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Animated fluids getting fancy

Aug. 14, 2007
Courtesy CSIRO
and World Science staff

Fake beer nev­er looked this good. At least that’s the hum­ble opin­ion of Ma­hesh Pra­kash, a flu­ids re­search­er at Aus­trali­a’s na­t­ional sci­ence agen­cy. He has teamed up with Ko­re­an re­search­ers to cre­ate soft­ware to let film­mak­ers serve up real­is­tic-looking an­i­ma­t­ions of flu­ids, cheaper and faster.

A frame from a com­pu­ter-gen­er­ated ani­ma­tion of beer. See the full an­i­ma­tion here (low band­width) or here (broad­band stream­ing vid­eo).


“Big Hol­ly­wood stu­dios spend vast sums on single-use so­lu­tions when they make block­busters like ‘Po­sei­don’ and ‘The Per­fect Storm,’” said An­drew Ding­jan, the agen­cy’s busi­ness and com­mer­cial­is­a­t­ion man­ag­er.

“We’d like our soft­ware to make real­is­tic spe­cial ef­fects eas­i­er to come by,” put­ting it with­in reach of small stu­dios, he added. 

Prakash and col­leagues poured a vir­tu­al glass of beer in San Die­go last week at SIG­GRAPH 07, the world’s larg­est com­put­er graph­ics con­fer­ence. The soft­ware has al­so pro­duced oth­er sim
­u­la­t­ions rang­ing from sooth­ing to ter­ri­fy­ing—waves lap­ping on a shore and wa­ter vi­o­lently flood­ing a qui­et street. All can be seen in a new vid­eo re­leased by the team (see gra­ph­ic.)

Car­bon­at­ed drinks like beer have an ex­tra com­plex­ity: the phys­ics of bub­ble crea­t­ion, Pra­kash said. “As you pour beer in­to a glass, you see bub­bles ap­pear­ing on what are called nu­clea­t­ion sites, where the glass is­n’t quite smooth,” he ex­plained. “The bub­bles ex­pand to a cer­tain size then rise up in streams to the sur­face, where they bump in­to each oth­er and form a raft of foam that floats on the top.”

He and his col­leagues at­tempted to cap­ture the math be­hind these pro­cesses in their soft­ware. It’s a four-year joint proj­ect of the Aus­tra­lian agency—the Com­mon­wealth Sci­en­tif­ic and In­dus­t­ri­al Re­search Or­ga­nisa­t­ion—and South Ko­re­a’s Elec­tron­ics and Te­le­com­mu­nica­t­ions Re­search In­sti­tute, one of the larg­est com­put­er graph­ics de­vel­opers for games.

Soph­is­t­icated math called smoothed par­t­i­cle hy­dro­dy­nam­ics helps the soft­ware do its job by work­ing smarter not harder, re­search­ers claimed—the soft­ware uses less com­put­er pow­er and takes less time to get bet­ter re­sults. 

Com­put­er an­i­ma­t­ion is a $55-bil­lion glob­al in­dus­try. Dis­cus­sions with po­ten­tial glob­al com­mer­cialisers of the soft­ware will fol­low next year, said Ding­jan.


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Fake beer never looked this good. At least that’s the humble opinion Mahesh Prakash, a fluids researcher at Australia’s national science agency. He has teamed up with Korean researchers to develop software to allow film makers to serve up realistic-looking animations of fluids cheaper and faster. “Big Hollywood studios spend vast sums on single-use solutions when they make blockbusters like ‘Poseidon’ and ‘The Perfect Storm,’” said Andrew Dingjan, business and commercialisation manager at Prakash’s agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation “We’d like our software to make realistic special effects easier to come by,” putting it within the reach of small studios, he added. Prakash and colleagues poured a virtual glass of beer in San Diego last week at SIGGRAPH 07, the world’s largest computer graphics conference. The software has also produced other animations ranging from soothing to terrifying—waves lapping on a shore and water violently flooding a quiet street. Carbonated drinks like beer have an extra complexity: the physics of bubble creation, Prakash said. “As you pour beer into a glass, you see bubbles appearing on what are called nucleation sites, where the glass isn’t quite smooth,” he explained. “The bubbles expand to a certain size then rise up in streams to the surface, where they bump into each other and form a raft of foam that floats on the top.” He and his colleagues attempted to capture the math behind these processes in their software. The four-year project is being undertaken jointly by CSIRO and South Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, one of the world’s largest computer graphics developers for games. Sophisticated math called smoothed particle hydrodynamics helps the software do its job by working smarter not harder, researchers claimed—the software uses less computer power and takes less time to get better results. Computer animation is a $55 billion global industry. Discussions with potential global commercialisers of the software will follow next year, said Dingjan.