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Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

Creating vapor effects in Adobe After Effects By Ko Maruyama
Making smoke is something a Smoke Plugin does. Well, not necessarily. If you have the "old" After Effects 5.5 Prod Bundle, you can roll your own smokes. And fire? Yeah, we got that too, thanks to Colorama. Here are some basics.

The first thing you'll want to do is create a new Comp. Within the new comp, create a new layer. (My comp is 320 x 240, but my layer is 720 x 486. The extra room is there to accommodate movement.)

To this layer, we'll add a Fractal Noise plugin. You can find the filter under Effects > Render > Fractal Noise.

There are several features to Fractal Noise. The first is the Type of fractal that you want to generate. There are a few that work especially well for smokey stuff. Since we'll be warping it out anyway, it won't hurt to start with Dynamic Twist. The Noise type is separate from the fractal type. The fractal type is the mathematically progression in the evolution of the values. The noise type is the shape of the noise generated. For noise type, I've selected Spline.

You can play with Contrast and Brightness to come up with a type you like for this layer. (Yes, there will be additional layers.)

Transform. You can transform the fractal generator: I've changed the scale to around 70, offset the position of the generator and checked "Perspective Offset."

Evolution is the movement in the noise. I'll set keyframes for this to create change in the light values.

It's already starting to look smokey. Big deal. The problem here is that it fills frame. I only want a little smoke.

Next layer
Here, I'll cheat. I'm going to duplicate this comp because it has some good stuff already set up. I'll rename the duplicate comp "Smoke Edge." I'll rename the layer in this comp "Edge Fractal." On this layer, I'm only going to change the Transform Scale and the brightness/contrast. The scale is now 45. Contrast=325, Brightness= (-30).

To "Smoke Edge" I'll add a track matte, a simple Ramp on a layer. Add a new layer, this time the size of the comp. Ramp is under Effects > Render > Ramp. Then, under Switches/Modes, select Luma Matte on the "Edge Fractal" layer. Make sure that your background color is set to black (Command-Shift-B on the Mac, Control-Shift-B on Windows).

The Ramp needs to be brought in a bit. Yep, this is going to be the track matte for the comp called "Fractal." I'll bring the Start down to 60. Then, I'll bring up the End to 180.

Because the layer "Edge Fractal" is larger than the comp, I can reposition it in order to introduce some movement for my track matte. I'll set a couple of keyframes for position arbitrarily.

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