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WATER FLOWS [MetaForm 1.1]

This tutorial covers the creation of basic water effects, featuring running water and pools, all without using emitters. We will show you how to simulate small waterfalls and pools, as well as adding ripples and other additional effects.


To work through this tutorial, you will need some sort of rock formation. You can either build your own or download and use the one we created for this tutorial.

Please refer to our Simple Terrain tutorial if you wish to create your own rock landscape. It contains details of how to build terrain using a few MetaForm props. It also covers some of the noise parameters in detail, with examples. The image on the right illustrates how we built our rock pool.

Build your rock formation so that there is a top pool, a bottom pool, and a channel of some sort for the water to flow down.

If you wish to download the completed rock terrain including water, the Poser 5 (1.46 MB) and Pro Pack (1.46 MB) Poser files are available. These allow you to see (and fiddle with) the arrangement and settings of all the MetaForm props used in this tutorial.

The zipped pp2 file containing the prop object and material settings can be downloaded here (1.46 MB). Unzip this into your Poser root directory.

The rock pool Poser scene itself, with the MetaForm props used to make it still intact, can be downloaded here (17 KB).

A simple rock terrain, the water will flow down the center channel

Creating static pools using cylinders:

Create a new MetaForm Surface and name it Water Surface. When you add MetaForm props they will automatically be associated with that Surface. We'll be using a pretty basic ('rubbish') water material just now - a bit blue and a bit transparent. Later in the tutorial, we'll look at creating a much better water material in detail.

Add two MetaForm cylinders for the top and bottom pools. Scale them relative to the rocks to ensure a satisfactory fit. You can use the props' Object x/y/zScale parameters instead of Poser's x/y/zScale parameters so that the field is not distorted as you re-scale props.

One pool should sit just inside the top basin of the landscape. The other should be pretty big, and must be deep enough to encapsulate the cylinders that will be used for the running water (see below).

Cylinders added to  make top and bottom pools

Running water using a rolling cylinder:

Add a MetaForm cylinder and position and scale it to fit your water channel. Rotate it 90 degrees on its X axis. Then rotate around the Z axis so that it is aligned sideways to the direction of the water flow. Position the cylinder so that the top is visible over the top of the water channel, as in the diagram.

Set the end frame to 60 (or more if you're feeling adventurous). Move to the last frame and rotate that cylinder 180 degrees on its Y axis (creating a keyframe). Ensure that the cylinder is rolling in the direction of the water flow. Scrub the frame slider to check. You may need to use a value of -180 degrees. The number of degrees that the cylinder rotates through will dictate the speed of the water. Feel free to increase or decrease this as required.

Cylinder prop, which will be used to simulate the water flow

Using noise to create the water:

Select the rolling cylinder and, on frame 1, add Volume Noise using the prop parameter. Values between 0.1 and 2.0 will work well to give different effects. To get decent quality noise, it is advisable to increase the Subdivision Level for each cylinder to 30 - 40.

The addition of noise and animating the rolling cylinder creates a simple and quite effective water effect. Enable Surfacing to see how it looks. Continue to tweak until you are happy with the results. You may wish to create a quick animation or two to see how your water flow moves at this point.

A cylinder with noise

Completing the waterfall by adding a second cylinder:

Disable Surfacing if it is active. Select the animated cylinder and press Ctrl+C to copy its settings. Add another MetaForm cylinder to the scene. Click on it to ensure it is selected, and press Ctrl+V to paste the copied settings.

You will now have two cylinders in exactly the same position with exactly the same settings. Reposition the second cylinder (it should be selected so you can simply use Poser's translate parameters to move it along the Z and Y axes). Jump to the last frame and rotate the second cylinder through the same number of degrees as the first (we used -180 for both).

Second cylinder added completing waterfall

Adding ripples:

To add ripples to the bottom pool, insert a disc prop into the scene and place it half inside the bottom pool cylinder, so it's just visible. Set its Field Strength to 0. This disc will be given wave properties to create ripples in the "pool" cylinder's surface.

To create waves on the disc, set the Wave Sine parameter to 0.025 and the Wave Frequency to 20 - this will make lots of little ripples. To make the ripples animate automatically, set the Wave Phase Rate to around 0.25 (you may wish to fiddle with this value to fine-tune the rate). Again, ensure the disc prop has a high Subdivision Level to get smooth wave shapes. Enable Surfacing to view the water.

The ripples are a bit too uniform and the pools a bit flat. We can add noise to the top and bottom pools to distort the surface of the water slightly to make it more realistic. Disable Surfacing and add Volume Noise of around 0.3 and Noise Phase Rate of 0.25 to the top and bottom "pool" cylinders. Re-Surface the scene to view the changes. The water should now be more random. Also, with the addition of the Noise Phase Rate parameter, the noise will animate automatically creating random movements on the Surface.

Ripples added to the foot of the waterfall

Bubbles using a metaball:

Bubbles can be added to the scene by using a low Field Strength (say 0.5) metaball and giving it Volume Noise (about 2.0), Noise Phase Rate (to make it animate, about 3.0) and then reducing the Noise Scale (0.2 ish) to increase the complexity.

Metaball with lots of noise used to create bubbles

Enhanced water material:

We can improve the Water Surface material using U and V coordinates, specifically the U coordinate. The water can be made whiter (foamy) in places, and transparent and reflective in stiller areas. This is done by changing individual props' U coordinate contribution and the material settings for the Surface.

The image on the right illustrates the Poser 5 Material Room settings.

For each area of water that we want to emulate foamy white water (where it is rushing and bubbling), select the required props in turn and in the parameter palette, set the UMap Contribution to a value above 0. The higher the number, the whiter and more opaque this area of water will be (U coordinates go from 0-1, but values of around 2 can be used to extend the area of a prop's U contribution).

If you wish to investigate how this was done, as well as see the settings used for props and the water material, you can download the enhanced Poser scene (.pz3 file) - Poser 5 version (682 KB) or Pro Pack version (675 KB).

Download the animation of this enhanced scene here.

An overview of the enhanced Water Surface material settings (large image)

The following table explains the water material settings in more detail.


U Coordinate and results



Low (0)
Still water

High (1)
Foamy, disturbed


Diffuse Color:



Multiply by U coordinate

Specularity: *



Multiply by U coordinate

Transparency: **



Multiply by U coordinate

Reflection: ***



Multiply by 1-U coordinate (invert)

Refraction: ***



Multiply by 1-U coordinate (invert)

* Specularity cannot be adjusted in Pro Pack.

** For transparency, low input values are transparent and high input values are opaque (solid).

*** Reflections and refractions are not available in Pro Pack.


These effects can be achieved in Poser 5 by attaching the U coordinate variable and inverted variable to the correct nodes in the Layer0 surface material. In Pro Pack, the variations can be controlled by applying a simple gradient image as the diffuse and transparency maps to Layer0. See the .pz3 files for the final material settings.




You may wish to experiment with using several spheres instead of cylinders to create your water flows. A sphere rotated onto its side spinning on its own axis (as shown on the right) may produce better results and provide a better base shape for the water, depending on your particular water course or terrain.

A sphere on its side, spinning on its Y axis

On the right is an image which compares some values of Volume Noise, Noise Scale and also illustrates Noise yScale, which is useful in this context (to create wave shapes by stretching the noise along the cylinder's Y axis). You can refer to the MetaForm user guide if you require full explanations of these parameters.

This image compares different Volume Noise and Noise Scale values




Rock pool scene with component MetaForm props

Download .pz3 (17 KB)

Rock pool prop for Poser library

Download .pp2 (1.46 MB)

Completed tutorial scene, Poser 5 version

Download .pz3 (1.46 MB)

Completed tutorial scene, Pro Pack version

Download .pz3 (1.46 MB)

Enhanced scene, Poser 5 version

Download .pz3 (682 KB)

Enhanced scene, Pro Pack version

Download .pz3 (675 KB)

All zip files contain a readme - please see this file for installation instructions. All of the above files are copyright-free, so feel free to modify and redistribute them. Also, all scenes require MetaForm installed, as MetaForm-specific props are present in each.


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