Smoke ball vfx

Here’s a smoke ball VFX I’ve been working on.
The main idea of the spell is to manifest a ball of gas that can be detonated with fire.

I looking for general feedback on the effect (theme, timing, contrast etc.) and I have a couple more specific question.
I keep gravitate toward swirly smoke/cloud when I make textures for gas because I like how they look in isolation. but they never seem to work well in VFX I made. Are they just not great for VFX because of their more distinct looks? Or should I just be making more textures so it’d repeat less and that’d solve the problem? Or should it all just be hand animated? Here’s the Swirly smoke I made, I’d appreciate feedback on this too!

2. Is there a tool or something that can help with organizing timing of different particles systems for one effects? I found myself repeatedly changing different systems lifetime/delay by .1 or .2 every time I look to change the timing of the overall effect and it felt inefficient.
Edit: Just thought of another question. Is there a way to change the render layer base on distance to view? often I want effect circling another but they’d keep flickering if they are on the same render layer.

I’m new to the community here. Is it better to post here, in the discord, or both for feedback?


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Made some changes to it, sometimes I can’t tell if I’m making it better or not doing anything to it at all. :sweat_smile:

Hi @Flying_Book! It’s nice to get feedback so here’s an opinion.

  1. Swirly smoke is amazing for stylized effects and I definitely think you can make it work. The question is how you want to accomplish it. My suggestion for your scene is to create a dissolve map on a mesh. If you have the budget, I recommend looking at the Wisps portion of the VFX Apprentice course for the technical bits.

  2. If you are working in Unreal, Niagara has set up global settings to scale specific emitter behaviors. Not sure about Unity. I highly suggest jumping on the RTVFX Discord for real-time feedback. There are many helpful artists.

Notes for the effect:

  • its easy to see each individual card of the swirls as they merge together in the center. I think if you give them some more randomness (initial size, rotation, etc.) it would help. But the bigger issue here is the lack of a source to draw them together. You need to communicate the reason why these clouds are coming together. Why there?

  • once the clouds combine, why are they bursting back outward? You need to tell the story through your visual language. One suggestion is using timing. You can delay the burst by 1 second to create anticipation for the viewer. What is going to happen next? Then BAM! I also think the clouds should have much higher velocity than they are now. In VFX, always start big with exaggeration and then you can scale back more easily.

  • there’s so much stuff happening with the ball itself, i don’t even know what I’m looking at. Go see the GDC talk for the VFX of Diablo 3. There’s a section about making sure each emitter you add in serves a purpose. Tell me, what were you trying to accomplish with this?

I hope any of that helps and good luck!

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Thank you for the feedback and suggestions. :smiley:
I will look into the resources you recommended and try to make changes base on these feedback to improve my effect.

I’ve found time to work on it and I feel that it looks much better and hopefully clearer now (and I hope you guys think so too).

Here’s the description I came up for it if anyone is curious: smoke is conjured and swirl in to a dense ball until it becomes too dense to hold together and explode/expand and dissipates, but leaving a persisting spinning ball of smoke in its place

It’s so blurry. :confused:
What’s the best place to upload gifs/vids to post it here? What do everybody here uses?

For higher quality I use OBS and then encode with ffmpeg (which isn’t user-friendly at all, but quite powerful).
Many I know use nVidia Shadowplay and then use Adobe Premiere , Adobe After effects or Davinci Resolve for cutting. If you use Adobe CC, be sure to encode using their own extra encoder, the build-in in AE and PP are bad.

For better quality upload, use vimeo. Youtube compresses really aggressively if there is bunch going on on the same spot.

For critique on the effect:

  • Work on timing
    In my opinion, nothing communicates force. This could be because the mostly because all motion looks linear. It doesn’t feel like something is sucking in the air at the beginning and bursting it out in the end. Suggestion on the suck-in: make it a bit quicker and add some stretched billboard sprites (short lines) to better indicate the sucking direction and it also maz emphasis the strenght of it.
    Suggestion on the burst: I see you are doing some anticipation, but I would exaggerate it more. (possibly an “easeInElastic” motion) For explosions a rule of thumb: high velocity + high drag.

  • Think about the world surrounding the effect
    When I am doing an effect in a void (no game context) I try and imagine the context and the area this could be in. This helps me with some of the artistic vision. In the suck-in, I can see different kinds of clouds. I have the feeling these should come from different directions. like, some are “ground dust” and other “air from above”. For example the chunky clouds could only get come in from above (you could use a wide cone for this) This could help with the next point.

  • Play with form
    at the moment, everything is roundish and symmetrical. Try to break it a bit with the first half of the effect (the actual “active” looks fine and the burst out makes sense in how it looks), this could indicate the “active” state better and also makes it more exciting to look at.
    Disclaimer: this can totally be an artistic decision and work within the game just being roundish. CrossCode has almost all their effects based on circles and it still looks and feels great.

That being said, the is a lot I like what you have done. I am excited to see how it turns out! :slight_smile: