by Hammer Chen Pros A complete solution for making realistic fire, water, ocean, smoke a...
by Hammer Chen
- A complete solution for making realistic fire, water, ocean, smoke and explosions in one package
- Integrated workflow: seamless integration with V-Ray, unlike Realflow which requires a third-party particle renderer (i.e., Krakatoa) to render out splash/foam
- fast viewport display
- Interactive simulation: Simulation is not locking the GUI, so you can adjust parameters or rendering while simulating
- Provides comprehensive toolset for various fluid situations
- very responsive support from ChaosGroup development team
- complicated UI for "Color and Transparency", difficult to adjust the curve
- Lack of specialized render elements (in the next version will be provided)
- A lot of parameters and settings, take time to learn
Even today, you can still see a flying phoenix on the banner of ChaosGroup website. Unlike the old Phoenix, which cheats fire and smoke, PhoenixFD means Fluid Dynamic. Fluid dynamic includes smoke, fire, and liquid. Therefore, PhoenixFD is not limited to fire or smoke simulation; almost all fluid phenomena can be simulated with this plugin.
My first impression is there are lot settings! Considering the capability of simulating fire, smoke (like FumeFX), infinite ocean (like Dreamscape), liquid fluid and high viscosity (like Realflow), particle shader (like Krakatoa) and generating bubbles/foam...so many features packed in one single plugin, it is reasonable to have so many settings.
First of all, I tried to simulate fire, after all, fire is the main features of its predecessor. Very similar to FumeFX as they are both grid-based fluid simulator, so it's pretty easy to start. Compared to FumeFX, PhoenixFD offers more control over an adaptive grid.
Since the simulation grid size will directly affect the simulation time, the more fit to required region the faster. FumeFX only offers "smaller than initial container". PhoenixFD can start with a minimum grid, coupled with the "Fit in cam view" to achieve the best-fit region for simulation. Also, this thoughtful feature could avoid any clipping problem when smoke or fire goes too far.
During simulation, I found PhoenixFD offer many different solvers for Dynamic, quite a V-Ray style of software design. There are there methods for Conservation: Symmetric, Smooth, and Buffered. Four Methods for Advection: Classic, Slow-moving, Forward transfer and Multi-pass. Some combinations favor fire simulation (more details less conservation), some for liquid simulation (fewer details, better conservation).
In this video, Buffered + Slow-moving is the best combination when simulating fire.
In my experience "color and Transparencey" curve editor is not very user-friendly, at least for the beginner. For example, there are too many nodes on the curve. Fortunately, PhoenixFD provides save/load Rendering preset. Once you get desired settings, it can be stored for reuse in the future. Another problem is fire and smoke shared same transparency information, make it tough to maintain details in a fire while rendering smoke. Hope this can be improved in the next update.
When fine-tuning parameters, you can use Viewport Preview (point cloud, superb performance) or 3ds Max extended viewport preview GPU, which supports for real-time shadow.
PhoenixFD is fully integrated with V-Ray. The reduced grid option is considerably optimizing lighting; it can significantly reduce the time required for GI lighting
It reduced by original grid resolution, in this case, reduced to 1%. User can use the "Preview Placing" to visualize where the small lights are placed (in blue color)
Next, I started to test liquid. I had experience using cebas finalRedner ocean and Sitni Sati Dreamscape plugin. With PhoenixFD you can simulate locally with small region then switch to the Ocean Mode, it will be automatically extended mesh based on camera view, and the ocean mesh is also adaptive.
Extension of ocean mesh is during rendering time. After rendering, if you rotate camera you can see how PhoenixFD is doing its tricks making sea "infinite."
There is one significant difference compared to PhoenixFD and Realflow. After simulation, Realflow needs an extra step to generate water mesh (build mesh). For PhoenixFD you can skip that step, by just checking "Show Mesh" and liquid mesh can be displayed in the viewport.
PhoenixFD Ocean Texture can be used to displace the water surface to produce realistic ocean surface, and it can also hide some grid artifacts around boundaries.
One of the most exciting features of PhoenixFD is that able to simulate splash and foam. The foam can be small scales like beer foam or large scale like a boat wake. With Foam enabled, it will automatically generate a Foam shader helper in the scene.
Because the water is simulated with a grid-based simulator, it doesn't take long to finish this swimming pool scene. The only drawback is sometimes you get grid artifacts. In this case, I use motion blur to hide the issue.
PhoenixFD provides a significant number of parameters meet various needs. For example, if we need to render out water surface without thickness, with "cap mode" you can accomplish this task. With PHXFoam helper, you can render out a large amount of particles (Similiar to Krakatoa).
Burning incense, simulate particle only, no smoke:
PhoenixFD can also simulate a high viscosity liquid, such as mud, chocolate or honey. You can also simulate melting chocolate.
PhoenixFDTexmap can be used for mixing two different liquids (in this case, white chocolate and dark chocolate)
PhoenixFD can handle a large number of particles (This lighthouse scene contains more than six million foam particles)
Finally, I use building demolition as an example. Building is destructed with Cebas thinkingParicles 6.2, check the "group as object." And use that object as PHXSource. I deliberately reduce smoke temperature to 270 Kelvin so that smoke will move downward.
PhoenixFD also provides optimization option for scattering. Wavelet and retime important function can be done with Resimulation. You can find a clear demo on official help document.
It has been 6 years since PhoenixFD first released. Though not many people around me use it, it is actually starting to pick up a little bit. You could find some great production example on Vimeo. In this review, I found PhoenixFD is able to create realistic fire and smoke as good as FumeFX. Unlike Realflow which require third party plugin to render out foam, PhoenixFD provides highly integrated toolset that able to make water with foam and splashs. As always ChaosGroup offer excellent customer service, two lead programmers: ivaylo katev and Svetlin Nikolov are very active and helpful on official PhoenixFD forum and Facebook. Though I found the "color and transparency" a little hard to use, and sometime liquid mesh create grid artifacts, other than that it's a very versatile and powerful FX tool. In the near future we will see more killer features from PhoenixFD.
PhoenixFD is also available for Autodesk Maya.