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Questions & Halloween Fire By Ko Maruyama
It's been over a year since I wrote anything about fake fire in After Effects.  Since then, there have been many questions about  alternate uses of the procedure, whether or not different elements have to be in the composition, and more.  I'll try to clear up some of the more common questions about the project's use and what happens in the effect.  (And give up some Halloween setups as well)

The effect used in the tutorial relies heavily on two plugins.  One of the plugins is called Fractal Noise.  I don't know who wrote the plugin, but the second plugin, Colorama, can be directly traced back to Atomic Power plugins and Total Training guru Brian Maffitt. (http://www.totaltraining.com).  (Fractal Noise may be a descendent of "Turbulator" as well (?)).

Colorama, hasn't changed in name or appearance, but you'll find it in different locations, depending on wether you're in AE7 or an earlier version.  There must have been 40 pages in the manual when this plugin was first released as an Atomic Power plugin..... and it was all Greek to me.  Over time, and with use, the plugin becomes actually pretty easy to understand.

If you want to get the full rundown of the plugin, you should purchase the Total Training series for After Effects.  But here are the top three questions that have filled up my in-box.

READ:Write Fire with Fire before you continue.

1. Can you use type?

Of course you can use type.  Colorama works on an alpha channel easily.  Because the type tool generates an alpha, the answer is "yes."

One thing people forget to do is soften the alpha channel.  Instead of a nice fiery glow, you may get this:

Introduce some blur to your alpha channel BEFORE the Colorama plugin to get this:


2. It doesn't look like fire. What's wrong?

There are many things that can go wrong with the "fire" part.  Here are some problems that have plagued people:

A. Displacement Map Reference.
By default, the Displacement map has a reference layer set to itself.  In the tutorial, I've set up a Fractal Noise composition which should be  the reference layer.

B. Fractal Noise Layer.
Some have set up a solid with Fractal Noise on it, left it in the composition as an effected layer and referenced that layer alone. This won't work.  The solid with the fractal noise animation must be in a precomposition so the effect can be rendered before it's referenced.

C. Colorama Input Phase.
Make sure you're reading the Alpha.  By defalt, the input phase is set to "Intensity", so you' may get this:

D. Modify Alpha
Because you have transparency, you want to be sure to have "modify alpha" turned on.  Colorama completely changes the appearance of the image if this isn't checked.

3. Does it have to be an open mask shape?

No, it doesn't have to be an open mask shape.  In fact, the masks were used only to generate strokes with the STROKE plugin.  If you want to copy and paste imagery from any vector application (I've used Photoshop here).

You can download the project file here:

Thanks to S. John Ross  and Cumberland Fontworks for some great fonts.  If you want the fonts, you can check out the website here: 


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Ko Maruyama is a freelance animator in Los Angeles.  In addition to working on film and broadcast animations, Ko teaches at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design - focusing on motion design.  When working, writing or testing software allows, you can find him lending a hand in the After Effects board and lurking among the Cinema4D, Visual Effects and Photoshop posts within the DMNForums.
Related Keywords:After Effects, Fire Tutorial, Ko Maruyama, Pumpkin, Colorama, AE Fire

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