I started this progress by looking up certain images for inspiration. After searching for some time, I settled on an image of a lightening strike. The image to me could appear as an uncontrollable beam coming down with several thinner beams spiralling down around the main beam. Using this as my main source of inspiration, I went about recreating this look in Maya.
First, I decided to work on the outer beam which would spiral uncontrollably around the main beam. This was done using a omni particle emitter with a gravity, turbulence and vortex field assigned to it. The vortex helped create the spiralling effect that I was going for. However this proved to be a bit difficult to time right with the UFO landing and then leaving.
Originally the particles moved in a graceful downward spiral, but this quickly changed and the particles then took on a more downward and upward motion to animate with the ship. This was done using the gravity field, which would abruptly change when the wooden man was picked up.
Next was to create the main beam. This was far simpler than the outer beam as the previz template was there to help me design this beam. Using another omni emitter and a gravity field, I was able to mimic the beam created in the previz using particles. However the problem I had here was that the particles would move through the top of the spaceship once the wooden man was sucked up. I therefore hid a polygon plane inside the ship and selected the particles that were passing through and selected “make collide”. This prevented the particles moving in a manner that I did not want them to.
I then made the wooden man a rigid body and attached him to a gravity field so he got sucked up the tractor beam. I could get the constraints working properly to achieve the ragdoll effect. So I left it for the time being so I wouldn’t stress about it too much. It will be something I hope to work heavily on later.
Next was to add textures to everything including the particles. I gave the inner beam a simple green colour and the outer beam a dark blue. As a final part to add to the beam, I created a cylinder that would represent a heatwave effect. Soft bodies and a turbulence field were added to them to create the waving effect of the heat. An mia material was then assigned to the polygon and was then made translucent so it would be clear.
The final result is not the finished work. Plenty more time needs to be spent working on the rendering of the particles not to mention the rigid bodies of the wooden man. Besides these set backs, I am happy with the overall look of the tractor beam. I am happy with the way the inner beam is particularly aggressive and violent when it comes down and when it goes back up. The outer beam could have more of a spiralling effect, but that can be fixed in the future.
Despite needing plenty more work, the tractor beam is beginning to take the shape that I intended it to.