Chapter Five – EFX …”and all that that entails”


By Troy Gustafson

This chapter is just too much. Two months to complete and by the amount of pictures I have in it (over 70) it could stand to be broken up into two chapters.  EFX is a big topic and we cover  2D, 3D and combination standpoint. (Well, of course we do, this is Hybrid Animation after all!)

The chapter includes images from Joe Gilland’s book “Elemental Magic” as well as illustrations from Professor Troy Gustafson and 3D renders from Jeff Dutton and Mike Spokas. Thank you, gentleman! (Not to mention plenty of SCAD alumni examples! I realized today many of the SCAD alumni featured in this chapter work at Floyd County on Archer. 🙂   )

First, I tried to break EFX down into some type of organized system, ’cause I’m that way:

1. Solid shapes
a. Props with contact points: leading the character or led by the character
b. Moving manmade objects without contact points to a character
c. Moving organics: trees, flowers, rocks

2. Abstract shapes
a. Liquid: flowing, contained, drops, or streams
b. Fire: small, large, linear, billowing
c. Smoke/vapors: linear, billowing, wispy
d. Wind/weather: rain, snow (while in the air)
e. Earth particulates: dust
f. Magic/sparkles

3. Light
a. Highlights
b. Shadows
c. Tones


By Troy Gustafson

Next, we look at the pipelines needed to achieve different types of shots. We look at different levels and thinking about breaking images up into layers.

Next we start dealing with ink lines  and what kind of cool things can you come up with just one ink line and some compositing fun? We cover this concept in Photoshop and Toon Boom.


For this example we have a sample shot that includes a 3D flower vase, 2D flowers and 2D water. The shot itself is from a group project called Jaguar McGuire. We also use a little Flash to look at cleaning up lines.


3D props in Photoshop (and 3D painting)

Then for the heck of it, I discuss 3D props in Photoshop, ’cause – why not. It’s fun and right there. Plus you can paint in 3D. The sample we have is Flash/Maya/Photoshop.  That helps us talk about 3D props that follow the 2D character.

We go over exporting out of Flash, Toon Boom and Photoshop. Also, we create 3D tone mattes from reference models in Maya! We also create some shadow mattes all using render layers in Maya and then finally – it is time to put it all together.


Steps in After Effects (Timeline Compositing)

So – we composite. We composite in After Effects for those timeline compositors out there.

Then we composite in Nuke, for the node based compositors out there. And for anyone that has the first version of this book – I updated  the Shake tutorials to be Nuke. Do you know that I only had to change a few words and in some cases remove a step because it was simpler? That was it.  It’s great to see the book holding up to new versions of software – even completely different types of software.


Steps in Nuke (Node Based Compositing)

Since, I’m approaching the topics from an abstracted “how software paradigms think” versus “exactly how each button is pushed” it has some staying power! Cool. Love it when a plan comes together.



Then we end up discussing compositing those layers in Photoshop – because there are going to be those people who only have that software. That finishes up this very long chapter. There is one part missing though. I have not written my Toon Boom bits.  About two pages in this chapter….or maybe more.  I’m saving all my toon boom parts (which will be new) to write during the summer. That way I have time to work with the program manager first to make sure I’m capturing all new stuff. Can’t wait.  Whew. Now a restful Thanksgiving and then onto chapter six in December.

p.s. “…all that that entails” quote from “Iron Giant”  of course.

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