3rd Year Film Project ‘Vanitati’ VFX


The film starts with Dylan, 25, in his bedroom, descending into insanity, cutting off his hair, poking his eyes into his skull and leaking black goo. This is contrasted with a developing story of his overwhelming work life and the suffocating nature of a purposeless career. Disorientating, we see Dylan between work and home, also at a club where Victoria, his fiance, is constantly struggling for attention and fun. She is very much in the moment and very different to her lover. Every encounter seems to become worryingly more painful for Dylan. He drinks and takes a pill he receives from a slot machine. Throughout all of this, there is the building pressure that he is going to loose either his job or his girlfriend if he continues like this. He is forced to confront his fears and it revealed that all is not what is seems and time has lapsed over. Dylan has lost himself in an impersonal world with no one to reach for. What will happen to him?


Last term Ren approached me to see if I would be interested in working on a 3rd year film project that she was involved in. The film required a lot of liquid simulations so Ren had recommended that they contact me for my help. Including Ren and myself, there is a group of 5/6 of us working on this project. I am taking care of the majority of the 3D work including all of the simulation, rendering and some comp work.

The film requires a liquid simulation of a black, oil like substance, that is a key aspect to this film. For these simulations I am using a combination of Realflow and Maya’s Bifrost, both of which I have used in previous units.

Along with the simulations I will need to track and comp the CG elements onto the live plates, with use of Nuke and the skills we learnt in our VFX unit.

The Goo


To match my simulated liquid to the, liquid used on set, the crew has sent me some reference footage. Here I can get a better understanding of the viscosity of the liquid and also some good reference of the aesthetic. I can clearly see it is of a similar consistency to honey and has the same glossy surface like oil. I can also see there is a brownish tinge when the liquid is spread thinly. This could be achieved one of two ways that I know, either with the VraySSS shader or with Bifrosts liquid shader, using the density data to drive the diffuse colour.

Here are my first couple of tests, testing out different viscosity’s of the liquid. These simulations were created using Realflow. I can see from both tests that I am going to need to increase the stickiness off the liquid so that it doesn’t just slide off of the surface.


Shot Planning:

This first scene is the largest of simulation scenes. A large body of liquid needs to fall from above the shot and crash down onto the actor and environment. The director indicated that it should be like a ‘tidal wave of black goo’. My first thought was to make this using Bifrost, I am more familiar with the interface of Maya, and I have had issues before with moving colliders in Realflow. Bifrosts sim time for a simulation this size is also faster.


Below are a select few of my playblasts to show the progress of the simulation and the mechanics behind it. I have created the body rig by taking a mesh from Adobe Fuse (3D character models) and using the quick rig in Maya 2017 to have at least a usable mesh to animate, this is then applied a collider, along with the cymbals and walls. I have animated the emitters to offset the liquid so it doesn’t fall in such a uniform manner.

We needed to get something to show to the editors so they could grade the shot, here is a quick comp I did of a medium resolution sim.


As mentioned before I had been using Bifrost for this simulation, I find at small scales like this the meshing is too thick and unrealistic. Once I purchased Phoenix FD I switched to using that, it meant starting again but the result I achieved was better. I was able to push the resolution high whilst remaining stable and the rendering out of Vray looks much better than Bifrost.


Shot 2

The second shot is of the actor popping his eyes out of his sockets with a spectacular oil spray. This shot is challenging because it requires an accurate collider mesh for the oil to react with, this then needs to be tracked onto face and then the liquid simulated. The length of the shot also makes it hard has the actor frequently overs his face and the tracking markers with his arms.

Henry was supposed to be removing the tracking markers but it was my job to do all the fluid work.

I started off by using some modelling technique we learnt with Dev and Sanjay and applied it to this project. I made a replica of the actors head head using some reference files sent to me by the producer

For this simulation i have been using Realflow but I am going to switch to Phoenix FD for 2 reasons, first of all it has a wetting setting, which leaves a stain over where the liquid has run and i have been having issues with real flow where the liquid behaves not physically accurate, it could either be a problem with the mesh or a scaling issue.

Shot 3

Shot 3 Sam and I are working on, he was doing the comp work and I am doing the dynamics. He’s done the 2D work of making the clock spin and it was my job to create the liquid flying around the edge.

I have been using Phoenix FD for this simulation. There is an emitter hidden behind the clock and then a rotating disk which acts as the emitter, the velocity of the disk is transferred to the liquid making it spray out.Capture.PNG

Here are some of my tests to get the velocity of the liquid right, on the left it is too so i slowed down the emitter and turn the gravity down, so we could really see the motion of the liquid. The director agreed to this version so I was ready to do a higher resolution sim that you see below.

The shot on the right is the comp that Sam put together, i basically need to take his nuke comp and just add the liquid onto it, then the shot will be finished.



This is an on going project, I planned to have some shots finished for the deadline but the Beano project took up too much of my time. Sam and Henry have also left the project, giving me and Ren more to do. although, there is no set deadline on the project so I am able to get it all to a finished standard over the summer.

This project has been a great opportunity for me to improve my fluid dynamics abilities and has given me the chance to spend time learning how to use Phoenix FD. I am hoping, that once finished, I will be able to use some of the shots in my show reel.

This project has also been a good collaborative experience, working with film students. They come from a different background so the correct communication needs to be used to make sure everyone is on the same page.