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Trying to find a simple way to animate the surface of a lake that will allow me to focus on animating two characters rowing a boat across it. I am not overly concerned with realism and will accept something a bit cartoony.

The attached clip shows a brief test I did this afternoon using plastic wrap over a blue painted table top. With a bit of practice this might do the trick, but was wondering if there were any better ideas out there.

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Massive frothy wave... all it needs is some Beach Boys music!

Nearly missed this thread! Really interesting to see what you are doing, as I have a lake to animate sometime. I liked the slats with the uneven front edge - perhaps moving it slightly sideways would also help to make the wave look less rigid?

One idea I came across was to make waves using clear perspex rods with some sparkly material on them, then rotate them to make the waves move. But I also like your plastic sheet as it makes the surface continuous.

A film called 'Two Balloons' had an intruiguing BTS video, which I think was originally longer and showed more of the mechanism. Anyway the link is here, and their effect of ocean swells is fantastic.https://www.twoballoons.film/featurettes

Perhaps not quite the thing for a lake, though!

The other thing that keeps me thinking late at night is the possibility of mechanising the process with a stepper motor (or even just a plain motor turning steadily) to give the continuous effect. Then it would need a belt or perhaps the eccentric system used in 2 balloons - where they presumably realised that if you had e.g. slats on a belt you need to carry it round under the set and/or keep replacing slats from the front to the back.

Anyway, do keep reporting on progress. It is looking really good!

Thanks for the link, Simon! Interesting ideas. I am at work now on the puppets and other scenic elements, but will post results at the next stage of development.

Rowboat Test 4

A few new additions: I added foam insulation to the remaining two slats and carved them into waves. Much easier (and lighter) to work with. Then added some dark blue paint and blended it with existing light blue paint on the table top and the waves. Finally, I used this as a lighting test and added a couple of lights to better cover the scene.

The animation still has some bugs to work out, but then that's what tests are for!

Good to hear you are still progressing! 

I having trouble embedding the video, so will try again:

The general effect looks beautiful!  I do see some pops - is that the board catching and not moving evenly, or is it something the plastic film does, however smooth the movement underneath?  Or just some stop-starting in this test?

Those irregular edges with lighter coloured paint look like a bit of foam on the edge of the wave, very nice!  Even though, I presume, they are under the surface.

The biggest pops are due to adding the slats to the back. They stand too high so I've now added downward curved extensions at the rear of the table. The slats should now come up from below and gradually appear.

Others are operator error - I sometimes lose track of which mark the lead slat should be at. The two belts are almost 6 feet apart so I move them independently.  However, moving one end of a slat causes the other end to move at an angle, sometimes as much as an inch or so. I'm thinking of pinning the lead slat to the table. The rest seem to follow without problems.

One other problem is air gets under the plastic sheet and tsunamis begin to form. I don't always remember to pat them back down. I suppose that's a good reason to practice, practice practice!

The "foam" was a happy accident, but looks nice. It is under the sheet. My thought was to add some cling wrap on top as the waves approached the camera to simulate foam. I may still try that.

Getting to be really nice looking.

One comment, although you are probably not concentrating on the boat at the moment. It should rock from side to side once the wave goes under it, and should generally have some movement to suggest floating. Once the wave passes underneath it, it seems to sit rather flat. 

But the wave effect is terrific. Only thing is didn't you say this was supposed o be a lake?! It is definitely a beach now. I would think for a lake the ripples and swells would need to be smaller and not breaking.

Thanks for sharing this.

Story ideas are changing - a beach on a deserted island will make for a better gag. Initially I thought a rather still lake would be easier to animate, so I adapted the story. Now I'm un-adapting it. But this is still too much wave action for the scene I have in mind. I'm trying to change one element at a time in the tests so I can evaluate the results, so I'll get there eventually.

You got fooled by an illusion - the waves don't actually break. They are just more lightly colored in places. But maybe that's what the eye expects to see? Thanks for your comments!

Then it is looking really really good!

I suppose you could always make the boat larger rather than reducing the size of the waves....

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