When Motion was announced, one of the things that immediately caught my attention were the particle emitters. One of the longstanding criticisms of Shake is that is doesn't have any emitters at all, so this was a pleasant surprise for an Apple app.
Motion comes with 118 preset emitters, as you can see from the above I've got a custom emitter stored, that I saved earlier, in the list as well. We will see that later.
What the hell is a particle emitter? Well in real life a dripping tap is a particle emitter. The tap is the emitter and the drips are the particles. The birth rate would be how many drips are coming out of the tap in a period of time and the life of the particles would be, how long before the drips evaporate. OK, every analogy has a weak point! But I hope you get the idea.
Before you laugh, there isn't a dripping tap emitter bundled, but there is heavy rain
Now before it get a deluge of mail saying why is the dashboard emitter display/control wrong, Rain falls down, not to the right eh? Here's the science:-
The line emitter has an angle based on the position of the two points at either end and the emission angle control in the Dashboard is relative to the lines angle.
I'm not too sure I fully understood that either, however things don't have to be that complicated.
There are some great presets, which no doubt will be popping up on many commercials and corporate videos, one of my favorites is Circle City.
This is what it looks like in just one click, straight out of the box. You have many settings to alter birth rate, life, direction etc. I've found that a lot of the presets tend to be a bit fast, so toggling the birth rate and speed down helps. With a bit of experimentation you can get many different looks out of the same emitter. I won't go through all of the emitters, as exploring them is half the fun!
Now whats the first thing anybody tries to emulate with an emitter?
Take a few green zeros and ones as particles, set a line as the emitter source at the top of the screen, apply a bloom filter and before you can say The Wachowski Brothers, you've created your very own Matrix!
You aren't limited to just one emitter at a time either. Take a look at Corona.
Now I can't think of many productions where I'd utilize a ring of fire - maybe you could use a matte and put a picture of your favorite forum host behind. Or you could be a bit more topical, how about 5 coronas on screen together?
Apply grow to the layer that contains the rings and the rings will all move towards the screen at once. An Olympic effort (sorry) and it took all of about 5 minutes to make. TV stations spend thousands of pounds making idents like this. A lot of bang for your buck! The background was from Sapphire in FCP.
Now the observant of you reading this will spot the dangers of cutting and pasting.
Take a look at the very top of the three top coronas. Same flames at the same point, a bit unnatural
The emitter has a random seed generator, so once you are happy with the layout, hit each generator and this will effectively start the flames off on each ring in a different way. Here you can see the middle and left ring start from the same seed, the ring on the right has had the start point or seed changed.
Also the blend mode I used to overlay each ring was screen this makes the rings lighter where they overlap as opposed to a straight overlay. It's the little touches in a composite that make all the difference!
Now you are not limited to just using graphics for emitters, you can use video as well.
Let's say you have a few hours to make a trail for a film review programme. The Director is pacing up and down and wants to see an idea of what the finished trail might look like before he heads off home.
First in Illustrator, draw a very simplified piece of film, note the transparency on the (rough) film sprockets. You could build this in Motion, but I find illustrator to be a bit more flexible.
Then take a clip from the material that will be in the trail and composite that over the graphic in Motion. I've shrunk it down and cropped it to fit in between the sprockets.
Then set this layer as a custom emitter by hitting make particles at the top of the canvas
OK, not exactly the look we were after, filmstrips everywhere.
By altering the emitter settings to bring the birth rate down, extend the life and limit the emitting direction to upwards only, we can get nearer to our desired result.
I've also scaled the layer down and moved the emitter point source off the bottom of the screen
Now when I hit play on the timeline, the filmstrip moves through the screen and will continue to do so as it's an emitter and not a long graphic being pushed through.
Now let's concentrate on the background - and guess what, let's go back to the preset particle emitters
Here I've made a combination of Hot Part and Aurora Remember, this is a Motion graphics tool, so let's keep everything moving.
Now let's put a slight twist on the filmstrip layer (Not altering the emitter angle or you would get a staircase effect) and composite this on the background.
Looks good, but a bit two dimensional for my tastes. Yes, I know version 1 of Motion is only 2D, but there are a few cheats you can do to give an image some depth.
Apply a ring warp filter to the filmstrip layer and adjust the parameters down until the filter bends the filmstrip into a slight curve. You can also see that I've added a de-interlace filter to remove a field and brightened the clip slightly. The middle layer is not visible as this is the particle
Fantastic, the filmstrip now curls back into the distance. When you play the project, the film will actually follow this path ad infinitum or at least as long as your clip!
One more thing, let's duplicate the layer, reposition the emitter start and adjust the warp slightly.
One finished composite, one happy Director and one happy Motion artist who is going down the pub early!
Seriously, not all particle emitters are smoke and fire and I hope the above has given you some insight to the amazing power they have in motion graphics.
And finally on emitters, if you get to meet me and can explain that angle thing with the rain, then thank you!
Go to next section: Example of large composite
This review may not be re-published without the permission of Peter Wiggins