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  • Writer's pictureGreg Lock


Every time I fly on a window seat I try to take photographs of the clouds. When you're flying and at speeds of around 400 miles an hour you see the clouds as dimensional objects. A cloud is something you can't touch but can be immersed in at the same time, when you fly around them they seem different, almost solid.

I embarked on researching how to make a three-dimensional model of a cloud on a computer. It turns out this is very difficult as the sets of 3 dimensional data are hard to find or generate. However I discovered that Disney developed a 3D data set of a cloud which is open source and available to use:

Walt Disney Animation Studios Cloud Data Set LICENSING: The contents of this package are Copyright 2017 Disney Enterprises, Inc. and are licensed under the Creative Commons AttributionShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. A copy of this license is available at The volumetric cloud model used for reference is a photograph by Kevin Udy provided on the Colorado Clouds Blog at 2012-07-26/ and licensed under the Creative Commons AttributionShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

This is a render of the Disney cloud that I made with a beach ball in it.

I was thinking about the aura of things having read an interesting thesis: Griffin, J. (2022) Aura in the post-digital: a diffraction of the curatorial archive. Sheffield Hallam University. Griffin explores the concept of aura in the context of both the authentic, traditional object and in a digitally mediated representation of an art object.

My exploration into making a cloud is a visualization of an Aura in a form. I journeyed down various research rabbit holes in discovering how to do this.

I needed a model to use for experimentation. I popped out to find this abandoned out-house which is in the woods near my studio. I scanned it using my phone and translated into a model format.

The software I am experimenting with is designed to generate volumetric data sets that can then be ported to other 3D environments. It uses particle systems and geometry as source objects to create openVDB files. The software is mostly used for simulating fire and smoke. So in order to make a cloud, I used a model (outhouse) as an emitter object and made it instantaneously combust. I turned off the fire element to leave a smoky residue. (see below)

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