Surfs Up – Making Waves
One of the most important elements in Surf’s Up was the waves that are seen throughout the film. Without waves there wasn’t a story to tell. In the early stages of production the team was confronted with the fact that the waves defined the sequences they were in. The waves were a moving environment created and animated in layout, similar to a standard set that would be built and dressed. The waves included hollowtubes for a sequence in which the main characters enjoy a perfect day in the surf, as well as powerful, monstrous 60 foot waves that are showcased in the finale. With that amount of diversity in mind it was important to be able to define every feature of the wave and create several different types and styles of waves. When coupled with the challenging process of animating a wave with the specific interaction of a surfer, it was ultimately decided that it was best to treat the wave as a character instead of a procedural effect.
Rob Bredow posted his course notes for Surf’s Up on his blog. The technique for beach breakers was particularly clever as well, as was the idea of using a displacement map and a shader to to build up waves on the beach.
See also Tom Kluyskens talk about the beach break effects in Surf’s Up. The highlights of this talk may be found at www.jupiter-jazz.com.