A Three js example making waves for the first time

So I wanted to start making some posts on three.js examples, and one of the first ideas that came to mind was to make a waves example. In this post I will be writing about a helper method that I made that can be used to create an instance of buffered geometry that is set of points that move in a wave like pattern.

So this threejs example might be a good starting point when it comes to figuring out how to go about creating a custom geometry with a little javaScript code.

1 - This is a three.js example

This is a post on a three.js example where I made some waves. In this example I am just using the Points material, as in this example I only have points set out for the buffered geometry that I am using. As such it would be a good idea to get up to speed with the Points material, and buffered geometry if you have not done so before hand. This is also a more advanced post on three.js, if you are new to three.js you might want to look at my getting started post on three.js first.

1.1 - version numbers matter

When working out this example for the first time I was using revision 98 of three.js. Threejs is a library that is a very fast moving target when it comes to development, it seems like to new revision is coming out every few months. If the code here breaks the first thing that you should check is the version number, because this was working for me when it comes to the version of threejs that I was using at the time.

2 - The wave Example

The wave example I made involves a helper method that can be used to create, or update geometry, buffered geometry, or just about anything by making the helper a higher-order function. This method accepts another method as one of the arguments that is passed the x,y,and z values for each point that will compose the vertices of the wave. I then use this method in conjunction with others to help make an update the geometry of the wave.

2.1 - The waveGrid helper

Here is the wave grid helper method that accepts a method that I can use to define what to do for each point in the grid of points. I use this to create an instance of buffer geometry and again later to update it in a loop.

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// Wave grid helper
var waveGrid = function (opt) {
opt = opt || {};
opt.width = opt.width || 30;
opt.depth = opt.depth || 30;
opt.height = opt.height || 1;
opt.forPoint = opt.forPoint || function () {};
opt.context = opt.context || opt;
opt.xStep = opt.xStep || 0.075;
opt.yStep = opt.yStep || 0.1;
opt.zStep = opt.zStep || 0.075;
opt.waveOffset = opt.waveOffset === undefined ? 0 : opt.waveOffset;
var points = [],
radPer,
x = 0,
i = 0,
y,
z;
// points
while (x < opt.width) {
z = 0;
while (z < opt.depth) {
// radian percent
radPer = (z / opt.depth + (1 / opt.width * x) + opt.waveOffset) % 1;
// y value of point
y = Math.cos(Math.PI * 4 * radPer) * opt.height;
// call forPoint
opt.forPoint.call(opt.context, x * opt.xStep, y * opt.yStep, z * opt.zStep, i);
// step z, and point index
z += 1;
i += 3;
}
x += 1;
};
};

2.2 -Make Points helper

Here I have a method that makes use of my waveGrid method by making the initial state of the buffered geometry, as well as updating it as well.

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// make a points mesh
var makePoints = function () {
var geometry = new THREE.BufferGeometry();
var points = [],
opt = {};
opt.forPoint = function (x, y, z, i) {
points.push(x, y, z);
};
waveGrid(opt);
var vertices = new Float32Array(points);
// itemSize = 3 because there are 3 values (components) per vertex
geometry.addAttribute('position', new THREE.BufferAttribute(vertices, 3));
return new THREE.Points(
// geometry as first argument
geometry,
// then Material
new THREE.PointsMaterial({
size: .05
}));
};

2.3 - Update Points

I again use my waveGrid method to update points.

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// update points
var updatePoints = function (points, per) {
var position = points.geometry.getAttribute('position');
// update points
waveGrid({
waveOffset: per,
xStep: 0.125,
zStep: 0.125,
forPoint: function (x, y, z, i) {
position.array[i] = x - 2;
position.array[i + 1] = y - 2;
position.array[i + 2] = z - 2;
}
});
position.needsUpdate = true;
}

2.4 - Get it going

So now it is time to get this all working with the usual scene, camera, and renderer. I just use my makePoints helper to make the instance of a Points mesh that makes use of my geometry, and the Points material.

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// RENDER
var renderer = new THREE.WebGLRenderer({
antialias: true
});
renderer.setSize(320, 240);
document.getElementById('demo').appendChild(renderer.domElement);
// SCENE
var scene = new THREE.Scene();
// POINTS
var points = makePoints();
scene.add(points);
// CAMERA
var camera = new THREE.PerspectiveCamera(40, 320 / 240, .001, 1000);
camera.position.set(3.4, 8, 3.4);
// CONTROLS
var controls = new THREE.OrbitControls(camera, renderer.domElement);
renderer.render(scene, camera);
// LOOP
var frame = 0,
maxFrame = 100,
loop = function () {
requestAnimationFrame(loop);
updatePoints(points, frame / maxFrame);
renderer.render(scene, camera);
frame += 1;
frame %= maxFrame;
};
loop();

3 - Conclusion

This example proved to be a nice little example on something that was kind of fun to work out. It has been done before many times, but when it comes to making some kind of real project that is some kind of animation doing something to this effect might prove to be part of the process.

So far all of my real examples are often just making crude yet effective low poly models consisting of just grouping together a bunch of box geometries in mesh objects together. So it is nice to work out something where I am coming up with my own custom little thing with geometry and then using that.