Free RealFlow Tutorials For 3D & VFX Fluid Simulations
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RealFlow is a powerful VFX program for creating realistic liquid simulations for 3D & CG projects.
It has been used on plenty of blockbuster films like Avengers and X-Men. The software is flexible enough for small and large water environments with GPU acceleration for faster iteration. It also comes with Python support which makes custom scripting a lot easier.
RealFlow ships with a standalone installation(with connectivity plug-ins) or as a dedicated plug-in for many 3D applications like Cinema 4D and Maya.
If you wanna dive into the world of RealFlow these tutorials offer plenty to get started. You’ll explore how to set-up both versions of RealFlow starting from modifying emitters and learning the interface, then troubleshooting collision, art directing daemons and meshing particles(plus a whole lot more!)
In this beginner RF + Cinema 4D tutorial, Sam from Digital Meat gives an overview of what makes up a RealFlow scene tree and later explains emitters in detail.
Emitters are the building blocks of any simulation. Sam shows how you can determine the initial behaviour of liquid particles by changing the emitter type.
For instance, with a fill emitter type you can easily represent a swimming pool or some wine inside a bottle. Or with a spline emitter type you can control the water’s direction rather than just leaving it to the whim of gravity.
Sam is a frequent content creator, not only for Realflow, but for Cinema 4D in general. You can check out his YouTube channel for more awesome videos.
While RealFlow is easily capable of producing realistic simulations, it’s the daemons that make it far more interesting.
Daemons are simply forces that affect particles. For instance, with the gravity daemon you can add gravity at the click of a button. Or you can blow particles in a specific direction using the wind daemon.
The Magic daemon creates a swarming behaviour by attracting particles to a specified object.
Yes, it is not physically correct. But this makes the movement quite appealing.
Imagine casting a spell where you trapped your enemy in a water orb. This tutorial deconstructs the various parameters such as magic mode and escape strength to control particle behaviour.
RealFlow for Cinema 4D comes with its own rigid deformer. This deformer is like Cinema 4D’s rigid body tag. They only differ from their liquid interaction.
Rigid body tag can only affect liquid simulation. However, rigid deformer can affect and be affected by the liquid simulation
These features come in handy when you want to wash away objects during floods or have objects float across a vast ocean.
In this introductory tutorial you’ll learn how to set-up a rigid deformer by adjusting the density and skinner parameters, among other factors. You’ll also learn how to integrate the wind daemon for an interesting water flow.
After establishing a reliable liquid solver, RealFlow introduced a granular solver in 2017 that’s responsible for creating sand and snow simulation.
This tutorial starts off describing how to troubleshoot if the simulation doesn’t work if the creation order of colliders and emitters are mixed up. It’s a valuable piece of knowledge for anyone working in this area for the first time.
Making a granular simulation can be done by switching the solver type to Granular. Default value is Position-Based Dynamics(PDB). You’ll get a slew of parameters dedicated to the solver once you switch over.
And from this video you’ll learn how to combine settings such as increasing friction and static friction to achieve clumping behavior resembling wet sand.
While projects requiring sand are not super common, at least you’ll know where to turn to if this comes up!
Easily the most interesting feature in RealFlow is how you can control a liquid simulation using a spline path.
Think of juice commercials on TV where a liquid stream circles around a bottle and eventually settles down inside a container. It certainly looks complex but thankfully it is easy to set-up once you know what you’re doing.
This video covers blocking the path in 3ds Max and uses that starting point to move into RealFlow.
You’ll learn several production tips such as avoiding intersection of Dspline radius points, using drag, and working with the noise daemon to achieve a natural flow.
This demonstration shows you how to create a lava simulation in two methods: using native Maya tools and using standalone RealFlow.
The Maya version uses nParticles being affected by gravity with the render types set to blobby surface.
The standalone part simply uses the native emitter with higher viscosity.
Both set-ups are textured in Maya using ramp mixed with two cloud nodes. With the integration of Arnold + Maya you’ll probably pass on using the Blinn Shader, but many of the explained node texture set-ups can still be applicable.
Last but not least we come to a more advanced tutorial.
Here you’ll learn how to use several 3D programs to work with the standalone RealFlow in a production setting.
In the first part, creator Eric Young shows how to achieve a water-bending effect with the use of Fuse for creating characters. This leads into using Mixamo for rigging and using the C4D connectivity plug-in for seamless import and export of RealFlow data.
Another key tip is using a moving object(in this case a glove) to act as an emitter. Eric advises to enable the stream parameter to avoid blocky emissions.
Then in the second part you’ll learn how to flood a corridor and import the simulation into After Effects using Videocopilot’s Element3D. You’ll also cover setting up post processing effects such as depth of field and motion blur.
Definitely one of the more detailed tutorials here but also well worth learning, especially if you’re interested in After Effects or Element3D for project work.
Author: Ben Traje
Ben is a stylized character rigger based in Davao City, Philippines. Proficient in Maxon, Cinema4D, and Autodesk Maya, he's available for remote freelance work with plenty of samples in his portfolio.