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Useful Things

A workflow overview By Stephen Schleicher
Profound Effects Useful Things is a wonderful addition to Adobe After Effects. With it you have the ability to create over 300 effects – many come with the app, while others are created by a huge user base. For some users, the way you create an effect can be a bit daunting. In this overview, I’ll walk you through the process of creating one of my favorite Useful Things effects.

Let’s begin by creating a New Composition. While you can add Useful Things to any layer, you will probably get best results by adding it to Solid Layer.

When you apply Useful Things a rather large effects interface will open. The interface is broken into three areas; Elements, Effects, and the Information/Script area. The Elements area contains all of the elements or pieces that you will assemble to achieve a desired effect.

Useful Things elements fall into two categories. The first are the stand alone elements. These create set effects like arrow generators, swirling texts, flying squares, and that old TV dot.

Use a prebuilt Useful Things effect...

The second category of elements in Useful Things comprise those elements that work together to form a more complex effect. We are going to create a series of smiley faces being tossed up into the air using this second category of elements.

...or use a combination of elements to create a full blown animation.

Since this is a complex particle system, we’ll add that element first. Scrolling through the list of elements will bring you to a subcategory called Particle Systems which contains the pe_generateCapToss element.

Clicking on this element will display all of the information about how this effect works. In order to understand any element in Useful Things, you should make a habit of reading this info. A quick glance at in this area reveals that this element is a Generator Only element – meaning it only generates data. In order for the data to be rendered, you have to also add render element.

Double click the pe_generateCapToss element to add it to the Elements in Effects area.

To add the render element, you could scroll down the remaining elements until you found it, or you could use the keyword search function at the bottom of the interface. By typing in the word render, the Elements area will display only those elements with render in the keyword.

pe_renderParticleSystem will generate dots or can use a video layer as the particles rendered. While this works great if we wanted to use a custom Photoshop file, or video layer for our particles, it isn’t what we want for this effect since we are going to generate everything directly inside Useful Things. Instead we will use pe_renderPSWithShapes.

Add pe_renderPSWithShapes to the Elements in Effect, and then do a search for Shapes. Useful Things contains a number of shape generates that will create squares, rings, yellow moons, pink hearts, green clover… oops, getting a little carried away there. Looking at the search results reveals pe_GenFaces, which as the info area states, creates faces shapes. Go ahead and add this to the Elements in Effect.

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