Setting Up Massive Tsunami Attack in Unreal Engine & Houdini

Vitaliy Lupul showed how the Tsunami and Fire Combo Attack projects were created and shared some tips for VFX artists.


Hello! My name is Vitaly Lupul and I'm a VFX artist at Amber studio. I started my career in the Room 8 Studio company as a junior VFX artist. At that time, I had just turned 18 years old. Well, I didn't just start easily, I had very poor knowledge for this position and no experience, so after the first attempt, my test task was rejected and I asked to redo it; the company gave me a second chance, and then I got in.

The interesting thing is that at that time there were only three VFX artists at the company, one of them was the lead, and the other artist left the company a week after I came. Then another week later I was informed that my lead was also going to leave, so my fate at the company was already not so transparent. However, I was able to show myself well on the projects and worked at Room 8 Studio for about 3 years, where I became a team leader of about 8 VFX artists and moved to the Amber company. Currently, it has more than 20 VFX artists and I am very proud of what I achieved with it and the results and the quality they provide today.

I got my skills with the help of YouTube. I still have a playlist where I saved a lot of video tutorials on VFX (about 400 videos) and when I didn’t know how to make a particular effect or a shader, I turned to these videos. I completely covered the needs of project effects. I'll tell you my little secret: I still sometimes refer to them and remember every video, where and what I can find there.

Unreal Engine & Houdini

Unreal Engine was the first program that I started to study, I already knew about the existence of other engines but I chose Unreal because the games that I love so much were made in this engine. Of course, the advantage of Unreal Engine is the Niagara system, which fully covers the possibilities of creating almost any effect. I discovered Houdini not so long ago and at the moment I cannot say that I know it perfectly. The most difficult thing is to remember a lot of nodes and discover Python scripting, these are the very standards that open you to Houdini for game engines and the ability to create advanced effects.

The Tsunami Project

On YouTube, I came across a video above, the tsunami that I wanted to recreate and test myself because it is a very complex effect and I decided that I will make it more photorealistic.

I used Houdini only to create the static mesh. The wave animation was done with vertex animation. I used the character from Paragon, which is free on the UE marketplace. All textures were made in Substance 3D Designer, such as the normal map, water foam, and others. I like this program because at any moment you can go back to any nodes and edit them creating a texture that will really fit the effect.

Fire Combo Attack VFX

For the Fire Combo Attack, I used EmberGen to create a flipbook of fire texture. The advantage of this program is the speed of work in it; you do not need to create everything from scratch and you can open the presets that are there or edit the standard one. The filters that are there and can be edited in real time during the animation really highlight this program for me, you can create both realistic effects and super stylized ones with the help of filters. I also like to import the fully rendered flipbook texture into Photoshop and apply various filters such as Sharpen.


My advice to beginners is to save the video material you see on YouTube, LinkedIn, or Pinterest and remember them, they will be able to help at the most unexpected moment. I also recommend recreating already existing effects from video tutorials 1:1 and analyzing them.

At the moment, I am writing my own course and I will not talk about the long start in it. We will start to create similar effects immediately and I will be explaining each method, node, or solution that is used, this is really what I lacked when I was just starting my career.

Vitaliy Lupul, VFX Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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Comments 1

  • Anonymous user

    Do you have a tutorial on tsunami animation


    Anonymous user

    ·8 months ago·

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