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How To Composite Realistic Water Into A Scene

How To Composite Realistic Water Into A Scene

From a completely submerged scene to subtle bodies of water, learn how to effectively composite realistic water.

Today, we're going to look at a really interesting technique that will allow you to place a body of water anywhere in your scene, giving an otherwise flat scene a point of visual interest, along with added production value. 

We’re also going to take a look at how to fill a room with water, and how to create an entirely submerged underwater sequence with After Effects.

Let's dive in! Get it?

Just Add Water…(with Reflectivity)

There are a lot of ways to add water to your scene, but the method we’re going to look at turns a decent camera shot into something truly impressive, just by subtly adding a body of water. This technique is so realistic, and if you add something like a camera pan in the example below, it really gives the water a sense of presence in the scene.

If you’ve ever wanted to know how to add a realistic water reflection to a scene using only After Effects, you’ll be interested in the tutorial below!
The beauty of this particular water effect is the reflection it produces.

If you’re already compositing VFX on land in a scene like this (for instance, adding VFX muzzle flashes, magic spell hits, or laser blasts) seeing the elements’ reflection in the water will not only add interest to the appearance of the water, but it will further sell your other VFX elements by giving the illusion that the VFX are interacting with the environment of your scene.

By the way, we love the incredibly entertaining VFX work that comes from Hashi at Action Movie Kids, and his channel Action Movie Dad actually breaks down a lot of the behind-the-scenes VFX that went into creating the memorable and impressive VFX from Action Movie Kids.

How to Create Moving Water in After Effects

The best way to achieve cinema-grade water VFX (like a dynamic ocean surface) would be to use fluid simulations in a program like Houdini. However, there are several less advanced alternatives that can yield perfectly suitable results.

You could simply use stock footage of a water’s surface to composite into your shot with masking. 

You could even shoot your own water sequences with the same camera and lens you shot the background plate with, which would give you an advantage in realism when compositing over simply using stock footage.

After Effects can produce some nice looking water effects with a little bit of work, and the example below shows you how to fill an entire room with water using the built-in Turbulent Displace effect and a displacement map.

This method also allows you to control the color of your water, which can lead to some very cool results!

How to Create Underwater VFX

If you’re looking to create a unique “submerged” look, Red Giant’s Trapcode Particular plugin can produce some stunning results for your aquatic scene.

Below, you’ll see three examples of how you can create an underwater scene (reminiscent of VFX from Aquaman), including how to add elements like fish, bubbles, caustics, and more to really sell the scene.

Needless to say, it’s a pretty deep tutorial.
You can also download the “Underwater Look” template to follow along and start creating your own scenes.

This is such a versatile technique, because you can apply it to any scene you want and end up with amazing visuals that, with the right touches, could fit right in with a Hollywood blockbuster.

Take Your Water VFX to the Next Level

We hope these tutorials have been helpful, but remember that you don’t have to spend hours building water VFX from scratch! Even the most simple scenes can be turned into an epic masterpiece with ActionVFX elements.

We’ve got you covered with virtually every type of splash or water blast imaginable, along with 34 FREE water sound effects!  We’ve even provided an in-depth tutorial on how to composite our water VFX into your scene.
Our water VFX assets can be used in tandem with any other water visual effects you may use for mind-blowing results.

You can purchase our entire collection of water VFX and save $119! Plus, you have the option of choosing between high-quality 2K or 4K assets. Simply drag and drop into your footage!

First time here? ActionVFX creates the best pre-keyed stock footage for VFX and filmmaking. (We also have some great free stuff!)

From Fire and massive Explosions to Blood and Gore VFX, we have the largest VFX library in the world ready to be composited in your project. Check out over 3,400 VFX stock footage elements right here.

We've also just launched our new initiative: CreatorVault.com. CreatorVault contains curated collections of video editing assets for video creators.

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