Computer Graphics

University of California - Berkeley

Animating Sand, Mud, and Snow

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Computer animations often lack the subtle environmental changes that should occur due to the actions of the characters. Squealing car tires usually leave no skid marks, airplanes rarely leave jet trails in the sky, and most runners leave no footprints. In this paper, we describe a simulation model of ground surfaces that can be deformed by the impact of rigid body models of animated characters. To demonstrate the algorithms, we show footprints made by a runner in sand, mud, and snow as well as bicycle tire tracks, a bicycle crash, and a falling runner. The shapes of the footprints in the three surfaces are quite different, but the effects were controlled through only five essentially independent parameters. To assess the realism of the resulting motion, we compare the simulated footprints to human footprints in sand.


Robert W. Sumner, James F. O'Brien, and Jessica K. Hodgins. "Animating Sand, Mud, and Snow". Computer Graphics Forum, 18(1):17–26, 1999.

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Previous Version

This is an expanded version of an earlier paper that was published in Graphics Interface 98. As recipients of the Award for Best Paper, the authors were invited to submit an extended version to Computer Graphics Forum.