To Build an Effect

So, I really needed to work on some stuff for my visual effects demo reel before GDC in like, less than two weeks, so along side my normal work as UI Designer and VFX artist for The Firing Squad and re[Mod] I rejigged my schedule a little bit to give me more time to do one of my absolute favorite things to do: Make some cool looking visual effects. This blog I’ll go over the iterative process I had for one of the effects I made


Starting with an idea I had for a “magical black hole bomb” I created a plan for the effect so I had some guidelines for what I was gonna end up doing.

I initially wanted to use two different panning noises to give the build up sphere a lot of detail for cheap, and add to the wispy, ethereal effect I was going for, however, there was this weird seam (you can actually see it extending from the center of the sphere to the right on the texture) that only appeared when I had more than one panning texture on it. So I Had to go back to the drawing board.


I compensated for the less complicated noise, by adding more sub spheres beneath it to give the illusion of more depth of noise. I also added a slight refraction to the sphere, to increase the visual interest of the interior effect, as well as sell the “psychedelic space warping black hole” thing I was trying to go for. I also eventually swapped out the default unreal Sphere for something much more low-poly. I amplified the inverse fresnel effect I was applying to feather the edges to hide the chunkier geometry of the build up sphere.


This was right about when it started to take shape. Even with the totally place holder timing of the whole effect I’m still really pleased with the psycho trip light burst ring that spiral out at the end there.

The Burst Rings Material is, in comparison to the buildup sphere,  MUCH more complicated

I really wanted to get the Burst ring to do two things: pan through a gradient of color, and Decay based on a threshold value.  I’ll be honest. I still don’t totally understand how the Decay part works (I turned to the RealtimeVFX forums for help on getting that aspect to work), but I was also directed to a really nice tutorial on Gradient Mapping by a friend of mine, and I managed to get that part working without too much trouble. 2018-03-04_14-03-35

Panning across the gradient map really gave the helped the rings POP and added some nice visual interest and color complexity to the latter part of the effect. I probably tweaked the colors on the LUTs five hundred times. And even now at the end of the whole thing, I’m Still not entirely sure I’m totally happy with the colors in the final product. If I get some free time I’ll definitely go back and finagle with those values some more.

v3.1By this point its almost done. I spent a good chunk of time trying to give the sphere in the center a chaotic, unstable feel, but at this point the whole effect was still too slow. The impact of the explosion part of the effect was finally selling itself well enough to feel like an ‘Explosion’ The shrapnel sparks that I added also really help selling the intensity of the explosion. I still don’t think the explosion feels particularly ‘violent’, but I wanted the effect to be full of soft shapes, like the stuff being affected by the spell is the vapor and fog and light around the spell region.

ezgif-4-eef311eff0.gifThis is the final effect as it currently stands. I’m really proud overall of most of the techniques and the feel of this effect. It forced me to go out and learn and implement things that I’d been reading up on and the effect is pretty nifty to boot.


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