Kind of special topic, but after doing some researches about trails, I’m confused about how many things fall in the topic of “trails”. Keep in mind I’m not a vfx artist at all but I like doing some effects when I can.
I see so many different ways of creating trails but I don’t really know how each of them are used to create different effects. I’ll be more precise (sorry it’ll be long).
Starting from the most basic, we can spawn individual particle being a moving object (with some shader or flipbook), usually for smoke or simple fire trail.
Then we have the stretched ribbons : a texture streched on a ribbon, the head of the ribbon attached to the object. I think this is one of the most used trail since it can create simple but effective trail with the most basic texture (like a circle), but it can also create really cool trails with good handpainted texture and some shader magic. Only thing that they can’t do, is “staying in place”, since the UV will follow the head, the tail of the trail (oof) will be draged by the object anywhere it goes, and it’s a problem that doesn’t seems to have a simple solution.
There is also the tiled ribbons : cool for repeating a texture along a trail, but it needs a seamingless texture and any shader that you apply to the texture will be repeated on every tile, meaning for example that you cant scroll a noise on the whole trail, only on every tile independently, which usually breaks the effect and show the tiles. Maybe there is a way to avoid that I’m not aware of ?
Finally, the last “type” of trail I know : trail meshes. A flat mesh with a scrolling texture. Useful when we know in advance the trajectory of the object. Weapon swing animations are usually “static” so we can pre-bake a trail mesh and scroll the swing texture on it during the swing animation to get a nice and smooth curve. Again, one problem : if you want your mesh to always face the camera (like a ribbon particle), you have to do some mesh deformation and I don’t even know how. If anyone know how you can do that I would gladly read about it (and try to implement it myself).
So yeah, that’s a summary of most methods I’ve seen to create trails. I’m using Unity and VFX Graph myself so I know how to do most of them (minus the questions I added obviously) at a very ugly and basic level, but I wanted to ask if there anything I missed, and if some methods are more used than other.
If you read the entire thing, thank you a lot, I know it’s a lot but I’m basically trying to sort all of this myself and my tiny brain is starting to melt.