Thomas Atchley WIP/Critique

Hello All! First time posting on here but I wanted to post some work to hopefully get some critique and input to push my work to the next level! I am currently a student at Gnomon School of VFX and I am going to graduate in a few months! I’m trying to get ready for work environments and position my self as best I can to be successful. Thank you all for everything you do and share on this site! It’s a godsend!

Here are some real time pieces I’ve been working on in the past few months. I use Unreal 4 for all the jazz.

This is a trail I started working on recently based on the wonderful Shannon Berke’s thread!

An “Ice Mine” spell effect that’s inspired by League of Legends!

This “black hole magic” effect was made with a character in mind. I was imagining a mage character holding this in their hand.

My attempt at making a realistic effect. The clouds are made in Houdini and rendered out on cards in Vray. The smoke, jets, and flak are made in Maya and rendered in Vray.

Thanks allot to everyone on this site and all the help it has given me in the short time I’ve been a part of it!



Here are some of my film styles fluid sims and other things I’ve been working on!

Explosion done in Houdini and rendered in Vray.

Fluid explosion done 100% in Maya fluids and rendered in Vray.

Meteor effect based on Diablo 3’s cinematic. Also in Houdini and Vray.

Made in Maya fluids and rendered in Vray. An attempt to make high detail no heat fluids.

This is my final from my last dynamics class, it’s fully Maya fluids for the smoke and explosions, and Houdini for the clouds in the background. The Dragon model was a rigged model taken from Turbosquid. There’s a small breakdown on it at the end but I had to speed it up to make it fit in the gif.


Some very nice stuff!
Loving the clean and sharp look of it all.

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Thank you! You and your videos have been a huge help to me in learning Unreal!

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Looks like you’re off to a great start! Learning the tools of VFX is a huge hurdle all on its own, so my hat is off to you. My recommendation now is to turn your focus toward the artistic principles of making art. As VFX artists, we pull from all the other disciplines: Color Theory, Timing, Shape Hierarchy, Contrast, and of course Gameplay Clarity/Impact/Theme. Lots to keep track of on top of those complex tools (warning: making VFX is not for the faint of heart ;^)

But to get more specific, I think your icy burst crack texture could use a rendering pass to get the cracks to match the style of those cool wisps in the swirls. The timing of the icy whirlwind needs a better sense of variation, with more anticipation before the payoff, and then a nice ease-out on the dissipate, to help it feel more alive and punchy.

The purple portal is travelling just as fast at its core as it is on the outer edge. Energy burning outward like that tends to slow down and lose momentum as it travels further away from the source.

I recommend trying a variety of different things: missiles, cast effects, hit impacts, magic, fire, water, smoke, etc.

Excited to see what you do next!


Thank you for the kind word and the mountains of help! I struggle with timing and color allot and I know that it’s one of my biggest flaws regarding all of my work. Your videos are an absolute godsend though and I can’t thank you enough for posting them! I’ve watched your video on shape language in FX too many times! I’ll start making revisions and will change what I can based on your advice as well as some new work as soon as possible! Thanks allot for all you do!

To anyone whose not Thomas, I was one of his FX teachers at Gnomon, if you wonder why I go harder on him in the critique below.

First I love that you made this post and are asking for continued help. Great move.

Trail looks good, if you could find a context to sell it, that would be the only note I’d add here.

Ice mine, you are combining a very cartoony crack with a more realistic smoke spin fx. The smoke looks so good I’d say rework the crack texture. Give it some gradient so it appears to have some depth to the cracks. also I want to see the crack texture fade out in an elegant way, don’t give me this simple fade out! You can do better! :smiley: Also the snow flake is hard to read, maybe another 0.1 seconds to its life?

The black hole looks good. I don’t get the “black hole” from it, in that it doesn’t appear to be sucking in, and much as burning in an outward direction. A lot of times students make an fx like this “magic” is b/c they can’t get the coloring right for fire. I’m not saying you did, but I’m using that and a harsh comment to encourage you to add a little something more to it. One more element thats prominent enough to give it that extra care and attention that FX artist will notice and want to hire you for. could be a fire lick that jumps off it ever 1-2 seconds, could be a distortion effect to help integrate it into the environment… you decide. But this looks too good to not take it one step further.

The smoke jet, :smiley:made this in my class.
Too evenly lit. Too bright. I want to see each part of the effect and I want to see it more clearly.
Smoke on the nose is big and makes it feel like its moving slowly, and the trail smoke doesn’t help as its also moving slowly. Its hot from moving so fast the friction with the air is heating the metal, so you should show that level of speed.
My concern overall with this one is that if I asked you to draw/photoshop what you wanted you’d not make the fx look like this. I think it looks like this b/c this is what you could do with the fx. I know you are better. I know you are really good and will get a job doing fx, which is why I’m not going easy on you. When you work in FX the hardest part is looking at what the fx/particles will do, and pushing yourself very hard to make them do what you want. Its not easy. It kinda hurts like long distance running. Keep pushing yourself and you’ll be surprised how good it can look. You spend a decent amount of time on this one, definitely revisit it to show off what you already did and can do.

And show off when you make improvements! A lot of this is very good, keep going!


Hey! Thanks for more feedback always helpful! I’m still working on making the ice mine better in animation and color while trying to rethink the assets a little bit. But I have been working on my black hole effect trying to move in a new direction with it.

on it’s side as well as some electricity in the center

I’m glad my little trail tutorial was helpful :slight_smile: Really cool to see!!

I want to +1 @DavidSchoneveld 's feedback. There are a ton of great points in there, A TON :smiley:

Looking forwards to seeing more of your stuff.

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