Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Math goes to the movies

14.04.2010
Whether it's an exploding fireball in "Star Wars: Episode 3", a swirling maelstrom in "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End", or beguiling rats turning out gourmet food in "Ratatouille", computer-generated effects have opened a whole new world of enchantment in cinema. All such effects are ultimately grounded in mathematics, which provides a critical translation from the physical world to computer simulations.

The use of mathematics in cinematic special effects is described in the article "Crashing Waves, Awesome Explosions, Turbulent Smoke, and Beyond: Applied Mathematics and Scientific Computing in the Visual Effects Industry", which will appear in the May 2010 issue of the NOTICES OF THE AMS. The article was written by three University of California, Los Angeles, mathematicians who have made significant contributions to research in this area: Aleka McAdams, Stanley Osher, and Joseph Teran.

Mathematics provides the language for expressing physical phenomena and their interactions, often in the form of partial differential equations. These equations are usually too complex to be solved exactly, so mathematicians have developed numerical methods and algorithms that can be implemented on computers to obtain approximate solutions. The kinds of approximations needed to, for example, simulate a firestorm, were in the past computationally intractable. With faster computing equipment and more-efficient architectures, such simulations are feasible today---and they drive many of the most spectacular feats in the visual effects industry.

Another motivation for development in this area of research is the need to provide a high level of controllability in the outcome of a simulation in order to fulfill the artistic vision of scenes. To this end, special effects simulation tools, while physically based, must be able to be dynamically controlled in an intuitive manner in order to ensure believability and the quality of the effect.

The area of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) provides many of the tools used in simulations of phenomena such as smoke, fire, and water. Before the use of CFD, computer-generated special effects such as explosions were driven by force fields applied to passive unconnected particles, a method that produced rather unrealistic results. Today, a combination of improved hardware and faster algorithms for CFD models have made such special effects much more realistic. CFD has also been used, unsurprisingly, to simulate water-based phenomena; in fact, such water simulation techniques were recognized by an Academy Award for Technical Achievement for the mathematician/computer scientist Ronald Fedkiw of Stanford University.

Mathematics also plays a key role in computer-generated animations of all kinds of solids, from animated characters to cityscapes. Virtually every computer-generated solid has an explicit mathematical representation as a meshed surface or volume. Flesh simulations can endow computer-generated characters with realistically bulging muscles and rippling fat. Hair simulation provides a realistic way to depict the highly complex phenomenon of thousands of hairs interacting and colliding. The article describes recent work by the the first and third authors that provides a new technique for hair simulation.

The effects industry is emerging as an exciting new frontier for mathematicians, one that uniquely combines mathematical insights with the art of moviemaking.

An advance copy of the article by McAdams, Osher, and Teran is available to reporters at the non-public URL

http://www.ams.org/jackson/fea-mcadams.pdf

Founded in 1888 to further mathematical research and scholarship, today the American Mathematical Society has more than 32,000 members. The Society fulfills its mission through programs and services that promote mathematical research and its uses, strengthen mathematical education, and foster awareness and appreciation of mathematics and its connections to other disciplines and to everyday life.

Contacts: Mike Breen and Annette Emerson
Public Awareness Officers, American Mathematical Society
Email: paoffice@ams.org
American Mathematical Society
201 Charles Street
Providence, RI 02904
401-455-4000

Mike Breen | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ams.org

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers
20.07.2018 | Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore

nachricht Study suggests buried Internet infrastructure at risk as sea levels rise
18.07.2018 | University of Wisconsin-Madison

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>