UFO- more

I wrote these notes as I did it. I tried many different things and techniques and I hope it is not too hard to follow.

I have the models now so I am trying to reference them and I have changed the tractor beam. There is a man in the bottom of the beam and he gets taken up into the ufo.

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Here I am playing with rendering with mental ray, some of the particles in this one are spheres


I decided to abandon the thin inner beam and just stick with the wider cone and tendrils.

Below I have put my tractor beam in a file with referenced models etc. I have changed the size of the beam to match the opening in the UFO but I am having trouble making the outer beam particles be transparent since I made Mentalray the renderer. I have made all except 2 streams of particles visible or dynamic.

For the main part of the beam I tried a polypipe into a conish shape with emit from surface, visibility off

I put these expressions on to make particles emit randomly on the UVs

pipeParticlesShape.goalV = pipeParticlesShape.parentV;

pipeParticlesShape.goalU = pipeParticlesShape.parentU;

pipeParticlesShape.goalU = pipeParticlesShape.goalU +0.01;

I had a bit of trouble working out how to use referencing in maya but I think I have it now.

At first I sized my fx all up to the size of the models and so increased the point size on the particles as points and multipoints, increased gravity and the size of the cone geo and the fields.

After I received the scene with geometry and animations etc I scaled it all down to fit my fx and made the particles live longer to reach the guy. Because it looks better in the smaller original scale.

I shrank the particle tube in to fit the guy’s size and particles to goal to him by scaling in the x and z scale of the newton field which constrains the tendrils and they curl down unevenly around just the man now and I like it.

I animated the start and finish of emitting rates to time with the opening of the doors and then animated the cone to start flat and extend to the ground, then reverse at the end.

I tried reversing gravity to make the tendrils go up with the man like it is pulling him up and goaling them to him then a sphere that I animated to ascend before him.


I want the wider beam to be more like a beam of light as in the references but below I have gone back with the maya renderer so that I could get some transparency on the wider beam so I am using a particle sampler node and reverse node to reverse the info of opacity to transparency on the phong as per the notes.


After trying to get tendril particles to follow the man up with little success I made a cylinder with Y scale at .001 and radius 3 and subdivisions axis 6 so that here would be 6 emitting points and animated that to descend and ascend while rotating slowly. I animated the emission rate to be 1000 as it descended and it created an even spiral pattern. I tried a newton field and gravity to bring them up, uniform field worked best turning it on and adjusting the magnitude to match the ascension. I attached the vortex and they flew out so I also attached the newton of the original tendrils. The vortex was too strong so I tried a low turbulence to mess it up a little. I like it. Now the tendrils descend in an ordered spiral then go wiggly and then ascend with the man into the spaceship. I shortened their life to 5 because they were shooting out the top of the ship.

I have tried a new way of making the tendrils and I have playblasted just them not the whole beam below. Now they go down to the man in a nice spiral as per one of the examples in the brief then they go squiggly and pull back up with the man, (so excited that they go up with him now)

Maybe the client will like the more irregular tendrils. Having worked out how to bring the spiral back into the ship I have applied that method- uniform field- to the original tendril particles and shown it below.

Now for the cone particles of the larger beam, I started them again because something broke in Maya and they wouldn’t work at all and I thought I would try something else. This time I made the cone flat and up in the UFO then made gravity pull the particles down then up to drag them back up and placed a drag field under to stop them going way down. Then I tried removing all the fields and making the flat cone go down then up and leave its particles as it went fading over time so as to finally disappear in the upward direction. I then tried attaching a uniform field to drag them up at the end to make it a bit more convincing. I added a drag field at the top to stop particles flying up out the top after they are brought back up.


I am having trouble rendering so I think I must stop fiddling with the particles and spend the last 3 days trying to render. Liar, anyway I made a turbulence field for the cone particles into a cylinder and trapped the particles inside and had it on low.

I made the particles to be software rendered to have translucence so the cone is cloud and the spiral is tubes, decreasing density makes it more transparent and big cloud cell size makes it all like a glowing cloud of the shape I chose coming down from the opening. I am pretty happy with it. I used particle sampler nodes and reverse nodes to get the opacityPP of the prticle working correctly in the transparency of the particle sampler because they are opposites. The roundness of the spiral particles was ramped down to make it more tendrilly. I batch rendered that and it is very regular and a tad boring? It does however have the same spirals as one of the things the client really liked.


This done I wanted to render the tendrils one too. Having trouble with  maya playing up and not rendering in the render view so it was taking too long. I batch rendered some of it with 8 passes and it works so when I get Maya to correctly show particles and changes I am making I will be able to render. Restarting Maya again!

The tendril particles separate as they go up so I decided to try a drag field and trapping the particles as it scales down in the Y scale and translates up into the ufo. Not real good. I changed it to a new gravity field just for the tendrils and fiddled with the strength til it went up the same speed as the man.

I decided to do just a beauty pass at this stage for speed but I made a separate layer each for the ufo, man and beam, if I had more time I may have done the 2 parts of the beam separately so I could just replace 1 part if needed. I am doing the 2 versions of the beam because they are different.

I had a few goes at rendering because of accidentally not confirming the correct camera and incorrectly setting up the render passes for the layers.

I finally rendered, with MentalRay (which worked on batch renders– discovered with small test batch renders– but not when I hit render in render view) – separate beauty passes for the ufo, man, wide beam and tendrils. I realised too late that I had accidentally chosen the wrong format in render settings so I used reformat and transform nodes in Nuke to make up for that when I composited it and finally I rendered it in Nuke and have a real movie of it at last to hand in for the week 9 progress assessment.

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It  took so long to do just the one scene that I didn’t end up finishing the rendering and comping of the regular spiral one hence I only handed in the irregular tendrils one, that was all that was asked for anyway, just one and I like that one better.

UFO start

tadaaah see I did do something.

Here are some references that I like which are similar to the ones given with the brief. I want a cone of cloudy light and tendrils like in the images

My first attempt-

I made emiiters and particles to emit particles and changed the particle render types. I used fields such as turbulence, newton and vortex. I  assigned particle cloud shaders  to the particles and changed the colour, transparency and incandescence and the colours of them too.

I think it’s really funny how it looks like it is probing the ground or you if you are under it looking up.


and again-

I have been trying to get a cone within a cone too and so far this is what I have

I did a batch render of 150 frames as jpgs and opened it in Nuke and rendered it there to make a movie to see in Quicktime, uploaded it to youtube and here it is as it stands at the moment. The outer cone may be a bit too faint because it is hardly visible.

dynamics homework week 6- walking on rock, sand and mud


These are the steps I did to make 1 surface react like rock, sand then mud as a guy walked over them:

  • select ground, soft/rigid bodies tab, create soft body options, duplicate make copy soft, create.
  • with the timeline at the beginning select the particles, then soft/rigid bodies tab, create springs.
  • I copied the guy with duplicate special and duplicate input graph ticked and deleted all but the feet and made these collide with the ground then hid them at the end.
  • created clusters to move vertices on the feet up that were going under the ground and causing points of the ground to drag up.
  • set conserve on the particles shape node to 0 to stop the momentum or the continuing movement after the feet have passed on.
  • oversamples, which is in solvers tab, set to 4 for more accurate simulation
  • created selection sets for rock, sand and mud particles.Changed the goal per pp in the component editor for each surface- rock to 1, sand to .2, mud to 0, which makes the deformation occur or not and to varying degrees.  Put the goal weight on the particle shape node to 1 so that it multiplies by these new settings.
  • (Originally I tried to achieve different surface attributes by seperating the 3 parts of the ground geo but rereading Chris’s notes reminded me about the above method).
  • set keys to animate the conserve on the particles to change for the different surfaces as he walks over them- 0 for the rock and sand and .8 for the mud so that it will slowly move back after being disturbed
  • and here are renders of the footprints on the surface types which I have coloured with a ramp



settings on the particle shape nodeImage

different particles goal pp settings in the component editor for each surface type

  • here it is

dynamics homework week 5- waterfall

We were taught the secrets of the waterfalls in Avatar by one who knows using goal weights over deformed geo.



Some references: (I can’t make the movies show on here just the links)





Here is my attempt.

I looked at the references and noticed the way the water doesn’t just fall straight down but sprays out and goes around bumps.

I made the water surface ’emit from surface’ and wrote expressions at creation and ‘runtime before dynamics’ to make the particles emit from random places all over and stick where they emit from and then die straight away if they spawn after U=.05, and to live for 4 seconds if they spawn before, run to the end at random speed and direction and fall off. I changed the time that they fell off from u=.95 to .999 so that it was closer to the edge because some were falling off from underneath a bit too far in and sprayed back, this seemed to help. 

I also made them fade out by a ramp in their opacity attribute and I put a colour ramp in their colour attribute.

This screen grab shows the expressions in the attributes –


the next 2 screen grabs show the runtime and creation expressions in the expression editor-waterfall3


I used a gravity field to pull them down after the edge and turbulence for un-eveness. I experimented with how large the dimensions of the turbulence field should be and thought it looked a bit better in a bit from the edge so that it didn’t spray so wildly out to the sides at the level that it needed to be at to stop horizontal gaps in between the particles but sometimes the edges still look like that so I am stretching it out again.

gravity field:waterfall15

turbulence field:waterfall14

Variations in the turbulence field:

I also made a bumpy wall behind for it to bounce off and made the particles collide with it.

bumpy wall:


particle attributes:


The emitter now emits 100,000 per second, I had it at lower and higher levels but it didn’t either look as good as I wanted or was very slow.

this image shows when it had multi points and 1,000,000 patricles per second and a narrower turbulence field:waterfall16

I tried points, multi points, streaks and finally multi streaks with a short tail and a multi radius of 1.5 so they don’t stick together in clumps but are not too wild in the stream. I gave them a life span of 1 with a random of .5 and the opacity makes them fade before the disappear like the falls in Avatar.

This had multi streaks and 100,000 per second and a longer lifespan:waterfall18

After this I decided to fiddle with the length of the fall and make it vary a bit at the bottom as in the Avatar falls. I tried another turbulence and air and drag fields. I had to keep restarting Maya and also ramp them way up to have any effect. I deleted them and tried a vortex field and made it a sphere which I lengthened up the length of the field and not much wider than the fall. It stirs them up a bit the bottom of the falls.;_ http://youtu.be/YhSxwCMurm0


close up of waterfall- http://youtu.be/eH-EZtZmy54


dynamics homework week 3- biplanes

I had to make a scene of a mass biplanes flying.

I made a volume emitter into a flattish rectangle, with rate of 2 per second ( this was a good amount of planes flying by) and instanced the biplane to the particles so the particles now look like the biplane. The biplanes emitted sideways so I rotated the original -90 in Y direction so that it points in the X direction and they came out straight. I had to break the connection of the rotate X on the prop to rotate the plane group and freeze the transformations so then I reanimated it to rotate after. 

planes emitting sideways (the original and the rectangle can be seen underneath):


I had the speed random too high on the emitter and some were not even moving. I noticed that they flew out at an ok speed but slowed down and I could not alter the emission speed so I put in a gravity field and made it go in the X direction at a strength of 6. I tried varying strengths and this had them flying at a good speed.

the emitter settings:biplane1

The particles have conserve weight of.98, max count -1 so there is no limit on the number of planes.

particle settings:


I tried an expression in the position’ attribute as below but the movements were too uniform they all went up and down at the same time.

vector $pos = particleShape2.position;

particleShape2.position = <<$pos.x, $pos.y+sin(time)/2, $pos.z>>;

A much better way to get them to move randomly was a turbulence field set at about 5. Higher values had them rotating too wildly and at a higher gravity magnitude it was really wild, there would have been far too many crashes.

turbulence field settings:biplane4

Aim direction set to velocity has them facing the way they are flying and turning.

instancer particle settings (note aim direction):biplane3

At the end I replaced the gravity field with a uniform field to see if that was better. I liked the effect, it pulled them forward and seemed to stop them wobbling so much. I set it at a magnitude of 20 and they speed up a bit as they go further. I also upped the disturbance to 10 so you can see more variation in the way they go up and down, the uniform field coped better with this than the gravity field and it wasn’t so wobbly.

uniform field settings:


I finally changed the lifespan on the particle to 6 and they die just off screen so there aren’t too many where they can’t be seen. and hid the original geo.


I put an expression in the mass attribute to vary the particles weights between .8 and 1.2 and in a uniform field this will vary their speed and I increased emission rate to 4 from 2 so there are more planes.