VFX Arabia's Alaa Al-nehlawi expresses the versatility of thinkingParticles 6.1 with his tool-building skills! 

Cebas: we know you trained with Allan McKay as well as Hristo Velev...some of the VFX greats.  You are one of the first VFX trainee to grace our exclusive interview 'hall of fame' - welcome! 

Let's talk about your recent projects with thinkingParticles 6.1: It could be something that you enjoyed creating or something significant to your achievements or your company. Please tell us how you were involved?

Alaa: Automating things and creating TD tools were the first few things that caught my attention when I first started learning thinkingParticles, since I have a scripting background and I can apply it to particles. I have to admit that TP has a steep learning curve and you need to have at least the basic math knowledge and some patience, but once you grasp it you can do magic.

Not forgetting the great names in the community that have helped me achieve this like Hristo Velev, Sergey Movchan, Anselm Von Seherr-Thoss, Eloi Andaluz, Allan McKay .......

I will list some of the tools I have created, my experiences and the challenges I faced:



MogaFrag from VFX arabia on Vimeo.

Mogafrag was the most complex tool I've ever built and the key is to plan and block your tools into steps. I have to admit that Allan McKay played a big role in this, starting with the Technical Director Transformation course and FXTDT from where I learned the skills and many other tips, tricks and the right methods to block your tools.

The idea behind MogaFrag was mainly to practice thinkingParticles for myself. Originally inspired by Eloi’s Radius Effector tool. The complexity of MogaFrag grew gradually because I could use scripting to upgrade or add something whenever I see a possibility, like for example aligning the particles to the activator or using grayscale map to activate the frags wherefrom I had some minor difficulties activating volume-broken particles.

Cebas: Was it difficult figuring out a TP tool? Especially when TP is quite a specialized tool with little or no outside reference or tuts readily available...where did you get help? 

Alaa: Often, I would pop over to the thinkingParticles community group in Facebook and post the issue, and the guys there would be very helpful. Fabian gave me a solution on how to check the ID1 surface color and we decided that one event-based methods was to activate the frag when ‘white’. Well, … this did resolve half of the technicalities, but if you have a frag where all the faces are ID2 then they won’t be activated! At this point, I am still at it so look out for the updates of this tool as it progresses.

Moga (TP Tool Teaser) from VFX arabia on Vimeo.


Cebas: Awesome! I think we are all now pique with interest to know what more tools you have built with thinkingParticles 6.1? I know there was one with crystalline droplets and cebas is very proud of our fluidSolver although this did not use the fluidSolver in particular.... 

Alaa: There is also the 'Droplet tool' (Distribution curve). While watching tutorials I came across Andrew Melnychuk’s distribution curves tutorial and I was amazed by his technique. I tried to recreate it with a personal touch and expose some controls. I learnt a lot about curves during the creation process and the addition of ValueToValue operator in TP6 was a great add-on! It's easier to use and more straight forward and especially, you can expose some controls like (max, min of inputs, outputs) and out of range type (loop, ping pong ....) I found it very powerful.

TP Distribution Curves (Droplet tool) from VFX arabia on Vimeo.


And the 'Road Destruction tool': I also enjoyed creating this tool and it was one of my first attempts to create some quality believable destruction. Of course with my current experience, some minor alterations are needed to be made and added like joint system and VB roughness which were just introduced in thinkingParticles 6.1.



BreakDown: Road Destruction (Glenmary) from VFX arabia on Vimeo.

Road Destruction 'how-to' TP tool from VFX arabia on Vimeo.


Other tools include the Splash and Fumefx Explosion tool where both used the same Velocity sculpting technique taught by Hristo Velev.


Splash Modeling TP Tool from VFX arabia on Vimeo.

FumeFX Explosion Tool from VFX arabia on Vimeo.

Cebas: thank you Alaa of VFX Arabia for sharing all your insights and work with thinkingParticles 6.1 and creating such amazing tools with it! We also heard that Alaa has a new 3D studio startup, Paravue.co, under his wing - hope to hear more about the studio in time to come. 

'Splines' using TP by Alaa VFX Arabia: catch more at cebaGallery.