Water Textures & Rigs

The first time I worked with water in 3D was with 3dsMax with the Glu3D plug-in a few years back. The particle system not only crashed my computer multiple times, but also really stressed me out. Like rigging, particle systems is not one of my strong points. So to be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to working with water.

This past year, I worked with water and particles in Houdini. The user interface was a bit more user friendly than the water systems I previously used. You can check out my low resolution water test in Houdini below:

But luckily, in the “A Day with George” animated short, there are no intense splashing like in the Houdini Water Test. So I only really needed to focus on the steady waves, reflectivity, and light in the environment. I ended up adjusting a default mental ray material in 3dsMax to create the body of water around the elevated land.

Water Test Render, rrgonzalez.com
Water Test Render, rrgonzalez.com

I was having a bit of trouble getting the water to appear darker as the water got deeper. I played with different adjustments, and couldn’t achieve what I visually wanted. Then I came up with a simple solution: I copied and pasted different planes with a darker blue and higher opacity beneath the original water plane. Like so:

Water Texture Layers, rrgonzalez.com
Water Texture Layers, rrgonzalez.com

Therefore, my water looked much more believable! You can check out the layer comparisons here.

Rendered Water, rrgonzalez.com
Rendered Water, rrgonzalez.com

So the water looks pretty good, but I have a canoe on top of the water. I would like some sort of water movement when the canoe is floating and moving. Luckily I found this really helpful website that shows you how to rig and apply a Flex Modifier on a plane with a plug-in to generate water-like ripples.

The website provides a step by step tutorial to create buoyancy with a reactor in 3dsMax. I had to set up the 3D space myself since their link to download the .max file wasn’t working, but I didn’t run into any problems.

Water Ripple Test, rrgonzalez.com
Water Ripple Test, rrgonzalez.com

Shawn Lewis from Script Spot, released a MaxScript called Follow Surface which allows objects float on the water with very little work. I ran this script and was surprised how well it worked. It did slow my computer down while I was trying to see the outcome in my viewport, but once I started working with the cache, everything went pretty smooth. Here’s the water rig test:

Follow Surface Script Test, rrgonzalez.com
Follow Surface Script Test, rrgonzalez.com

Although the teapot seems a bit sporadic on top of the water, a few values in the flex modifier just need to be slightly adjusted in the actual environment.

Canoe w/ Follow Surface Script, rrgonzalez.com
Canoe w/ Follow Surface Script, rrgonzalez.com

In the screenshot above, you can see a slight flex when the canoe touches the water. I feel this still needs to be adjusted, but I’m really glad everything went a lot smoother than anticipated. I was worried I would be spending hours upon hours trying to get water to behave the way I want it to.

Rendered Canoe on Water, rrgonzalez.com
Rendered Canoe on Water, rrgonzalez.com

I will be updating my blog with more camera set ups and test renders like in my previous update.

Please look forward to them!