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The idea for this effect came about while I was experimenting with Mr. Asger’s “floating water” preset. The end result looks something like the pseudopod creature from “The Abyss”, but of course you can experiment with the technique for some other water-based effects.
There are 3 visible attributes of water that I focused on for this effect. Firstly, water is almost completely transparent, meaning that it does not absorb most of the light that hits it. Second, it refracts (bends) the light that passes through it, and finally, it reflects some the light off of its surface.
Step 1. The Particles:
This effect starts with a small rectangular emitter. To give the particles a watery shape, use round textures. I used the two “ball” textures, and the circular “bullet trail” textures, thanks to Mr. Asger’s preset. You will want to keep the “particle max” and “particle lifetime” settings quite high, to keep a solid stream of particles, and put the “angle range“ very low. Your “rotation” settings may be different, but mine are pointed almost straight down. Your particles should form a dense, narrow stream. Animate your emitter however you want the effect to move in your scene.
Next, add an “angle blur” filter to your effect. I’d have the strength set at the default 30, but the direction of course will vary based on your animation. You should end up with something more or less like this:
Step 2. Refraction:
This step is very simple. Just add a displacement map composite filter to your particle effect. You should set the horizontal and vertical distances quite high, since this is a fairly dense stream of water.
Step 3. Reflection:
This bit is much more complicated. First, copy your particle effect so that the 2 copies are lined up exactly with one another. Remove the Displacement map from the bottom copy. To give a faint blueish look to my effect, I changed the color of the bottom particles to a very dark blue.
You may want to try using colors similar to those in your background, to give the impression that your effect is reflecting its surroundings. Be sure to keep the colors very dark, however.
Next you’ll be adding a lot of grading filters to your bottom layer. The idea is to brighten the highlights of the effect, and turn the darker areas black. Here are the filters I used, from top to bottom:
Blur: Gaussian: 43
Contrast: Pro: Black Pt. 255, White Pt. 193
Also, the Blur: Angle filter I applied before, at the bottom.
Now, Change the Composite Blend Method of this layer to Add.
Finally, to prevent the highlights from spilling over the edges of the effect, apply an object mask to your reflection layer based on your top layer.
Your effect should look pretty cool by now, but you may notice that it lacks definition. If you recall, I stated that water is mostly transparent, meaning that some light is absorbed. To add this final aspect to the effect, simply add a Grade Object underneath the two particle effects. Add a “Brightness” filter to it, and lower it a bit. I have the Composite Blend method for the Grade Object set to Darken, and the Brightness set at -55, but these setting will likely need to be different, depending on your background. Apply an Object Mask to your Grade Object, based on your top particle effect.
Now, your effect should be much more clearly defined. I hope this tutorial has been helpful, and if you would like me to clarify anything, just ask!
To view the final clip on YouTube, Click Here.