement whenever they bitch about PFlow not being perfect. From day one it was designed to be general particle system for MAX, to replace Spray, Snow, Super Spray, etc. The plan was to make something that had a balance of power vs ease of use so that it could support the largest portion of users in MAX’s broad user base. It was made as simple as can be without reducing it to the level of simplicity of the previous generation of particle tools. It was also made to be extensible so that power users could mold it into a niche tool. It is not a specialized system but a general one, and that’s why Thinking Particles still has a place at the table. TP wasn’t designed along the same lines, allowing for capability to over rule ease of use, as what you would expect from a specialized system.


Perfect framed picture of PFlow! :slight_smile:


Hi I have been watching some allan mckay and Brandon videos and is awesome what can we do with PF. Thinking Particles is too a powerfull particle engine.

So maybe this is Of but I need ask, In your professional opinion is 3DS MAX Particles engine (TP, FumeFX, Afterburn included) as powerfull as Maya Particles. ???

Maybe this is a theme for another Thread but if someone may answer me ?

Thanks for everybody timesss

PD: I love MAX ! :wink:


Mayas particles can in theory do everything but a lot of the stuff is accessed usng mel scripting. Apparently Rif Dagher from cgfluids demo’d thinking particles to the guy who original wrote maya’s particles and he was quite wowed - he didn’t expect it to be that powerful.

As for tp vs pflow, for me pflow is far faster to get simple effects with - it’s very agile and you can knock out a tonne of stuff very quickly. When you start getting up to millions of particles or using a lot of geometry instancing it starts getting quite unstable though - I reckon if autodesk had let oleg keep updating it we might have less problems but anyway. Pflows caching system is great in theory with the down stream operators but doesn’t work as well in practise.

Tp is a far heavier system, it’s potentially a lot more flexible but this adds in a lot more complexity that will slow you down on simpler effects. It’s way more powerful out of the box and its playback / caching engine is way more reliable than pflow in my experience. It’s fracturing and dynamics operators are fantastic - they were the main reason I bought it originally but there’s hundreds of other great things in it.

To compare the two, as bobo said it’d more like pflow and box #3 vs tp. For heavier stuff or where I need dynamics or fracturing I’d use tp. fr simpler effects I’d use pflow and get a quicker result than tp.

Please note that while I do a huge amount of particle work, I’m not a full time particle td like allan, brandon or rif - I don’t get the time they would to get really deeply in to these systems (for example - rif would have a lot of tp presets to make things far quicker than I could and bobo and brandon could use box #3 to get tp style results).

Ideally I’d get both and apparently max particles are as good and possibly better than mayas, especially with stuff like fume to add in a fluid solver and krakatoa for massive point rendering.


On the subject of Maya particles and how they compare to the rest of the tools out there, they are in my opinion highly dated and not a whole lot evolved since Dynamation in the mid-90s. Capable? Yes, but as mentioned they are exceptionally reliant on MEL scripting. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when you need to do something very complex, but it makes doing simple things painful when your alternatives are more modern interfaces that intuitively let you build particle systems.

Houdini’s particle tools are hard to beat, not because it has features others don’t have, but because the way Houdini works in general is VERY benefitial to particle systems both simple and complex.


I’m not a hardcore particle user either, so PFlow suits my needs, although I do wish it could be a bit nippier. (I remember a good example being emitting particles from a deforming surface, like whitecaps. It just seemed to be a lot quicker using PArray than PFlow for that)

On that side of things, I’m not sure how much can be done (without resorting to cacheing) by Oleg to speed things up, or if the ball is solely in Autodesk’s court on that one.

  • Steve


Multi-threaded calcs would be great, if possible! I’d pay for a Box that did that no problem, would be great if AME would do something in that department, think its time for them to rollback through the particle department with the updates. We’ve seen a bunch of stuff for animation, character enhancements, archviz, some modelling, hair, ect. but little in the way of particles since what max6?



it was an extension for Max 5, but I don’t remember anything new since it was rolled into 6.

No idea if it’s easily multithreaded, if any of it already is, or can use GPUs or Aegia to speed things up (apart from just collision).

  • Steve


" or Aegia to speed things up (apart from just collision)."

I have read something related with Aegia asceleration comming in Box #2 in Orbaz Official Site.


Brandon: Houdini particles, uhmmmm that sound interesting !!


Wow, Cool

With such a potentially explosive topic title, there is actually a good bit of (moderately) unbiased info in this thread. That’s really great.

Ill refrain form giving any biased oppinoins my self, but keep looking at this thread and try to answer any questions that guys might have on TP.

I do agree that TP is a bit more difficult for some simpler setups but we are really trying to address this in a couple ways.

Blackboxes… Basically complex or simple setups can be made into custom Dynamic sets for later use with a click of a button

Tutorials… I wrote the super simple tutorials for TP 2.5 and they really start form 0 and super easy steps to setting up very simple systems.

Training Videos… TP now ships with some great Training videos to get you into the more advanced (matterwaves, fracture, shape collision etc) stuff, picking up were the tutorials leave off. We are also getting ready to release hours of more free video training form top artist in the industry. Some of these are basics and some advnaced.

Community support… The cebas forum as well as the great CGfluids forum provide good community for TP guys to get support.

Michael McCarthy
cebas USA


For SURE Bobo. You hear right. TP 3.0 is near to completion and is Jaw Dropping! :smiley:

We will be showing TP 3.0 at Siggraph this year at Booth 416. We welcome you all to come check it out. Amazing artist Rif Dagher, Lead FX TD at CafeFX, for example, will be demonstrating how his team used Thinking Particles and finalRender Stage-2 to create some exciting scenes in Spider-Man 3.

Also talented FX animator Ari Sachter-Zeltzer from Shadow Play Studios will be demoing his incredible TP techniques.

Michael McCarthy
cebas USA



yeah, It’s been on the cards for a good while now, it was more whether other things on GPUs or the PhysX card could speed up calcs or if it is just collision.

Also, if general particle speedups are possible with hardware, whether it would have to be Autodesk that implements that, or if it could be done in a Box by Oleg.

  • Steve


whether it would have to be Autodesk that implements that, or if it could be done in a Box by Oleg.

Can be done both ways. Another problem is that PFlow is too flexible. You can skin the can by so many ways that the method chosen could be not the optimal one. It’s like you are able to throw quickly a prototype that works fine for specific conditions, or a limited number of particles, and then you just pump up the quantities without revisiting the design.

Looks like “Efficient PFlow” course in order :slight_smile:

One of the reason why Box#3 was implemented - is to get to the optimality of some operations as deep as possible.

Implementation of multi-threading for PFlow - the issue was not the biggest concern and/or demand in the beginning. However, given the turn where the hardware is going (multi core architecture), it definitely becomes more promising.

Oleg B.