Fluid simulation for all

By Ben Black

In CGI and VFX you’re always looking for new ways to impress current clients and attract new ones.

One technique that I use to make my work stand out are fluid elements - liquids, smoke, and dust clouds - that add remarkable realism and powerful emotion to an animated scene. It used to be that you needed the magic touch of a specialist—not to mention a lot of powerful render hardware and dedicated software—to add convincing fluids into a scene. Now they’re available to all graphic artists who want to take their work to the next level.

Adding Impact to Motion Graphics

Fluids can be important for many different reasons: to add drama and complexity to a shot, to build viewer interest, or to yield that next level of realism that clients and audiences look for. They can even help “set a shot” without actually being noticed, such as with atmospheric effects. If done well, fluid effects - from smoke filled volumetric light to clouds of impact dust - can help take the “hard edge” off of motion graphics and create a more organic feel to your scenes. That’s just the sort of touch that really makes your work stand out and gives your projects that something extra.

Subtle Touches Make a Difference

We were thrilled to work with Red Bull and UMTV on the graphics package for their countdown show 'Worldies'. Using abstracted visual cues that followed the sports featured throughout the show, we created a set of fifteen “number stings” plus the title sequence and in-show graphics package. On the first number you see, number one, there's an invisible car that races around the track and wraps around the large “1.” Here we added some smoke that gives the impression of the car without actually having to put the car in. It’s a little unusual to use fluids like this, but the smoke is just the sort of subtle touch that makes the animation thoroughly convincing.


Fluids are great for adding realism into an animation, but I’ve found that they also let you create things that go way beyond real world experiences. People just love weird, abstract, cool-looking things that move in nice ways. You can use fluid creation tools in totally innovative ways, abstracting shapes and applying unusual textures, to create some very cool and unique animated objects. So you can do a lot of stuff beyond the obvious with fluids and I find that design potential exciting and liberating. While there are graphic artists out there who specialize in fluids, I think it’s important that generalists, like myself, are able to both create high quality fluid effects as well as have access to tools that make it fairly easy to do. Now we can.

Sim Tools – the Next Generation

There’s a new generation of fluid simulation products on the market that not only produce the quality required for high-end production, but are extremely easy to use. I like tools that are fully integrated into the design app without the need for round tripping. Aside from convenience and speed, these tools save money as I don’t need to buy additional software.

Check out fluids. They really are for ‘all’ now. Any artist can now use sim tools, making fluids an accessible creative option that enhances your work.