Niall Horn VFX's Blog- Making Of My Work & RnD

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Meteor Vs Building- FX Shot- WIP

Hi Guys,  Right now I am super busy on an awesome project doing some heavy FX work, which I can wait to show in the not so distant future! Last night I decided to render what I had so far of one my main personal projects inspired by Scanline's shot on Battleship, where one of the Alein Ships smashes into the Bank Of China in Hong Kong. My shot is a WIP Right now as you can see, however I plan to work it up in my spare time (along with countless over RnD's I want to work on over the next few months!!) so I can get a great Final Shot! I've done some FumeFX setup for the shot already aswell as most of the shaders.

The destruction is done using TP with Volume Breaker using fully procedural destruction, no pre frag at all. Becuase the setup for this was done late last year, I cached out the sim from TP to Xmesh Caches, and used PFlow to add Paper Debris, Concrete Trail Debris and also Tiny Office Objects like tables and computer monitors, which you cant really see, but play well on the eye. The Actual setup for the TP system was done in a night, all of the Groups that were cached to XMesh from TP was done in under a day, also the PFlow systems were cached to Xmesh aswell.

So Next Step Fume, also hoping to comp this into a city environment and get it looking great!


Thanks For Looking!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Explosive Jet-Ski'n - RealFlow 2015 Alpha Test Shot

Hi Guys, 

Here is an updated version of my Explosive Jet-Ski'n Shot as I once again got the change to Alpha & Beta test RealFlow 2015, this is my First test shot, using the RealFlow 2015 alpha. The Overall production time of this shot was around 1.5 weeks, the main purpose was testing the new Collision Volumes in RealFlow 2015 aswell as the faster sim times. The Original version from 4 days ago I was not happy with, the Ocean surface I used was mainly based on fractal noise displacement and looked really bad, this time I am using HOT (Houdini Ocean Toolkit in Max) with some additional noise to get rid of Tiling and also to add the smaller waves/ripples on the surface. I also added in the Rock the Jet Ski collides with, aswell as including side water explosions as if the Jet-Ski's are riding through a minefield! I also added more spray and mist and some rainbowing (caused by rays travelling at different lengths/Refractions through water spray, Physics Knowledge!) and also Water on the Lens which I love doing as it adds a lot of Realism. Here is the making of the shot-

Max Scene WIP

The Jet Ski models were quite lowres and had bad topo however the new collision volumes in RealFlow created an accurate isosurface without any problems! The Jet Skis were then Keyframed and the Red Ski that gets thrown in the air, was a simple RBD RayFire Sim. This was then sent to RealFlow as SD (Scaled Down to RealFlows Scale).

I used Hybrido (FLIP) for the shot, The Jet Skis have small cylinders on the back of them, these emit fluid with inital velocity to mimic the Jets on the Jet Ski, without this the velocity in the fluid would come from the collisions only which is not realistic. Also having that extra velocity in the water creates nicer Foam Patterns and Secondary Simulations.

RealFlow Jet Ski, Jet Emitters

The Core Fluid sim had around 45 Million particles, Originally the camera was in from of the Skis and showed the full length of the fluid, so I didn't go for a Moving Domain method, I used a Full Static Tank approach, However I changed the camera before rendering for a better shot, in the end I could of used a Moving Fluid Emitter/Domain but it was too late! The sim took only 10-11 Hours, thats a lot quicker than RF2014, compared to how long my Space Pyramid Rise Project took to sim. One thing I found with doing a Jet Ski sim is, usually the worry is that the scale will look to small, well I was using a proper scaled scene very close to Real World Scale, however the Jet Ski Jets loved to shoot fluid really high, so I ended up using higher gravity and then cutting the top of the Fluid Mesh off at Render time.

Nice Foam Wakes from the Jet Emitters and Using HyFLIP Splash & Foam

The Secondary Sims were done using Dumb and HyFLIP for the Splash and Foam, I encountered a problem I have now named, "The Radial Spray Problem"! Its due to really fast moving objects and not using enough sub steps (I think). I solved it by using Bounded Noise Fields parented to each Jet Ski to mess up the initial emission and give more natural swirls to the splash emission. I went for Splash and Foam rather than separate Splash and Foam sims because I knew I wanted direct emission of Foam from the Splash sim. And Splash & Foam is a lot more improved than having to do Splash as a septate sim that then drives a Foam sim.

The Water Explosion was done in a Separate scene, a very simple Sphere colliding with a Low Res Hybrido sim, using Noise and attractors to get the fluid to Explode like a small depth charge, the WhiteWater Splash and Foam sim was using Dumb Particles, these were then used without the core fluid sim. I orgianlly planted to use the Ocean Force Field Daemon, however this method give me more control without having to go back and re-animate texture Sequences. The side water Explosions were using PFlow, Its quite hard to get a nice water explosion at this scale, as inreality Depth Chrage explosions are very huge and traily, where as I wanted more of a smaller scale blast explosions.

Water Explosion Sims
PFlow Side Water Explosions Setup WIP

The Hybrido PRT's were meshed through Frost, Using Krakatoa to extract the velocities and drive a V-Ray Extra Tex map (With Refraction) to create the Bubbles Refraction Velocity Effect. The Mesh was cut off as I said to stop the fluid looking out of scale from the Jet emitters at the rear of the Jet Skis. I used a Texture map under the Fluid Mesh with a Seabed map on for a more realstic ocean look.

The Fluid Mesh with Velocity Shading

The Splash and Foam was rendred also through PRT using Krakatoa, The other passes were the Water Explosion sim again through Krakatoa, the Extended Ocean Pass took the longest, the Skydome was tracked in, in comp. I added some green/bluey tint to the refraction/Velocity pass to create a nicer refraction in the whitewater. The main Splash and Foam passes were using Krakatoa Isotropic Particle rendering (With Specular based on the Normals) the Explosion passes were the same but I also rendered the same PRT's from there sims through Krakatoa Voxels and comp'd them on top to create a mist/fine spray element.

Just Some Of The Render Passes

Comp WIP (AE)
Comping the WhiteWater

Comping The Main Water Blast Passes
Adding Rainbowing and Water Droplets on the Lens
The Comp was done as the render passes were finishing, the majority of comp time as always was blending the Fluid Mesh to the Extended Ocean. The Extra Tex Vertex Colour and Refraction pass were then comp'd with the main Fluid mesh, aswell as the Secondary sim renders. I added a flares in a frame before the blast to show its an underwater explosion, I used a still image to break the extended ocean pass up to the sky using an Ocean Horizon and used RefineMatter and more masking to blend these together. Most of the motion blur is faked in comp using RSMB, the Depth of Field was rendered as Z-Depth passes and added in Comp also.

Dailies/Comp WIP


So as I mentioned, Version one of the shot I was not happy with, so I deicded to make these comparions and hopefully you'll agree with me that for another 4 days of work, Re Renders and a Full Re-Comp, The shot has now turned out better?!


Also Here is the Sim Info, I did some basic calculations looking at sim times from RealFlow 2014, and I concluded my sim times decreased 30%.

As Always Thanks For Looking!  Got some freelance FX coming up, aswell as my big Personal Project in the Works, FX RnD!! :) -Niall

Monday, 19 January 2015

Fume FX RnD- January 2015

Hi Guys,

I decided to render out some of my best FumeFX Setups from the past 4 months or so. You can watch the final video here- Fume FX RnD & Tests - Jan 2015

I've been aiming to work up my Fume Skills further, working on optimization techniques, without loosing quality, aswell as just genrally making cool CG Explosions!

I decided to put them on black rather than checkers, because you can see the smoke detail more easily.

The Heavy Bomb Style Setups-

These are using colour caching in Fume to get the mutli coloured smokes, I used high multiple scattering and smoke density to get the fire and smoke mixing alot more realistically. I watch a lot maybe to many explosion references on Youtube, the aim of these tests aswell was to get the inital emissions of the fire more realistic, I wanted to avoid that normal plume of smoke/column of fire emission you see alot in Fume Tests.

Radial Explosions-

For this test I wanted to get nice Ring Explosions, Formally Radial Explosions! The emission is very simple, using a torus animated to expand, then using PFlow to emit a quick burst of particles from the surface with some initial speed then deleting. Using a very high smoke density, and due to the emissions been throughout the sim, the turbulence was done using an effector, by fire density, because the smoke is generated from the fire, the smoke also inherits the fires turb so you have to be careful with the values.

Air Explosion and Engine Explosion-

The Aerial Explosion is a setup for when doing a plane been shot down for example, using mutiple emitters for the inital fireball, then thicker smoke trails and thinner smoke trails, all of these 6 emitters are in the same grid using Colour Caching again to get the multi coloured smoke.

The Turbine Engine Explosion consits of 3 Fume Grids, one grid for the Main Explosions, One For the Secondary Explosions, and one for the Smoke trails and firey tip smoke trails.

Thanks For Looking, I've got some cool projects lining up, aswell as my super ambitious personal project, more info soon!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Space Pyramid Rise- FX Project

Hi Guys,

This has been my biggest and most challenging VFX Project yet, Making a Giant Pyramid (From Outer Space!) Rise out of the Ocean! My inspiration came from Igor Zanics RISE Project as well as Important Looking Pirates (VFX Studio) Work on the OLF Commercial.I wanted to push all my VFX Skills from 2014 and make a Production Quality Shot.

Creation Of the Space Pyramid-

The Space Pyramid was pretty simple to make, Start off with a Pyramid Primitve in 3DS Max, then using RayFire Voxels Modifier with a bit of Chamfer to create the rounded edges on each Voxel IE Block of the Pyramid. This was what is used for the fluid collisions, at render time using Max Clankys Greeble Modifier, that then took the Poly Count of the Pyamid up to over 2 Million, but you can enable it at Render Time only which is great!

The Space Pyramid- With Greeble in the Max Viewport

The Space Pyramid- Render with Greeble

RealFlow Sims-

After watching Igor Zanics RISE and the OLF Commerical Frame by Frame aswell as alot of ILM and Scanlines work on Battleship ( I watch that daily anyway!) I knew that the emphasis of the shot would be the spray/whitewater cascading off the Pyramid, I wanted there to be little fluid mesh if any on the Pyramid as due to its size and the speed the water on it would be falling All the Water would ethier be Spray or Mist. I notice this in a lot of the shots on Battleship, when you see a big splash theres little fluid mesh there, because at that velocity and voriticity the water would be in a mist/spray state rather than liquid. To get this effect there are ways to mesh your particles by velocity however I found a much simpler option (More on this below).

Splash/Spray Reference, Notice no/little liquid and lots of Spray (Photo- BBC)

The Scale of the RealFlow Hybrido Domain was quite big, a lot bigger than usual which then means more RAM is needed and longer sim times, However I did add more scale to the core fluid sim using low gravity and some vorticity boost (Got to be one of the best Hybrido Features!) I did have a few problems with the Pyramid collisions so I switched to RealFlow Shell Mode to avoid random particle explosions even when using higher substeps, so I added some more interaction factor values to get the collisions working well. 

Core Fluid Sim In Progress

For the Bubbling/Swirling on the ocean surface before the Pyramid Rises, I came up with a way to do this using FumeFX and RealFlow 2014s new Ocean Force Daemon. Basiclly if a large object underwater is rising to the surface, theres lots of bubbles also been pushed to the surface which creats the swirl/bubbling on the surface, you can see this in underwater Volcano eruptions. For Igor Zanics RISE Project he used a Houdini Pyro sim that is then advected to FLIP, theres no way of doing that in RealFlow right now, So all I did was a basic lowres Fume smoke sim, of a small PFlow emission shooting some partciles into a grid and the using a VelMutipler of 1.5 to get more mushrooming on the smoke, also some turbulence, then rendered this from a top view camera of the grid. This is then used as an Animated Texture in the RealFlow Ocean Force Daemon with the strength tunred up and is positioned where the Pyramid will breach the surface, I was really happy with how this worked out! The Final Core Fluid sim had around 38 Million Particles.

For Secondary sims I used Hybrido Splash and Bubbles as separate sims, these ended up been really high particle counts but not creating the amount of spray I was after, I used lower gravity, drag, wind and noise to make them have more motion rather than just dripping off the Pyramid. For the main Spray I decided to use RealFlows standard object emitter using dumb particles, emitting ott the Pyramid only when it breached the surface, then using high wind and noise to make it cascade off the Pyramid nicely. I was able to cache the Spray to Alembic, however the Splash and Bubbles sim I could not stitch the alembic files for some bizzare reason, My Inital idea was to use Krakatoa and Frost to mesh the PRTs into tiny spheres, however due to there been over 40 Million whitewater particles which means lots of polygons been created at render time it led to lots of crashes, so I decided to render these through Krakatoa as particles and match the lighting as best as possible, I also rendered the Spray pass through Krakatoa as Voxels, to be used as a mist pass in comp.

 The Inital Foam Sim Was To Swirly, I had to get rid of some of the big clusters^
Object Emission Spray
The Particle counts for the whitewater sims got into the 50 million mark at one point, I wanted a very dense cloud of cascading spray from the Pyramid like in the OLF Commerical, I think using the object emitter worked really well because dumb particle sim quick and work well for doing spray. The Hybrido Secondary emitters worked well also, mainly for the foam/bubbles.

Some Of the Daemons used to give the Spray/Splash More Turublence

RealFlow Playblasts


I started rendering Space Pyramid Rise just after Christmas, I had got my new workstation also so I transferred over 2 Terabytes of cache data so I could render on my new machine. The meshing was done in Frost, as mentioned before all the water on the Pyramid itself was going to be whitewater or spray, to get rid of the mesh on the Pyramid from the core fluid sim, I used a slice modifier animated so once the bubbling of the surface had died down and the pyramid was rising the slice would clip off the top mesh.

Slicing where the mesh will turn to spray

I used Extra Tex Map and refraction passes from V-Ray to have velocity shading on the fluid mesh, For the waves I decided to use Fractal Noise, which seemed like a good way to avoid tiling on the ocean, however the waves dont move exactly like waves. I need to look into using HOT (Houdini Ocean Toolkit) But without tiling. For the Ocean Shader I used my custom ocean setup, I did some tests again with an SSS Ocean but its not worth the render time, V-Ray Fog works just aswell for creating the Attenuation/Depth effect, however Attenuation would be barely visible from the cameras position.

Fluid Mesh Render Test

 Fluid Mesh (With Box to Matte the Mesh Volume + Extended Ocean Plane)
Frost Mesh Settings

The Krakatoa passes were rendered in there own scenes, The Alembic Proxy spray pass was also rendered in its own scene however the fluid mesh was reflecting it. Both the Mesh/Ocean and the Particles were lit by a sky HDRI, I did a few tests with diffrent shaders, using some reflection but no refraction as it just increases the render time for little effect.

V-Ray Alembic Proxy (Splash Sim from my Plane Crash Shot)

I was really happy with how V-Ray Proxy looks, I saw great use of it on Graham Colliers Submarine Breach RnD.

Spray V-Ray Proxy Render WIP- With Lighting Refrences

For Compositing I wanted to have a finished shot with sky, infinite ocean etc. rather than just the render on black. The main comp work was getting the spray,foam,mist passes working well together aswell as blending the fluid mesh pass with the extended ocean pass which was a large plane with the same noise modifier on, however it still needed some manual masking to blend together. I did quite a few iterations in comp, I initially added a mountain in the background to break up the horizon of the ocean, however I didn't like this so to extended the ocean right off to the horizon I blended from the extended ocean render into a still image of an ocean, however its so far away and blured due to DOF you don't notice the waves are not moving.

 Comp V3- Not Final Version
A quick annotation to show where the Ocean Blends to the Mesh and The MattePainting of the sky and horizon ocean.

I also decided to show the Shot on black so you can see all the spray/mist a bit clearer-

Here is an earlier version of the comp, I scrapped to recomp because I felt the quality of some passes need re comping, also I wanted open ocean rather than the matte painting horizon I initially made.


Thanks for Reading, This shot was done over 1.5 Months On and Off, I've just started working on a Game Trailer, however I have some ambitious ideas for personal FX projects in 2015!