Friday, October 18, 2013

EFX Animation: Water Splash

Walt Disney Studios pioneered drawn animation effects by having a team of animators study how water moves and reacts as well as fire, smoke, rain, etc. These animators soon became known as "Effects Animators" specializing in environmental effects, so the character animators could concentrate on  characters performance.

When adding an effect to your scene, you want to make sure the effect or effects are on seperate levels. This will help in case you need to shoot it on 1s, while your character(s) are being shot on 2s. You also want your character animation to be as final as possible, because the effects may have to register or line up to some part of your character or background. Example, your character's hair is on fire. You've got him jumping around and the fire effect must look as if its on top of his head.

One effect that I think I have figured out how to explain is the water splash. In this example, we are dealing with an object that falls straight down into a pool of water. The water splash reacts to the size, weight and at what angle the object enters the water, but for this demo, the angle of entry is straight down.

Begin with a simple layout showing the bottom oval where the splash begins from and draw action lines which go up and curve over. As the splash goes up, the water curves over because gravity is pushing it back down and also the water curve is moving outward. The water curves up and out, not just going up and the down. Keep your water drawings curving outward, follow the red lines as a guide.

You need to create a few main keys to get the motion looking right at beginning. Deal with the shape of the splash which travels upward and outward as it travels back down to the water surface below. As the water returns, it makes more micro splashes and this is where most character animators want to stop and draw something else because of some many details to keep moving.

Here's a splash shown frame by frame with timing notes...


Water keeps moving and moving and slowly, slows down as it returns to normal again. Water never freezes, unless it becomes ice. The tedious part is trying to make all these bits look like moving fluid and all moving at different speeds. The ending of the splash is often ignored, because it is a lot of attention to detail to make it look right. My sample below is a good start, but my ending could be fixed up a bit as well. My splash ends with water splashes and changes to a rough ripple cycle to keep the water moving and returning to normal.


Watch these examples of splashes. This one feels more heavy like mud and notice how everything moves at the same time and ends at the same time. Water moves a different speeds.

This one looks pretty good, but the ending is a little rushed into a ripple cycle...

This one has the water going up and down, no outward motion and the second water blob. If the water splash moved outward in the beginning, I think this would work better.

Good animation. Can you spot the problem with this one?

Great Animation, a little too long on the splash shape which looks as if more water is pouring out.

All these examples of splash took a lot of time and effort to figure out and draw. It takes time, perhaps a lifetime to master these techniques. The main thing is to learn how to do it yourself and develop your animation eye. Work on a scene, test the scene, review the scene, revise the scene, reshoot the scene, ask others opinion and this should be for computer animators as well. The more you do, the better you'll get.

There are basic examples of effects in almost any drawing animation book you pick up and they are good guides for simplifying these types of animation. I found two books that I'm very interested in looking through called Elemental Magic, Volume 1: The Art of Special Effects animation and Elemental Magic, Volume 2: The Technique of Special Effects animation by Joseph Gilland. If anyone has these books and would like to tell us about them, I'd love to find out more.

Please give me some advice, feedback or constructive criticism or share your animation so we can all learn something new! Don't be shy, leave a comment below!
Thanks in Advance,

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