Explosions in Animation:Master '98
by Jeff Paries

This tutorial describes how to combine the Lens Flare and Particle effects available in Animation:Master '98 to create an interesting and often seen deep space "explosion" and shockwave effect.

Begin by selecting "New" from the Project drop down menu to create a new project. Right click the Project name and select "Save As" from the available menu. Name the project "Explosion" and click OK to save.

The first step is to model a cylinder that will be used as the leading edge of the shockwave, as well as a particle emitter. Click the New button and select Model from the list of available options. Click OK.

With the Rulers visible and Units set to cm (centimeters), add a vertical spline that is 2cm high beginning one centimeter above the X axis marker and ending one centimeter beneath it. This spline should be added at approximately 100cm along the X axis.

Press CTRL+P to open the Options panel, and click the Modeling tab. Enter "48" into the Lathe Cross Sections field and click OK. Click on either of the two points on the spline that was just created and press the "L" key to lathe a thin cylinder shape.

Press the F6 key to enter Bones mode, and from a right side view, add a bone to the model as shown in figure 1. Assign all of the points that make up the cylinder to the newly added bone by clicking the bone, then grouping all of the points.

Press the F5 key to change back to Modeling mode. Click the "Model1" item in the Project Workspace, and on the Color tab of the Properties Panel, change the Diffuse Color to 25, 25, 150 RGB. Set the model Ambiance value to 100. On the Raytrace tab of the Properties Panel, click in the "Glowing" checkbox to make the cylinder glow.

The next step is to add a light to the model that will be used as a flare to create the flash from the explosion. Right click the "Model1" item in the Objects section of the Project Workspace and select "New", "Light" from the available menus. This creates a hierarchical light as part of the model. By default, the light is added at 0,0,0, which is perfect for this example. Name this light "Explosion Flare".

To specify the light as a lens flare, click on the Attributes tab of the Properties Panel, and place a check in the Lens Flare checkbox. The Flare is custom, described tab by tab below.

GLOBAL TAB

X Scale 100

Y Scale 100

Intensity 100

All "Fade" options should be unchecked.

FLARE GLOW TAB

Glow 1 Element

Color 255, 130, 130 RGB

X Scale 150

Y Scale 150

Intensity 100

Spectrum 0

Spectrum Repeats 1

Glow 2 Element

Color 255, 87, 87 RGB

X Scale 100

Y Scale 100

Intensity 100

Spectrum 0

Spectrum Repeats 2

FLARE BEAMS1 TAB

Beam 1 Element

Color Default

X Scale 100

Y Scale 100

Intensity 50

Softness 8

Spectrum 30

Spectrum Repeats 1

Angle 0

Click the New Element button to create a new beam element, and change the settings as follows:

Intensity 80

Softness 8

Spectrum 0

Spectrum Repeats 2

FLARE BEAMS2 TAB

Beam 1 Element

Beams 8

Octaves 0

Oct. Len 75

Zones 1

Zone Coverage 100

Max Length 30

Verify that neither Random Length or Distribution are active.

Beam 2 Element

Beams 16

Octaves 0

Oct. Len 75

Zones 1

Zone Coverage 100

Max Length 10

Verify that neither Random Length or Distribution are active.

On both the Flare Reflection1 and Flare Reflection2 tabs of the Properties Panel, select "No Lens Reflections" from the drop down list of presets.

The next step is to create the particle system that forms the trailing edge of the shockwave. Click the New button and select Material from the list of available items. Click the OK button. Expand the material tree by clicking the plus (+) to the left of the "Material1" item in the Project Workspace. Right click the Attribute node of the material and select "Change Type to", "Particle System", "Streaks".

Click the Attribute node, and on the Color tab of the Properties Panel, set the color to 0, 0, 150 RGB. An attribute channel will appear beneath the material attribute, which is used to change the material over time. For this example, the particles will start out very blue, and fade the longer they stay on screen. Click the plus (+) to the left of the Attribute Channel to expand it, and double click the Diffuse Blue channel item to open the channel for editing. A control point should be added at Frame 7 with a Value of 160, and another at Frame 30 with a Value of 10. The graph should look similar to figure 2. Close the Channel window after you have set the Diffuse Blue channel as described.

To add a little variation to the particles, changes will be made to the Transparency value over time. Double click the Transparency Channel Item beneath the Attribute Channel of the Material. Set up the Transparency channel as follows:

Frame Value
0 0
5 46
17 56
24 87
30 100

This results in a channel similar to the one shown in figure 3.

Click the Streak Emitter node, and make changes to the tabs as described below.

STREAK EMITTER GENERAL TAB

Gravity 0X, 1Y, 0Z

Emission Rate 8500

Velocity 35cm

Preroll 30

Life Expectancy 60

Viscosity 0

On the Streak Emitter Collision tab, verify that no options are checked.

 

STREAK EMITTER STREAK TAB

Tail Duration 3

Thickness 2cm

Additive Color ON

Drag the "Material1" item from the Materials folder, and drop it on the "Model1" item in the Objects folder. This will apply the streak material to the model.

The next step is to create the action for the explosion. Right click the Actions folder and select "New Action" from the list of available items. An action window will open that contains the model. Click on "Bone1" in the Action window, and on the Scale tab of the Properties Panel, enter 0, 100, 0 into the X, Y, and Z Scale fields, respectively. With "Bone1" still selected, enter 120 into the Current Frame field on the Frame toolbar. On the Scale tab of the Properties Panel, enter 450, 100, 450 into the X, Y, and Z Scale fields, respectively. The model will now expand slowly from nothing on frame 0 to very large on frame 120, trailing particles behind it as it goes. Step through the frames and examine the action if you'd like. When you're ready to continue, enter 0 into the Current Frame field on the Properties Panel.

Next, it's time to animate the lens flare to create the explosion itself. Click on the hierarchical light in the Action window (it may be a little difficult to get it just right -- watch the Project Workspace for the "Explosion Flare" channel to appear). Click the "Explosion Flare" channel to select it, then click the General tab of the Properties Panel. Select the Intensity channel item at the bottom of the list of Available Items.

The Intensity of the flare varies over time. Make the following entries into the Intensity field.

Frame Value
0 0
18 0
19 75
20 120
21 140
22 150
25 110
30 50
80 0

Double clicking the Intensity Channel Item in the Action folder will result in a visible graph that looks like figure 3.

Everything is set up, and you are now ready to render the sequence to a file. If you have a slower machine, you may want to lower the particle emission rate to get faster render times. If you're on a speedier machine, adding more particles heightens the effect.

To download the project file click here.   Explosion.prj

If you want to see the explosion you can download a video clip here.  mpeg 706k

Jeff Paries is employed at Hash and is author of The Animation:Master Handbook.


The Animation:Master Handbook
by Jeff Paries