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Mummy Sand Storm Like Effect


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Hi, I am trying to achieve a sand storm effect, something close to what you can see in the Mummy movie.

There are most likely more than one way to do that and the basics seem to be clear. What I need to do the first is show the volume, the materiality of the sand storm, thus I need to make the shadows pronounced, for example. First I tried to use sprite with some noise-dot-like procedural texture lambert shader on them. The problem with those was that when I made the 'dots' on the texture (imitating sand particles) relatively big - they were giving nice pronounced shadow, but the simulation was looking more like a mud storm, not a sand storm. When I make dots less big - they look more like sand, but drop less shadow and the whole simulation looks flat. So I tried using spheres (render particles as spheres) with the same shader - as a result the shadow became ok, still the whole thing leaves much to be desired.

Anyway here's what I have done so far:


What I think to add next is to try compositing several simultaneous simulations (Z-compositing?..) i.e. add simulations with misty-looking sand (more like powder) and a layer with some bigger particles of sand. Maybe even a layer with particles rendered as tubes or disks+ some rendered as sprites? So that all together the mix might look as desired, what do you say?

And yeah, now the shader looks something like hay ears (or a cloud of cannabis as one of my friends noted) so maybe some more variations of the pattern + some alpha modifications to get rid of those nasty 'outsiders' particles that bare the fact that particles are spheres...


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Sorry I cant help much, but I would try to add the extra volume in post too. I had a hell of a time dealing with to many particles on this animation. Keep posting your results... even if it looks like a mosquito cloud :D

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some suggestions;

a ) I would make the sprites have huge variation in size... like 0.2 -> 100

b ) use deep shadows (they make stuff look sexy)

c ) making use of lots of particles really make a difference

d ) use rim lights, when u do that you get more detail and interesting shapes

e ) looks like ur particles are popping when they are born, maybe an opacity ramp?

f ) motion blur the crap out of that sim

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  • 2 weeks later...


here's my another preliminary test. I haven't cleaned up alpha ramp or alpha, based on particles' proximity, yet. What I am trying to achieve is good lookin fast self-shadowing (that's why I don't think that Deep Shadows will work). Thus I am totaly faking the shadow right now.




Here's the file (see COPs for details).


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  • 2 years later...
Hi, SvenP,

thanks for your shader. There was a problem in the Luminance Loop - so I reworked the beast, now it must work.


Hi all, I know this shader has been created and it comes in the hip attached above.

May I ask how can I apply this shader into my scene?

And Just curious, how did the author of this file write the shader and make houdini understand?

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