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Sculpting with Particular

Particle system for After Effects By Jean Hauptman

The Aux System is a powerful component of Trapcode Particular. Some of its most fascinating aspects have gone unnoticed by many animators.

Commonly, the Aux System is used to send secondary offshoots from the main particle (fireworks, for example). But investigating the controls in more depth is worth the time and effort.

Recently, I've been experimenting with "sculpting" Aux Particle trails. Here are a couple of early results (Fig. 01, Fig. 02):

Fig. 1











Fig. 02

This crude sculpting is accomplished simply with the scale device within  aux particles controls. It is called "Size over Life." Drawing in this manner is more intuitive than keyframing. You are actually molding contours over time (Fig. 03).


Fig. 03

Controlling the number of particles is also important- you will want a high density of aux particles if you want them to blend and  appear as one object. For this kind of effect, you will usually want the aux particle velocity at zero.

Another key component to the sculpting process is custom particles.  (Initially, I assumed that sphere would be the only shape that would work for contours, and figured custom particles with straight lines would only  look aliased. But a couple of tests with odd shapes yielded pleasant results. Fig. 01 was made using a custom star shape and Fig. 02 used a mask animating from triangular to square.)

Also, you may want to adjust the opacity of the main particles, and even make them invisible in certain instances. They can make an interesting trail head, especially used in a blend mode.

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Here is a sampling of rough test animations:

This early test uses Trapcode's own sphere particle. (fig_04.mov). The curving motion was made by working with spin amplitude and spin frequency.


The custom shape in this test is made with card wipe. (Card wipe is the brilliant After Effects filter originally developed by Brian Maffitt of Total Training.) This is the test: http://mangoinc.com/card_wipe.mov.

And this is the custom particle (fig_06.mov):


This strand was made with a simple animating oval mask:


This is the size over time chart (Fig. 07a):

Fig. 07a

And fig_07b.mov is the custom looping particle As you see, the original particles were larger and remain visible.


This "Peter Max" inspired animation is part of a wipe: http://mangoinc.com/peter_max.mov. The custom particle is an animating bull's eye within a circle mask.

One great effect for "sculpted" particles is freezing the animation by pulling the Physics Time Factor slider to zero. Then you have a 3D object that can move around in 3D space within After Effects (fig_08.mov):


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My wish for the next Particular update is blend mode settings for aux particles. Also, the size over time graph is still klutzy. It is easy to make an accidental nick, and there is no undo.

The potential for the size over time graph is unlimited. This is one tool that I would like to see developed -- imagine what you could come up with using painterly strokes and splatters. Or even pasting in shapes.

Kudos to Peder Norby for giving us such a simple, yet deep, program. Have fun with the Aux System and stay Particular.

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Jean Hauptman has worked with Adobe Effects for 12 years, and recently received Gold and Silver BDA awards. She has written for a number of industry magazines.
Related Keywords:Trapcode Particular, Aux System, particle, animators, sculpting


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