By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooks

Whether you are animating smoke, fire, water, dust, snow, branches, leaves, a dangling rope, a fluttering cape, a curtain swinging closed, a dog wagging his tail, or a billowing dress, all of these effects have within them the basic whip/wave principle. It is a simple flowing, overlapping action that occurs wherever energy interacts with matter which is not entirely rigid. Just take a piece of rope maybe a few feet long, or a garden hose, lift it up quickly and then snap it back down even quicker, and you will see a wave travel through the rope or hose, just like a wave travels through the water. We can move our arms much in the same way,

We’ve all seen those imitation flames made out of flimsy fabric, which have a fan blowing straight up from underneath them. This is a perfect example of energy, in this case wind, creating a wave effects in matter. Hot and cool air creates wind that creates the shapes we see in a real fire, which is why this illusion works relatively well. I have actually been fooled by one of these novelties (for a second or two!)

like the dancers who seem to be so rubbery and can make a wave appear to travel across their body. Interestingly, even a perfectly rigid object can appear to move with a wave action, as with the old trick of making a rigid pencil appear to be rubbery and bendy. Simply by shaking a pencil up and down, but also applying a rotational movement with the hand and wrist, the rotation causes the illusion of a wave. Our eye sees the circular motion of our hand transferred to the rigid pencil.

This flag animation illustrates clearly how the energy of wind creates the wave-like motion that causes a flag to flutter so elegantly. This animation is actually a cycle; drawing #7 is actually a repeat of drawing #1, and the subsequent drawings repeat throughout the remainder of the animation.

This detail of a cracking whip shows an extreme version of the wave principle occurring, due in part to the speed of the action, and also the weight and design of a whip built specifically for doing just that one thing. Fly fishing is another superb example of this line of overlapping whip action.

The energy that creates any elemental effect—the impact of a splash, or the sudden combustion of an explosion, has a finite lifespan. What starts out explosively, with very strong directional energy, loses energy as it expands. And as the energy dies out, the shapes it creates evolve. They change, interestingly enough, from sharp, angular, energetic designs to soft, flowing, languid designs. A sudden splash ends in subtle, soft ripples. A violent explosion ends with beautiful shapes of gently dissipating smoke. The overall design and dynamic movement of this phenomenon is the unique fingerprint that pure energy leaves on the elements that it moves.

These two Schlieren photos, one of a candle flame, and one of an ice cube melting in water, show a remarkable similarity in the beautiful energy patterns that occur when hot and cold temperatures intermingle, regardless of the context. Rotating both photos 180 degrees and looking at them next to their opposites, shows us just how uncannily similar these patterns really are. We will find these patterns everywhere the various elements react to the cosmic forces at work in the world as we know it.

Excerpt from Elemental Magic, Vol 1 by Joseph Gilland © 2014 Taylor and Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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