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fire 1 - balls

This effect solution is from back in the day when volumetric rendering was a bit more of a run up. This method allowed for the fire animation to stop or camera to orbit and maintain the look of a fire object in a 3D space. This simple solution can be created in any software tool able to render spheres with a texture.


Step 1. Start with a bunch of 3D balls. It's OK if they pass through each other.

Step 2. Put a fractal texture on the balls. Use a spherical UV space around the area in the scene.

Lighting needs to be flat or diffuse only with the light at the camera.

fire 2 - texture
fire 3 - distort

All the steps from here are done in 2D composition.

Step 3. 2D distort the previous step. The effect is more convincing if you use a blurred version of step 2 to distort.

Step 4. Remap black to white range to red to yellow. (or the fire colors of your choice; blue for natural gas; yellows for wood; orange and dark reds like this one for oil fires) fire 4 - remap color
fire 5 - make glowy Step 5. Add an overall glow. In this case, the image from step 4 was box blurred then added on top of the origanal step 5 image.

"Orange Flambeau"


After the movie Antz completed production I decided to move over to PDI CAFE (Commercial Animation and Film Effects). This was great for me since I was able to work on a bigger variety of production issues.

While in CAFE I was with a group of animators asked to test a new renderer by lighting a simple still life. The shot was of an orange dropped onto a plate with other fruit. In my test the orange burst into flame.

The video of my antics made the rounds at PDI and on its way through the Shrek effects department caught the eye of the effect artists creating the small flame for the torches.

Small sidebar: the big fireballs in Shrek were created using a program called "Flu", created by Nick Foster. The Flu system is ultra cool and got Nick an Academy Award, but at the time the torch flames were too much of a runup to be handled by Flu.

To make a long story short, my one page (50 line) script that used a very quick and simple 3D render, then a 2D comp with a distort, remap and glow, worked just fine for the occasion.

Shrek - village torches