Burning Question: How Do I Create a Tornado?

Burning Question: How Do I Create a Tornado?

Question: How do I create a tornado and the severe weather that goes with it with my visual effects software?


Answer: We can understand why you wouldn’t want to go chasing an F5 tornado, although, it’s something I’ve always drempt about… the power of nature is unfathomable sometimes.

You don’t mention the software that you’re using, so I’ll give you a variety of tutorial options, but first, lets learn a bit about what creates a tornado and what they look like in the real world..

What Makes a Tornado?

The Science Behind Tornadoes

If you’re looking to create a realistic tornado, first, learn a bit about the science.

Science360 talks about the “violent, twisting columns of air with wind speeds over 100 miles per hour.”

How Do Tornadoes Form? This is article on Kid’s Crossing rather juvenile, but it breaks down the science in very concise detail.

“Fire Tornado” in Viral Video Explained

National Geographic explains the science behind this “fire whirl” or “dust devil with fire”. It’s very interesting. The music is pretty terrible on the video and I saw another with the natural sounds, but it was not embedable. Anyway, read the article from National Geographic, “Fire Tornado” in Viral Video Explained.

World’s Top Most Deadliest Tornado (Full Documentary)

Examples of Real World and Cinematic Tornadoes

You’ve all seen the flying cow in the film Twister so I won’t go there, but instead of heading to the prairie, I’d recommend checking out some videos on YouTube, mostly taken by insane people who are way too close to the action. Most have NSFW language. I’d be swearing too if I thought I was going to be swept up in a tornado!

And the guy below gets a BIT too close!

Into the Storm

Into the Storm, directed by Richard Armitage and released in 2014, was a film featuring multiple tornadoes. I never saw it but the report is that the effects were incredible and the storyline was not quite as good. It was shot in Michigan (represent!) and had over 600-plus effects shots.

Tornado Tutorials

Tornado Tutorial (RealFlow – FumeFx)

Here’s a tutorial from Beso using Next Limit RealFlow, Autodesk 3dsMax, Sitni Sati FumeFx, cebas finalRender, and Blackmagic Design Fusion. He has the scene files available for download here. First, an example of what his tornado looks like.

Here is the tutorial.

Tornado Rig with Insydium X-Particles

Mike Batchelor shows how to create a terrifying twister with X-Particles and CINEMA 4D.

CINEMA 4D VFX Volume 2: Killer Tornado

CINEMA 4D VFX Volume 2: Killer Tornado – Ben Watts is a really great artist and tutorial maker and we often post his tutorials on our blog. He has a new training series that you can buy on his site.

Storm Clouds in Trapcode Particular

This tutorial is from Ramiro A. Fernandez at Premium Beat. While this isn’t specifically a tornado, it covers using images as particles, creating particle environments, compositing clouds and generating rain, which are all important aspects of tornadic weather.

Create a Tornado in After Effects

Rob Mize at Creative Cow has a tutorial explaining the process of making a funnel cloud in AE.

Adding Rain to Your Scene

If you’re wanting to add rain to your tornado, check out In Depth: Rain Generators. The article compares and contrasts several plug-ins for creating rain in After Effects and other NLEs, with links to tutorials.

Here’s an old one from Andrew Kramer about adding water drops to a window, which could be very useful.

Posted by Michele Yamazaki