The Alexandra Institute // Cases // Elementacular




Easy design of clouds in real-time

We have developed the plugin Elementacular which enables you to design and render clouds fast and easy in real-time in Autodesk Maya.

Clouds are a natural element of many photographs and films and are used in everything from commercials and feature films to product photographs. Producers have great artistic freedom with digital production of image material, but with the existing tools the elements are very time-consuming and difficult to make. Therefore, the project partners wanted to develop a proof-of-concept software platform for natural phenomena to commercially available content production tools.

The aim was to make graphic designers able to generate photo-realistic or artistic natural phenomena for films, games and commercial production.

The success criterion was to be able to provide an equal or better quality with significantly less time consumption than was previously possible. This was achieved by using the state-of-the-art knowledge in physically-based simulation that the Alexandra Institute provides, and by designing the software so that graphic designers can work result-oriented (direct manipulation of physical objects) contrary to the parameter-based specification of simulations used in existing solutions.

With Elementacular, it is fast and easy to create and render clouds in Autodesk Maya.

On the research side, the project produced results by combining the latest techniques from computer graphics and simulation research areas. By combining the latest research with an understanding of how to effectively exploit the latest graphics processors, we provided a solution that could improve the results of similar businesses.

Also, we actively incorporated a result-oriented design principle making it easy to manipulate the final result and thus generating a much more iterative and creative process for graphic designers.

- We can see that especially small producers of animations and 3D films need a template for e.g. clouds to allow the graphic designer to focus on the creative process and not on technical details. As a result, graphic designers can skip some of the more time-consuming processes and thus their products also become more competitive, says Jesper Mosegaard, who is Head of Visual Computing Lab.

The project worked with three key areas:

  • Acceleration of heavy computation processes through use of modern GPU programming.
  • Commercially available content production tool to create a strong framework for further development of the project.
  • Result-oriented design where we let creativity get in front by letting end-users work directly with the result. This was partly done to remove the requirement of expert knowledge and partly to provide a faster production, which let users "play" with the results.

The project had a number of partners who all tested the newly developed technologies continuously throughout the project.

Danish content-producing businesses are under pressure from abroad, where costs are lower and the quality is getting better and better. By rethinking the process and working directly with the final result, we would be able to help businesses make better results at a lower cost.

In this project, the Alexandra Institute collaborated with Sunday Animation Studios, Javira, Red Eye and Wil Film.

The project was partly funded by Shareplay.

Creating visual effects in no time
will allow businesses in the audiovisual industry
to take on more and larger projects.
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