The Starship Constellation fires her main phaser banks at an unseen enemy in a new test video I’ve uploaded to Vimeo and YouTube.
Here are some frame grabs from the video.
This relatively simple visual effect took a while for me to figure out. Since I use OTOY’s OctaneRender, use of LightWave’s volumetric and particle systems is problematic. What I finally landed on are phaser bolts that are polygonal cylinders. The bolts are in separate layers in the Constellation model, with their pivot points at the location of each phaser emitter. This makes it easy to “aim” the phasers and animate their target while they’re firing (this is demonstrated in test #4 in the video). LightWave’s morphing technology is used to “fire” the phaser bolts, which start as one-meter balls that can be keyframed to grow up to several kilometers in length (in the third image above you can see the bolts lancing out towards their target).
The phasers are rendered in two passes. In pass #1, the phaser bolts are unseen by the camera, but their fire illuminates the starship. (A few frames before they fire, the emitters themselves start to glow yellow-hot to suggest the terrible destructive power that’s about to be unleased; this is most visible in test #4 in the video.) In pass #2, the starship is turned into a matte object, and the phaser bolts are rendered with exaggerated glow and animated textures.The two layers are composited together in post, with the phaser bolt layer linear-dodged onto the starship layer.
This multi-step technique takes a little longer to setup and execute, but it gives me greater control over the appearance of the phaser bolts.