Lil'Spences Effects Journal

Heya fellas, your every day VFX noob here making a journal. I thought this would be a good opportunity to just place down what I’ve been working on and document my improvement as time goes on. I’ve been seeing others do it and it seemed like a good growing experience for me to try, so, hope none of you mind! As always, critiques are always welcome, dont hold anything back. Growing, learning and adapting is what I crave after all, just dont be surprised if I ask a lot of questions. I’m not the sharpest spoon in the shed.

So, my names Devin Spencer, I’m a VFX Student at Full Sail University (Graduating this May 3rd). I’m only going to post the effects I currently have completed for the time being, as I’m a bit busy working on other stuff, but not to the point where its really worth showing anything for critiques or such (reeeally early stages). Of course, later on I’ll be posting WIPs and such. Hope you all enjoy, cant wait to hear any feedback!


My first effect, tinkering around with the sorts of nodes I could mess with within Cascade. Came out with this little bugger, a sort of spell channeling effect. I plan on making an actual effect to follow up this one, perhaps a fireball or comet kind of thing!


A healing effect based off of Soldier 76’s AOE healing ability. All rights to Blizzard and such of course, this is just a small inspiration piece to see if I could replicate some of the stuff they make! I wanna add some of the fog and mini-particles that the original effect has, but I’m still figuring that bit out. I’ll get it eventually though!


A simple campfire, my first attempt at making a fire effect. I want to try and get more into sprite sheets as they seem to be better for fire making, at least to me. Sorry for it being a bit blurry, had to compress it a lot in order for it to fit in this :joy:

1 Like

Nice! It will be interesting to see your progress. :slight_smile:
As a general rule of tumb, I would suggest you to record turnovers of your effects to see them from different perspectives. Unless you effect is dedicated to a board game camera like LOL, you will have to make your effect look as cool as possible from every angle, which is always a challenge :slight_smile:

Tell us which of these you would like to improve?


Right now? The fire, definitely. I want to get good with fire because its pretty fundamental for any game really, fire is so common. So the better I can get at it, the happier I’d be :joy:. Yeah, I’m still getting use to recording things, trying my best to get turn-tables that arent really, reeeeally bad.

No need for the records to be perfect… (for rnd stuff). Spend this time when you’ll be finished with your effect. It’s just for us (eventually your coworkers) to be able to see the progress from different views.
On my side I’m using OBS studio. Open Broadcaster Software | OBS
It’s free. I launch it and do manual turntable in Engine. It litterlay takes 5 mins max. I created a youtube account to put them online.

For the fire. Based on the environment setup you have here… (High to mid detail)… it’s not a props we would see just from a mile away :)…

… wait… Before I do any critique on this fire, could I ask you to critique it? Put one to three aspects you would like to improve and maybe some toughts on how you could approach it. We could focus on these.

One of the most important aspect of this work is to be self critique. You won’t nessecerly have concept art to relly on or an art director by your side (…most often than not you won’t)


1 Like

Yeah, I use OBS myself! Sadly though, since my Mac is well…a Mac, it doesnt really work all that well, its relatively framey (as in like, 5-10 frames), so I stick to using Quicktime Player. Which for some reason records better…gods know why. More frames with slightly less clarity.

Self critique, my favorite part. There are a looot of aspects to the fire that definitely need improving, at least in my eyes. The fire could be smoother and less particle focus (But thats probably just me not really understanding sprite sheets just yet, I’m pretty sure sprite sheets work better for fire. At least from what I’ve seen that is.) ,theres a lack of over all highlight, it doesnt necessarily fit the lick-like flames of real life. (Lick-like as in it doesnt have those spires of flames with pointed tips, you know what I mean, not a conventional fire.). What else…The smoke could go for some improvement, perhaps something darker and with more texture to make it stand out a tad more. Embers are kinda lack-luster and need more flow if I’m honest, but that really depends on the type of fire. As for the positives, I’m personally kinda proud of the crackles of embers I managed to make, I do like the normal-maps I used for the fires, its very wavey and nice but the material/fire itself just needs adjustments.

Sorry, thats a chunk and a half to read. :laughing: I probably went a bit rough on myself, but hey, gotta be an honest lad.

1 Like

Perfect! I agree with all you just wrote down.
Generally speaking when doing fire sprites I will not all gave them an upward velocity. There is an upward movement in the gaz feild, but the root of the flame will stick to the ground. So I would try to give a movement impression in the shader rather than moving the sprites. But it’s one way, one may do great by doing the exact opposite.

So which software will you use for your fire spreadsheet? Is it going to be simulated or hand painted, or you’re going to pick one availlable on the market?


1 Like

Well, I’m definitely no good at hand painting fire, but I could probably try my best to whip something up within Photoshop that could be satisfactory. There is a program thats rather nifty, EffectTextureMaker while the fire isnt exactly the best on the maker, its definitely a fun tool and I use it a lot for normal maps and noises. I’m trying to get myself into After Effects, cause I hear that it can be used for sprite sheets which has interested me, may as well when I have the whole suite.

It depends on what’s your priority for now. If you’re trying to be at ease with spredsheet than, yes go on with these two. I won’t be able to give you much help with AE regarding spreatsheet though.

If you’re trying to make some realistic fire, I would not hesitate to go with Houdini, Fume FX or Maya. Are you familiar with these?

On my end with spreadsheets, I resolved it by creating an OTL in Houdini three years ago. I will never have to spend a second on that anymore.

Houdini I have had minor experience with, but not for fire, not yet. I’m afraid I dont have much access to it, as its only on my campuses computers, though since I’ll be down here for a bit longer I may be able to experiment with it more. Fume FX I sadly cant afford. But! I am proficient in Maya, been using it for almost two years. Though I havnt really touched its FX all that much, I’ll have to give it a gander.

For Houdini…you could get the apprentice licence and run it at home… no?
I know excellent tutorials on fire.

It appears like Pluralsight has a 10 day free trial. It’s not to make any publicity for them. But their tuto, for Houdini are great (for most of them)… Espescially the ones created by Jeff Wolverton

I could? I didnt know it had such a thing, I’ll definitely look into it! Hope it runs smoothly on Macs :sob:. Thank you for the tutorials, I’ll definitley be glancing at those. Houdini has always interested me a ton, cause it seemed like a mish mash of a lot of programs (like unreal mixed with maya and unity, so on.)

The learning curve is steep in Houdini, but I strongly encourage you to go on with it. Beleive me, it’s not about the software or “the trend” it’s about the way to conceive and create… you’ll most probably gain knowledge that you will transfert into game Engine… in shader graph… blue prints etc.


I’m not foreign to steep curves, had to learn 3DS Max and Maya after all (though they werent really that bad). I’m more excited than anything, new knowledge is always great! Thanks for all your help, it means a ton to me, especially considering I’m new to a lot of this stuff.

This whole series is great too… Espescially for rendering… and mantra settings… if you do not witsh to spend your life waiting for your renders.

1 Like

Probably would be for the best, considering my laptop isnt exactly the strongest piece of tec. Knowing my luck I’d be waiting 6 hours for a render to pass through :joy:. Thanks again!

Oof, been a while since I’ve posted here. Sorry, I got so carried away with recent projects that I completely forgot to keep updating my sort of progress here.

We’ll start off with what I did over the course of the time I was away. I was working with some students at Full Sail to make a small little student-made game known as Fury Strike, mainly making the background environment effects like rain, sparks on wires, etc. Heres two little pieces I did but in a different setting (because I sadly do not have the level on my mac. Gatta love Macs am I right?)

Pretty simple stuff really, just some small things that added flare into the backgorund of the game. It was a fun project over all, I enjoyed working with the small team quite a bit, especially the programmers.

On to more recent stuff, I’ve been working on spells primarily. Other than the explosion in this current months sketch (Explosion), I’ve dedicated a lotta time to try and figure out the look and feel of spells more, starting out with healing spells in games. I noticed lots of them were fast and soft, especially area-of-affect spells, placed down to be seen and fading away moments later. More point-and-click (direct) spells tend to be the same, but almost instantaneous, not much flare. I’m working on a more direct heal, but I recently got the AOE healing done, so:

Based it more on a sort of druid-esk ascetic. Lots of plantlife, easy to see and colors linked to healing. Simple stuff, but to me it’s mainly just learning and getting into the habit of the little things. The more direct healing will probably be more similar to this, but softer, I’ll have to see what I come up with.

Nothing impressive, but I am definitely getting better, which I can be happy with.