Third-party effects in this category included with After Effects:

  • CC Ball Action effect

  • CC Bubbles effect

  • CC Drizzle effect

  • CC Hair effect

  • CC Mr. Mercury effect

  • CC Particle Systems II effect

  • CC Particle World effect

  • CC Pixel Polly effect

  • CC Rainfall effect

  • CC Scatterize effect

  • CC Snowfall effect

  • CC Star Burst effect

Note:

CC Rain and CC Snow are obsolete effects. CC Rainfall and CC Snowfall are the newer versions.

Common Lighting controls and Material controls

Several of the Simulation effects have some common controls. The Card Wipe effect also shares many controls with the Card Dance effect.

Lighting controls

Light Type

Specifies which type of light you want to use. Distant Source simulates sunlight and casts shadows in one direction, where all the light rays strike the object from virtually the same angle. Point Source is similar to a light bulb and casts shadows in all directions. First Comp Light uses the first light layer in the composition, which can use a variety of settings.

Light Intensity

Specifies the power of the light. The higher the value, the brighter the layer. Other lighting settings affect the overall light intensity as well.

Light Color

Specifies the color of light.

Light Position

Specifies the position of the light in x,y space. To position the light interactively, Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) the effect point for the light.

Light Depth

Specifies the position of the light in z space. Negative numbers move the light behind the layer.

Ambient Light

Distributes light over the layer. Increasing this value adds an even illumination to all objects and prevents shadows from being completely black. Setting Ambient Light to pure white and setting all other light controls to 0 makes the object fully lit and eliminates any 3D shading from the scene.

Material controls

The Material controls specify reflection values.

Diffuse Reflection

Gives objects form-defining shading. Shading depends on the angle at which the light strikes the surface and is independent of the position of the viewer.

Specular Reflection

Takes into account the position of the viewer. It models the reflection of the light source back to the viewer. It can create the illusion of shininess. For realistic effects, you can animate this control by using higher and higher values to mask the transition from filtered to nonfiltered versions of the layer.

Highlight Sharpness

Controls shininess. Shiny surfaces produce small, tight reflections, whereas duller surfaces spread the highlight into a larger region. Specular highlights are the color of the incoming light. Because light is typically white or off-white, broad highlights can desaturate an image by adding white to the surface color.

Note:

In general, use the following process to adjust lighting: Set Light Position and Diffuse Reflection to control the overall light level and shading in a scene. Then adjust Specular Reflection and Highlight Sharpness to control the strength and spread of highlights. Finally, adjust Ambient Light to fill in the shadows.

Card Dance effect

Note:

For information on properties shared by several of the Simulation effects, see Common Lighting controls and Material controls.

This effect creates the appearance of card choreography by dividing layers into numerous cards and then controlling all geometric aspects of the cards by using a second layer. For example, Card Dance can simulate an extruded pin sculpture, a crowd doing the wave, or letters floating on the surface of a pond.

 

Chris Zwar provides an example project on his website that uses the Card Dance effect and a shape layer with the Repeater operation to simulate a halftone color separation for any image or video.

This effect works with 8-bpc color.

Camera position controls: Original, with rotation adjusted using Camera Position controls, and Corner Pin controls
Original (upper-left), and with rotation adjusted using Camera Position controls (lower-left) and Corner Pin controls (lower-right)

Original, gradient layer, and with Card Dance applied
Original (left), gradient layer (center), and with Card Dance applied (right)

Apply Card Dance to the layer to use for the front of the cards. To set the view, use the rotation or perspective controls, or match the perspective of the effect in any scene by corner-pinning.

For example, select a vertical grayscale gradient layer (black on top, white on bottom) from the Gradient Layer 1 menu, and then select Intensity 1 from the X Rotation Source menu. Card Dance uses the intensity of the gradient to animate the x-axis rotation of the cards. It assigns a numeric value to the center pixel of each card on the gradient layer, based on the intensity of the pixel. Pure white equals 1, pure black equals –1, and 50% gray equals 0. Card Dance then multiplies that value by the X Rotation Multiplier value and rotates each card that amount. If X Rotation Multiplier is set to 90, the cards in the top row rotate almost 90° backward, the cards in the bottom row rotate almost 90° forward, and cards in middle rows rotate by lesser amounts. Cards in the 50% gray area don’t rotate at all.

If you want half of the cards in a layer to come in from the right, and the other half to come in from the left, create a gradient layer that is half black and half white. Set the gradient as the source for X Position, and set X Position Multiplier to 5, and animate it to 0. The cards in the black area initially appear at the left, and the cards in the white area initially appear at the right.

Rows, Columns, Layer, and Order controls

Rows & Columns

Specifies the interaction of the numbers of rows and columns. Independent makes both the Rows and Columns sliders active. Columns Follows Rows makes only the Rows slider active. If you choose this option, the number of columns is always the same as the number of rows.

Rows

The number of rows, up to 1000.

Columns

The number of columns, up to 1000, unless Columns Follows Rows is selected.

Note:

Rows and columns are always evenly distributed across a layer, so unusually shaped rectangular tiles don’t appear along the edges of a layer—unless you use an alpha channel.

Back Layer

The layer that appears in segments on the backs of the cards. You can use any layer in the composition; its Video switch can even be turned off. If the layer has effects or masks, precompose the layer first.

Gradient Layer 1

The first control layer to use to make the cards dance. You can use any layer. Grayscale layers produce the most predictable results. The gradient layer acts as a displacement map for animating the cards.

Gradient Layer 2

The second control layer.

Rotation Order

The order in which the cards rotate around multiple axes when using more than one axis for rotation.

Transformation Order

The order in which the transformations (scale, rotation, and position) are performed.

Position, Rotation, and Scale controls

Position (X, Y, Z), Rotation (X, Y, Z), and Scale (X, Y) specify the transformation properties you want to adjust. Because Card Dance is a 3D effect, you can control these properties separately for each axis of the cards. However, because the cards themselves are still 2D, they have no inherent depth—hence the absence of z scaling.

Source

Specifies the gradient layer channel you want to use to control the transformation. For example, select Intensity 2 to use the intensity from Gradient Layer 2.

Multiplier

The amount of transformation applied to the cards.

Offset

The base value from which the transformation begins. It is added to the transformation value (a card’s center pixel value times the Multiplier amount) so that you can start the transformation from some place other than 0.

Camera System and Camera Position controls

Camera System

Specifies whether to use the effect’s Camera Position properties, the effect’s Corner Pins properties, or the default composition camera and light positions to render 3D images of the cards.

X Rotation, Y Rotation, Z Rotation

Rotate the camera around the corresponding axis. Use these controls to look at the cards from the top, side, back, or any other angle.

X, Y Position

Where the camera is positioned along the x and y axes.

Z Position

Where the camera is positioned along the z axis. Smaller numbers move the camera closer to the cards, and larger numbers move the camera away from the cards.

Focal Length

The zoom factor. Smaller numbers zoom in.

Transform Order

The order in which the camera rotates around its three axes, and whether the camera rotates before or after it is positioned using the other Camera Position controls.

Corner Pins controls

Corner Pinning is an alternative camera control system. Use it as an aid for compositing the result of the effect into a scene on a flat surface that is tilted with respect to the frame.

Upper Left Corner, Upper Right Corner, Lower Left Corner, Lower Right Corner

Where to attach each of the corners of the layer.

Auto Focal Length

Controls the perspective of the effect during the animation. When Auto Focal Length is deselected, the focal length you specify is used to find a camera position and orientation that place the corners of the layer at the corner pins. If this isn’t possible, the layer is replaced by its outline, drawn between the pins. When Auto Focal Length is selected, the focal length required to match the corner points is used, if possible. If not, it interpolates the correct value from nearby frames.

Focal Length

Overrides the other settings if the results you’ve obtained aren’t what you need. If you set the Focal Length to something that doesn’t correspond to what the focal length would be if the pins were actually in that configuration, the image may look unusual (strangely sheared, for example). But if you know the focal length that you are trying to match, manually setting Focal Length is the easiest way to get correct results.

Caustics effect

Note:

For information on properties shared by several of the Simulation effects, see Common Lighting controls and Material controls.

This effect simulates caustics—reflections of light at the bottom of a body of water, created by light refracting through the surface of the water. The Caustics effect generates this reflection and creates realistic water surfaces when used with Wave World and Radio Waves.

Eran Stern provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website in which he demonstrates how to use the Caustics effect with the Wave World effect.

Note:

The Caustics effect ignores masks and alpha channels on the layer to which it is applied. You can precompose the layer with the effect and apply the mask to the precomposition layer, or you can precompose the layer with the mask and apply the effect to the precomposition layer, depending on what result you want to achieve. (See Precomposing, nesting, and pre-rendering.)

This effect works with 8-bpc color.

Caustics effect: Original, with Bottom set to the text layer, and Water Surface set to the whirl layer with Surface Opacity set to 0%
Original (upper-left), and with Bottom set to the text layer (lower-left) and Water Surface set to the whirl layer with Surface Opacity set to 0% (lower-right)

Note:

To get the most realistic results from Caustics, render the Bottom layer separately, with Render Caustics enabled and Surface Opacity at 0. Then precompose, and use the resulting layer as the Bottom layer for another Caustics effect with Render Caustics off. With this process you can offset, scale, or otherwise manipulate the Bottom layer in the precomposed composition, and thus simulate lighting that doesn’t come from straight overhead.

Bottom controls

The Bottom controls specify the appearance of the bottom of the body of water:

Bottom

Specifies the layer at the bottom of the body of water. This layer is the image that is distorted by the effect, unless Surface Opacity is 100%.

Scaling

Makes the bottom layer larger or smaller. If the edges of the bottom layer show, because of the refraction of the light through the waves, scale up the bottom layer. Scaling down is useful for tiling a layer to make a complex pattern.

Repeat Mode

Specifies how a scaled-down bottom layer is tiled. Once uses only one tile, basically turning tiling off. Tiles uses the traditional tiling method of abutting the right edge of one bottom layer tile to the left edge of another bottom layer tile. This option works well if the bottom layer contains a repeating pattern, like a logo, that needs to read a certain way. Reflected abuts each edge of a bottom layer tile to a mirrored copy of the tile. This option can eliminate a hard edge where the two tiles meet.

If Layer Size Differs

Specifies how to handle the bottom layer when it is smaller than the composition.

Blur

Specifies the amount of blur applied to the bottom layer. To make the bottom sharp, set this control to 0. Higher values make the bottom appear increasingly blurry, especially where the water is deeper.

Water controls

Water Surface

Specifies the layer to use as the surface of the water. Caustics uses the luminance of this layer as a height map for generating a 3D water surface. Light pixels are high, and dark pixels are low. You can use a layer created by using the Wave World or Radio Waves effect; precompose the layer before using it with Caustics.

Wave Height

Adjusts the relative height of the waves. Higher values make the waves steeper and the surface displacement more dramatic. Lower values smooth the Caustics surface.

Smoothing

Specifies the roundness of the waves by blurring the water surface layer. High values eliminate detail. Low values show imperfections in the water surface layer.

Water Depth

Specifies depth. A small disturbance in shallow water moderately distorts the view of the bottom, but the same disturbance in deep water distorts the view greatly.

Refractive Index

Affects the way the light bends as it passes through the liquid. A value of 1 does not distort the bottom. The default value of 1.2 accurately simulates water. To add distortion, increase the value.

Surface Color

Specifies the color of the water.

Surface Opacity

Controls how much of the bottom layer is visible through the water. If you want a milky effect, increase the Surface Opacity and Light Intensity values; a value of 0 results in a clear liquid.

Note:

Set Surface Opacity to 1.0 to perfectly reflect a sky later. With a suitable texture map, you can use this technique to create the effect of liquid mercury.

Caustics Strength

Displays the caustics, the concentrations of light on the bottom surface, caused by the lensing effect of the water waves. This control changes the way everything looks: The dark spots of the waves get much darker, and the light spots get much lighter. If you don’t set a value for this control, the effect distorts the bottom layer when the waves pass over it, but it doesn’t render the lighting effect.

Sky controls

Sky

Specifies the layer above the water. Scaling makes the sky layer larger or smaller. If the edges of the sky layer show, scale the layer up. Scaling down is useful for tiling a layer to make a complex pattern.

Repeat Mode

Specifies how a scaled-down sky layer is tiled. Once uses only one tile, basically turning tiling off. Tiles uses the traditional tiling method of abutting the right edge of one layer tile to the left edge of another layer tile. This option works well if the layer contains a repeating pattern, like a logo, that needs to read a certain way. Reflected abuts each edge of a layer tile to a mirrored copy of the tile. This option can eliminate a hard edge where the two tiles meet.

If Layer Size Differs

Specifies how to handle the layer when it is smaller than the composition. Intensity specifies the opacity of the sky layer. Convergence specifies how close the sky and the bottom or water layer appear, controlling the extent to which the waves distort the sky.

Foam effect

This effect generates bubbles that flow, cling, and pop. Use the controls for the effect to adjust attributes for the bubbles such as stickiness, viscosity, life span, and bubble strength. You can control exactly how the foam particles interact with each other and with their environment, and specify a separate layer to act as a map, controlling precisely where the foam flows. For example, you can have particles flow around a logo or fill a logo with bubbles.

This effect works with 8-bpc color.

Foam effect: Original, with Foam applied, and with a robot layer used as the Bubble Texture Layer
Original (upper-left), with Foam applied (lower-left), and with a robot layer used as the Bubble Texture Layer (lower-right)

You can also substitute any image or movie for bubbles. For example, you can create swarms of ants, flocks of birds, or crowds of people.

Note:

On a frame-by-frame basis, Foam renders quickly, but the slightest adjustment in the initial settings is likely to result in very different output a few seconds into the simulation. When making adjustments to Physics controls, the farther into the simulation you are, the longer the adjustments take to render, because each adjustment results in the simulation being recalculated all the way back to the beginning. Not every frame takes this long to calculate; once Foam adjusts to the change, rendering speeds up again.

View controls

Draft

Displays the bubbles without fully rendering them. Using Draft mode is a fast way to preview the behavior of the bubbles. Draft mode is the only way to preview the universe edges, the Flow Map alignment, and the Producer location, orientation, and size. Blue ellipses represent bubbles. A red ellipse represents the Producer Point. A red rectangle represents the bubble universe.

Draft + Flow Map

Displays the Draft view wireframe superimposed over a grayscale representation of the flow map, if selected.

Rendered

Displays the final output of the animation.

Producer controls

The Producer controls specify the location where the bubbles originate, as well as the speed at which they are generated:

Producer Point

The center of the area from which the bubbles can be produced.

Producer X Size, Producer Y Size

Adjust the width and height of the area from which the bubbles can be produced.

Producer Orientation

Adjusts the rotation (orientation) of the area from which the bubbles can be produced. Producer Orientation has no noticeable effect when Producer X Size and Producer Y Size are identical.

Zoom Producer Point

Specifies whether the producer point and all of its associated keyframes remain relative to the universe (selected) or to the screen (unselected) when you zoom in or out on it. For example, if you set a position for Producer Point in the upper-left corner of the layer and then zoom out on that layer, the producer point stays in the upper-left corner of the screen if you don’t select Zoom Producer Point. If you select Zoom Producer Point, the point moves with the universe as it is zoomed out, and the point ends up closer to the center of the screen.

Production Rate

Determines the rate at which bubbles are generated. This control does not affect the number of bubbles per frame. Rather, the rate is the average number of bubbles generated every 30th of a second. Higher numbers yield more bubbles.

Note:

If a large number of bubbles appear in the same point at the same time, some may pop. If you want a lot of foam, increase the values for Producer X Size and Producer Y Size so that the bubbles don’t immediately pop each other.

Bubbles controls

Size

Specifies the average size for adult bubbles. Size Variance, Bubble Growth Speed, and Random Seed also affect the size of a bubble in any particular frame.

Size Variance

Specifies the range of possible bubble sizes. This control uses the Size value as the average and creates smaller-than-average and larger-than average bubbles by using the range you specify here. For example, a default bubble Size of 0.5 and default Size Variance of 0.5 generate bubble sizes ranging from 0 to 1 (0.5 –.5 = 0 and 0.5 + 0.5 = 1).

Lifespan

Specifies the maximum life of a bubble. This value is not absolute; if it were, the bubbles would all pop after the same lifespan, as if they were hitting a wall. Rather, this value is a target lifespan; some bubbles pop early, and others may last until the end.

Bubble Growth Speed

Specifies how fast a bubble reaches full size. When a bubble is released from the producer point, it generally starts out rather small. If you set this value too high and you specify a small producer area, the bubbles pop each other, and the effect generates fewer bubbles than expected.

Strength

Influences how likely a bubble is to pop before it reaches its Lifespan limit. Lowering the Strength for a bubble makes it more likely to pop early in its life, when forces like wind and flow maps act upon it. Lower values are good for soap bubbles. The highest value is recommended for flocking animations.

Note:

Set this value low, and set Pop Velocity high to create chain reactions of popping bubbles.  

Physics controls

The Physics controls specify the motion and behavior of the bubbles:

Initial Speed

Sets the speed of the bubble as it is emitted by the producer point. The other Physics parameters affect this speed.

Note:

Low Initial Speed values in conjunction with the default producer size don’t affect the results much because the bubbles bounce off each other. For more control over initial speed, increase the values for Producer X Size and Producer Y Size

Initial Direction

Sets the initial direction in which the bubble moves as it emerges from the producer point. Other bubbles and other Physics controls also affect the direction.

Wind Speed

Sets the speed of the wind that pushes the bubbles in the direction specified by Wind Direction.

Wind Direction

Sets the direction in which the bubbles blow. Animate this control to create turbulent wind effects. Wind affects bubbles if Wind Speed is greater than 0.

Turbulence

Applies small random forces to the bubbles, making them behave chaotically.

Wobble Amount

Randomly changes the shape of bubbles from perfectly round to a more natural elliptical shape.

Repulsion

Controls whether bubbles bounce off each other, stick to each other, or pass through each other. At a value of 0, bubbles don’t collide; they pass through each other. The higher the Repulsion value, the more likely bubbles are to interact with each other when they collide.

Pop Velocity

Controls how popping bubbles affect each other. When a bubble pops, it affects other bubbles around it by leaving a hole that other bubbles can fill, pushing other bubbles away, or popping other bubbles. The higher the value, the more popping bubbles affect one another.

Viscosity

Specifies the rate at which bubbles decelerate after being released from the producer point, and controls the speed of the flow of the bubbles. A high Viscosity value creates resistance as the bubbles get farther away from the producer point, causing them to slow down. If Viscosity is set high enough, the bubbles stop. The thicker the substance, the higher the Viscosity. For example, if you want to create the effect of bubbles traveling through oil, set Viscosity fairly high, so that the bubbles meet resistance as they travel. To create the effect of bubbles floating in air, set Viscosity fairly low.

Stickiness

Causes bubbles to clump together and makes them less vulnerable to other Physics controls like Wind Direction. The higher the Stickiness, the more likely the bubbles are to form clusters and cling. Use Stickiness and Viscosity to create a bubble cluster.

Zoom and Universe Size controls

Zoom

Zooms in or out around the center of the bubble universe. To create large bubbles, increase the Zoom value instead of the Size value because large bubble sizes can be unstable.

Universe Size

Sets the boundaries of the bubble universe. When bubbles completely leave the universe, they pop and are gone forever. By default, the universe is the size of the layer. Values greater than 1 create a universe that stretches beyond the borders of the layer. Use higher values to make bubbles flow in from outside the frame, or make it possible to zoom out and bring them back into the picture. Using a value lower than 1 clips the bubbles before they reach the edge of the layer. For example, when you want to confine bubbles to a specific area, such as inside a mask shape, set Universe Size a little larger than the mask size to remove all the extra bubbles and speed up the rendering process.

Rendering controls

The Rendering controls specify the appearance of the bubbles, including their texture and reflection:

Blend Mode

Specifies the relative transparency of bubbles as they intersect. Transparent blends the bubbles smoothly together, allowing you to see the bubbles through each other. Solid Old On Top makes a younger bubble appear to be underneath an older bubble and eliminates transparency. Use this setting to simulate bubbles flowing toward you. Solid New On Top makes younger bubbles appear to be on top of older bubbles and also eliminates transparency. Use this setting to make bubbles appear as if they are flowing downhill.

Bubble Texture

Specifies the bubble texture. Use a preset texture, or create your own. To see the texture, make sure that View is set to Rendered. To create your own texture, select User Defined, and from the Bubble Texture Layer menu, choose the layer you want to use as the bubble.

Note:

The preset bubble textures are prerendered 64x64 images. If you zoom in above 64x64, the bubble appears blurry. To avoid this blurriness, use a higher-resolution custom bubble.

Bubble Texture Layer

Specifies the layer you want to use as the bubble image. To use this control, choose User Defined from the Bubble Texture menu. If you want the layer to appear only as a bubble, turn off the video switch for the layer in the Timeline panel.

Note:

You can use any file type that After Effects supports. If you plan on zooming in or using a large bubble size, make sure that the resolution of the layer is high enough to avoid blurring. Remember, the item doesn’t have to be a normal bubble. You can make blood cells, starfish, insects, space aliens, or flying monkeys. If it’s a layer in your composition, it can be a bubble.  

Bubble Orientation

Determines the direction that the bubble rotates. Fixed releases the bubble from the producer right side up and keeps it that way. Use this control if the bubble has built-in highlights and shading, as all of the preset bubbles do. Physical Orientation buffets and spins bubbles around by the forces on them, creating a chaotic scene. Bubble Velocity faces the bubble in the direction of its motion. This setting is the most useful for flocking-style animations.

Environment Map

Specifies the layer that is reflected in the bubbles. If you want to use this layer only for the reflection, turn off the video switch for a layer.

Reflection Strength

Controls how much of the selected Environment Map is reflected in the bubbles. The higher the value, the more the reflection obscures the original bubble texture. Reflections appear only on opaque pixels, so bubbles with high amounts of transparency, such as the Spit preset, don’t reflect much.

Reflection Convergence

Controls how much your Environment Map is distorted as it is mapped onto the bubbles. A value of 0 projects the map flat on top of all of the bubbles in the scene. As the value increases, the reflection distorts to account for the spherical shape of each bubble.

Flow Map controls

The Flow Map controls specify the map that the flow of the foam follows:

Flow Map

Specifies the layer used to control the direction and speed of the bubbles. Use a still image layer; if you select a movie as the flow map layer, only the first frame is used. A flow map is a height map based on luminance: White is high, and black is low. White is not infinitely high; if a bubble travels fast enough, it can travel past a white obstacle. Make sure that the map is a little blurry; sharp edges can create unpredictable results. For example, to make bubbles flow through a canyon, create a flow map with a white canyon rim, a black canyon, and blurry gray walls. Use wind to blow the bubbles in the direction you want them to flow, and the walls of the canyon contain them. You can also use a gentle gradient on the floor of the canyon to control the flow direction.

Note:

If the bubbles don’t follow the map, use the Simulation Quality control. Also, try blurring the flow map a little to make sure that it does not have excessively abrupt edges.

Flow Map Steepness

Controls the difference between white and black as they are used to determine steepness. If the bubbles are ricocheting randomly off the flow map, decrease this value.

Flow Map Fits

Specifies whether the flow map is relative to the layer or to the universe. The flow map resizes itself to fit whichever you specify. This control is useful when you want to enlarge the universe but the flow map is designed for a particular layer, or when you want the bubbles to start outside the frame and be affected by the flow map as they arrive in the frame.

Simulation Quality

Increases the precision, and therefore the realism, of the simulation. However, the higher the value, the longer the composition takes to render. Normal generally produces good results and takes the least amount of time to render. High returns better results but takes longer to render. Intense increases the rendering time but produces more predictable bubble behavior. Use this option if the bubbles aren’t following the flow map. It often solves problems of erratic behavior that can occur with small bubbles, high bubble speeds, and steep slopes.

Particle Playground effect

The Particle Playground effect lets you animate a large number of similar objects independently, such as a swarm of bees or a snow storm. Use the Cannon to create a stream of particles from a specific point on the layer, or use the Grid to generate a plane of particles. The Layer Exploder and Particle Exploder can create new particles from existing layers or particles. You can use any combination of particle generators on the same layer.

David Van Brink provides a video walkthrough and downloadable example project on the omino website that show several things that you can do with the Particle Playground effect, including how to use the Kinetic Friction ephemeral property mapper.

Brian Peterson provides a tutorial on the Videomaker website that shows how to use the Particle Playground effect to create a flock of birds.

This effect works with 8-bpc color.

Particle Playground effect: Particles shooting out of the spacecraft layer, text characters used as particles shooting out of a ray gun, and Layer Exploder used on spacecraft layer
Particles shooting out of the spacecraft layer (upper-left), text characters used as particles shooting out of a ray gun (lower-left), and Layer Exploder used on spacecraft layer (lower-right)

Start by creating a stream or plane of particles, or by exploding an existing layer into particles. Once you have a layer of particles, you can control their properties, such as speed, size, and color. You can replace the default dot particles with images from an existing layer to create, for example, an entire snowstorm from a single snowflake layer. You can also use text characters as particles. For example, you can shoot words across the screen, or you can create a sea of text in which a few letters change color, revealing a message.

Use Cannon, Grid, Layer Exploder, and Particle Exploder controls to generate particles. Use Layer Map controls to specify a layer in place of each default dot particle. Use Gravity, Repel, and Wall controls to influence overall particle behavior. Use Property Mapper controls to influence particle properties. Use Options to set options, including options for substituting text characters in place of dots.

Note:

Because of the complexity of Particle Playground, you may experience long computation, preview, and render times.

Use Particle Playground

  1. Select the layer on which you want particles to exist, or create a new solid layer.
  2. Choose Effect > Simulation > Particle Playground. The layer becomes an invisible layer in which only the particles are visible. Animating the layer in the Timeline panel animates the entire layer of particles.
  3. Set up a particle generator to determine how particles are created. You can shoot a stream of particles from the Cannon, generate a flat plane full of particles from the Grid, or use the Layer Exploder to create particles from an existing layer. If you’ve already created particles, you can apply the Particle Exploder to explode them into more new particles.
  4. Select your particles. By default, Particle Playground creates dot particles. You can replace the dots with a layer already in the composition or with text characters you specify.
  5. Specify the overall behavior of some or all particles. Use Gravity to pull particles in a specified direction, Repel to push particles apart from or toward one another, or Wall to contain or exclude particles from a certain area.
  6. Use a layer to specify the behavior of individual particles. You can modify controls that change particle motion, such as speed and force, and controls that change particle appearance, such as color, opacity, and size.

    The Particle Playground effect renders with anti-aliasing when the layer to which it is applied is set to Best quality. It also applies motion blur to moving particles when both the Motion Blur layer switch and the Enable Motion Blur composition switch are on.

    When you use a layer as a source for particles, Particle Playground ignores any changes you’ve made to that layer within that composition, such as changing the Position values. Instead, it uses the layer in its original state. To keep changes for a layer when you use it as a particle source, precompose the layer and use the precomposition layer as the control layer. (See Compound effects and control layers.)

Particle content and particle generators

Particle Playground can generate three kinds of particles: dots, a layer, or text characters. You can specify only one kind of particle per particle generator.

Create particles by using the Cannon, the Grid, the Layer Exploder, and the Particle Exploder. The Grid creates particles in an organized grid format with straight rows and columns. The exploders create particles randomly, like firecracker sparks.

The particle generators set the attributes of particles at the moment they are created. After creation, Gravity, Repel, Wall, Exploder, and Property Mapper controls influence particle behavior. For example, if you want particles to stick to grid intersections, you might use the Static Friction option in the Persistent Property Mapper to hold particles in place. Otherwise, as soon as particles are created, they begin moving away from their original grid positions.

Cannon controls

The Cannon is on by default; to use a different method to create particles, first turn off the Cannon by setting Particles Per Second to zero. The Cannon creates particles in a continuous stream.

Position

Specifies the (x,y) coordinates from which particles are created.

Barrel Radius

Sets the size of the barrel radius for the Cannon. Negative values create a circular barrel, and positive values create a square barrel. For a narrow source, such as a ray gun, specify a low value. For a wide source, such as a school of fish, specify a high value.

Particles Per Second

Specifies how often particles are created. A value of 0 creates no particles. A high value increases the density of the particle stream. If you don’t want the Cannon to fire continuously, set keyframes for this control so that the value is 0 at the times when you don’t want to create any particles.

Direction

Sets the angle at which particles are fired.

Direction Random Spread

Specifies how much each particle’s direction deviates randomly from the cannon direction. For example, specifying a 10-degree spread sprays particles in random directions within +/–5° of the cannon direction. For a highly focused stream, such as a ray gun, specify a low value. For a stream that widens quickly, specify a high value. You can specify up to 360°.

Velocity

Specifies the initial speed of particles in pixels per second as they emanate from the Cannon.

Velocity Random Spread

Specifies the amount of random velocity of particles. A higher value results in more variation in the velocity of particles. For example, if you set Velocity to 20 and Velocity Random Spread to 10, particles leave the Cannon at velocities ranging from 15 to 25 pixels per second.

Color

Sets the color of dots or text characters. This control has no effect if you use a layer as the particle source.

Particle Radius

Sets the radius of dots, in pixels, or the size of text characters in points. This control has no effect if you use a layer as the particle source.

Grid controls

The Grid creates a continuous plane of particles from a set of grid intersections. The movement of Grid particles is completely determined by the Gravity, Repel, Wall, and Property Mapper settings. By default, the Force control of Gravity is on, so Grid particles fall toward the bottom of the frame.

With the Grid, a new particle appears on every frame at each grid intersection. You can’t adjust this frequency, but if you want to turn off the Grid or make the Grid stop generating particles at specific times, set the Particle Radius/Font Size control to 0, or use keyframes to animate the value of the Particles Across and Particles Down controls. To make more particles appear in each frame, increase the values for Particles Across and Particles Down.

Note:

By default, the Cannon is on and the Grid is off. If you are using the Grid and want to stop the Cannon from generating particles, turn off the Cannon by setting its Particles Per Second value to 0.

Position

Specifies the (x,y) coordinates of the grid center. When a grid particle is created, it is centered over its grid intersection, regardless of whether it is a dot, a layer, or a text character. If you’re using text characters as particles, the Use Grid option in the Edit Grid Text dialog box is on by default, placing each character on its own grid intersection, so normal character spacing, word spacing, and kerning do not apply. If you want text characters to appear at the grid position with normal spacing, use a text alignment other than the Use Grid option.

Width, Height

Specify the dimensions of the grid, in pixels.

Particles Across, Particles Down

Specify the number of particles to distribute horizontally and vertically across the grid area. Particles are generated only when the value is 1 or more.

Note:

If the Width, Height, Particles Across, and Particles Down controls are not available, the Use Grid option has been turned off in the Edit Grid Text dialog box.

Color

Sets the color of dots or text characters. This control has no effect if you use a layer as the particle source.

Particle Radius/Font Size

Sets the radius of dots in pixels or the size of text characters in points. This control has no effect if you use a layer as the particle source.

Layer Exploder and Particle Exploder

The Layer Exploder explodes a layer into new particles, and the Particle Exploder explodes a particle into more new particles. In addition to explosion effects, the exploders are also handy for simulating fireworks or for rapidly increasing the number of particles.

The following guidelines can help you control particles resulting from an explosion:

  • A layer is exploded once for each frame. By default, this creates a continuous shower of particles for the duration of the composition. If you want to start or stop a layer explosion, animate the Radius of New Particles control by using keyframes so that its value is zero at times when you don’t want particles to be created.

  • If the source of the layer is a nested composition, you can set different Opacity values or In and Out points for the layers within the nested composition to make the exploding layer transparent at different points in time. The Layer Exploder does not create particles where the source of the layer is transparent.

  • To change the position of the exploding layer, precompose the layer with its new position (use the Move All Attributes Into The New Composition option), and then use the precomposed layer as the exploding layer.

  • When you explode particles, the new particles inherit the position, velocity, opacity, scale, and rotation of the original particles.

  • After layers or particles explode, Gravity, Repel, Wall, and Property Mapper controls influence the movement of particles.

Note:

Some Persistent Property Mapper and Ephemeral Property Mapper options can make explosions more realistic. For example, change Opacity to make the resulting particles fade out, or change the Red, Green, and Blue color channels to make resulting particles change color as they appear to cool.

Explode Layer

(Layer Exploder only) Specifies the layer you want to explode. To make the video disappear the moment the particles appear, either turn off the video for the layer or trim the Out point of the layer.

Radius Of New Particles

Specifies the radius of the particles resulting from the explosion. This value must be smaller than the radius of the original layer or particle.

Velocity Dispersion

Specifies, in pixels per second, the maximum speed of the range within which Particle Playground varies the velocity of the resulting particles. High values create a more dispersed or cloudlike explosion. Low values keep the new particles closer together and can make the exploded particles resemble a halo or shockwave.

Affects

Specifies which particles the Layer Exploder and Particle Exploder affect.

Layer Map controls

By default, the Cannon, Grid, Layer Exploder, and Particle Exploder create dot particles. To replace the dots with a layer in the composition, use the Layer Map. For example, if you use a movie of a single bird flapping its wings as a particle source layer, After Effects replaces all dots with an instance of the bird movie, creating a flock of birds. A particle source layer can be a still image, a solid, or a nested After Effects composition.

A multiframe layer is any layer with a source that varies over time, such as a movie or a composition. When you map new particles to a multiframe layer, use the Time Offset Type control to specify how you want to use the frames of the layer. For example, use Absolute to map an unchanging image onto a particle, or use Relative to map an animating sequence of frames onto a particle. You can randomize both Absolute and Relative across particles.

Note:

When you choose a layer for Layer Map, Particle Playground ignores any changes that you made to that layer within that composition. Instead, it uses the layer in its original state. To keep transformations, effects, masks, rasterization options, expressions, or keyframe changes for a layer when you use it as a particle source, precompose the layer.

Use Layer

Specifies the layer you want to use as the particles.

Time Offset Type

Specifies how you want to use the frames of a multiframe layer. For example, if you are using a layer of a bird flapping its wings and you choose Relative for Time Offset Type with a Time Offset of 0, the flapping wings for all the instances of the bird are synchronized. While this may be realistic for a marching band, it is not realistic for a flock of birds. To make each bird start flapping its wings from a different frame in the layer, use Relative Random.

Relative

Starts playing the layer at a frame based on the Time Offset you specify, relative to the current time of the effect layer; then advances in step with the current time of the Particle Playground layer. If you specify a Time Offset of 0, all particles show the frame that corresponds to the current time of the effect layer. If you choose a Time Offset of 0.1 (and your composition is set to 30 fps), each new particle displays the frame that is 0.1 seconds after the previous particle’s frame. Regardless of the Time Offset you specify, the first particle always displays the frame of the source layer that corresponds to the current time of the effect layer.

Absolute

Displays a frame from the layer based on the Time Offset you specify, regardless of the current time. Choose Absolute when you want a particle to show the same frame of a multiframe source layer for its entire lifespan, instead of cycling through different frames as the effect layer advances in time. For example, if you choose Absolute and specify a Time Offset of 0, every particle shows the first frame of the source layer for its entire lifespan. If you want to show a frame other than the first frame, move the layer earlier in time until the frame you want to show corresponds to the In point of the Particle Playground layer. If you specify a Time Offset of 0.1, for example, each new particle displays a frame that is 0.1 second after the frame of the previous particle (or every third frame of a 30-fps animation).

Relative Random

Starts playing the layer from a frame chosen at random, within the range between the current time of the effect layer and the Random Time Max you specify. For example, if you choose Relative Random and specify a Random Time Max of 1, each particle starts playing from a layer frame chosen at random from between the current time and 1 second after the current time. If, for another example, you specify a negative Random Time Max value of - 1, the Random Time Max is before the current time, so that the range within which new particles start playing advances as the current time advances. However, the range is always between the current time and one second earlier than the current time.

Absolute Random

Takes a frame at random from the layer, by using a time in the range from 0 to the Random Time Max you specify. Choose Absolute Random when you want each particle to represent a different single frame of a multiframe layer. For example, if you choose Absolute Random and specify a Random Time Max of 1, each particle shows a layer frame from a random time between 0 seconds and 1 second into the duration of the layer.

Time Offset

Specifies the frame from which to start playing sequential frames from the layer.

Affects

Specifies which particles the Layer Map controls affect.

Replace default Cannon particles with text

You can use text characters as particles. For example, you can type a message that the Cannon shoots across the frame. You can also change the attributes of any three sets of characters. For example, you can make some of the characters larger or brighter than others.

  1. In the Effect Controls panel, click Options.
  2. Click Edit Cannon Text.
  3. Type text in the box, and then set the following options:
    • For Font/Style, choose the font and style for Cannon characters.

    • For Order, click to specify the sequence in which characters exit the Cannon. The sequence is relative to the character order typed in the box. For example, if the Cannon Direction is set to 90° (making it point to the right), English text must exit the Cannon last letter first to be in readable order. Therefore, select Right to Left.

    • For Loop Text, select to continuously generate the characters you typed. Deselect to generate only one instance of the characters.

  4. Click OK to close the Edit Cannon Text dialog box, and then click OK to close the Particle Playground dialog box.
  5. Click the right-facing triangle next to Cannon so that it points downward.
  6. Click the Font Size value, type a value of 10 or greater, and press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS).

    If you want to stop replacing default particles with text, delete all text from the box in the Edit Cannon Text dialog box.

Replace default Grid particles with text

  1. In the Effect Controls panel, click Options, and then click Edit Grid Text.
  2. Set the following options:
    • For Font/Style, choose the font and style for Grid characters.

    • For Alignment, click Left, Center, or Right to position text in the box at the Position specified in the Grid control, or click Use Grid to position each letter in the text on consecutive grid intersections.

    • For Loop Text, select to repeat the characters you typed until all the grid intersections contain one character. Grid intersections are specified by the Particle Across and Particle Down controls. Deselect to generate only one instance of the text. (This option is available only if you select Use Grid alignment.)

  3. Type text in the box. If Use Grid alignment is selected and you want to skip a grid intersection, type a space. To force the next character down to the next grid row, press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS).
  4. Click OK to close Edit Grid Text, and then click OK to close the Particle Playground dialog box.
  5. Click the right-facing triangle next to Grid so that it points downward.
  6. Click the Font Size value, type a value of 10 or greater, and press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS).

If you want to stop replacing default particles with text, delete all text from the box in the Edit Grid Text dialog box.

Using Selection Text values to differently affect subsets of text

You can differently affect only certain subsets of text particles by specifying Selection Text values. To open the Particle Playground options dialog box, click Options at the top of the Particle Playground entry in the Effect Controls panel. (This is the same place where you can specify the text used by the Grid or Cannon emitters.) Then enter text in one or more of the Selection Text fields, and click OK. After doing this, you can then choose one of the Selection Text sets from the Character menu under one of the Affects property groups. For example, you can make gravity only affect the letter e by entering e in Selection Text 1 and then choosing Selection Text 1 in Gravity > Affects > Characters.

Note:

The string matching is case-sensitive, and it does include punctuation marks and other symbols.

Note:

As with all text features, consider using this feature with symbol fonts, like wingdings.

Changing a particle over its lifespan

Some controls affect the particle from birth: Cannon, Grid, Layer Exploder, and Particle Exploder. Others affect the particle after birth and over the course of its lifespan: Gravity, Repel, Wall, Persistent Property Mapper, and Ephemeral Property Mapper. To have full control over particle movement and appearance, you must balance these controls.

For example, if you want to use the Cannon to shoot sparks that fade over time, it may seem that you need only animate the Color control of the Cannon. However, using this method, you change only the color of each new particle as it’s created. To control the color for the lifespan of particles, create a layer map and use one of the Property Mappers to alter the color channels of the particles.

The following list covers common particle behavior and how you can influence it.

Speed

At particle creation, particle velocity is set by the Cannon and the exploders; Grid particles have no initial speed. After particle creation, use the Force control in the Gravity and Repel control groups. You can also influence the speed of individual particles by using a layer map to set values for the Speed, Kinetic Friction, Force, and Mass properties in the Property Mappers.

Direction

At particle creation, the Cannon includes particle direction; the Layer Exploder and Particle Exploder send new particles in all directions; and Grid particles have no initial direction. After particle creation, direction can be influenced by the Direction control in the Gravity control group or by specifying a Boundary (mask) in the Wall control group. You can also influence the direction of individual particles by using a layer map to set values for the Gradient Force, X Speed, and Y Speed properties in the Property Mappers.

Area

Use a Wall mask to contain particles to a different area or to remove all barriers. You can also restrict particles to an area by using a layer map to set values for the Gradient Force property in the Property Mappers.

Appearance

At particle creation, the Cannon, Grid, Layer Exploder, and Particle Exploder set particle size unless you replace the default dots with a layer map. The Cannon and Grid set the initial color, while the Layer Exploder and Particle Exploder take color from the exploded dot, layer, or character. The Options dialog box affects the initial appearance of text. After particle creation, you can use the Property Mappers to set values for Red, Green, Blue, Scale, Opacity, and Font Size.

Rotation

At particle creation, the Cannon and Grid set no rotation; the Particle Exploder takes rotation from the exploded dot, layer, or character. Use Auto-Orient Rotation to make particles rotate automatically along their respective trajectories. For example, a particle can point up as it climbs an arc, and point down as it descends. Rotation isn’t easily visible for a dot particle. It is easier to observe only when you replace the dot particle with text characters or a layer. After particle creation, use a layer map to set values for the Angle, Angular Velocity, and Torque property in the Property Mappers.

Note:

To select Auto-Orient Rotation, click Options for the Particle Playground effect in the Effect Controls panel.

Gravity controls

Use Gravity controls to pull existing particles in a direction you specify. Particles accelerate in the direction of gravity. Apply in a vertical direction to create falling particles, such as rain or snow, or rising particles, such as champagne bubbles. Apply in a horizontal direction to simulate wind.

Force

Specifies the force of gravity. Positive values increase the force, pulling particles more strongly. Negative values reduce the force.

Force Random Spread

Specifies a range of randomness for the Force. At zero, all particles fall at the same rate. At a higher value, particles fall at slightly different rates. Although pure gravity accelerates all objects equally, increasing the Force Random Spread value can produce more realistic results with subjects such as leaves falling through air, where enough air resistance exists to vary the rates of descent of the leaves.

Direction

Specifies the angle along which gravity pulls. The default is 180°, which simulates the real world by pulling particles toward the bottom of the frame.

Affects

Specifies a subset of the layer’s particles to which Gravity applies.

Repel controls

Repel controls specify how nearby particles repel or attract each other. This feature simulates adding a positive or negative magnetic charge to each particle. You can specify which particles, layers, or characters are the repelling force and which are repelled.

Note:

If you want to repel an entire layer of particles away from a specific area, use the Property Mapper controls, Wall or Gradient Force.

Force

Specifies the repel force. Greater values repel particles with more force. Negative values result in particle attraction.

Force Radius

Specifies the radius (measured in pixels) within which particles are repelled. Another particle must be within this radius to be repelled.

Repeller

Specifies which particles act as the repellers or attractors to another subset you specify by using the Affects control.

Affects

Specifies a subset of the layer’s particles to which repulsion or attraction applies.

Wall controls

Wall controls contain particles, limiting the area within which particles can move. A wall is a closed mask that you create by using a mask tool, such as the Pen tool. When a particle hits the wall, it bounces off at a velocity based on the force with which it hit.

Boundary

Specifies the mask to use as the wall. You can create a new mask by drawing one on the effect layer.

Affects controls

Many Particle Playground controls include Affects controls. Affects controls specify which particles the encompassing control affects. For example, the Affects controls within the Particle Exploder controls specify which particles the Particle Exploder affects.

Particles From

Specifies the particle generator or combination of particle generators whose particles you want to affect.

Selection Map

Specifies the layer map that influences which particles are affected.

Note:

The simulation space is not bounded by the dimensions of the layer to which Particle Playground is applied. You may need to use a selection map that is larger than the Particle Playground layer so that the selection map affects dots that are not visible.

Characters

Specifies the characters you want to affect. This control applies only if you are using text characters as the particle type.

Older/Younger Than

Specifies the age threshold, in seconds, above or below which you want to affect a particle. Positive values affect older particles, and negative values affect younger particles. For example, a value of 10 means that as soon as a particle reaches 10 seconds, it changes to the new value.

Age Feather

Specifies the age range in seconds within which the Older/Younger Than value is feathered, or softened. Feathering creates a gradual, rather than abrupt, change. For example, if you set Older/Younger Than to 10 and Age Feather to 4, about 20% of particles start changing when they’re 8 seconds old, 50% change when they’re 10 seconds old (the Older/Younger Than value), and the remainder change by the time they’re 12 seconds old.

Use Particle Playground Property Mapper controls

You can control specific properties of individual particles by using a layer map and either the Persistent Property Mapper or the Ephemeral Property Mapper. You can’t alter a specific particle directly, but you can use a layer map to specify what happens to any particle that passes over a specific pixel in the layer. Particle Playground interprets the brightness of each layer map pixel as a specific value. The Property Mapper associates a specific layer map channel (Red, Green, or Blue) with a specific property, so that as a particle passes over a certain pixel, the brightness value at that pixel modifies the property.

A particle property can be modified in either a persistent or an ephemeral way:

  • A persistent change to a particle property retains the most recent value set by a layer map for the remaining lifespan of the particle, unless the particle is modified by another control such as Repel, Gravity, or Wall. For example, if you use a layer map to modify particle size and you animate the layer map so it exits the frame, the particles keep the last size value set by the layer map after it exits the frame.

  • An ephemeral change to a particle property causes the property to revert to its original value after each frame. For example, if you use a layer map to modify particle size and you animate the layer map so that it exits the frame, each particle returns to its original size value as soon as no layer map pixels correspond to it. Similarly, if you apply an operator such as Add, each time a particle passes over a different layer map pixel, the value of the layer map pixel is added to the original value of the particle.

In both the Persistent and Ephemeral Property Mappers, you can control up to three particle properties independently by using a single RGB image as a layer map. Particle Playground achieves this independent three-component control by extracting brightness values separately from the red, green, and blue channels in the image. You don’t have to use all three channels if you want to modify only one property. To change only one property or change up to three properties using the same values, use a grayscale image as the layer map because the RGB channels are identical.

In combination with keyframes or expressions, the Property Mappers provide complete control over individual particle properties in space and time. Using layer maps, you can change particle properties at any location within a frame. By applying keyframes or expressions to Property Mapper options and animating a layer map, you can control how particle properties change.

  1. For Use Layer As Map, choose a layer map to use as the source for values that modify particle values. The layer map must be part of the composition.
  2. To apply the effect to a subset of particles, specify the Affects controls as necessary.
  3. Choose a property for each of the Map Red To, Map Green To, and Map Blue To controls. You don’t have to map properties to all of the color channels. For example, if you want to change scale over an image map, you can map the color red to scale without setting other properties.
  4. Specify the minimum and maximum values you want the layer map to produce for each Map To group. Min is the value to which a black pixel is mapped, and Max is the value to which a white pixel is mapped. The complete tonal distribution between Min and Max is then scaled proportionally.
  5. If using the Ephemeral Property Mapper, you can apply an operator to the value of a particle property and the value of the corresponding layer map pixel.

    Note:

    Because particle properties use many kinds of units, such as pixels, degrees, and seconds, you may want to compress or expand the range of values from the layer map so that all the resulting values are usable in the measurement system of a specific particle property. First, use the Min and Max controls, which define the range of values to use from the layer map. If further adjustment is necessary and you’re using the Ephemeral Property Mapper, use the Operator control and choose a mathematical operator to amplify, attenuate, or limit the effect of a layer map.

    In both the Persistent and Ephemeral Property Mappers, you can use the alpha channel of a layer map to make more subtle changes to the value of a particle property. For example, particles over a layer-map pixel in which the alpha channel value is 255 are fully affected, while lower values affect particles less. Layer-map pixels that are completely transparent have no effect on particle properties.

    When you choose any of the following properties, Particle Playground copies the value from the layer map (that is, the layer selected in the Use Layer as a Map menu) and applies it to the particle.

    None

    Modifies no particle property.

    Red, Green, Blue

    Copy the value of the red, green, or blue channel of a particle within a range of 0.0–1.0.

    Kinetic Friction

    Copies the amount of resisting force against a moving object, typically within a range of 0.0–1.0. Increase this value to slow down or stop moving particles, as if braking.

    Static Friction

    Copies the amount of inertia that holds a stationary particle in place, typically within a range of 0.0–1.0. At zero, a particle moves when any other force, such as gravity, is present. If you increase this value, a stationary particle requires more of another force to start moving.

    Angle

    Copies the direction in which the particle points, in degrees relative to the particle’s original angle. The angle is easily observable when a particle is a text character or a layer without radial symmetry.

    Angular Velocity

    Copies the velocity of particle rotation in degrees per second. This setting determines how fast a particle rotates around its own axis.

    Torque

    Copies the force of particle rotation. The angular velocity of a particle is increased by a positive torque and is increased more slowly for particles of greater mass. Brighter pixels affect angular velocity more forcefully; if enough torque is applied against angular velocity, the particle starts spinning in the opposite direction.

    Scale

    Copies the scale value of a particle along both the x and y axes. Use this control to stretch a particle proportionally. A value of 1.0 scales the particle to its full size; a value of 2.0 scales it 200%, and so on.

    X Scale, Y Scale

    Copy the scale value of a particle along the x or y axis. Use these properties to stretch a particle horizontally or vertically.

    X, Y

    Copy the position of a particle along the x or y axis in the frame, in pixels. A value of zero specifies a position at the left of the frame (for X) or at the top of the frame (for Y).

    Gradient Velocity

    Copies the velocity adjustment based on areas of a layer map on both the x and y planes of motion.

    X Speed, Y Speed

    Copy the horizontal speed (x-axis velocity) or vertical speed (y-axis velocity) of a particle in pixels per second.

    Gradient Force

    Copies the force adjustment based on areas of a layer map on both the x and y planes of motion. The pixel brightness values in the color channel define the resistance to particle force at each pixel, so the color channel acts like a layer map of hills and valleys that decrease or increase particle force. In the layer map, areas of equal brightness result in no adjustment, similar to flat land. Lower pixel values represent less resistance to a particle’s force, similar to a downhill grade. Higher pixel values represent more resistance to a particle’s force, similar to an uphill grade. For best results, use a soft-edged layer map image.

    Note:

    If you are using a layer map for Gradient Force where flat areas equal no adjustment, and you are using the Min and Max controls (not the Min or Max operators) to set the range of values for Gradient Force, set them to positive and negative values of the same number (for example, –30 and +30). This ensures that the middle of the range remains centered at zero.

    X Force

    Copies the coercion along the x axis of motion. Positive values push a particle to the right.

    Y Force

    Copies the coercion along the y axis of motion. Positive values push a particle down.

    Opacity

    Copies the transparency of a particle, where zero is invisible, and 1 is solid. Adjust this value to fade particles in or out.

    Mass

    Copies the particle mass, which interacts with all properties that adjust force, such as Gravity, Static Friction, Kinetic Friction, Torque, and Angular Velocity. It takes greater force to move particles with a larger mass.

    Lifespan

    Copies the elapsed length of time a particle exists, in seconds. At the end of its lifespan, the particle is removed from the layer. The default lifespan is effectively immortal.

    Character

    Copies the value that corresponds to an ASCII text character, making it replace the current particle. Applies only if you’re using text characters as particles. You can specify which text characters appear by painting or drawing shades of gray on the layer map that correspond to the ASCII characters you want. A value of zero produces no character. For US English characters, use values in the range 32–127. The range of possible values can accommodate Japanese characters. For more information about the ASCII character values for a font you’re using, see the documentation for the font, use a utility such as Character Map (Windows), or contact the font manufacturer.

    Note:

    If you simply want to make certain characters spell a message, it’s much easier to type the text directly in the Options dialog box. The Character property is more useful as a secret message effect in which you scramble text characters.

    Font Size

    Copies the point size of characters. Applies only if you’re using text characters as particles. Increase this value to make characters larger.

    Time Offset

    Copies the Time Offset value used by the Layer Map. Applies only if you used the Layer Map control to specify a multiframe layer (such as a movie) as a particle source.

    Scale Speed

    Copies the scale of a particle. Positive values expand the particle, and negative values shrink the particle. Particles expand or shrink by a percentage per second.

Min and Max controls for Property Mappers

When the overall range of layer map brightness values is too wide or narrow, use Min and Max to stretch, compress, or shift the range of values produced by the layer map. The following examples describe when you may want to adjust Min and Max:

  • You want to set the smallest font size for your text to 10 points and the largest size to 96 points. Set the Min value to 10 and the Max value to 96.

  • You set the initial color of a particle and then use a layer map to change particle colors. If you find that the color changes aren’t dramatic enough, you can lower the Min value and raise the Max value to increase the contrast of the color changes.

  • You set the initial velocity of a particle and then use a layer map to affect the X Speed value. However, you find that the difference between the fastest and slowest particles is too great. By raising the Min value and lowering the Max value for the layer map channel that is mapped to the X Speed value, you narrow the resulting range of particle speeds.

  • You use a layer map to affect the Scale property of particles and find that the smallest particles aren’t small enough while the largest resulting particles are too large. In this case, the entire output range needs to be shifted down; lower both the Min and Max values.

  • You have a layer map that modifies particles in the opposite direction from the one you want. Swap the Min and Max values, which has the same result as inverting the layer map.

Note:

The alpha channel of the layer map is used as the selection map for the Persistent and Ephemeral Property Mappers.  

Operator controls for the Ephemeral Property Mapper

When you use the Ephemeral Property Mapper controls, Particle Playground replaces the value of a particle’s property with the value represented by the layer map pixel at the particle’s current location. You can also amplify, attenuate, or limit the resulting values by specifying a mathematical operator and then using both the value of a particle’s property and its corresponding layer map pixel value.

 

Set

Replaces the value of a particle property by the value of the corresponding layer map pixel. For example, to replace the value of a particle property with the brightness value of the corresponding pixel on the layer map, use Set. This operator is the most predictable and is the default.

 

Add

Uses the sum of the value of a particle property and the value of the corresponding layer map pixel.

 

Difference

Uses the absolute value of the difference of the value of a particle property and the brightness value of the corresponding pixel on the layer map. Because it takes the absolute value of the difference, the resulting value is always positive. This operator is useful when you want to limit values to only positive values. If you’re trying to model realistic behavior, the Difference operator may not be ideal.

 

Subtract

Starts with the value of a particle property and subtracts the value of the brightness value of the corresponding pixel on the layer map.

 

Multiply

Multiplies the value of a particle property by the brightness value of the corresponding pixel on the layer map and uses the result.

 

Min

Compares the brightness value of the layer map to the value of the particle property and uses the lower value. To limit a particle property so that it is less than or equal to a value, use the Min operator and set both the Min and Max controls to that value. If you use a white solid as a layer map, you need only set the Max control to that value.

 

Max

Compares the brightness value of the layer map to the value of the particle property and uses the higher value.

 

 

Note:

To amplify existing values of properties, try applying the Add operator with positive values or the Multiply operator with values above 1.0. To attenuate (tone down) property value changes, try applying the Multiply operator using values in the range 0.0–1.0.

Control layers for Particle Playground

Particle Playground can use a control layer to control a particle property, such as opacity. For general information about creating and using control layers, see Compound effects and control layers.

Regardless of the color depth of the image that you use as a control layer, Particle Playground always uses its red, green, and blue channels as if each were an 8-bpc grayscale image. If you create a control layer using colors, the Property Mapper property groups in Particle Playground can extract the brightness values from each RGB color channel separately.

The alpha channel in a control layer modifies the color values in the control layer before Particle Playground uses the control layer’s pixel values. Areas where the alpha channel value is 0 (transparent areas of a control layer) don’t affect particle values. Areas where the alpha channel has a value greater than 0 (semitransparent and opaque areas of a control layer) affect the particle value to a degree proportional to the value of the alpha channel. When you use the Persistent and Ephemeral Property Mapper property groups, the range set for the Min and Max controls also affects the value applied to a particle.

Particle Playground can extract brightness values separately from the red, green, and blue channels in an image. If you want to create different layer maps for each channel, use a program that can edit individual color channels, such as Adobe Photoshop, and then paint or paste each layer map into its own channel. Save the control layer as an RGB image in a format After Effects can import. The image may look unusual when viewed in RGB mode, because it’s intended to be used as a single hidden layer containing three different layer maps, not as a visible image layer.

Note:

If you already have three separate images, you can combine them into a single RGB file by using the Set Channels effect. Set Channels can load each image into its own channel in a combined file, making it suitable for use as an RGB layer map.

Improving performance with Particle Playground

Keep in mind the following when working with the Particle Playground effect:

  • When you’re generating a Particle Playground effect, keep an eye on the Info panel to see how many particles are being produced. If an effect contains more than 10,000 particles, it can greatly slow rendering. If you notice performance problems, set Particles Per Second and/or Particles Down to relatively low values (in the range 1–100).

  • The Grid and Layer Exploder generate particles on every frame, which may generate too many particles for the effect you’re creating and slow down rendering. To avoid continuous particle generation, animate these controls to decline to zero over time: Layer Exploder, Radius of New Particles, Grid Width and Height, Particle Radius, and Font Size. Then Particle Playground generates new particles only at the start of a sequence.

  • When you apply a Particle Playground effect to a layer, the particle positions aren’t limited to the bounds of that layer. To control particles that you can’t see or that appear near the edge of the image, use a Selection or Property Map that’s larger than the area of the Particle Playground layer. Also, note that After Effects takes the alpha channel of an image map into account. If you want transparent areas of your map to affect the particles, precompose the map layer with a black solid behind it.

    To specify field rendering with a Particle Playground effect, select Enable Field Rendering in the Particle Playground options dialog box. Then Particle Playground calculates the simulation at double the frame rate of the current composition, which is what field rendering requires.

Shatter effect

Note:

For information on properties shared by several of the Simulation effects, see Common Lighting controls and Material controls.

The Shatter effect explodes images. Use the controls for the effect to set explosion points and adjust the strength and radius. Anything outside the radius doesn’t explode, leaving portions of the layer unaltered. You can choose from a variety of shapes for the shattered pieces (or create custom shapes) and extrude the pieces to give them bulk and depth. You can even use a gradient layer to precisely control the timing and order of an explosion. For example, you can import a logo and use Shatter to blow a logo-shaped hole in a layer.

Brian Maffitt provides more than two hours of video explanation and tutorials for the Shatter effect in a series of videos from Total Training. The interface has changed since these videos were created, but the information is still valuable.

Note:

To reverse the temporal direction of the Shatter effect (that is, have the pieces come together instead of fly apart), apply the effect, precompose the layer, and then time-reverse the precomposition layer.

This effect works with 8-bpc color.

Shatter effect: Original image and as Shatter is applied over time to reveal another layer
Original (upper-left), and as Shatter is applied over time to reveal another layer (lower-left and right)

Online resources about the Shatter effect

Aharon Rabinowitz provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website that shows how make 3D extruded text in After Effects using the Shatter effect.

Andrew Kramer provides a video tutorial on his Video Copilot website that demonstrates the use of the Shatter effect to make a planet explode.

Lloyd Alvarez provides a video tutorial on the AETUTS+ website that demonstrates the use of the Shatter effect with a custom shatter map to cause a person to disintegrate.

View controls

The View control specifies exactly how a scene appears in the Composition panel by using the following views:

Rendered

Displays the pieces with textures and lighting—as they will look at final output. Use this view when rendering the animation.

Wireframe Front View

Displays the layer from a full-screen, straight-on camera angle with no perspective. Use this view to adjust effect points and other parameters that are hard to see from an angle. In addition, the outlines of the shatter map are visible so you can precisely position, rotate, and scale the shatter pattern. It’s handy to toggle between this view and the perspective view you use for the scene.

Wireframe

Displays the correct perspective of the scene, so you can quickly set up the camera the way you like it and fine-tune the Extrusion Depth.

Wireframe Front View + Forces

Displays the wireframe front-view representation of the layer, plus a blue representation of each force sphere.

Wireframe + Forces

Displays the wireframe view, plus a blue representation of the force spheres. This view includes camera controls, so you can position everything precisely in 3D space.

Render control

The Render control renders the whole scene (the default), the unshattered layer, or the shattered pieces independently. For example, if you want to apply the Glow effect only to shattered pieces and not to the portions of the layer that remain intact, create the explosion and duplicate the layer. Next, for the back layer, choose Layer from the Render menu, and for the front layer, choose Pieces. Then apply the Glow effect to the front layer.

Shape controls

Shape controls specify the shape and appearance of the shattered pieces.

Pattern

Specifies the preset pattern to use for the exploded pieces.

Custom Shatter Map

Specifies the layer you want to use as the shape of the exploded pieces.

White Tiles Fixed

Prevents pure white tiles in a custom shatter map from being exploded. You can use this control to force certain parts of a layer to remain intact.

Note:

Use this control when your shatter map uses images or letters such as O: Set the portion you don’t want to blow out, such as the centers of the O and the background, to pure white and set the rest to another pure color.  

Repetitions

Specifies the scale of the tile pattern. This control works only in conjunction with the preset shatter maps, which all seamlessly tile. Increasing this value increases the number of pieces on the screen by scaling down the size of the shatter map. Consequently, the layer breaks into more and smaller pieces. Animating this control is not recommended, as it can cause sudden jumps in the number and size of shatter pieces.

Direction

Rotates the orientation of a preset shatter map, relative to the layer. As with Repetitions, animating this control results in sudden jumps in the animation and is not recommended.

Origin

Precisely positions a preset shatter map on the layer. This option is useful if you want to line up portions of an image with specific shattered pieces. Animating this control results in sudden jumps in the animation and is not recommended.

Extrusion Depth

Adds a third dimension to the exploded pieces. The higher the value, the thicker the pieces. In Rendered view, this effect isn’t visible until you start the shatter or rotate the camera. As you set this control higher, the pieces may pass through each other. While this is generally not a problem in full-speed animations, it may become visible when the pieces grow thick and move slower.

Force 1 and Force 2 controls

Force 1 and Force 2 controls define the blast areas by using two different Forces.

Position

Specifies the current center point of the blast in (x,y) space.

Depth

Specifies the current center point in z space, or how far in front of or behind the layer the blast point is. Adjust Depth to determine how much of the blast radius is applied to the layer. The blast radius defines a sphere, and the layer is basically a plane; therefore, only a circular slice of the sphere intersects the plane. The farther away the layer is from the center of the blast, the smaller the circular slice. When pieces explode, they fly away from the force center. Depth determines which way the pieces fly: Positive values cause the pieces to explode forward, toward the camera (assuming the default camera settings of 0, 0, 0); negative values cause pieces to blow backward, away from the camera. To see the result of the Depth setting, use the Wireframe + Force Sphere view.

Radius

Defines the size of the blast sphere. The radius is the distance from the center of a circle (or sphere) to the edge. By adjusting this value, you can fine-tune exactly which pieces explode. Changing this value can vary the speed and completeness of the explosion. Animating it from small to large generates an expanding, shockwave explosion.

Note:

To begin the shattering at a time other than layer time zero, animate the Radius property, not the Strength property. Pieces inside the force sphere defined by the Radius property are pulled outside the frame by gravity even if Strength is set to 0. Use Hold keyframes on the Radius property with the value 0 until the time when you want the shattering to start.

Strength

Specifies the speed at which the exploded pieces travel—how hard they are blown away from or sucked back into the blast point. A positive value blows the pieces away from the blast point; a negative value sucks the pieces into the blast point. The greater the positive value, the faster and farther they fly away from the center point. The greater the negative value, the faster the pieces launch themselves toward the center of the force sphere. Once the pieces are launched, the force sphere no longer affects them; the Physics settings take over. A negative Strength value does not suck the pieces into a black hole; instead, the pieces fly through each other and back out the other side of the sphere. Setting Strength low causes the pieces to break up into shapes, creating cracks in the layer, but it doesn’t blow the pieces apart. If gravity is set to anything other than 0, the pieces are pulled in the direction of gravity after they break up.

Note:

A shatter piece is made up of vertices (points or dots that define the corners of the shape), edges (lines that connect the dots), and planes (walls of the shape). Shatter determines when a shape has come in contact with a force sphere based on when a vertex comes in contact with the sphere.

Gradient controls

Gradient controls specify the gradient layer used to control the timing of an explosion and the pieces that the blast affects.

Shatter Threshold

Specifies which pieces in the force sphere shatter according to the corresponding luminance of the specified gradient layer. If Shatter Threshold is set to 0%, no pieces in the force sphere shatter. If it is set to 1%, only the pieces in the force sphere corresponding to white (or nearly white) areas on the gradient layer shatter. If it is set to 50%, all the pieces in the force sphere corresponding to white-to-50%-gray areas on the gradient layer shatter. If it is set to 100%, all pieces in the force sphere shatter. Because there are 256 shades of gray (including black and white), each percentage point represents approximately 2.5 shades of gray.

Animating Shatter Threshold influences the timing of the explosion. If you leave it set to 0%, the layer never explodes. However, if you set a Shatter Threshold keyframe at 50%, the pieces of your layer in the force field that correspond to areas of your gradient layer that range from white to 50% gray explode. If you then animate Shatter Threshold up to 100%, the remaining pieces in the force sphere explode.

Gradient Layer

Specifies the layer to use to determine when specific areas of the target layer shatter. White areas shatter first; black areas shatter last. Shatter determines which pixels correspond to which pieces by subdividing the layer into pieces, each with a center point or balance point. If you superimpose the shatter map over the gradient layer, the gradient layer pixels that are precisely under each balance point control the explosion.

Note:

Some shapes have a balance point that falls outside the actual area of the shape—for example, the letters C and U. When designing a gradient layer in such a situation, avoid using grayscale versions of letters. Instead, use larger shapes that cover the balance point of each character.

Invert Gradient

Inverts the pixel values in the gradient. White becomes black, and black becomes white.

Physics controls

Physics controls specify the way the pieces move and fall through space.

Rotation Speed

Specifies the speed at which pieces rotate around the axis set by the Tumble Axis control, allowing you to simulate different rotation speeds for different materials. In nature, similarly shaped pieces spin at different speeds based on their mass and air friction. For example, a brick spins faster than Styrofoam.

Tumble Axis

Specifies the axis that the pieces spin around. Free spins the pieces in any direction. None eliminates all rotation. X, Y, and Z spin the pieces only around the selected axis. XY, XZ, and YZ spin the pieces only around the selected combination of axes.

Note:

Any application of z-axis rotation appears only when a second force hits the layer. The pieces do not rotate from the first blast if only z-axis rotation is selected.

Randomness

Affects the initial velocities and spins generated by the force sphere. When this control is set to 0, pieces fly directly away from the center point of a blast (assuming a positive force). Since real explosions are rarely orderly, Randomness allows you to vary things a little bit.

Viscosity

Specifies how fast pieces decelerate after being blown apart. The higher the Viscosity value, the more resistance the pieces encounter as they move and spin. If Viscosity is set high enough, the pieces quickly come to a stop. To replicate an explosion in water or sludge, set Viscosity to a high value. In air, set it to a medium value, and for an explosion in space, set it low, or to 0.

Mass Variance

Specifies the theoretical weight of the pieces as they explode. For example, a large piece is heavier than a small piece and therefore does not fly as far or as fast when it encounters the blast. The default setting of 30% for Mass Variance gives a realistic approximation of this law of physics. Setting Mass Variance to 100% greatly exaggerates the difference between the behavior of large versus small pieces. Setting it to 0% makes all pieces behave the same, regardless of their size.

Gravity

Determines what happens to the pieces after they break up and blow apart. The higher the gravity setting, the faster the pieces are sucked in the direction set by Gravity Direction and Gravity Inclination.

Gravity Direction

Defines the direction in (x,y) space that the pieces travel when affected by gravity. The direction is relative to the layer. If Gravity Inclination is set to -90 or 90, Gravity Direction has no effect.

Gravity Inclination

Determines the direction in z space that the pieces travel once they explode. A value of 90 explodes the pieces forward, relative to the layer. A value of -90 explodes them backward, relative to the layer.

Textures controls

Textures controls specify the texture of the pieces.

Color

Specifies the color of the piece as defined by the Front Mode, Side Mode, and Back Mode menus. This color may or may not be visible depending on the Mode settings: When a Mode setting is Color, Tinted Layer, Color + Opacity, or Tinted Layer + Opacity, the selected color is factored into the appearance of the piece.

Opacity

Controls the opacity of the corresponding Mode setting. A Mode setting must be Color + Opacity, Layer + Opacity, or Tinted Layer + Opacity for the opacity to affect the appearance of the piece. You can use the Opacity control in conjunction with texture maps to create the look of semitransparent materials.

Front Mode, Side Mode, Back Mode

Determine the appearance of the front, sides, and back of the pieces. Color applies the selected color to the applicable side of the piece. Layer takes the layer chosen in the corresponding Layer menu and maps it to the applicable side of the piece. Tinted Layer blends the chosen layer with the selected color; the effect is similar to viewing the layer through a colored filter. Color + Opacity combines the selected color and the Opacity amount. With Opacity at 1, the applicable side is given the selected color. With Opacity at 0, the applicable side is transparent. Layer + Opacity combines the chosen layer and the Opacity amount. With Opacity at 1, the chosen layer is mapped to the applicable side. With Opacity at 0, the applicable side is transparent. Tinted Layer + Opacity combines the tinted chosen layer and the Opacity amount. With Opacity at 1, the tinted chosen layer is mapped to the applicable side. With Opacity at 0, the applicable side is transparent.

Note:

If you apply Shatter to a layer containing an alpha channel that you want to use for transparency, use the same texture (or at least another layer with an identical alpha channel) for the front, sides, and back of the pieces to make all sides transparent.  

Front Layer, Side Layer, Back Layer

Specify the layer to be mapped onto the corresponding side of the piece. Front Layer maps the chosen layer to the front of the piece. Back Layer maps the chosen layer backward to the layer. If Layer is chosen for both Front Mode and Back Mode, and the same layer is specified for each, each shattered piece has the same pixel information on both sides. Side Layer maps an extrusion of the chosen layer to the extruded sides of the piece, as if the chosen layer is also mapped to the front and back, and the layer has been sliced through.

Note:

If you choose a layer with an effect applied, the effect does not show up in the texture unless you precompose the layer. However, if you select None, the layer to which you have applied Shatter, along with any effects that occur before Shatter, is used as the texture map, with no precomposing required.  

Camera System and Camera Position controls

Camera System

Whether to use the effect’s Camera Position properties, the effect’s Corner Pins properties, or the default composition camera and light positions to render 3D images.

X Rotation, Y Rotation, Z Rotation

Rotate the camera around the corresponding axis. Use these controls to look at the cards from the top, side, back, or any other angle.

X, Y Position

Where the camera is positioned in (x,y) space.

Z Position

Where the camera is positioned along the z axis. Smaller numbers move the camera closer to the cards, and larger numbers move the camera away from the cards.

Focal Length

The zoom factor. Smaller numbers zoom in.

Transform Order

The order in which the camera rotates around its three axes, and whether the camera rotates before or after it is positioned using the other Camera Position controls.

Corner Pins controls

Corner pinning is an alternative camera control system. Use it as an aid for compositing the result of the effect into a scene on a flat surface that is tilted with respect to the frame.

Upper Left Corner, Upper Right Corner, Lower Left Corner, Lower Right Corner

Where to attach each of the corners of the layer.

Auto Focal Length

Controls the perspective of the effect during the animation. If this option is deselected, the focal length you specify is used to find a camera position and orientation that place the corners of the layer at the corner pins, if possible. If not, the layer is replaced by its outline, drawn between the pins. If this option is selected, the focal length required to match the corner points is used, if possible. If not, the correct value is interpolated from nearby frames.

Focal Length

Overrides the other settings if the results you’ve obtained aren’t what you need. If you set the Focal Length to something that doesn’t correspond to what the focal length would be if the pins were actually in that configuration, the image may look unusual (strangely sheared, for example). But if you know the focal length that you are trying to match, this option is the easiest way to get correct results.

Creating a custom shatter map

All layers in After Effects are represented as an RGBA image, including black-and-white images. The Shatter effect calculates the luminance threshold of each channel to create a custom shatter map. Shatter calculates the 50% luminance threshold of each channel, creating an image composed of only eight colors: red, green, blue, yellow, magenta, cyan, white, and black. These eight colors become possible combinations of the channels set either all the way on (255) or all the way off (0). The shatter layer splits along the edges of these different colored sections.

When designing custom shatter maps, you can find it useful to manually set a threshold for each channel of the image at 50% (you can use the Curves effect to do so). When you set the threshold, you can see how the image will be broken into pieces. Alternatively, you can create custom shatter maps by drawing an image using only the eight colors listed above, with no intermediate shades or anti-aliasing.

Note:

Use the Colorama effect to posterize the colors of an image to these eight colors. Turn off Interpolate Palette in the Colorama effect controls. See Colorama effect.

The alpha channel determines whether a shattered piece exists. A white alpha channel value results in a shattered piece, and a black alpha channel value results in no piece. Using an alpha channel, you can make a tile map with holes in it or generate simple 3D models like extruded text.

Note:

The custom shatter map determines the shapes of the pieces a layer shatters into, but not when the pieces shatter. The timing is determined by the Force controls and can be further controlled by a gradient layer.

The Toolfarm website provides a tutorial that shows how to create a custom shatter map for some real-world bricks.

Wave World effect

Use this effect to create a grayscale displacement map for use with other effects such as Caustics or Colorama. This effect creates waves based on a simulation of the physics of liquids. Waves emanate from an effect point, interact with each other, and realistically reflect off their environment. Use Wave World to create a top-down view of a logo, with waves reflecting off the logo and the sides of the layer.

Eran Stern provides a video tutorial on the Creative COW website in which he demonstrates how to use the Caustics effect with the Wave World effect.

This effect works with 8-bpc color.

Wave World effect: Wireframe view, Height Map view, and resulting image. Result is used as Water Surface source for Caustics effect example.
Wireframe view (upper-left), Height Map view (lower-left), and resulting image (lower-right). Result is used as Water Surface source for Caustics effect example.

Wireframe view, Height Map view, and resulting image. Result is used as Input Phase for Colorama effect example.
Wireframe view (left), Height Map view (center), and resulting image (right). Result is used as Input Phase for Colorama effect example.

To understand how this effect works, consider the following information about the physics of waves: A wave consists of a peak and a trough. The amplitude of a wave is the height, or distance, between the peak and trough. The wavelength is the distance from one peak to the next. Frequency is the number of waves per second passing a fixed point.

View controls

View controls specify the method used to preview the Wave World effect. Choose one of the following views:

Height Map

Displays the highest points as bright pixels and the lowest points as dark pixels. Use this view when creating a displacement map.

Wireframe Preview

Provides a visual depiction of how the wave is being created. The grayscale output represents a height map: White represents the highest possible wave, and black represents the lowest. The two rectangular outlines represent these two extremes: The cyan rectangle represents pure white, and the violet rectangle represents pure black. The green grid represents the ground layer; it is flat by default but can be distorted by using a grayscale image. The white grid represents the surface of the water.

Wireframe controls

Wireframe controls fine-tune the appearance of the wireframe model. These controls don’t affect the grayscale output.

Horizontal Rotation

Rotates the wireframe preview around the horizontal axis (right and left). As you adjust this control, the distortion of the wireframe model keeps the entire wireframe model in full view.

Vertical Rotation

Rotates the wireframe preview around the vertical axis (up and down).

Vertical Scale

Distorts the wireframe preview vertically so that you can see heights more easily. It doesn’t affect the grayscale output.

Height Map controls

Height Map controls specify the appearance of the height map.

Note:

While adjusting Brightness and Contrast, keep the wave surface layer between the cyan and violet rectangles. If a peak pokes through the cyan rectangle, it clips at pure white. If a trough pokes through the bottom of the violet rectangle, it clips at pure black. If you want to create a displacement map, try to avoid clipping because it shows up as flat peaks and valleys, which look unnatural.

Brightness

Adjusts the overall height of the water surface. Adjusting it brightens or darkens the overall grayscale output. If you use Wave World for displacement, this control moves the surface of the water up or down.

Contrast

Changes the difference between the grays of the peaks and troughs, making the difference more or less extreme. Lower values even out the grays, and higher values create a wider range from black to white (until clipping occurs).

Gamma Adjustment

Controls the slope of the waves in relation to the Brightness. Results are visible only in Height Map view. Higher values result in rounder peaks and narrower valleys, while lower values result in smoother valleys and pointier peaks.

Render Dry Areas As

Specifies how the water surface is rendered when a dry area exists. Dry areas are created when a portion of the ground layer rises above the surface of the water. You can manipulate the dry area by using the Steepness control.

This control is useful for compositing a Wave World effect into a scene. For example, you can use a precomposed Wave World scene with transparency as a displacement map for the Caustics effect, and as a track matte for the effect layer.

Transparency

Controls the clarity of the water by adjusting how opaque the alpha channel is in shallower areas. For example, you can easily see to the bottom of a pool filled with fresh water, but you can see only an inch or two into a pool filled with coffee. This control is most useful when compositing a Wave World effect into another scene. For example, you can use a Wave World composition as a source layer for Caustics, and also as a track matte for the effect layer.

Simulation controls

The Simulation controls specify the resolution of the water surface and ground grids.

Grid Resolution

Specifies the number of horizontal and vertical divisions that make up the wave surface and ground grids. Higher values greatly increase the precision of the simulation but require more memory and increase rendering time.

Grid Res Downsamples

Reduces the internal simulation resolution when the output resolution decreases, increasing the rendering speed. However, the result may cause the output to look very different.

Wave Speed

Specifies how fast waves travel away from their starting point.

Damping

Specifies how quickly the energy of a wave is absorbed by the liquid it travels through. The higher the value, the quicker the wave energy is absorbed, and the shorter the distance the wave travels.

Wave Speed, Damping

Specify the apparent viscosity of the liquid, and the apparent size of the body of liquid. For example, waves in water move faster and farther than waves in honey; waves in a sink move much faster and fade out much more quickly than waves in a lake.

Note:

Wave World is optimized for small- to medium-sized bodies of water—anything from a teacup to a small lake. Large bodies of water, like an ocean, include swells or wide, stable waves with no apparent slowdown. Even at the lowest settings, Wave World cannot generate swells because the waves fade out relatively quickly.  

Reflect Edges

Specifies how waves bounce off the edges of the layer and back into the scene.

Pre-roll (seconds)

Specifies when the waves start moving. By default, the effect starts with a still surface without waves or ripples. Use this control to start the waves moving before the layer begins. The settings at the first frame of the effect are applied to the layer during the pre-roll.

Ground controls

The Ground controls specify the appearance of the ground layer.

Ground

Specifies the layer that appears at the bottom of the water. If you use an animated layer for the ground, Wave World samples only the first frame. Wave World determines the intersection of the water surface with the edge of the ground, computes the waves bouncing off the shore, and properly adjusts the speed of the waves depending on the depth. The brightness of the layer determines the ground surface: White represents higher elevation, and black represents lower elevation.

Steepness

Adjusts the steepness of the ground by expanding and contracting the height of the displaced wireframe. The mesh is locked at the black level, so it always grows up from the bottom. In other words, you cannot adjust the bottom of a canyon to be deeper; instead, you can adjust the rim to be higher. To make the canyon deeper, combine a higher Steepness setting with a lower Height setting.

Height

Controls the distance between the water surface and the deepest possible point of the ground. Use this control to make the body of water deeper or shallower. When you change the depth of the water, the waves behave accordingly: They move faster in deep water and slower in shallow water. (Adjusting the Height control when using the wireframe preview may appear to lower the ground level, but the wireframe camera always moves with the water level.)

Wave Strength

Controls how big the resulting waves are when the ground height or steepness is animated. A value of 0 results in no waves.

Note:

You can create a pulsing wave effect by animating the steepness of the ground so that the ground pokes through the water, producing waves. Then use the Wave Strength control to intensify the effect.

Producer 1 and Producer 2 controls

The Producer controls specify the point at which the waves begin.

Type

Specifies the type of producer. Ring creates a wave as if a stone were dropped into a pond; waves radiate outward in circles (or ellipses, depending on the size settings of the effect point). Line creates waves that emanate from the producer position in a line instead of an ellipse. This setting is useful for creating waves that look as though they were generated from much farther away. The waves are produced perpendicular to the edges of the line. The length of the line is based on the Height/Length setting.

Position

Specifies the location of the center of the wave producer.

Height/Length

Specifies the (vertical) height of a Ring producer and adjusts the length of a Line producer.

Width

Specifies the (horizontal) width of the producer area.

Angle

Specifies the angle of the wave producer area for the Line and Ring types. This control sets the orientation of the line and thus controls the initial direction of the waves, which emanate from either side of the line, perpendicular to its length.

Amplitude

Controls the height of the produced wave. Higher values create more dramatic waves but may result in clipping, which you can repair by using the Brightness and Contrast controls.

Frequency

Controls how many waves are produced per second. A value of 1 has the effect of waves surfacing once every second.

Phase

Specifies where in the wave phase the wave begins. For example, with the default setting of 0°, the first disturbance in the liquid is a convex wave (projecting upward from the surface of the water). With Phase set to 180°, the first disturbance in the liquid is a concave wave.

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