Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Math goes to the movies

Date:
April 14, 2010
Source:
American Mathematical Society
Summary:
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.

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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Mathematical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Aleka McAdams, Stanley Osher, and Joseph Teran. Crashing Waves, Awesome Explosions, Turbulent Smoke and Beyond: Applied Mathematics and Scientific Computing in the Visual Effects Industry. Notices of the AMS, 2010; 57 (5): 614-623 [link]

Cite This Page:

American Mathematical Society. "Math goes to the movies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100414071221.htm>.
American Mathematical Society. (2010, April 14). Math goes to the movies. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100414071221.htm
American Mathematical Society. "Math goes to the movies." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100414071221.htm (accessed August 30, 2014).

Share This




More Computers & Math News

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) — Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
JPMorgan Chase Confirms Possible Cyber Attack

JPMorgan Chase Confirms Possible Cyber Attack

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 28, 2014) — Attackers stole checking and savings account information and lots of other data from JPMorgan Chase, according to the New York Times. Other banks are believed to be victims as well. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spend 2 Minutes Watching This Smartwatch Roundup

Spend 2 Minutes Watching This Smartwatch Roundup

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) — LG announces a round-faced smartwatch, Samsung adds 3G connectivity to its latest wearable, and Apple will reportedly announce the iWatch on Sept. 9. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google Reveals Drone Delivery Program, 'Project Wing'

Google Reveals Drone Delivery Program, 'Project Wing'

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) — Google has been developing a drone delivery system of its own, and it hopes to revolutionize how people view possessions with it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins