This awesome simulated snow is indistinguishable from real snow

You need to see how incredibly awesome Disney's new animated snow technology is. They created it for Frozen—their new (non-Pixar) 3D animation feature. This video presented at the latest Siggraph shows how it works:

I always marvel at the math and physics geniuses who get to make these reality-mimicking algorithms.

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I'd imagine that the basic steps for making such an algorithm would always be the same... just a matter of applying more detailed information and using better computers to achieve these fantastic results.