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Introduction to particle systems

First we'll explore the origins of particle systems with the man who invented them, Bill Reeves! Pixar uses particle systems to create realistic water, smoke, and fire effects in movies. Particle systems help artists simulate real physics with millions of particles. In Finding Dory, Pixar studied underwater objects to make believable animations.

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Video transcript

- Hi, I'm Matt Wong, an Effects Technical Director here at Pixar. I work with Sara Beth and Eric who you met in the previous video and this is the pool they were in, the Pixar Pool, which is one of the nice perks of working here at Pixar. We don't just use the pool for recreation, we sometimes use it for work, too like in this reference video we shot for Finding Dory. We wanted to see what it would look like underwater when large objects like this pumpkin hit the water. In the previous video you learned that water and other physically phenomena like smoke, dust, and fire can be simulated using lots and lots of individual particles. Using particles is a simplification of real physics but it's an effective tool for artists. The more particles you use the closer you get to real physics. Most of our simulations require millions and millions of particles to create believable water. Keeping track of that many particles would take too long for humans to do. Even computers have trouble with large particle counts but we've developed some practical methods that you'll learn about in this lesson. One of the most power techniques we use is called a particle system. Particle systems were first invented by an effects artist named Bill Reeves to create a shot for the movie Start Trek Two back in 1982. The shot was called the Genesis Effect and it blew people away. It was a real milestone in computer graphics. At the time Bill was working for a group that eventually became Pixar. And you know what, he still works here. Hey Bill. - Hey. - Can you tell us a little bit more about the Genesis Effect? Like what was the story point? - Well the Genesis Effect was this device that could turn a living planet into a dead planet or a dead planet into a living planet and I used particle systems to do the transformational fire element at that. - And today we still use particles for lots of different effects. In the rest of the lesson you'll learn how we use particles to simulate the motion of water and you'll create a fireworks show.