Dynamics Week 9 -Process Diary


Quick Reference of do’s and don’ts – I like to summarize a written brief into my own shorthand. I know I will refer to it a million times so even if it saves a couple of minutes per read, it is worth it. Here is my ‘point form’ edit of the written brief –

UFO swoops into frame from behind the building
– Hovers above the grassed area
Tractor Beam lifts the Mannequin up off the ground into cargo bay.
Doors close- fly away
– may require the insertion of Leaves
– use other effects such as Heat Plume for realism
– Camera and animation approved – don’t change it!

Familiar enough to be recognized as a tractor.
Fresh concepts to build on this
Spirals – convey a sense of motion that is simply not a vertical one. Movement within movement, complexity of motion.
Variance -Variance in thickness of the main part of the beam. Not constant cone. I like the idea of a thicker outer/inner cone, but I will reserve judgment until I see it.
Grid  – Another concept that intrigues me is that of a grid that focuses its attention on the object that it is picking up.
Colour – Cool palette. Blues and greens are familiar, so that is the place to start. We may need to alter the colours as we go, depending on how the shot develops.


Now I have a quick reference, next is my more detailed notes from the verbal brief by the client (Chris) and how they relate to some of the reference imagery supplied –

ufo light
– its colour palatte,
– the ‘shards’ of light
– its volumetric nature
Dislikes –
– too light-foggy , wants more particle-look

– the ‘shadowing’
– the object is being pulled up
– the feeling of being lifted towards the light

Likes – the feeling of a ‘tendril’ like grip, (in fact ‘tendril’ is probably the most used word in the whole brief)

beam_525Likes – again, the tendril effect. This single tendril is good, but we would obviously need more of them. He seems to ‘kind of like’ the spirallish texture too – explore!

Screen shot_sm

Likes –
the disturbance/breakup on the streams.
Dislikes – the colour -too warm over to the left of shot.


Likes – the feeling that the tendrils are clinging on to the shoulders. The tendril motion should ‘undulate’ as it picks up the object.


Likes – this kind of motion trail effect. Kind of mix between ‘tendrils’ and ‘hairs’.


Likes – 
the wispy-ness of the tendrils


Likes – the particle-like tendrils and the light shaft


Likes – tendrils very close together- almost like hair


Likes – the spirals, but too geometrical. Would need to be more organic.

Other random notes from the brief
– Tendrils lift hands first, then the rest of the body follows. – tractor may have a ‘hot core of light’
– localized areas might be slightly warmer, then others more towards turquise
– likes the idea of spirals, but not mechanical or too geometrical – always more towards organic.
– this effect should not feel ‘whimsical’ it should always lean towards ‘manacing’.

Early thoughts –

I have some early thoughts about creation of the tractor beam. I am thinking that the particles should be built up in layers i.e – for each effect, I will use a separate particle node. This makes it easier to manipulate parts of the effect individually ‘locking things down’ when they look right and making it so that new fields introduced wont mess up parts that I am happy with. It will also make it more manageable to do any changes that come in after week 9.

Some early brainstorming notes about how to achieve the sorts of things that the client wants – don’t forget that spline curves can emit particles. Some twisty vertical curves might be useful to act as the tendrils.
Another idea is to use 2 torus’s top and bottom of the beam bouncing particles between each other, and using ‘blended weight’ goals to disturb the balance.
Texture emitters might also be helpful for emitting in clumping noisy patterns.


My own additional reference material

Too many tractor beams look the same and the shots Chris has supplied are hard to beat. One thing that sticks in my mind from the brief is to make it ‘particly’ – not like light beam effects. So many films that use particle effects seem to using rendering methods that hide the particles and end up looking more like light and smoke.

One film that comes to mind that shows particles in all their glory is ‘Rise of the Guardians’.

I begin to watch this movie very carefully to study just how they use particles with such magical effect.
I remember the extent to which particles are used in this film, even the point where the characters use particles as weapons! Here are some still I captured in my studies –

The opening sequence has Jack Frost interacting with ice and snow. I love the spirally patterns that are formed.
The client (Chris) wants to see the particles rather than just light fog. While this shot could have been done using just light effects, they back it up by using visible particle trails.


Most memorable of all the FX in ‘Guardians’ are the 3D sculptural elements formed from particle trails by the ‘Sandman’ character- like this one above.


I referenced this ‘ice crystals’ image above as an influence for traditional ‘light fog’ FX combined with particle ‘tendrils’.

jackFrost_crystalAlso the combination of effects and colours to acheive this silhouette of Jack.


Aside from the golden colour here, I like the way the tendrils interweave with the characters. This might be handy as reference when it comes to stage 2 and lifting the manaquin?

Now for the hero shots– in what would have to be a dream for any VFX artist, the good guys face off against the bad guys in what what could only be describes as a ‘Particle War!’

particleWar04Colours are used well – golden for the good particles and shades of blue to black for the bad particles!

particleWar01Menacing dark tendrils emitting purple glow sparks!

particleWar02Golden whip with glow spirals attached

particleWar05I like this reference for the motion blurred trails near the top

particleWar06Lightening like particle rods interact with puffy trails!toothFairy

The tooth fairy’s concoction. Too whimsical as far as the rainbow of colors but nice movement and shape.

More reference –

Heard on the grapevine that there was a new film to incorporate tractor beam effects so I tracked it down – the film is an offbeat comedy called ‘This is the end’.
Pretty uninspiring and mostly the typical light beam type effects but still some good reference for how the people are lifted up, especially their posture – heads tilted back and back arched- here are some screen shots –


Initial testing –

I started to play with various techniques with two specific things in mind-
– how do I make the particles move the way I want to
– how do I render the particles to look the way I way I want.
Lets just say over the course of a couple of days I ended up with about 30 different rendered image sequences. I put together a compilation video of a few of the initial results which will show the path my mind was following –


Refined results for week 9 submission

After much more testing I have arrived at point where I have 3 different particle renders that can be comped together for my first submission. They consist of –

‘core beam’ particles to form the outer shell of the beam. Made using a cylinder with ramp textures mapped to the surface. Then  the ramp points were animated and particles created using emit from texture.

‘fractal circles’ – to break up the main beam and create some more organic fractal patterns travelling up and down the beam.

a single tendril made by goaling particles to a sphere that has an attached motion path to a spiral curve.

Here is a video that shows each particle set on its own and the final with all 3 particle effects comped together


Reflection so far

I am happy with the initial look but want to get the clients opinion so far. I obviously need more tendrils and to refine the rendering style of the existing ones. I need to further explore some shading techniques and would like to incorporate some ‘cloudier’ materials.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s