After Effects – Particle Effects

This should technically be a part of the After Effects 3D space update, the content was delivered in the same lesson. However I did mention I wanted to spend some time making some gifs first, otherwise this would be a very boring post.

So quick little update, here we go!

Peter talked a little about Trapcode, a plug in suite for AE and other motion graphics software created by Red Giant. Breaking the formality for a moment, IT LOOKS AMAZING! It is all high end particle effects generators but the range of ability it has is impressive, its own promotional show reel was around 3 minutes of unique examples. However at £1000 for a plug-in I appreciate its not in reach of everyone. Cheap for a company though! Take a look.

Sadly the college doesn’t have the suite, however Peter did want to show us the particle systems built into AE to give us more ideas of what the software can do. So prepare for a post of me showing moving, shiny things and being overly impressed.

Before we started a particle effect needs to be applied to an object, image, footage etc that is already in the composition. We added a new solid object the size of the stage and went back to our old friend from last week, ‘Gradient Overlay’.

Layer > Layer Styles > Gradient Overlay

We changed its setting to radial and edited the colours. I went from red to blue.


Simulation effects are found in Effects > Simulation. Time to start playing.


I’d love to know the reason for the name! This almost felt like a fluid simulation (liquid mercury?) and reminded me a lot of the exploding paint videos we watched with Tony the other week. Initially it simulated straight up in a VERY wide arc, making most of the simulation happen at the bottom of the screen. I changed it up by setting the animation mode to vortex and editing the velocity.


Wave World

I picked all these effects at random and I’m still confused as to what purpose this next one would serve. Playing with the settings I managed to create what I saw as a constant water ripple effect in wireframe. I suppose I just answered my own question, if you turned wireframe off you’d get a pretty good water ripple! In wireframe it just makes me think of a 3D audio visualiser. Still a very cool effect considering its generating that from a flat 2D image we gave it. Oh and if it wasn’t clear from the above any settings circled in red were the ones I edited.


Pixel Polly

This one made me consider how you’d prepare material going into AE to get the best effect out of a particle simulation. My wifes logo for Peter’s project is based on pixel art, hence I got curious and fiddled with this, as you can see it shatters the source image into squares/pixels. This got me wondering if there would be a way to map the shatter points to source artwork, so a pixel art style image could be shattered along its fake pixels. Food for thought for a lot of these filters, there is likely to be far more power to them than what we’re testing if the composition is planned around them from the beginning.

I used the default settings for this effect but when recording it to a gif, I did decide to reverse loop the animation simply because it looked cool.


Star Burst

So this effect simulated juicy fruity chews, formerly the opal fruits particle system.


Joke! Sorry I couldn’t help myself.

If I’d named this effect I probably would have named it warp drive or hyperspace, thats all I can see when I look at it. Or that really old space Windows 95 screensaver. Of all the ones I tested this had the finest particles and I do wonder about what other things it could be used for, it may have star in the name but I’m sure it could have other purposes. Could a logo explode into tiny particles and then fade off screen? Could a logo form together from tiny particles? I’m sure I’ll find out in time. The only thing I changed is the spacing, initially it was very busy and I felt like it took away from the effect.


While none of the above are anywhere close to as mind blowing as the Trapcode Show Reel it still gives an idea of how these kind of effects are achieved. Mathematic witchcraft and sorcery!

I will put my hands up in the air and honestly admit I didn’t join this course for the VFX portion of it, however, that might be changing a little. While we’ve not dived into the video compositing side of things I do see so much potential for applying motion graphics to games. Whether this might be for menus, graphics on a screen/monitor, animated textures, the list goes on. I’m really looking forward to seeing what After Effects has to offer week after week!



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