Breakdown: Patronus in PopcornFx

Breakdown: Patronus in PopcornFx

Marvin Theil was kind enough to share a breakdown of his little Plexus effects set up with the help of PopcornFX. 

Marvin Theil was kind enough to share a breakdown of his little Plexus effects set up with the help of PopcornFX

My name is Marvin Theil, I’m 21 and I’m from Toulouse in France. I really like playing with VFX, discover new features and work’s techniques. I’m currently in an internship at PopcornFx in Paris, that stops at the end of the week (26/10/19). I’ve studied at the ETPA (GameDesign school), and my internship allows me to validate my GameDesign degree. In the coming months, I plan to entirely rework my book with brand new VFX.

I got into PopcornFx when I got the internship at the end of my school’s year, and what I was looking for in this company is the technical part of the VFX.


PopcornFx is a software that is made for creating VFX, with a particle system. It was created by Persistant Studios. The things that make this software so interesting are the many tools and features that are available. With PopcornFx V2, there is a nodal system. The soft is easier to learn and practice, and we have so many ways to create VFX by combining nodes. But for the developers, there is a node script that enables creating VFX entirely with code and allows to create some technical effects. Thus the software can be easily used by graphic artists and developers. Another big part of the soft is the samplers we can use. You can create VFX with mesh, animated mesh, a large choice and control of renders (billboard, ribbon, meshes, etc.), sound (create VFX that react according to the sound) and many other. The new PopcornFx V2 is optimized and you can create bigger effects without downgrading the performance.

For me, the biggest power of PopcornFx is the way we can control a lot of particles with just some nodes. Most importantly, there is a new feature in the V2 that allowed to share nodes that people create. Thereby, I can share my “Plexus node” and anyone can use it in their VFX.

Plexus Effect

The goal of this project was to rework a simple plexus effect and to pass it from the V1 to the V2. It allowed me to learn and practice the plexus effect and to find different uses for this effect. In the beginning, wanted to create a “magic Patronus” effect like in Harry Potter, but more futuristic and technologic with the plexus. 

The plexus effect is made as two iterations. First, we spawn particles. These particles had a radius search and detect when a particle enters this radius. When a particle enters this radius we draw a line (billboard renderer) between the two particles with a little script, and then we have some points with some links. The effect is entirely procedural and that’s the power of PopcornFx.

This effect can be used in real time because there are not so many particles and not a lot of overdraws (when a particle is render over another particle). Of course, this effect can be optimized more if we’re talking about games. The effect is not complicated, the true work is to give all these particles a behavior.

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With the V2 of PopcornFx, the learning is easier (with the nodal system) and a lot of tutorials are available for the beginners. We can create awesome and beautiful VFX fast enough with just the basics. The plexus effect, with a little experience in PopcornFx and a clear idea of the final rendering, takes approximately one day to create.

Marvin Theil, VFX Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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