Accuweather asked Vectorform to create a version of their app for the fledgling (at the time) Microsoft tablet platform. The initial request I received from the development team was for pre-rendered video transitions between 40+ weather patterns. Of course this would have resulted in a staggering number of videos, while also making it exceptionally difficult to compress into a reasonable package size. It would quickly fail the requirements for a small, efficient download.
With experience in developing realtime experiences and 3D rendering, I knew we could find a better solution. Creating an entirely procedural weather animation system would result in an experience more stylistically consistent and dramatic than the collection of video clips, while simultaneously solving the need for seamless transitions and smaller application download size.
Weather elements (cumulous and cirrus clouds, fog, lightning, sun flares, and more) were created using Lightwave 3D (based on some of my previous effects work), Photoshop, After Effects, and other tools. These assets were created in black and white, relying on realtime tone mapping to create a flexible set of pieces that could be configured with the various colours needed for any art-directed weather type.
Definition and Management
After building the realtime prototype in Quartz Composer, I was able to dynamically map out the cloud animations and population settings, transition models, tone mapping, and effects. From this working prototype I was able to give specific animation details to the development team, along with defining the entire collection of weather patterns based on Accuweather's code system. The resulting spreadsheet of data contained details for every asset type in every weather situation, from RGB codes to animation speeds and transparency modes.
Though the development process didn't go as smoothly as the prototyping phase, the assets and data created were successfully used to create endless realtime weather patterns with seamless transitions between any setting. Not only was the app bundle smaller and more easily downloaded, but it was one of the featured applications during the launch of Microsoft's first Surface tablet in the Microsoft Store.