Andy Moorer is a VFX artist and TD working in the film industry.

Archive for Example


Example: LK Fabric early test scene

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Since LK Fabric is out I dug up one of the early test scenes we used on Nike “Evolution” at Royale in which we developed some of the techniques we used to get various looks. This setup is very basic but covers some of the key tricks for getting a natural result and was used as a starting point for a number of shots.


I have replaced the original many-versions-old compounds with ones from Leonard’s public release, and have also left in a few “helper” compounds I built which weren’t part of his official release. I then removed everything superfulous to the basic effect and commented the resulting ICE tree throughout. Any typos or misspellings are entirely my fault. :D




The actual setup is very simple.

This scene demonstrates:

  • A basic setup of a single evolving swatch of fabric, with the most basic pattern and the modifiers we used most often.
  • Using the “slide profile over U/V” compound and other techniques to shape the leading edge of fabric growth.
  • Using the “offset” core parameter to make the leading strands animate and form a shape for the thread tips.
  • Using a second ICE “post” effect to add per-strand variance and “frizz” effects.




The early tests like this were pretty chaotic, we knew the system did a good job of creating a “perfect” weave so we were pushing in the other direction and adding ways to create chaos and randomness.

Ironically despite the first briefs being focused on “organic” and “evolving” concepts the client spent much of the latter half of the job dialing in a more out-of-box mechanical look… that’s the way it goes sometimes. But this means there is a lot of capability which hasn’t been seen yet. I’d love to see some people use some of the per-strand and per-thread modifiers, and the capability to create patterns beyond the basic “canvas,” to create a more organic, aggressive look.



Here’s the file (Softimage 2013 scene file, ~0.6mb): LKFabric_AMexample1

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Example: A Reticulate Noise Function

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Here’s a scene file and a couple of compounds which compute a simple noise function and then create a reticulated “push” from it. It’s meant to demonstrate how a simple spatial noise can be layered on itself to create a fractal, visually pleasing result, as well as give a little insight into how functions like perlin, worley, turbulence etc can be similarly layered to create a huge variety of natural looking patterns.


Scene file and compounds (softimage 2013): example_ICE_reticulation

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A user on si-community asked how to “move” the deformation in the earlier whirlpool example. Doing so involves a couple of matrix transformations – you basically force the points of the geometry to the global origin where you perform your deformation and them move them back to the local space they were in.

It’s a simple operation that I haven’t really figured out how to illustrate in a simple and intuitive manner yet… about the best I could do was to revise the scene so people can compare a “before” and “after”. The first scene is a working scene, it’s where I was assembling the basic deformation, it’s all relative to the global origin. This new scene then goes through the steps of making the deformation “production ready.” I clean things up, make the deformation operate in the object’s space, and package it all up as compounds.

Here are the compounds and the revised scene (2013): example_whirlpoolDeformer2

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Here’s a quick example of a number of handy tricks in ICE.

A compound I shared earlier on the softimage mailing list is used to create a grid of particles on a camera plane at a definable resolution, as if each particle was a pixel. The basic camera attributes like FOV etc are respected. This bit uses a little simple trig to identify the corners of the camera frustum at any distance from the camera, which can be incredibly useful. I’ll try to make some time to go over this in a future post.

A simple raycast is then used to project particles onto geometry and to color those particles based on the depth of the projection.


A lot can be done with the (super) simple techniques in this scene, trust me. Perhaps the simplest and yet most useful is to cull particles outside the camera frustum prior to writing a cache – if you are dealing with a shot that has a locked down camera this can be used to reduce cache data by massive amounts. If you are dealing with a stereo production and have access to depth maps, you can use that information to cull particles which are “behind” footage elements, or even have particles react to the “surface” of footage elements. Very cool! Knowing where a particle or object is in camera “screen-space” is easy and has a lot of use, too.

File: Softimage 2013, ~2.5MB example_cameraDataInICE

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Example – Particle Clumping

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The simulation is “meh”, but it was a test. This scene wasn’t originally about particle clumping, either: that was just put in as a way for me to play with the idea but not really my original focus. I was using it as a testbed for a homebrew collision/bounce node, which functions, but in the end that part wasn’t anything particularly special or even sophisticated. The clumping part is more interesting in the long run.

Someone recently asked about clumping particles online, and I recalled that I had this scene on hand. So here it is, as built by yours truly while never intending it to be anything other than personal experimentation… with some comments put in after the fact.

The file (softimage2013 ~8mb): example_createParticleClusters

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Example – Display Spotlight Data

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This scene shows how ICE can be used to display custom information about aspects of a scene. In this case, the cone of a spotlight is displayed, with an option to display a projection of the spotlight on the surface of geometry. A second example shows how the same setup can be used for a near and far attenuation display.

One great thing about ICE is how easy it is to re-use and re-task your “code.” In this example, it is simple to save the null containing the ICE operator as a model. Any time you need this display, import the model and give it your spotlight’s name, and you’re done. Or better, write a script which does this for you so all you have to do is pick the light. – AM

Here’s the file (softimage 2013, 276kb): ICEspotlightDisplay


Petr Zloty sent me a useful tip… when you place the ICE operator on an empty pointcloud rather than a null, the results display properly in any viewport. This is an important realization which is really good to know. In fact, the problem with ICE display attributes on nulls only appearing with wireframes is an annoyance which I’ve bumped against more than once. Thanks Petr!

Thanks Petr for the tip and the screenshot!

Thanks Petr for the tip and the screenshot!

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Rob Chapman posted a cool whirlpool deformer to the “Resource Dump” on SI-Community here. Since I had been doing a lot with logarithmic spirals recently I decided to make one from scratch and compare the two. Here’s the result.

Instead of using Rob’s wave deformer, since it’s fun to share it out there’s a “ridged turbulence” compound in there. Here’s what it looks like when used as a deformer:

 And here’s the file (softimage 2013 ~160kb): alt_whirlpool

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Example – Taper Deform

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Unlike most of the examples, I built this specifically to show how a deformer can be constructed with simple visual guides. So the good news is that it’s all nicely commented. This example shows the structure of a deformation, some tricks for making viewport guides, and the taper function itself (originally published by Alan Barr, it’s quite simple).

The down side is that I didn’t want to get into matrix transforms for the example, so this implementation is only on the object’s local Y axis. This limits it’s production value (not that there’s a great need for another taper deformer.) It’s an example, not a tool – adding in the transforms to make the taper axis arbitrary isn’t too difficult, but as I was making this I realized it was going to make the entire thing unreadable and that I was out of time – I have paying work I need to get to. ^_^ So here it is, as-is. Cheers – AM

File (softimage 2013 ~270kb): Example_TaperDeform


Had a little time and I hated leaving this in a state that wasn’t that useful, so I added in the additional kinds of control I usually have in production compounds (in this case, mainly the optional ability to deform on an arbitrary axis as supplied by a control object like a null, and minor cosmetics.)

A taper deformer isn’t high-tech feeling and exciting, but it’s useful in everyday practice, and more to the point this is a structure that can be used for many useful kinds of deformations. For instance, once I had the taper structure it was pretty simple to replace the internal “taper” formula with one to do a twist:

I’ll share out the twist version eventually, in the meantime here’s the full taper compound (if you look inside you’ll see what I was getting at by the arbitrary axis adding a lot of seeming complexity, but it’s really not complex, ICE just tends to look that way when there are a lot of different things all connected.)

File (softimage 2013, 379kb): example_TaperDeform2

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In the “postSim” tutorial we made shapes out of strands by constructing arrays of point positions. Many ICE users, myself included, forget that there are a bunch of shapes provided already which can be used in this fashion. They are in the “Debugging” section, because arrays like these can also be used with ICE attribute display properties to create onscreen widgets (hint: …or to add points to a pointCloud…)

I’ve found the factory nodes to be quite handy for a number of things, but I wanted some other shapes of my own (such as a star and spiral)  - so I made them, as well as made some adjustments to what was already available (with some digging) to suit my personal preferences. Here is a scene with a number of them, each packaged as a compound.


And here’s the file (softimage 2013 322kb): ICE Debug Elements

While experimenting around with these elements as display objects, I made a “protractor” compound.

It’s of limited production use because of a current problem with how softimage displays these elements in a shaded or hidden line view, and because it wasn’t particularly designed as a tool… it just evolved while I messed around. But it serves as an example of how you can use the “Debug” nodes to create visual feedback (another good example of these debug elements is the factory “bend” deformer in ICE.)

Judicious use of these display attributes can make a packaged compound much more useful, as well as act as a handy jumping off point to make interesting shapes with strands etc. Enjoy! – AM

File (softimage 2013 270kb): example_ICE_protractor

The spiral compound plus the postsim tutorial makes a nice basis for a “cloud chamber” like wallpaper… :)

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Example – PostSim Needles

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During the making of the film “Barnyard,” which happened to be around the time ICE was being first conceptualized and built, a number of effects were identified which were a challenge at the time. Some of those effects became some of the first demonstration compounds later, presumably Helge and others still had those challenges in mind… making footprints in mud, falling leaves, rain/snow interacting on characters etc.

One effect involved a bunch of hay getting dumped on a character. At the time Hans Payer completed the effect via some nice scripting and syflex tricks. Now in ICE it is pretty easy, so when a thread about a similar effect was mentioned on the softimage list, and so soon after I had done the post-sim tutorial, I gave it a quick go. They basically asked for a way to use strands with the “falling leaves” compound. Here’s the result… while the collisions are not accurate the way RBDs would be I hope it’s food for thought at least. :D

Caveat: like similar tricks using the post simulation tree, motion blur is a concern… this is the kind of “quickie” effect that can often get you by, but hero shots would take a lot more effort, for instance if you had to see clearly the fibers bend and react to collisions, collide with each other, accurate mb etc. That kind of difference in the details is why feature film effects can get so hairy – often you can’t get away with simple cheats like this one.

File: softimage 2013 .scn, 237 kb



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Andy Moorer

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