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Is the ocean modifier better than the fluid simulation for making an ocean when it comes to visibility under the surface of the water, reflections and splashes in the water? Which one is better for making those things?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Ray Mairlot, David, cegaton, GiantCowFilms, CoDEmanX Oct 13 '14 at 18:13

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ It depends on what you want. The fluid simulator will be much more computationally expensive, but may give nicer details around rocks poking up etc. $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 Jul 30 '14 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I'm concerned about the realism of the ocean. By the way, does the fluid simulator produce a scatering effect (light to go through the ocean) and reflection? $\endgroup$ – Vladimir Jul 30 '14 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ Simulation of light is part of rendering and shading, not part of modeling/geometry generation. You can do both with either the fluid simulator or the ocean sim. $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 Jul 30 '14 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ The ocean simulator will be better for generate large areas of relatively flat water surfaces. The Fluid sim is better for complex interactions between water and objects. $\endgroup$ – Mike Pan Jul 30 '14 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ Here's an example animation with scattering and absorption. $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 Jul 31 '14 at 23:26
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It really depends on the project you are undertaking.

For Oceans and Splashes
Any wave or developed ocean sim uses functions which are fractaly overlayed on top of each other (similar to Brownian Motion, Turbulence, etc), which produces a plausible in-the-middle-of-the-ocean effect. Note that ocean simulators by default DO NOT use any sort of fluid dynamics! As it has been mentioned in the comments, fluid dynamics is expensive and simulating a whole ocean using fluids is just something that is not done even in the VFX for your top-ten Hollywood films of last year.

Now, on the other hand splashes and sprinkles and water interacting with objects cannot be done plausibly with an ocean sim. You actually need fluid dynamics for that.

What is usually done for a shot that has a huge CG ocean and water interacting with some object in the ocean (rocks, ships, kraken, huge robots, etc...) is that an ocean sim (or a few of them, different for foreground, midground and background [something like ocean LOD]) is used for the virgin ocean part of the shot, and a separate 'water-basin' is used where the interaction with the object happens. This is a limited container (as small as possible) with actually has 3d fluid dynamics, that are going to be used for the effects as splashes, droplets, etc.

The tricky part is here, you need to somehow combine the 2 techniques seamlessly!... Unfortunately there is no perfect solution which does not involve manual tweaking of parameters for some time (There might be some tips I am not familiar with).

For Underwater Scenes
For such scenes, PLEASE, do not use fluid dynamics!!! Overkill is a weak word to use... it might even not produce the results you would expect! Now simulating the surface of the ocean with a ocean sim, and in the case of splashes and interaction, some fluid dynamics is fine (as we mentioned earlier). At the moment you get under those waves, it is just a completely different technique. There are quite alot of tutorials and techniques which teach realistic underwater effects. Here are some basic ideas:
- You apply a 'depth' filter which would give the impression of this blue-ish foggy abyss.
- You combine that with tiny particles generated where they will be visible. - Volumetric effect (similar to God-rays) for any lighting natural or man-made.
- particles for bubbles, racing to the surface... - If you are close to the surface, you might want to apply caustic effects onto the objects which are visible... - Last but not least use your observation and imagination! ;)

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