Popcorn FX fractalFlame

Popcorn FX is capable of some pretty sophisticated particle effects. With a little effort one can get past the “usual” turbularized effects and push the limits a bit. Here’s a “fractal flame” look made by spawning, coloring and moving particles with layered noise fields. Given the number of particles used to give the soft look it’s not really something you could include in a game or application but was a fun way to explore some techniques which could be used for more efficient effects. You can get a similar look with much better performance using a vertex shader to distort a mesh and a fragment shader with an additive fresnel transparency, but again the point of the exercise was more an exploration of PopcornFX. That said, this does run in realtime with about 24 fps in the editor, pretty nice.

Glassworking and Kilnforming, Music, Photography

I was recently asked if my work was all computer graphics. No, not at all. I think it’s important for all artists to experiment with various media. I dabble in photography and writing music, for instance.

Here is an audio sample:  

Other World Jazz


And here are a few photography samples . . . 

And not long ago I spent a few years exclusively exploring fine art glassworking, specifically “kilnforming.” I continue to create glass to this day.

This isn’t glass blowing, which takes a fair amount of infrastructure, constant energy demands, and teams of people… kilnforming instead is a more individual approach to fine art glass where glass is heated in kilns and the artist uses a variety of techniques to shape the glass over time.

I have and regularly use a personal glassmaking studio in my home. It took a long time to build and wasn’t cheap, with two professional glass kilns and a host of tools and workspace. But there is something about having a physical studio space in which one can create things of beauty out of nothing which is magical, and it was worth all the effort, time away from the VFX world, and cost. I have yet to regret any choice I’ve made where I make personal growth as an artist my priority.

While I will never get famous as a glass artist, that’s also not the point… I find glassworking to be very rewarding and completely different from the other creative avenues I explore.

Glass is magic. It can cut you, burn you, shatter and explode. While working glass it moves and changes, grudgingly allowing you to shape it. And then there it is, static and frozen and… hopefully… beautiful.

So far I’ve made textures, gifts, signs, wall art, tableware, jewelry, vases and bowls, and rewarding odd shapes. I’ve also accrued a few scars and a very healthy respect for how dangerous something can be when it’s heated several thousand degrees. As an art form glassworking is completely different from any other artistic pursuit I’ve explored, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The free .fga vector fields work fine with PopcornFX

Be advised the scale of the vector fields in this pack should be around .01 or so. If your vector field appears odd, try tweaking the overall scale and magnitude of the fields. The orientation of the vector fields may also need to be adjusted, -90 on the x axis should do it. 

PKFX has a very nice vector field visualizer, but some fiddling around is probably going to be needed since each one of these vector fields was built for other purposes and on a different platform.

Once you get dialed in, however, these .fga vector fields are great.

NPR Final Touches

It’s wrapping up, I’ve added all the bells and whistles – Ambient Occlusion, Depth fading, Image Adjustment, etc. Highlights can now be dialated or eroded. Support for separate outlines of normals. Presets and clean menus. I think this shader is about done.

The shader allows for a pretty broad array of looks, from architectural sketches to classic toon shading. Below is an example of a more painterly rendering.

Here are some presets:

NPR Shading Continued

I’m continuing to refine the NonPhotoRealistic (NPR) sketch post-process in Unreal. This is using completely different methods now, I’ve changed the method of convolution edge detection for outlines, and am using world-aligned sketch texturing in the shadow and highlight regions.

The background is also given a custom color and texture. The light source is defined through any number of unreal lights.

There is now support for sketchy highlights and varying line colors, and much better response to light. Ideally the post process would support variation in outline width, although I don’t have a good method for that yet.

There are options to use procedural line, dot and crosshatching for a more comic/newsprint look.

The results are very solid and smooth in motion, with no temporal swimming or distractions. I see this shader being ideal for architectural stylization and general NPR usage. 

To get a more chalk-like effect with ink outlines I take this post process and combine it with an NPR painterly process which applies brushstrokes on the image in world space. Here’s the result:

Heightmaps for Unreal

I’ve released 25 terrain/landscape maps for the unreal marketplace. These are intended to act as starting points for environmental projects, hopefully people will find them useful. All heightmaps are of course made in Houdini, and tend to be several miles across.

The most interesting thing about this project was creating the procedural material in unreal which textures large environments based on criterial like slope, height etc. This project is over 10 gigs of assets!

In all, this was a very fun project, and very rewarding work. I can’t wait to see what people do with these heightmaps.

Niagara Game Effects

I did a little job for a studio in Prague recently which consisted of a series of “spell” effects for a RPG. I can’t show any of those effects of course but along the way I made a number of other interesting little Niagara effects, here are a few:

The images below are a mixed bag, design wise. But they were fun to make. Oddly the brief was to make effects which were baked down into spritesheets, for a mobile release. It was strange, but it did allow me to up some particle counts and rely less on billboards in Niagara. I’m not sure I like the look but it was nice to be able to explore Niagara in this way.