Weekly Development Notes #34 – More Workflow Features for the Helper Menu

Covering the week of September 28th – October 2nd, 2020.

Hello and welcome to our 34th development update for the FLIP Fluids liquid simulation addon for Blender! Over the last week I have decided to finally get around to adding some requested workflow features. Some that have been on the backlog for quite some time now and in this post I’ll detail these new features.

Most of these workflow features have been added to the FLIP Fluids Helper Menu. If you haven’t used this section of the FLIP Fluids addon before, this menu can be found in Blender’s Toolbox menu in the 3D viewport, which can be expanded with the hotkey N.

‘Smart‘ Domain Creation Operator

We have added an operator to the FLIP Fluids Helper Menu to help you quickly generate a domain object for your simulation (Documentation).

The Create Domain operator will generate a domain object depending on the context of what objects are selected and what type of objects are contains in your scene. Here are the specific details for how this operator will generate your domain:

  • When no objects are selected:
    • If there are FLIP Fluid objects in your scene, a new domain object will be created to contain all of these objects
    • If there are no FLIP Fluid objects in your scene, a new empty domain will be created
  • When one object is selected:
    • If the object is already set as a FLIP Fluid object type, a new domain object will be created to contain this object
    • If the selected object is not set as a FLIP Fluid object, and this object is a valid domain shape (Cube/Rectangle, aligned to X/Y/Z axis), this object will be converted into a domain object
    • If the selected object is not a valid domain shape, this object will be converted into an Inverse Obstacle in wireframe mode and a new domain will be created to contain this object
  • When multiple objects are selected:
    • A new domain will be created to contain all selected objects
  • More Notes:
    • This operator will only be available if there is no domain object set in the .blend file
    • When objects are selected, this operator will only consider objects that possible to use as a simulation object (Mesh, Empty, or Curve type objects). A camera or light source type object would not be considered a valid simulation type object and would be ignored, for example.
    • Helpful feature: If there are FLIP Fluid objects present in your scene that are too small to show up on the simulation grid (See this topic), the domain resolution will be automatically increased so that the smallest object will have enough grid coverage.
      • This is just a simple method that uses the object’s bounding box and works best on basic geometry (ex: icospheres, cubes). This feature may not work as well for more complex geometry and is unable to detect thin-walled objects in many cases.

Outliner Organization Operators

We have added a set of operators to the FLIP Fluid Helper Menu to help you organize your FLIP Fluid objects in separate collections (Documentation).

  • The FLIP Objects to Collections operator will organize all FLIP Fluid simulation objects into separate collections based on the object type.
  • The Unlink FLIP Object Collections will unlink all FLIP Fluid simulation objects from their organized collections and place them into a flat list within the default FLIPFluid collection. This operator will not delete any objects.
  • There are also similar operators for the simulation surface and whitewater meshes. Separating the simulation mesh objects into collections can be useful for quickly setting up view and render layers!

Select FLIP Fluid Objects by Type

We have added a set of operators to the FLIP Fluids Helper Menu to quickly select all FLIP Fluid simulation objects by type (Obstacle/Fluid/Inflow/Outflow/Force) (Documentation).

If you have a large simulation or a heavy scene, the viewport can become laggy and responsiveness of selecting objects in your scene can suffer. These operators will select these common objects faster than selecting by hand in the viewport. Being able to select the simulation meshes quickly will be helpful for setting materials, for example.

Link Existing Exported Geometry Data to Cache

This is a feature for power users! (Documentation)

When you start a FLIP Fluids simulation, the first stage of the baking process is to export all of your scene geometry data into a format that the simulation engine understands. If you have complex animations and a large amount of geometry, this can be a lengthy process.

We have added functionality to the FLIP Fluid Cache Panel to link the exported geometry data from another cache. By using this in combination with our Skip Re-export feature, you can save time by avoiding re-exporting data that already exists in another cache.

Select an existing cache directory. If a directory is set, the addon will link exported geometry data from another cache directory.

Use this feature if you want to re-use exported geometry data from another cache. Useful if you have a lot of animated geometry data in your scene that you do not want to re-export. Useful for if you have multiple simulation caches from the same scene for testing different simulation settings.

Force Field Experimental Version 9.0.9.06

Want to try out these new features? Theses workflow features have been added to our Force Field Experimental Builds Package in the latest version!

Release Notes v9.0.9.06

Release notes for other versions can be found here.

  • This version mainly consists of requested features to help with your simulation workflow
  • Added functionality to link exported geometry data from another cache directory in FLIP Fluid Cache panel (Documentation).
    • Use if you want to re-use exported geometry data that is located in another cache directory.
    • Useful if you have a lot of animated geometry data in your scene that you do not want to re-export.
    • Useful for if you have multiple caches from the same scene for testing different simulation settings.
  • Added ‘Create Domain’ operator to FLIP Fluids Helper Menu to generate a domain depending on the context of what type of objects are selected and in your scene (Documentation).
  • Added operators to FLIP Fluids Helper Menu to help organize your simulation objects in the Blender Outliner (Documentation).
    • Separate your FLIP Fluid objects into collections by type
    • Separate the generated simulation methods into collections (useful for creating view layers)
  • Added operators to FLIP Fluids Helper Menu to select all simulation objects of a certain type (Obstacle/Fluid/Inflow/Outflow/ForceField) (Documentation).
  • New Documentation: Whitewater Rendering Tips.

What’s Coming Up Next

During this week and the next, I’ll be continuing work on our next force field mode: the Turbulence Force Field. There may not be a new experimental release next week as this is a bit of a complex feature which may take more than a week’s worth of work to complete and merge into our force fields branch. It’ll also be a short development week since I’ll be away during Friday to Monday for Canadian Thanksgiving!

Four Years of FLIP Fluids Development

It has now been four years since we had teamed up and started creating the FLIP Fluids addon back in October 2016! And prior to beginning the addon, the simulation engine began development in January 2015. It feels like time has really flown by. We had never expected so much success with our software and are very grateful for being able to continue developing our FLIP Fluids addon.

I have found this old compilation of animations showing our progress from the beginning until the official FLIP Fluids release in May 2018:

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