Creating a Stormy Ocean in Maya

By Aziz | Editing by Dr Diablo | Maya 8.5 | Beginner

This tutorial is going to show you how to create a realistic animation of a stormy ocean wave using fluid effects. Our final output will be a video shot through a cylinder stand camera placed right on top of the ocean waves to add more thrill to the scene. Here is a sample video of our effect:

Our tutorial will be divided into the following sections:

  1. Creating the ocean surface.
  2. Setting the stormy ocean characteristics.
  3. Adding the camera to the scene.
  4. Adding fog to the scene.
  5. Rendering the scene.

Starting Off and Creating the Ocean Surface

To start off, fire up Maya. If you are not in the Dynamics module interface, hold down the H key on your keyboard, and then left click anywhere on the scene and drag the mouse onto Dynamics. This will change the menu buttons on the top panel of Maya.

From the top panel, go to Fluid Effects>Ocean>Create Ocean and click on the Option Box as shown in the screenshot below.

An attributes window will open, check the Attach to Camera and Create Preview Plane boxes. Preview Plane Size is the preview plane that shows the effect of ocean on the scene when playing with attributes, you can give it any value you like. In this case I gave it a value of 15 which is pretty reasonable while playback, you can forward play the animation if you would like to check the ocean's movement flow.

The bigger preview plane size the slower in playback, do not increase the size beyond your computer's specs. The preview plane is not render-able it is just for illustration and visual clue while checking attributes.

Your ocean should look something like this now in perspective view.

While the preview plane is still selected, hit Ctrl+A to open up the Attributes Editor. Once the Attributes Editor appears click on the Ocean Preview Plane1 tab, you will come across few options over here like Resolution, Color, Displacement, etc. Resolution increases the segments of the preview plane and that will lead to a smoother result on the scene. However, the increase in Resolution could lead to lower playback speed and system performance, in other words, rendering will take much more memory out of your system and preview playback will be slower than usual. Color and Displacement are locked, you don't need to play with those so just leave them at their default values. Height Scale increases the height displacement of the preview plane. Make sure you also keep it at it's default value.

Once you are done with Preview Plane 1 click on the Ocean Shader tab. We are going to spend most of our time here to modify and achieve the desired shape of our ocean.

Creating the Stormy Ocean

Creating a specific ocean effect simply requires using specific configuration in the Ocean Attributes rollout. To start off, simply expand the Ocean Attributes rollout to reveal its parameters. Assign the values stated below:

Scale, 1.000
Wind UV, -0.700 | -0.700
Wave Speed, 2.000
Observer Speed, 0.200
Num Frequencies, 20.000
Wave Dir Spread, 0.200
Wave Length Min, 0.200
Wave Length Max, 100.000

Go down to find the Wave Height rollout beside the color coded window. Set the Interpolation option to Smooth and add some points in accordance to your desired shape.

Scroll down to the Wave Turbulence rollout, set Interpolation to Smooth and play around with the Wave Height the same way we did before.

Scroll down to Wave Peaking, set Interpolation to Smooth, play around with the the settings to get your random ocean effect by adding some points along the graph to get peaking ocean waves.

Wave Peaking basically works well together with Wave Height. Again, change the Interpolation to Linear, play around with the settings and add some points along the graph to get peaking ocean waves.

The final step here is again adding Foam. Find the Foam options under the Wave Peaking rollout, set the parameters as specific below:
Foam Emission, 0.140
Foam Threshold, 0.675

That's it, you can create a test render to get an image similar to this:

Attaching a Camera to Capture the Surface of the Water

We will now continue this tutorial with a stormy ocean. First off, create a cylinder or any geometry you like to use and make sure you fairly increase its height.

Create a Camera from Create>Cameras>Camera, and place it on top of your object. You can move the camera around using the Move Tool from the panel on the left.

While the Camera is still selected, hold Shift and left click on the Cylinder to select them both. Go to Edit>Parent, this will have the Cylinder move along wherever you move the Camera.

Its time to attach camera to the surface of ocean. With the parent object still selected go to Fluid Effect>Ocean>Make Motor Boats, this will attach the parent object to the surface of ocean and makes it move as the ocean moves.

If you play your animation you will see the parent object moves along as the ocean does. To render your scene from the camera's angle, go to Window>Rendering Editors>Render View. Render View window will pop-up, go to Render>Render>camera1 as shown in the screenshot below.

This is my scene rendered from the camera1's angle.

Adding Fog

If we apply a fog the same way we did to the calm ocean, the whole scene will be full of physical smoke, we only need a small portion of fog for the stormy ocean. Start off by going to Window>Rendering Editors>Render Settings.

From the Render Settings Window, choose Maya Software as the renderer to be used and click on Maya Software tab. Scroll down to bottom and click on Render Options to expend it. Click on the box which is right next to the blank text field. It automatically adds environment fog and opens up an attributes editor to adjust the fog's parameters.

This should do it for the fog, here is how my rendered scene looked like

At this point your ocean is completely ready for either a single frame rendering job or an animation as we have connected the camera to the ocean's motion and it will move accordingly to its waves, to export your animation go to Window>Rendering Editors>Render Settings.

The Render Settings menu will popup. Change the File name prefix to the name of your animation. Change the Image format to .AVI. Change the Start frame and the End frame according to how long your animation is going to be. And finally, choose which camera you want to source render from the Renderable Camera drop down menu.

Don't forget to change the compression of the movie file you are creating according to a type of file that you can play, e.g. DivX.

Change your module interface to Rendering by holding down H anywhere on your scene, left click and drag the mouse onto Rendering. This will change the menu buttons on the top panel of Maya. Go to Render>Batch Render and wait for your movie to be completely rendered frame by frame, this process is going to take time.

Here are my final results.

This concludes our tutorial, I hope that you've learnt something new from it, feel free to post in the Oman3D Forum for any comments or questions or to get instant feedback.

- End of Tutorial.