3D Animated Ball in Flame

Hey all,

Wanted to get some opinions on the best way to approach creating and animating a 3D ball in Flame.

The example being, two people pretending to throw a baseball to one another; is flame a viable software for not only animating the ball back and forth, but adding spin and animation curves similar to various pitches.

Of course I can purchase a model w/ texture etc, but wanted to see if Flame is a viable solution for something like this (and having a believable product), or which software would be ideal for this.

Thank ya, do it.

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I’d say so. The best thing about baseball is that you have an unbelievable amount of reference to pull from. So, I would absolutely do it and I would focus first on getting good reference.

I’ve done golf balls, tennis balls, ping-pong balls, racket balls, soccer soccer ball or two, and most recently a super simple falling sign in flame.

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Yeah, flame’s good for that sort of stuff. I’ve put a soccer ball in before. With the physical shader you can get very nice lighting with little effort.

My advice is to have one axis for position and a child axis for rotation, and below that one for squash and stretch. It can get a little hairy if they are all in the same axis node.


Any recommended tutorials?

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Hmm…that is likely a pretty specific and unlikely thing to find in a tutorial. But, how about this…if you can rustle up a stock footage reference of something that represents a shot that would be similar to the ones you’ll be working on, and post a link, they’ll be a bunch of people jumping in to give you some pointers.


Sweet. I’ll find something and post it. I feel like I can mentally figure out most aspects of this but am blanking on how I’d correctly have it move in Z; like away from a pitcher(close to camera) towards the catcher correctly(away from camera).

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That’s the beauty of it. You pretty much just nailed the most important part. Scene scaling and animating in Z, NOT scale.

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I just remembered I made this ball in flame. I believe I projected the texture on, but I may have also just googled “soccer ball UV map” and put one of those on.

Some important things about animating ballistic objects:

–The rate of lateral travel (in Z in your example) should be CONSTANT. Air drag is low, so unless your object is both big and light, it will move through space at a constant rate. Which is to say, make your Z-travel linear in keyframes.
–Gravity will pull it down at, so if you want it to go further, it should travel faster, and/or be thrown upwards to counteract gravity. Gravity accellerates objects, so you want to start Y off with a flat tangent that arcs ever downward.
–The object will hit the ground at the same time as if you’d dropped it. Throwing does not add lift (unless thrown upwards, but even then, the distance traveled is irrelevant)

I’m fond of this Mythbusters clip to show how a thrown object and a dropped object will hit the ground at the same time.


Right. Is there a button that just does this, maybe F12 applies the goods. Ha!

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Here’s a couple tips from what I’ve learned over the years doing “Flame 3d”.

A lot of these come from making mistakes actually. You do one approach and you hit a wall or paint yourself in a corner and then it’s too late to start over, so you have to power through the pain.

  • Pretend you are a CG artist. So I would have a pre-comp action node where you rig, animate and light your 3d ball. Then make a second output that renders the cg element on black with alpha. Try to avoid the temptation to do it all in comp because invariably you need to increase the motion blur or anti-alias samples or apply post-render effects like DOF blur, post-motion blur or zdepth fog/CC. Maybe, see what render pass outputs you can generate (AO, spec, zdepth) that you can combine to finish your look. Your compositor self will thank your CG self later.

  • Use Motion Paths instead key framing the animation. Much easier to tweak the trajectory and timing. But, I try to limit my motion path to 2 end points. I will add another axis/motion path and build up complex animations that way. This makes tweaking specific parts of the animation easier. See next tip…

  • Break up your animation into different axis by time or by the type of transform. For example, for a Logo fly-in, I would have 3 axis…1= intro z animation, 2 = the hold with a slight drift, 3= outro z animation. Instead of 4 keyframes on one axis, you have 2 key frames on 3 axis, but this make tweaking each section MUCH easier because you’ve removed the dependency and domino effect when you change something. ALSO, you can overlap the parts of the animation to make it feel more natural. Something you can’t do if you have all the animation in one axis.

For your 3d baseball, you might want to have several motion path axis for each throw and one axis closest to the 3d sphere where you animate the spin.

Then light it with an IBL and manually add some spotlights to match the scene. Add a render on black render output…crank up the motion blur samples and pre-render with a render node that has a destination to the Schematic Reel called ‘Ball PR’. Take that render and alpha and feed it into your 2d comp with your roto, tweak the color and add a slight blur and fake some interactive shadows on the gloves.

I used to be self-conscious about using “Flame 3d”, because doing it in CG would be too costly or time-consuming and it felt like cheating. But honestly, I think a Flame artist can create equal or better 3d elements because we have the real time feedback and can see the element in context and we can do more iterations to get the look right.

Good luck! Show us what you end up with!