James Broderick: Embergen Challenge

Hi everyone! Been lurking on here for a while and been on the discord channel a little bit. I’m a relatively new VFX artist to the industry so I’m looking to push my skills a little and this seems like a great opportunity to test things out. I’ll see how much time I can put in, but I’m using this as a way to learn Niagara in UE4 as well as Embergen.

The general idea atm is I wanna blow up some podracer-style speeder things and watch the raining debris and engines pieces pepper the desert landscape underneath. Loads of fire, loads of sand kickup, and I can experiment with some jet engine flames. :’)

Newest pic: A storyboard for how I imagine the effect to play out

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Making a start on some planning and reference gathering. Started a little youtube playlist here where I’m adding video reference. The main point of inspiration is basically the pod-racing sequence from Phantom Menace (especially the part where Sebulba’s pod flies out of control and he gets all sad)

>>>Youtube Playlist - SandDune FX Ref<<<

Also pasting in a little bit of planning I’ve been doing in OneNote, nothing fancy yet and this outline will definitely shift around a bit, going to move onto doing some storyboard doodling now. :slight_smile:


• Learn Embergen flipbook creation pipeline for UE4
• Get to grips with using Niagara for production FX
• Create something that feels a bit more cinematic - block in the animations in sequencer and then iterate on the FX.

Main FX to consider

• Jet engine fire and trails from bike
	○ Jet engine fire that that shifts colour and intensity a bit 
	○ Inside of jet engine has material with distortion and lightbanding - proper sci fi look
	○ Add sparks, make the burn seem quite inefficient and chaotic like it's an old engine made out of scrap. 
• Sand kickup from back of speeder bike
	○ Loads of sand kickup from back of speeder - like a dirt bike on dunes
• Explosion
	○ Explosion should have some fire trails coming off it. Very bright and smoky.
	○ Some really nice sparks/embers - make it super sparkly!
• Debris
	○ A good range of falling debris pieces, bunch of meshes like bolts and metal shrapnel. 
	○ Could make use of UE4's Chaos destruction system on the speeder to make all the parts strip off properly, but we will see. Could even sim destruction inside of Houdini but that could be a lot of extra work. 
	○ Spinning/rolling debris chunks on the ground. 
• Falling smoke trails
	○ Falling smoke/dust - Combination of ribbons and sprites to create smoke.
	○ Some pieces are still on fire and have some flames.
• Debris Impacts on sand.
	○ Debris impacts should kickup loads of sand and dirt.
	○ Throw up some more smaller shrapnel pieces

Software used:

• Unreal Engine 4 - Presentation and FX creation
• Embergen - Flipbook generation
• 3DSMax - Greybox and mesh creation
• Photoshop - Texture editing and LUT creation
• Houdini - Mesh breakup simulation

Task list

• Plan cinematic design (Rough storyboard) + Moodboard
• Embergen pipeline test + lookdev - 6 point lighting investigation
• Greybox cinematic using 3dsmax and UE4 sequencer
• Drawover cinematic and plot out FX
• Explosion creation
• Speeder bike breakup in Houdini
• Debris impacts creation
• Flame trails creation
• Jet engine creation
• Sand kickup creation
• Second Pass + Additional FX
• Refine models and textures
• Polish Pass

I’m pretty hyped up about this, looking forward to seeing what eveyrbody else is making too! :smiley:

Got started with a bit of rough storyboarding yesterday, this page probably has the easiest to understand sketches but I apologize for the state of my handwriting. So what I’m thinking is some kind of missile or blast hits the tail end of the speeder (nothing too powerful, it clips it maybe but just does enough damage to the engine to make it catch fire and explode a second later) this will make the tail end dip, hitting the ground which will cause the speeder to tumble and fall into pieces. The camera will follow thorugh the action and turn around to see the destruction as it rains down. :slight_smile:

I’m actually going to work on some technical tests with Embergen next, just come across a guide for 2d raymarching, never tried it before but going to see if I can use that to get some volume on the smoke in Unreal.