VFX artist Vikrant Dalal takes us through the creation of small scale fire and smoke, with the help of FumeFX

By Vikrant J Dalal

Web: www.project01studio.com

Creating small scale fire and smoke with the help of FumeFX

Hello everyone, welcome to my second tutorial. This time, I will cover how to create small scale fire and smoke. You may already be familiar with this working style, but I still want to say that I will make this tutorial with minimum parameters, with a few extra tricks. So get ready for a blast; sorry, not a blast… for small scale fire and smoke!

You may already have seen small scale fire and smoke effects in game cinematics or war movies, and noticed that they increase the impact of the shot. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create this small scale fire and smoke with the help of 3ds Max and the FumeFX plug-in.

There are different techniques you can use to make this effect in FumeFX, for example; Simple Source, Object Source, or Particle Source, but this time we will use Object Source with a texture map. With this, we’ll need to use a plane, Gradient map, standard lights (Target Spot and Omni), the Default Scanline render, and most importantly, the Wavelet Turbulence to add some detail.


Generate a plane

As I mentioned before, there are different types of techniques you can use to make the small scale fire and smoke effect, but we are going to use Object Source.

First, create a plane from the standard primitives menu on the right hand panel. Then, in the viewport, adjust the following settings:

Position of Plane01
? X : 0.0
? Y : 0.0
? Z : 5.0

Rotation of Plane01
? X : 0.0
? Y : 0.0
? Z : 0.0


Creating small scale fire and smoke with the help of FumeFX
Creating a plane using a standard primitive, and adjusting the settings

Make a texture map

You might be questioning why we are using a map in our effects ? it’s because I want to generate fire and smoke from a certain area; for example, here, I want to generate the fire from the center of the plane.

So how do we go about this? First, I make a black-and-white map. This is important as we can program the fire and smoke to appear only from the white areas. This is the main reason we’re using a texture map.

To make this black-and-white map, first press M to open the Material Editor. Select a material slot and apply the material to your Plane01. Now right-click on the Diffuse Color button, and the Material/Map Browser window will appear. Select the Gradient Ramp option and change the Gradient type to Radial. Finally, you can adjust the color to appear the same as in the image and play with the Noise Parameter to displace the clean circle.

Creating small scale fire and smoke with the help of FumeFX
Allocating materials to the plane to create the base texture map

Generate the FumeFX system

Now with our base texture map established, we are going to use 3 important things from the FumeFX System: the FumeFX Container, the FFX Object Source and the FFX Gravity Vector.

So first, to create the FumeFX Container, we need to go to Create Panel > Geometry > Dropdown menu > FumeFX. Now click on the FumeFX button and Generate Container in the viewport. Now we can rename FumeFX01 to SSF Container, and in the viewport, change the position of the LSS Container to the following:

? X : 200.0
? Y : 0.0
? Z : 0.0

To create the FFX Particle Source, go to Create Panel > Helpers > Dropdown menu > FumeFX, then click on the Object Src Button and generate in the viewport. Now you can rename FFX Particle Src01 to SSF Src.

Finally, to create the FFX Gravity Vector, go to Create Panel > Helpers > Dropdown menu > FumeFX, and click on the Gravity Vector Button and generate it in viewport. The gravity vector will change the Gravity Direction according to the icon. In the viewport, you need to change the rotation of FFX Gravity Vector01 to the following:

? X : 0.0
? Y : 70.0
? Z : 0.0

Creating small scale fire and smoke with the help of FumeFX
Setting parameters in the FumeFX system to set up the effect

General settings

Within the FumeFX Container (SSF Container), there are six key sections that we are going to modify. These are under the Gen ? General, Sim ? Simulation, WT-P ? Wavelet Turbulence, Rend ? Rendering, Illum ? Illumination, and Obj/Src – Objects & Sources headings.

First, under the Gen ? General heading, set the following parameters:

General Parameter
? Spacing – 1.5
? Width – 571.564
? Length – 266.512
? Height – 272.391
? Adaptive – On

? Start – 0
? End Frame – 150
? Exporting Channels – Fuel, Smoke, Velocity and Extra Detail. As a small tip; Extra Detail means Wavelet Turbulence. You don’t need to add Extra Detail through the Exporting Channels, just go to the Sim Section and at the very bottom you will find the Extra Detail section. Just click on the Wavelet Turbulence option.
? Output Path – Click on small button next to the output path, make a new folder on your storage drive and save your cache file (fxd) as SSF_test_ in that folder.

? Play From – 0
? Play to – 150
? Start Frame – 0

Creating small scale fire and smoke with the help of FumeFX
The FumeFX panel that you can make adjustment


Next, under the Sim-Simulation heading, you will need to make the following adjustments.

? Quality – 5
? Maximum Iteration – 200
? CFL Conditions – 5.0
? Maximum Simulation Steps – 1
? Advection Stride – 0.5
? Time Scale – 2.0

? Gravity – 0.65
? Vorticity – 0.8
? X Turbulence – 0.6

Turbulence Noise – This setting is very important to define the hugeness of smoke.
? Scale – 0.5
? Frame – 1.0
? Detail – 3.8

Blocking Sides

? X : None
? Y : None
? Z : Both

Simulate Fuel
? Ignition – 25.0
? Burn Rate – 5.0
? Burn Rate Variation – 1
? Expansion – Animated
? The default Expansion Parameter is 1.0, and you can keep this as it is. I don’t want to make the fire appear at a constant speed or density though; I want a bit of variety, so right-click on the Expansion Parameter and select the Show in Track View function. You’ll see that the graph editor has appeared and the Expansion Button is selected. Now just right-click on that button and select Assign Controller; a new window (Assign Float Controller) will appear. From there, select Noise Float. This will generate one more window (Noise Controller: SSF Container/Expansion) and you can adjust the settings to the parameters shown in the image. After these changes, the expansion parameter will become more animated, and cause the fire to develop at different densities. You can use this option or just animate it frame by frame.

Extra Detail

? Go to the Extra Detail section and select Wavelet Turbulence.

Don’t Change any parameters from the Smoke or Temperature sections. Keep those settings default.

Creating small scale fire and smoke with the help of FumeFX
The parameters you should apply in the Simulation panel

Wavelet Turbulence

Under Wavelet Turbulence, the Grid Detail Scale is 2.0, which means that it will simulate twice the detail simulation than its current spacing. Keep the Output Path the same as the main path we used in the General Settings section. We aren’t changing anything from this tab.

Creating small scale fire and smoke with the help of FumeFX
Some of the settings shown in the Wavelet and Post Processing section


Under the Rendering Parameters heading, we won’t change any of the settings. Though we will load a new color into the Fire tab:

? Don’t change any parameter except the color. I made a specific color asset to use with fire here, and you can just download it into your color button.

? Ambient – R : 0 | G : 0 | B : 0
? Smoke Color – R : 60 | G : 60 | B : 60
? Cast Shadows – Checked
? Receive Shadows – Checked

Keep all other parameter as the default settings.

Creating small scale fire and smoke with the help of FumeFX
The settings used in the Rendering tab


Before we start working on this tab, we have to place lights in the scene. We’ll be using 3 standard lights: a Target Spot and two Omni lights. We need to apply the following settings to these before we adjust the FumeFX settings.

1. Target Spot

Light Position
X : -95.487 | Y : -117.432 | Z : 1381.682
Target Position
X : 237.649 | Y : 0.0 | Z : 93.602

You can turn on the shadows for this light. Go to the Shadow Parameters tab and turn on the Atmosphere Shadows. Keep everything else default though.

2. Omni

Light Position
X : 827.659 | Y : -381.15 | Z : -16.907
Turn on the shadows for this light too, and set the Multiplier to 0.42. Then go to the Shadow Parameters tab and turn on the Atmosphere Shadows, and again, keep everything else default.

3. Omni

Light Position
X : 827.659 | Y : -381.15 | Z : -16.907
Turn on the shadows for this light too, and set the Multiplier to 0.42. Then go to the Shadow Parameters tab and turn on the Atmosphere Shadows, and again, keep everything else default.

Once you have placed and set your lights in the scene, add them to the Lights panel in the FumeFX Illumination Tab. When they are added, turn on Multiple Scattering and apply the following settings:
? Maximum Depth – 6
? Fire – 1.0
? Smoke Strength – 1.0
? Falloff – 12

Creating small scale fire and smoke with the help of FumeFX
Adding the lights to the Illumination panel and assigning parameters

Objects and sources

This is the final step before you hit the Simulation Button. Add the FFX Particle Src (SSF Src) and FFX Gravity Vector to the Objects tab. When you select FFX Object Src, one more tab will appear (Object Source Parameters). Add Plane01 in this tab.

Now we have to add the texture map to the Object source. First, click on the Disable button next to the map and select Source from Intensity, then drag the Gradient Ramp Map we made earlier into the None button. Do same with each of the 3 sections; Fuel, Temperature and Smoke.

Then increase the Smoke Amount from 2.0 to 20.0, keep the Objects at 1.0 under Velocity, and for the Extra, do the same as you did for Expansion.

Creating small scale fire and smoke with the help of FumeFX
The settings needed under the Objects and Sources tab

Start the simulation

Now we are ready to start the simulation. Just hit the Simulation button and it will take around 1 to 2 hours to complete the Simulation. In the mean-time, you can take a break.

Now it’s time to apply the Wavelet Simulation. After your simulation is finished, go to the Simulation mode and select Wavelet. Now you will see the Simulation button has changed from green to orange. Now hit the Wavelet Simulation Button.

After the simulation has finished (it should take around an hour), you will see text; ?Cache’, next to the Simulation buttons. You will also see a drop-down menu which mentions ?Default’ ? change this into ?Wavelet’. If you kept this as default, then it will render a normal simulation with no wavelet or detail. So for that reason, you must check the Cache button before rendering.

Creating small scale fire and smoke with the help of FumeFX
Applying the Wavelet Simulation to your normal simulation

Rendering and compositing

To begin the render, after the simulation, go to Render Setup. Add the fire, smoke and shadow elements for better control later in the compositing stage, and finally render out the sequence with a HD Resolution (1280 x 720).

To start compositing, load your sequence into After Effects. Apply some effects to the fire and smoke and adjust the Color Balance (R : 25 | G : 25 | B : 25), Sharpen, and the Brightness and Contrast. Add a solid layer in the background too.

As a final tip, the most important thing to do when making these effects is to always try different parameters. First you can try using those outlined in this tutorial, but later, try out your ideas. Try to use Object Source with Particle Source or Simple Source, change the parameters, and just see what happens. Good Luck!

Creating small scale fire and smoke with the help of FumeFX
The final adjustments in After Effects


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