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Creating Realistic Water Effects With Digital Anarchy's Psunami For Adobe After Effects

By Kevin McAuliffe

I thought that for this article I would look at a plug-in that I think a lot of people might quickly discard as one that they would never use in their day to day work, but I think that it is a hidden gem that shouldn't be overlooked, and that plug-in is Digital Anarchy's Psunami. This is an effect that I think a lot of people could use on a regular basis, as it can produce some excellent looking water effects that can be added to your composition to give it that extra wow factor that it might need. Let's take a look at what it can do.

First of all, I want to create a unique looking skyline of my favorite city, Toronto, Canada. Here is the image I have chosen to use.

Let's start out by altering the city the way I want. First, I'm going to drag my image into a new composition, and then I'm going to remove the water from the shot by simply masking it out.

Next, I'm going to turn the "Skyline" layer off, and I'm going to add a solid layer below my "Skyline" layer to apply my Psunami effect to. Navigate to EFFECTS>DIGITAL ANARCHY>PSUNAMI to apply your effect. The preset effect that is loaded looks pretty good, except for the fact that we want it to look like it is night time, not late afternoon. One thing that I really like about Psunami is that Digital Anarchy has crammed it full of presets that you can use, and alter to your liking. What we are going to do is use the "Moonlight" preset, and adjust it so it looks exactly how we want it to look. To apply the preset, select the solid with the Psunami effect on it, press "F3" to open the effects window, then under "LOAD" navigate to NIGHT>MOONLIGHT, and press "GO". Take a look at the default "Moonlight".

The first thing I want to do is remove the sky, as I have my own city skyline that already has a sky element. Under "Render Options," you can change "Render What" from "Both Air and Water" to "Water Only," and it will cut your water off at the horizon.

At this point, most people would want to remove the "Glitter" on the water, which can be done under "Light 1." Simply set your "Glitter Scale" to "0" and it will remove it, but I'm going to leave it, and you will see why in just a minute.

Next, I think we are looking down at the water a little too much for the skyline shot we have, so I'm going to adjust the tilt of the "Camera" from 100° to 90°.

Next, let's adjust our "Wave Smoothness" and "Vertical Scale" under "Primary Waves," as the water is a little choppy for my liking, and this will smooth it right out.

And last, but not least, the water is looking a little purple, so I'm going to adjust the "Water Color" under "Ocean Optics."

Now that I have the water the way I want it, I'm going to turn the "Skyline" layer back on, so we can see what it looks like.

Wow, that really doesn't look right, does it? Well, it's a very easy fix. Simply drag the solid layer down, so the horizon of your water matches the point where the city would end, and the water would start in your "Skyline". That looks much better!

Now, here is why I wanted to leave the "Glitter" on the water. I'm going to insert my own moon, to add a little more realism into the shot, and you can do that by simply creating a new white solid, and create a circle mask. Now, what I also did was add a glow effect (EFFECT>STYLIZE>GLOW), as the moon would have a bit of a glow around it, if you were looking at it in the "real" world.

That's it! My city skyline is complete. If you want to spice things up a little more, you can add stars to the night sky, and even add a little glow to your buildings. Here's what the final animation looks like.

As you can see, Psunami is an excellent plug-in to add that extra bit of realism to your shots, no matter how simple or complex, and you can download a free demo of the plug-in to see if it's right for your next project. Psunami is available from Digital Anarchy ( for After Effects, FXPlug (Final Cut Pro & Motion) and Digital Fusion for a cost of $199.

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Kevin P McAuliffe is currently a Senior Video Editor working in HD post production in Toronto, Canada. He has been in the television industry for 12 years, and spends his days onlining on a Final Cut Pro HD. Kevin's high definition onlining credit list includes concerts for Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Snow Patrol, Sum41, Paul Anka, Il Divo and Pussycat Dolls, to name a few. Also, Kevin is an instructor of Advanced Final Cut Studio 2 at the Toronto Film College. If you have any questions or comments, you can drop him a line at

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