Psunami is a procedural water generator from Red Giant Software. Although versions for After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut and Motion exist, I will be focusing on the After Effects one for this review.
In computer graphics there are different ways that you can create oceans, ponds or lakes: from a plane with animated displacement maps or deformers, to procedural generators. What Psunami does is take into After Effects the work that you’d usually do inside a 3D application. Whether or not this is the best way to generate your mass of water depends greatly on the project you are working on, as sometimes spending a couple of minutes with Psunami will get the job done. But sometimes matching your 3D generated objects with Psunami will prove to be more time consuming than simply generating the water directly inside your 3D app.
In Psunami, you have control over color, displacement, optics and such. You also have the ability to animate your camera, and if you’re familiar with the Expressions in After Effects, you can also control your camera with an After Effects 3D camera.
The camera animation is particularly interesting, as it allows you not only to fly over the mass of water, but also dive under it. This means you’re not only limited to looking at the water from above, but also from under it, making underwater scenes easier to create.
Water generation can be slow, and Psunami will update the viewport every time you change a setting (although you can override the default behavior by turning on the Caps Lock key). If you want to work faster, Psunami gives you the ability to choose between different display methods (texture only, wireframe, and fully displaced).
One thing I like about applications is when they ship with presets, as they can save you a lot of time while you’re working (they are also useful if you want to learn the settings used to get a specific look). Psunami includes a list of presets that range from standard oceans and stormy seas, to alien and crazy environments.
Just like any other filter inside a compositor, Psunami takes a long time to render the water at full resolution. For the video below, it took nearly one hour to render just the water in NTSC format (add around 40 minutes more to render the matte that I would use to compose the girl on top of the water).
The rule of thumb is that the next frame size will take three times as much (maybe nearly three hours to render the same animation in HD), and that’s the major drawback I’ve found with Psunami. Fortunately, parallel computing using the GPU is taking shape very fast, so I hope we’ll be seeing these plug-ins taking advantage of the GPU for faster rendering times in the near future.
Another thing you can do to get faster renders is not to set the render to the highest quality unless you need it, as sometimes the “texture only” setting may work fine.
At the time I wrote this review, Red Giant Software had already added a “getting started” video tutorial on the website (although that’s not the case for ToonIt!, as I said on my previous review). I do believe you will need more than that to become familiar with the plug-in, so I’d recommend you visit the Digital Anarchy website and grab their tutorials while they’re still available.
Psunami can be a very handy tool if you want to create oceans, ponds and even crazy environments. However, I wouldn’t consider this plug-in to be the all-in-one solution for your water needs, as sometimes it will be faster to just put together an ocean in your 3d application of choice, or even make a simulated effect.
For more information and pricing, please visit Red Giant Software.
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Animation Alley is a regular featured column with Renderosity Staff Columnist Sergio Rosa [nemirc]. Sergio discusses on computer graphics software, animation techniques, and technology. He also hosts interviews with professionals in the animation and cinematography fields.
December 1, 2008
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