Martell Cognac – Fluid simulation with RealFlow

MPC – Motion Design Studio
MPC’s brief was to create an ad for Martell’s new Cognac label to be shown in Nigeria.


MPC is an international creative studio. They make everything from visual FX for blockbuster films like “The Martian” to mobile apps.

The Story

The client had already produced a print campaign which told a story through text formed out of flowing Cognac. The brief was to add Fluid simulation with RealFlow and find a way to make this work in motion, which meant creating realistic, constantly moving, liquid letters. Given that this was for Nigerian TV, the budget was tight. We had a team of two animators working over 4 weeks.

We initially looked at faking the fluid animation by compositing multiple stock footage plates of flowing liquid. But I saw pretty quickly that this wouldn’t work. Every letter would take hours and hours to get right  and there was no way to get specific animation I wanted for some of the bigger shots.

So I started doing some tests with RealFlow. I realised if I could simulate all the letters we needed one at a time, I could build a font of animated liquid letters. So we ran some tests. We started with 3D letters we built in C4D. Then animator Filiberto Chiarinelli ran simulations for each letter in RealFlow. We experimented with different scene scales and resolutions until we found something that felt right for Congac pouring into a glass. If the scale is wrong, you can end up with something feeling like a waterfall or an eye-dropper. So we wanted to get this right.

For the hero shots, where I wanted to run a single simulation over several letters or words, we built specific setups. You can see this best with the word SLICE. We animated a disk flying through the letters in C4D and then brought this into RealFlow as an SD file. Then we ran the simulation several times until we had something we liked. I think in the end we dialled the resolution up to 150. That’s why you see those wonderful tendrils of fluid drawing away and the text breaks up. I think it’s my favourite shot in the piece.

The one thing we couldn’t live without was the RealFlow Renderkit. This allowed us to skip the meshing process inside RealFlow and just mesh at render time, inside C4D. Without this we would have needed to load a mesh for each simulated letter into C4D and then position and retime it. Fluid meshes are heavy files and they can bring your 3D app to a standstill. With the Renderkit, we just loaded the particle sequences into C4D and placed them. The Renderkit creates the mesh as each frame is rendered and then deletes the mesh file. It’s a great way of working.

I’ve been using RealFlow off and on for about five years. I’m by no means an expert, but I enjoy using it. I think we’re reaching a point where it’s now practical to use it even on smaller jobs. The app is getting easier to use and more powerful with each version. And we can now run simulations pretty quickly on our standard work stations (2013 MacPro’s).

Features like The Maxwell Fire renderer, which lets us see high quality test renders inside RealFlow, and the Sheeter daemon, which stops fluid shapes from breaking up, help bring the app into the world of motion graphics artists like me. Things that used to require endless testing or even scripting are much simpler now because of features like these.

As a designer, there’s something extremely satisfying in pulling off a beautiful fluid shot. For about five minutes, you feel like a genius. Then you move onto the next shot and come back down to earth.




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