Making Steamy Videos

posted in: Design Thoughts, Projects 5

In the years I’ve worked with Labcon, a laboratory plastics manufacturer, we have produced many catalogs and brochures together, and since 2011, I have also created a range of corporate videos: their sustainability story, as well as product and process “explainer” videos, often combining and merging live action with 3D models, animation and motion graphics. Each project has brought new challenges and the latest has as well. The new video has made me a master at creating steamy scenes…have I got your attention now?

Labcon manufactures pipet tips and centrifuge tubes; their products are very small and they hold liquids. So my 3D models for them include their clear plastic products, numerous other peripheral products, laboratory equipment, and … liquids. Or, “samples” as the laboratory would call them. These products hold samples, or moving fluids, in a range of colors.

My software, Autodesk Maya lets me make magical liquids to demonstrate Labcon’s product features. This component of the software is called “Dynamics” and includes all the features necessary to simulate real-life fluids. In physics, a fluid is a substance that has no fixed shape and yields easily to external pressure; it can be a gas or a liquid. External pressure, or dynamic forces include: gravity, air, wind, turbulence, friction, drag, time and others.  And all of these forces are variables within Maya to create fluid effects.

Our latest video features centrifuge tubes that are made for holding samples that are shipped on dry ice. Unlike most comparable tubes, these feature a special o-ring in the lid that blocks CO2 from the dry ice getting inside the tubes and contaminating the sample. The 3D model tubes had to have dynamic liquid samples inside, but this time, they had to have dynamic gases on the outside of them. Liquid and gas fluids in the same simulation. And some of the liquids had to change color dramatically when they became contaminated. Quite a design challenge!

I learned how to make smoke, clouds, fire and explosions in Maya years ago while creating “magic spells” for a game app called Mage Life developed by And Then Adventures, LLC. Those past fluid models certainly helped me. Dry ice is its own material with its own properties. But with plenty of experimentation, I generated two great final dry ice simulations. The first HD simulation is a full 30 seconds of dry ice billowing up from the bottom of the picture frame against a black background. It worked perfectly as the backdrop for the video’s opening graphics. The second simulation is used inside an open styrofoam shipping cube, with the dry ice steam billowing out as the centrifuge tube emerges out from the fog.

To the viewer, it’s a very simple effect to see the dry ice cloud. For me, it entails massive amounts of experimenting with all the dynamic forces and volume of particles till I can create a realistic effect. It’s insanely complicated, yet so satisfying to see the optimal result.

So, another practical application of dynamic principles in a fun, informative, final presentation. This is the part of my design business that keeps it from ever getting boring. Each project is more fun than the last. And I thank my dear friends at Labcon for continuing to give me opportunities to explore the limits of my creativity, while producing visual products that, I believe present their excellent, earth friendly company in the way it deserves. What a great way to make a living.

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Bill Giobbi (bgob1) is founder and owner of Linea Forma Design, a 38 year old design firm specializing in creating graphic content for print, web and video. He is a graphic designer, industrial designer, model maker, technical illustrator and a digital 3D content creator/animator, with a love of all things design.
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5 Responses

  1. Elisa Mills

    Nice job, Bill! Wow!!

  2. Jeff Hall

    Very well done Mr. Giobbi!

    • bgob1

      thanks, Jeff.

  3. Pat Flynn, Emeritus

    This presentation is a real “gas”. Really well done. Hats off, Bill.

    • bgob1