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Making Tracks with Align Ace

Author: Crescent

Tools Needed

  • DAZ Studio
  • Align Ace
  • Primitives (Free Section)
  • Armor Train (Free Section)


Please note: Because the D|S workspace is customizable, the screen shots shown may be slightly different from your set up. The best workspace set up is the one that you're comfortable with.


Step 1 - Starting the Scene - Creating the Rails

Load the Armored Train into the scene. When the train loads, the train faces the camera. This means that it lies on the Z Axis. The grid lines that go crosswise are the X Axis. Knowing this makes it easier to figure out which dials to use when moving and scaling items. One thing I do when working on a scene is rotate the viewport about 45 degrees so I can see the X and Z axis better.

First we'll make the main rails that the train moves over.

1) Click on the 'Create a New Primitive' button.

2) Select the Cube, 3cm in size, with 1 Division.

3) Go to the Scene tab and select the Cube. Double click on the name and change it to Rail1. Hit the Enter key so the name is changed.

4) Go to the Parameters tab.

5) Move Rail1 to 8.6 on the X axis. (You can right click on the number for XTranslate and type the value in.) This centers the rail under the left wheels.

6) Elongate the rail by setting the ZScale to 30000.

7) The rail looks a little too tall. Change the YScale to 50.

8) Repeat Steps 1-7, but name the cube Rail2 and set the XTranslate to –8.6.

9) Go to the Surfaces tab. Select the Rail1-Default and Rail2-Default materials. (If you don't see the materials listed, click on the right pointing arrow past the Surfaces tab and select 'Show Surfaces List.')

Click on the drop down arrow by the Diffuse Color button and select 'train_a' in the drop down list. (It's a nice, rusty texture, so we might as well use it for the tracks as well. You can make the rails darker or lighter by adjusting the Diffuse Color.)

Step 2 - Preparing the Planks - Plank 1

The main rails are done. Now comes the fun part – making the planks. The trick is to get one plank correctly sized, then load all the other planks into the scene and let D|S and Align Ace do the grunt work for you. (Why position 20 objects one at a time when a few clicks of the button will do the work for you?)

Since the rails are 17.2cm apart (both are 8.6cm away from the center point, one in a positive direction, the other in the negative direction, so that's 17.2cm total) the plank will need to be wider than that to look correct. (Railroad planks extend past the rails.) For true realism, you can look up the exact measurements of the rail planks. For this render, we will be creating boards 35cm in width.

1) Load a cube that's 35cm in size with 1 division.

2) In the Scene tab, name the cube Plank 1. (If Plank1 is difficult to see in your workspace, go to the Surfaces tab and change the Diffuse_Color to something with good contrast, such as bright blue.)

3) Change the YScale to 5% and the ZScale to 10%. The planks need to be under the rails, so set the YTranslate to –1.8. (When trying to line things up, don't forget about the 'Frame Selection' tool in the View window. It's incredibly useful for zooming in on an object so you can see what you're doing.)


4) Looking closely at the train, I can see that it is partially inside the rails. Select the train and set the YTrans to 1.25. Now it's on top the rails, not inside them.


If you zoomed in on Plank 1, you can quickly zoom back out by selecting the train and using the 'Frame Selection' button again.

Step 3 - Creating and Aligning the Other Planks

1) Create 20 new cubes, all 35cm in size.

2) Go to the Scene tab, click on the first cube, hold down the Shift key, then click on the last cube. This will select all of them at once.

3) Set the YTranslate to –1.8, the YScale to 5%, and the ZScale to 20%. (This gives them the same attributes as Plank1.)

4) Go back to the Scene tab, hold down the Control key, and click on Plank1. Now it is selected with all the newly created planks.

5) We'll want the planks to start from one edge of the render window to the other (or beyond.) Go to the Parameters tab and change the ZTranslate to 135 to move all the planks to one edge of the scene. (Depending on the size of your screen, you may need to adjust the ZTranslate value accordingly.)

6) Click on the Windows menu at the top and select Align. The Align tool window will appear.

7) The train is pointed forward on the Z Axis, so that is the axis the planks need to be distributed. Under the Z Axis section, click on the box and select 'Stack : Behind (-Z).“ Click on the box for spacing and set it to .2 m then hit Apply. Now all of the planks are spaced out .2 meters from one another, each one further back on the Z axis, extending all the way across your scene. (If you had moved the planks to the far end of your image, you could have used “Stack : In Front (+Z)” instead.)


8) Are the planks too far apart for your tastes, or not far enough? You can just go to Edit: Undo Align and the planks will all line back up by the first plank so you can try a different amount of spacing.

9) Go to the Surfaces tab and select all the planks. If you have a wood texture, select Browse and locate the image on your hard drive. Alternatively, you could load the train_a texture for the planks and using a brown color for the Diffuse Color. (If you had changed the color of Plank1 earlier in the tutorial to make it easier to see, don't forget to change the Diffuse Color for it now that you're done, otherwise you may end up with one plank that is very different looking from the others!)

Step 4 - Voila!


Here's my finished version with lighting and a backdrop added to the scene.