The YF-19: Smoke and Heat

Hey! I’m back with some more updates!

I’ve been learning some things in Blender to get the animation started, and one of the things I wanted to do was a heat effect of the air behind the engine thrusters, so I did some research and looked up videos on how to do it. Turns out there were many ways to achieve it, but first I had to come up with a particle system that was reasonable. So I began by learning some particle creation.


The first iteration was from a tutorial that teaches you how to make steam coming out of a train. Apparently, it’s not as easy as just add a particle and hit render. Seems like the material and the shader has to be well thought, and there are many things that simply don’t show up in the render with Cycles if you’re not moving things around the Node Editor first. So I went from learning particles to shader fundamentals, which led me to learn some more about editing nodes. This rabbit hole was deep, yo.


The second iteration was with a type of shader that creates volumetric objects, so they look soft and nice. The first iteration was by using images with transparency, so this had the advantage of being very easy to edit and customize. I just had to learn how to make the particles behave correctly, and then getting more of a heat effect than actual puffy smoke.


A bit better but the particles created these puffy cloud shapes that weren’t what I was looking for. So I kept learning through another tutorial on how to make them change size depending on the particle age (so they begin small and grow up as the air expands)


After getting the particle behaving correctly, I learned through yet another tutorial how to achieve the heat effect. It required me to use the Composite mode in Blender, which allows you to set layer effects and render using passes, render layers and different image filters, one of which was the distort effect. By adding a distort effect and linking the opacity to the particle alpha, I could make the image behind seem distorted, like the way the air gets agitated and distorted by heat. I was on the right track but now it seems like I needed to learn how to composite, render in layers and use passes.

Down to the rabbit hole again. I finished the effect and by adding a floor and background with a simple checker, I could see if it was working or not. The distort effect created (ahem) interesting things with the thrusters.


I did the first render animation which took kinda forever. Turns out that Blender spends a lot of memory in rendering transparent layers, so the particles being rendered as a separate thing was very demanding on the software.


It was then that I saw that the effect was behaving nicely but the particles were not following the thrusters like I wanted. So the particle speed was not right, it had to go as fast as possible so it would follow any big movement the thrusters did.


The effect was looking a lot better and following the plane a lot nicer. I also made the smoke being lighted a bit by the thrusters so it would look really hot. Couple of issues, though: The renders were ceating a few weird articates on the background (which seems to be caused by the camera specs of near/far clipping), the thruster showed up in front of the plane in a couple of frames (probably same issue with camera clipping) and also, I did this animation render in parts, since it would take almost an hour per frame so this took a bunch of nights. But any time I renewed the render, the particles were not cached so they started from the beginning, which created this feeling of the engine “coughing”, being turned off and then on again and the particles not moving as a continous stream. That’s how I learned that I had to bake the particles before attempting a long render. Besides these issues, the result was awesome and I was very proud of it.

With all this completed, here’s a nice wallpaper with all the things I learned so far in them.



About Eduardo

I'm some dude with a huge love for animation and film. I've been working in TV animation for the past 6 years in New Zealand. I love dragons, pointy metal things that can cut dragons, and flight simulators.
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