Since I’m still a rather poor student, I shamingly have to admit that I haven’t purchased the Red Giant Trapcode Suite yet. Instead, I use their generous trial version once in a while when I need to create something fancy for our projects. This time I was going to produce an intro sequence for a game we had been working on last Christmas, so I took the time to learn how to make a fairly simple ember effect. I was fascinated by the fact how effective the use of a noise texture could be used to create the smoke effect in the background rather than spending expensive calculations on creating a separate particle system for it.
Just to be clear, this is not exactly a tutorial. I just wrote down the overall process, so I might have missed some important details. You’ll notice that I jump around a lot between the different components in After Effects, mostly because I was tweaking the parameters back and forth as I went along.
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Go ahead and create a new composition, feel free to choose any given resolution. I would start off with a high resolution composition, since it works better to scale down an effect rather than trying to scale it up. By default, it’s already set to HDTV 1080 29.97, so we’re ready to start.
Create a new black solid, matching the resolution of the composition
Go to Effects & Presets, scroll down to Red Giant→RG Trapcode→Particular. Drag and drop it on your recently created solid. If you now play the timeline, you’ll see a bunch of white particles going out from the center of the screen. It doesn’t do a lot more than this for now, but this is where the fun starts.
In Effect Controls (Press F3 for shortcut), you’ll see plenty of sections to choose from. Each section holds attributes that we now can manipulate with and we are going to start right away with the Emitter.
1. Slow down the velocity to around 20 and change the velocity random percentage to about 60%. By pressing TAB, we can automatically step down in the list of attributes.
2. Change the Emitter type to Box and set the Emitter size on the X-Axis to about 1600 and on the Y-Axis to 1360. You might have to check XYZ to be individual in order to access the different axes and perform non-uniform scaling.
3. Set particles/sec to 50 and set direction spread to 20
4. Set velocity to 20
5. Go ahead and rotate 90 degrees on the X-Axis
6. Position the particle system at the bottom of the screen around 960, 944, 0
1. Set particle life time to around 6 – 8
2. Set life random to about 30 and set sphere feather to 0
3. Set size to 3 and size random to 50
4. Go to Size over Life and add the steep preset to make the particles fade in much smoother. This does the job, so we keep it as it is.
1. Set Wind on Y-Axis to -400
2. Go to Turbulence Field→Set Affect position to 450
Now that’s more like it. By putting in some turbulence and affecting the positions of the particles with a factor and forcing it upwards with the wind, we achieve this swaying effect of a burning fire.
3. Set Turbulence Field→Scale to 6 and complexity to 1
4. Set Turbulence Field→Evolution speed to 15
1. Now we require an actual camera in the composition, so go ahead and create one. Set it be a One-Node Camera.
2. Set the camera position to about 960, -300, -2666.7
3. Now the particles slowly creeps up from the bottom of the screen after a couple of seconds into the timeline
1. Set blend mode to Normal
2. Toggle transparency
3. Set Motion Blur→Motion Blur→On
4. Set Motion Blur→Type→Subframe Sample
5. Set Motion Blur→Levels→16
6. Set Motion Blur→Opacity Boost→16
1. Set particles/sec to 25
1. Create a copy of the solid, since we’re going to change the motion parameters
Emitter III – Copy
1. Set Random Seed to 107960. Just because. Magic numbers.
Physics II – Copy
1. Set affect position to 300
2. Set X-Axys offset to 2180
3. Set Y-Axis offset to 2000
4. Set Z-Axis offset to 2840
5. Set scale to 10
6. Set Wind Y-Axis to -550
1. Set first solid blend mode to Screen
1. Create a new solid and call it “Background” or “BG”
2. From Effects & Preset, add a Gradient Map to the new solid
3. Swap the colors so that we’re starting with black from the bottom
4. Set the Ramp Shape to be a Radial Shape
5. Set the Start of Ramp to 982, 1600
6. Set the End of Ramp to 366.9, 144
7. Set Start Color to dark orange
8. Set Ramp Scatter to 11.4
9. Move down background below and set the previous solids blending mode to “Screen”
Adjustment Layer I
1. Create a new Adjustment Layer and place it above the two original solids
1. Set particle color to bright orange/yellow
1. Set particle color to strong orange
Adjustment Layer II
1. Set glow threshold to 73
2. Set glow radius to 10
1. Create a new solid and call it noise
2. In Effect & Assets, find Turbulent noise and attach to the Noise
3. Set Noise→Scale→316
4. Set Noise→Contrast→360
5. Set blending mode to Multiply
6. Move it down below the two original solids
7. Set keyframe for Noise→Evolution and Noise→Offset Turbulence
8. Drag to the end of timeline
9. Set keyframe for Noise→Evolution to 960, -712
Adjustment Layer III
1. Set Glow Colors A & B Colors
Color A: Bright Orange
Color B: Dark Orange
2. Set glow threshold to 42.2%
3. Set glow operation to Screen
4. Set glow radius to 20
5. Set glow intensity to 3.0
6. Copy another glow
7. Set glow radius to 50
1. Set particles/sec to 40
2. Set particle size to 3.5
3. Set Opacity Boost to 20
1. Set Opacity Boost to 20
Adjustment Layer IV
1. In Effects & Presets, add Hue/Saturation
Set master hue to -8
1. Set Shutter Angle to 600
2. Set Air→Wind Y-Axis to -700
3. Set particle size to 2
Adjustment Layer V
1. Set glow 1 intensity to 2.8
2. Set glow 1 threshold to 27.8
3. Set glow 2 threshold to 51.4
That’s about it! While there is a general process to follow, I once again realized how much comes down to experimentation and playing around with the available features in After Effects and the Trapcode Suite. Here is the final rendered sequence of the effect in action.