How are extending bolt/beam effects made?

I have seen many amazing effects work in games and on this website and one key element that I see in a lot of (especially in attack based effects) are these sort of beams of light/ lightning coming off of a centre point to show a release of energy and confirm that the target object is colliding with something else. Here are some examples what i’m talking about from some Dragonball FighterZ footage.

There are these beams of energy that jut out from the point of impact (Goku in the middle and the Kamehameha) towards points outside the screenspace.

But then there also some beams that have an electric texture that also extend out of the screen space without looking stretched and wonky.

I have tried this before with previous projects using a ribbon emitter following a burst of particles which looks alright but when it comes to using a panning texture with detailed shapes like those bolts of electricity I tend to struggle, especially if the beams are supposed to move off screen.

Is there exact terminology for this kind of effect? What methods do you use to create something like this? Or in other words, are there more effective ways of creating such effects?


The beams:
Generally these are just meshes that extend trough code/blueprint/whatever and adjust the uv’s accordingly so it does not stretch. (i.e. take the length of the mesh compared to its base length and add that output to the UV coordinates)

those electric textures (in dbfz) are actually quite high resolution, but thanks to additional layering of noise/emissiveness they look rather well. (when you are nose-pressed against a 65 inch tv you’ll see compression)

-I might add more info later, gtg.

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Based on how how it looks like in the gif my best guess is that they are very simple pieces of geometry, probably a mesh to carefully control the position and the rotation, with a few frames of hand-drawn lightnings that UV-scroll a bit and switch between random frames.

In my experience, it’s very hard to get precise shapes like those with ribbons. It’s a lot easier to paint or generate something stylized on a flat piece of geometry

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The DBZ example has it a bit easy, as the camera is mainly a fixed angle and distance on screen. The electric beams are probably a randomized flipbook being played on meshes that are angled specifically towards the camera, and are large enough to stretch off screen.

Like Luos and Kuba mentioned, the beam is most likely made up of a few different meshes with panning textures and some material effects. It’s hard to tell from the gif compression, but the blue “outer glow” may be a flat mesh or sprite being rendered behind the more cylindrical white core.

Joe Masucci did something similar for Strife’s World Ender beam in Darksiders Genesis

Depending on how long you need to stretch your “beam”, you can get similar results by offsetting the pivot point on a sprite and simply scaling along the same axis. This of course means you would need to account for it when creating the texture in the beginning. It works pretty well with splashes and smoke effects.

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