Frank Nord wants his typography to come out fighting. Ben Vost is ready to rumble with LightWave 11
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If money and time were no object, you could employ an army of specialised animators and riggers to create the type of animation you’re looking for, but some of LightWave 11’s new features provide a simple and quick alternative.
To start with you’ll need letters. Lots of letters. You’ll also need to use several of LightWave 11’s new features for this tutorial – including Flocking, Instancing and Bullet dynamics. First, you need to load all your letters into the scene, but these can be placed out of camera view since you won’t be rendering them directly, but using instances of them for your flock. So for now, add a floor to your scene and put the letters under it.
Now you need to set up your flock. I’ve gone for a very simple motion for my example, but you can go crazy with Avoids and Deflects in addition to your Goal to make the motion of your flock of letters appear dynamic. However, the flight towards the goal is merely a stage setting for when they arrive. Since flocks are always trying to reach a goal, when they get there they overshoot and fly back, and it’s this motion you’ll use for your punch-up.
In the Flock Master window add a new generator. You can leave most settings at their defaults, but increase the numbers – for the example scene, I have an 8x8x8 flock emerging from a 3x3x3m box (that’s 512 letters for the mathematically challenged). Add a Goal to your scene and move it some distance from the flock’s starting position, and sprinkle in Avoids and Deflects to taste.
Right now your flock is a bunch of circles. Now is the time to replace those circles with the letters you loaded. With your new flock item selected press [P] to get Object Properties and visit the Instancer tab. Choose particles as the type, and add the letters. You can either add them individually or select them all in Layout and choose the Add From Layout command from the Edit menu in the Instancer window. You need to make sure that all your letters are using local coordinates, not world, and this has to be done one-by-one right now.
Use LightWave’s Flocking, Instancing and Bullet dynamics to create this animated scene
Next, you’ll cheat a bit and use HyperVoxels to cover up the battling letters, and you’ll have some individual letters – the ones you want to use for your title – drop from the top of the screen onto your floor. Volume HyperVoxels can take an age to render, particularly if the camera ends up within them, so either be prepared to wait or use sprite mode HVs. For this scene I’ve added a null with a Particle emitter on the FX tab of Object Properties, then in the HyperVoxels window I’ve added the null (which I’ve called Cloud). To help the flocking letters disappear I’ve moved my Goal Director under the floor as the cloud starts up.
Next you need clones of the letters you want for your title – “Brawl!” in this case. Position these above the camera’s view and set an additional keyframe for the letters in exactly the same position and orientation later in the scene. Now, with each of the letters selected in turn, visit the FX Tools tab in Layout and click Rigid Body. Click your floor object, and in the FX Tools tab click Static Body. When you play your scene now the letters fall immediately, and you only want them to fall when you want them to. In the FX Tools tab click Item Properties, select your letters and change their Activation from Start Active to Activate On Last Key. Now when you play your scene the letters stay in the air until they hit that second keyframe you set.
You can influence how your letters move when they hit the floor by changing any of the following settings in the Bullet Item Properties window – Bounciness, Linear Damping and Angular Damping. You can change the mass method to make your letters more like real-world materials, but these three will affect the behaviour enough for your purposes.
Create brawling letters in LightWave
Choose your words carefully
How you set up your letter forms to be instanced is important for their behaviour in the flock. The image above shows different axis locations.
Change instance colours
One issue with instances is that it’s often obvious that they are clones. Use the instance info node to make them individual, based off a gradient.
Scale is all-important with Bullet dynamics, so if you’re getting undesirable results with it, try adjusting the scale of your dynamic objects.
Ben Vost was once editor of 3D World, and is now working for NewTek, Inc in San Antonio and teaching at ESAA in Bordeaux