For me, the word "swell" is largely associated with movie dialogues of the 1930s and 1940s. Now, thanks to researchers at Purdue University, "Swell" is a software that promises better animation for movies and games.
These researchers have created an interactive software that "artists could use to make realistic animations of cloud formations, explosions, smoke, steam, fog and other gaseous phenomena for movies and video games."
The same software might also be used by meteorologists to create accurate representations of quickly developing weather conditions. Because the software is interactive, it shows results immediately, whereas conventional programs might take hours to complete such animations, said David Ebert, an associate professor in Purdue's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Behind the scenes, complex mathematical algorithms compute parameters needed to simulate such behavior as developing storm clouds and the effects of wind on clouds.
Although the software, which Joshua Schpok, one of Ebert's students, has named Swell, specifically produces animations of cloud formations, the same approach also could be used to design software for animations of any gaseous phenomena, Ebert said.
Here are two images of clouds produced by "Swell." (Images credits: Purdue University)
They think that Swell will soon be integrated into commercial software.
"I think it would make an excellent plug-in to some of the existing modelers," Ebert said. "They have systems to grow clouds now that do a pretty good job, but the problem is that it takes a few hours for the systems to produce the animation."
"If you are doing an animation, you tend to have to come back the next day to see what the actual sequence looks like. But with our system, you are interacting with the animation in real time, controlling it and changing how it evolves over time so you immediately see it and know what the results are."
"The fact that this is interactive means you could use it in video games, which now have very limited cloud-type effects."
More examples of real-time cloud rendering and animations are available online from Purdue University.
Source: Purdue University, July 16, 2003
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