View Full Version : Rocket smoke/fire/exhaust stuffs? (and tips on an "industrial" quality program?)

07 July 2007, 12:19 AM
Well, I started using vue 5 esprit/poser6 january '06, and upgraded to v6 xstream/p7, because I was planning on picking up a program like max, c4d, maya, y'know, one of those really professional-quality programs. I'm a senior in high school (and therefore all my training comes from tutorials on the internet and any DVDs I purchase), and by the end of this summer i'll have about $5000 to spend on one of those (maybe I can get a college kid to pick a copy up for me with his/her discount =>) programs. I've been content with vue and poser except that I've always been confined to using what other people model, and the limitations of the programs. I have a feeling that this'll be my last project with vue and poser alone, unless I can't achieve the desired effect with those two exclusively.

Basically, what I want to do is have a rocket coming down from space (a satellite), blowing up this tank. I've got AE7, and was planning on just panning a satellite onscreen, and then it would "launch" the rocket, and I would follow Andrew Kramer's "zoom out" tutorial, but in reverse, and with the rocket in there- at least until I get to the clouds. Then I want to cut to a sequence rendered in vue (or whatever program I'll be picking up...) of the rocket falling, the engine igniting, and the camera kinda flying around while the rocket falls thorugh a bunch of volumetric (err spectral, whatevs) clouds, and then go back to the rest of the movie, which I can do.

I know how to do everything mentioned above, except for how to make smoke and fire come out the back. I'm pretty bad at making fire in vue as it is, but I'd hate to use a bunch of metaballs with a smokey texture... since the 3d sequence is going to be about 10-15 seconds long.

I know c4d has this pyrocluster plugin, which was recommended to me, but I'd really rather not spend that much on c4d, and find out that I'd have been better off with maya.

From what I understand, maya and c4d both are used for modeling, and creating environments, whereas max is just for modeling. And I don't quite understand what mental ray is geared for... I've never seen renderman used for any photorealistic effects, but then again, I haven't seen it used for anything except for Pixar films.

Sorry this was so long, but maybe you can give me suggestions about which of these programs to pick up, and how to best create the smoke for the rocket.
Thanks a lot,
Robert Storm

07 July 2007, 11:57 AM
you'are wrong about renderman, renderman have been used for many photorealistic film those last years. Of course pixar's movie, but also all the last ILM product ( transformers, pirates 1.2.3, harry potters...), all weta movies ( lotr, king kong, fantastic four...), imageworks ( spiderman 1.2.3....). This is the most photorealistic renderer used in production.

about your software you have to choose the one you need for the job. All software are really good but also really different. If you want a good basic software with quality C4D is great, MAYA is the most advanced software, the most powerfull for most of the things, everything is possible with maya, but not so easy. XSI is good too and very versatile like maya. 3dsmax is good for everything but not as deep as maya or xsi. ligthwave is a really cool package too and offer you a good compromize. the next Modo is really nice for modeling, really powerfull for paint and render fast with a beautifull quality but no dynamics. YOU have to choose a good software, so with particuls and dynamic the best choice going to maya unlimited with powerfull particuls and fluid capability, max could handle pretty well these kind of job too, ligthwave and xsi too. now choose the one you like. In my point of view the best combination is maya and renderman or mental ray but it's only my opinion, but you could create very beautifull rendering, particuls jobs or fluids for realistic smoke and fire effect, and high controlable animation, modeling, texturing and so on...

07 July 2007, 01:24 PM
If your looking for a good deal on Cinema 4D, I have a 9.5 version up for sale on e-bay. Save over 50%.

07 July 2007, 04:25 PM
particle illusion might be an alternative for smoke&fire, and youll get almost realtime renders of your particles, you probably want to track positions in aftereffects perhaps..or manually do the tracking.


07 July 2007, 04:58 PM
Wow, that is a good deal on c4d, but if I can get this done cheaper, i'll hold out until I'm sure of what proggy I want.

I've heard of particle illusion, but isn't it a 2d particle emitter? Meaning no lighting and stuff?
All that stuff on their site looks really good, but what about when the sun casts a shadow on the rocket? Would I have to darken the smoke myself to simulate the shadow? And what about when the camera flies over the top of the rocket? Is it easy(ish) to simulate perspective with this program?

Hmm, I just watched the demo reel, and was pretty underwhelmed, I think I'd like to stay within the realm of 3D.

07 July 2007, 06:49 PM
Thats right, particle illusion hasnīt all that blows and whistles as a full 3d program and I wasnīt
sure of how advanced you wanted the smoke, in good hands thou you can create pretty good stuff with particle illusion and even faster than any other 3d program, I do agree with that it might be better to use something else thou if you are looking for full realism..
If you want the best? youll probably have to go with Houdini then maya and max(spare no spences..he)..personally
Im using Lightwave and as always, if you know how to do it, you can!

You might want to check some of this out, these guys used lightwave hypervoxels..but also a plugin called dynamite for a mushroom cloud and hypervoxels for rocket launchers from some f-18:s
and also explosions at an oilrig, theres a video in flash and quicktime on this link.

and some other cool fire and explosions with hypervoxels and some composit ( ( (


07 July 2007, 07:15 PM
yeahh! Those looked good.
I watched the video, and it looks like all I would need is that hypervoxel plugin? Not the dynamite?

>.< I'm not sure I want to get max AND maya, and I haven't ever heard of Houdini, nor can I figure out exactly what it does...
What features from each of those programs would I be wanting to use?

I guess I'm trying to make it look pretty good, but I wouldn't want to spend a small fortune, so I can settle for not-studio quality. As for time... I've got 6 months to get the whole video done (is about 15-20 mins so... really shouldn't be too hard)

07 July 2007, 08:03 PM
Dynamite is a commercial plugin and has itīs own voxel engine and it also has a cfd fluid shader

that is grid can check that one out here. (
there is also a demo of that plugin to works as it should except the demo gives a noise pattern over rendered images, of
course to use this you have to go with Lightwave.

Hypervoxels are built in to Lightwave..its a surface,sprite and volme shader that is applied on to particle emitters or objects...these effects can be previewed pretty fast in Lightwaves viper system and are pretty easy to set up and get going fast.
if youll go with lightwave you will have a pretty easy fast learning curve compared to a lot of other apps and a lot cheaper...also most of the interface are text based that may help you
find the correct buttons in a short time.

Houdini are probably the most advanced tool to use for particles today, but it has a somewhat different approach in the user interface that can be scary or overwhelming, it is
nodebased or lets say network based and will surely take some time to learn, some awesome
production movie credits in x-men and take a look at the new superman movie when the plane are about to crash to the ground a lot of smoke and fire there...Houdinis site are at

3d studio max are of course an option, I had a course in that program and used it a little bit
but that was a long time ago, and it has probably some very nice particles with particle flow and also the plugin fume fx simular to the dynamite for Lightwave but I think itīs more advanced and higher quality stuff.
I gave up on max cause I didnīt feel comfortable with it but thats just my personal view.
So theres a lot to choose from, the best you can do is to first visit the sites of each program..
check your wallot, check what you want to do ..more than particles? what kind of interface that attracts you..etc etc..


07 July 2007, 04:34 AM
All right, there's a LW8 Demo out there? Can I save with it and then if I decide to purchase lightwave (and perhaps the plugin), just load and render? (as opposed to having to recreate the smoke effects...)

Now, am I going to want to render the rocket and everything inside of vue? Or do I do everything except for the smoke and then bring it over to lightwave? (I bought vue 6 xStream just because I expected to get one of these programs in the near future, I think it supports lightwave, not sure...)

07 July 2007, 12:24 AM
I"m afraid this sort of effect is going to take some knowledge whatever package you use. Lightwave has a nice deal if you own other packages. I'm not sure why people are recommending Houdini since it's price is around $9k (for master which has the particles). This price is much better than the $18k it used to be but still, overkill big time for your needs I'd say.

If you're looking for click render and your done type stuff, Particle Illusion is going to be your best bet in my opinion. Otherwise, prepare to spend some cash and deal with a bit of a learning curve. You can fake shadows in AE fairly easily.

If you are serious about buying a package for this effect, make sure to seriously consider XSI. There is a shader called Geni tail that is pretty easy to implement. Vue also supports XSI so you'd be adding something to your vue pipline.

Just my 2 cents.

07 July 2007, 06:10 AM
>.< $6000 for advanced. The essentials version has the Geni tail, I hope?
I can't figure this out, is mental ray a standalone application or some kind of plugin? I thought it was the latter when I read that it worked with 3ds max a few months ago, but then someone here said they were doing an animation in mental ray, and then now xsi says it uses mental ray to render stuffs....what's going on here?

07 July 2007, 04:03 PM
Mental Ray is a renderer. There is a stand alone version but it also comes integrated in Maya, Max and XSI. My opinion is that it is the most integrated in XSI. Meaning it's the most seemless in that application.

Genie Tail is a free shader for XSI and it can be used in all versions I believe. Most definitely in Essentials and Advanced (I've used those). Not positive about Foundation but I don't see why it wouldn't work there. Unless you need hair, cloth and a cloud sim, you don't really need Advanced. There is a hair solution for the other packages too so even if you need hair, you're set.

Actually if you're going to buy Essentials, you might want to look at Maya Complete too. Just to make sure you're covering your bases.

Anyway, if it's just for fun and you don't want to spend too much money, you might want to look at something like Blender. Free is good, especially if you aren't looking at spending too much money.

07 July 2007, 02:05 AM
hey, sorry it took so long for me to respond, I've been out of town.
Thanks alot for the help. I've looked at blender, (toyed with it) but I guess I didn't spend enough time with it.
I don't suppose that I can import poser figures into XSI or Maya or any of those? Would I have to export it as a mesh and rig the joints myself? That'd be a pretty big selling point for me, to capitalize on what I've got in my library already.

07 July 2007, 02:38 AM
Thereīs a free Beta version of the new Houdini 9 available right now
theres a small download button to the upper right corner just under a search field.

theres some restrictions on render resolution and saving in a non commercial format and also
a small watermark I believe, have to check this monster out tomorrow and hope that
I might be able to test and see how the fluids works if thatīs included in this version.


07 July 2007, 02:52 AM
Thanks! I'm downloading that right now. The only thing is that houdini is...kinda out of the price range. If I'm going to use it for particles, I'd need to buy the $8k version. Do you know if there are demo or beta versions of XSI, Maya and/or Cinema 4d also available? (I found demos for 3ds and lw)

07 July 2007, 05:19 PM
The cinema4D demo is available on maxon's site:

The only trouble in this demo version is that you Can't save your 3D file.

I think realflow works quite well with c4d, (also a demo of realfow available ) but I never tested it.

07 July 2007, 03:58 PM

I've heard of particle illusion, but isn't it a 2d particle emitter? Meaning no lighting and stuff?
All that stuff on their site looks really good, but what about when the sun casts a shadow on the rocket? Would I have to darken the smoke myself to simulate the shadow? And what about when the camera flies over the top of the rocket? Is it easy(ish) to simulate perspective with this program?

Hmm, I just watched the demo reel, and was pretty underwhelmed, I think I'd like to stay within the realm of 3D.[/QUOTE]

Well take a look at this again..wondertouch has released some new pro emitters ..heres the links for some videosamples of them..mostly pyro explosion stuff

Remember can always twek,combine particle emitters untill you get what you want
and iīts way much faster than anything else in 3d.
As for shadows you will probably have to fix that in composit or tweak it directly in particle illusion at the specific keyframe time that is needed, I think shadows on smoke are rarely seen thou..shadows from the smoke itself is another thing thou..youll have to composit that I think.
Perspective Im not sure ..guess youll have to tweak that with an good eye..and also check for motion tracking.

even thou you was put off by the reel...I just wanted inform you of these new emitters..
and I agree with you about the reels they have, it doesnīt do the program justice thou.
I believe the studio hatch fx used particle illusion at least for the movie constantine and maybe for hellboy and some more..
Also itīs been used in navy cis I believe.

So if you have a good eye and sense of style and migh get really good resulst fast.


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