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Creating Planets & Auras: Part Two of the Golden COW by Serge Hamad

COW Library : Adobe After Effects Tutorials : Serge Hamad : Creating Planets & Auras: Part Two of the Golden COW by Serge Hamad
Creating Planets & Auras: Part Two of the Golden COW by Serge Hamad

A CreativeCOW Adobe After Effects Tutorial

Creating Planets & Auras: Part Two of the Golden COW by Serge Hamad
Serge Hamad Serge Hamad,
New York City, New York, USA

Article Focus:
Many of you have seen Serge Hamad's various animations in the After Effects forum at CreativeCOW. In this 5-part tutorial, Serge demonstrates the steps involved in re-creating his "Golden COW." In part two, we create the Aura and the Planet. You'll need Image Lounge and Knoll's Light Factory from Red Giant Software and Zaxwerk's Invigorator. If you don't have these plug-ins, download the demos to follow along.

Download Movie Project file: sit Project file: zip Go to Part One


Download the project files from the green bar above. You'll find the aep, an ai file and a folder labeled STILLS. You may have to re-link the media.

Open “SciFi_1” project and use the Save As function to create a new project and name it “SciFi_2”.

We start by hiding the Light layer as well as the Pre_Nebula composition that is nested in the Nebula comp. Here is how:
-Select both layers in your TimeLine, switch their Eye Icon off, switch their Shy Icon on then click on the main Shy Switch.

-Create a New Folder in your Footage Window and name it Pre_Render. You will put all your pre-rendered movies in this one.

-Press (Ctrl +I ) / Command + I to import the movie you should have rendered by now from the SciFi_1 project, drop it in your TimeLine and switch off its Eye Icon as you will not need to view it right now. This action will help you first to use less RAM and second reduce the number of layers and precomps in your TimeLine.

-Highlight now the STILLS folder then hit (Ctrl + I) / Command + I to also import the Planet.tga file from the Stills folder you downloaded.

We will use this map to texture our planet later.

Let us now create a kind of “Aura” that will first appear few seconds before the end of the nebula and orbit around a planet.

Creating the Aura

Knoll Light Factory

We will use a Lens Flare as a starting as a starting point to create our Aura.

-First scrub your TimeLine to (03:20) and create a new black solid layer and name it Aura_Map.

-Apply the Knoll Light Factory EZ effect and choose Vortex Bright from the Flare Type pop-up menu.

-Adjust the Light Source Location of your lens so it is in the center of your layer. (360.0 , 243.0)

-Set the scale value to (2.10).

-Change the Brightness value to (0.0) and KF.

-Scrub your Timeline to (06:00) and set a new KF for the Brightness to (100.0). Copy this KF.

-Move to (06:21) and paste the KF.

-Move to (08:22) and change the Brightness value to (0.0) so your lens flare finally disappears again.

-Easy Ease all your KFs

Image Lounge Turbulent Distortion

This effect is similar to IL Mirage. Its distortion though has higher amplitude when the Appearance is set to Turbulent and it has a separate vertical & Horizontal

control what makes it easy to create and manipulate wonderful organic shapes.

-Let’s move back to (03:20) and reset the lens flare brightness temporarily to (100.0) just so you can see and manipulate the distortion you are about to create.

-Apply now the IL Turbulent Distortion effect to your layer.

-Start by increasing the Detail value to (28.0 %) for both the Vertical & Horizontal distortion fields.

-Change and KF the Vertical Position value to (57.0 , 332.0) and the Horizontal Position value to (683.0 , 133.0)

-Move to (08:22) and change again the Vertical Position value to (714.0 , 162.0) and the Horizontal to (5.0 , 148.0)

-To create more filigree looking lines just alter the Gain value for both the Horizontal and Vertical distortion fields. (Vertical 72%) (Horizontal 80%)

-While you are there trim out your layer by pressing (Alt+]) / Option+]

-Move back to (03:20) reset your Brightness value for your Lens Flare to (0.0).

Set now your work area to the length of your layer by selecting your layer and pressing (Ctrl+Alt+B) / Command+Option+B.

All this will save you time and RAM. I know, I know… I’m such a nice guy!

Mapping the Aura Map on a Sphere

Zaxwerks Invigorator

Now let us map the Aura_Map layer on a sphere using Invigorator.

-First you need to precompose (Shift+Ctrl+C) Shift + Command + C the Aura_Map layer as Invigorator will only recognize effects and animations residing in a composition. Don't forget to choose Move all Attributes into the New Comp.

-Switch off the eye icon of your new Precomp for now. Remember to switch it back on for the final render.

-Make sure you are at (3:20) to create a New Solid Layer, name it “Aura” and apply 3D Invigorator.

-When the Import window appears just click on Open Illustrator File to navigate to the “ai” folder and import the file.

-In the Scene Preview window (Effects window) twirl down the Layer Maps menu to assign your precompostion in the Layer Map 1 pop-up menu.

-Then click on Option or on the red button in your Scene Preview window to open the Set-Up window.
-Select first your object then click on the Object Tab.

-Open the Edges pop-up menu and choose Half Pipe from the Pipe and Half Pipe menu.

As you see your object changed its shape to look like a candy. Sweeet!

-Change the Object Faceting Draft & Best property to (0.1) to get a smoother sphere. You should change the Best property to (0.01) by typing in the value

but only when you are ready for the final render as this will increase the amount of polygons what gives a very smooth sphere but also uses more RAM.

-Open now the Material Editor by clicking on the Materials tab and choose Layer Map 1 from the top right pop-up menu.

-Drag and drop the assigned texture now on your object and hit OK.

-Note that you will not see your texture in your composition window until you switch your Aura layer from draft to best quality.

Also to avoid going again and again through the process of creating a sphere (Or any other primitive) in Invigorator I would recommend you to save a favorite.

-Choose Front from the Views pop-up menu to bring your object in front of you.

-Before you start adjusting your object make first sure that you re center the pivot point. You can do this the following way:

-Switch to object mode by clicking on the 3 cubes icon, select your object and click on Re center Pivot in the Set pop-up menu.

-Now (Still in object mode) using the shift key and the tumble tool rotate your object to 90 degrees toward you to see more of the map.

You should by now see something like this. If not adjust your lights:

Now you need to make the black areas inside of your aura transparent so you can see the planet you are later going to create.

Transparency Map

-Create a new folder in your Project window, name it Maps and put the Aura_Map comp in it.

-Duplicate Aura_Map , name the duplicate Transparency, drop it in the Nebula comp and switch off its eye icon.

-Open now your Transparency comp. Make sure you are at (3:20) then create a New Black solid and drop it under your Aura_Front layer.

-Assign now your Transparency comp as a layer map like you did before with the texture map then apply it to your object by selecting it in the Transparency pop up menu. Invigorator converts black to fully transparent and white to fully opaque. All values in between will be semi opaque.

Preview your work and you will notice that you don't even need to rotate your object. This is due to the way we animated the IL turbulent Distortion effect.

If you see a seam in the back of your aura then just create a black solid layer in your transparency comp and draw two rectangular masks slightly feathered at the left and right side of your comp. There are other ways to eliminate the seam but in this project this should do nicely.

We want the Aura as well as the Red Giant planet to start a little bit deeper in space then zoom in. The Red Giant planet should also appear shortly after the aura as if a light source would be revealing it. The zoom is a no-brainer but if you create a second sphere in your present Invigorator layer and animate the lights to gradually reveal your planet, your light will also influence the aura. So it would be best to create your planet in a separate layer.

Animating the Aura

-All you need to do is a simple zoom. First bring your object back using the Dolly Tool:
Set a KF for the Camera Distance:

Camera Distance: At (3:20) = (85.11) and at (6:15) = (59.27). Easy Ease your KFs.

Creating the Red Giant Planet

-Duplicate your Aura layer, place your duplicate under the original and name it Red_Giant.

Texture Mapping.

-Drag and drop the Planet.tga file on the comp icon, name this comp “Planet_Texture”, import this comp in the Nebula comp, switch its eye icon off and use it as a texture map replacing the old one in the pop-up window. We will work later on this map to make it look like lava etc.

-Go to the Set-Up window now to un check the transparency map and change the Depth value of your object to something like (14) or so.

-Move your Red Giant planet using the Manipulation Tools to place it in the center of the Aura.

Animating the Red Giant planet.

-Animate now the Camera Target Z property:
(03:20) = (00.00) / (06:19) = (91.33) / (10:00) = (45.78). All KFs Easy Eased and Velocity tweaked to get a smooth motion.
(See AEP)


-Switch all lights off but Light 1 in the Set-Up window. (Click on the red button to get there)

-At (03:20) set your Light 1 Direction to (-180.00) to send your light to the back of your planet and completely darken the front side.

-Scrub to (05:12) and change the value to about (-60.00)

Spinning the Red Giant planet.

-Animate now Set 1 Z Rotation to rotate your planet on its own axis. (03:20) = (0.00) and (13:21) = (-342.00) Easy Ease the last KF.

Creating a second aura.

-To get some more depth, duplicate your Aura layer; name it Aura_Back drag it under the Red Giant layer and use the tumble tool in object mode to alter its perspective and make it look different.

Click here to see the Aura sample movie: From (03:15 to 08:15)

More Mapping

I have been talking the whole time about the “Red Giant” planet. Let's make it look like one.

Color and structure.

-Open the Planet_Texture composition.

-Best you also open the Nebula comp in a separate window on your desktop to see the changes you will be making taking effect on your object

-Apply the IL Color Map effect to your Planet.tga layer.

-Now select Fire from the presets pop-up menu for the Color Map 1.

-Change the color swatches as I already explained in the previous tutorial to something like this:

-You could save a preset and name it “lava” or whatever once you are satisfied with the result.

So now that you colored and basically structured your planet, let us go deeper and work on details. I will not explain each step for this episode and kill your fantasy with boring details so just apply the following effects and see what happens by yourself. If you have question you know where to find me.

-Start by adding a new solid layer on top of the Planet.tga layer name it Lava and draw some lines with the Pen Tool that should look like cracks then apply the following effects to create a kind of flowing lava inside of the cracks.

Click here to see the movie demonstrating this process.

Bump Map.

-Duplicate now the Planet_Texture composition in your footage window and name it Planet_Bump.

-Scrub your TimeLine to (03:20), drag and drop this new composition to your TimeLine then switch off its eye icon.

-Open the composition; delete all effects from the Lava layer but the Stroke and Roughen Edges. Don't animate the Roughen Edges effect.

-Duplicate the Lava layer; place your duplicate under the original, name it Outline, change the color of your stroke to black and increase the Brush Size to about (5.0). This will outline your stroke and deepen your lava paths (Cracks).

-Open the IL Color_Map effect from the Planet.tga layer and change the color of your map to something like this:

-Assign now this comp as a layer map to the Red Giant planet then apply it in the Bumpiness pop-up menu at about a (-80) value.


Now before you render your work to a movie with Alpha named Nebula & Aura you could create an interesting back ground by doing the following:

-Duplicate your Aura_Map comp from the footage window, name it Energy, import it to your TimeLine and place it right under the Aura_Back layer.

-Open now the Energy comp and time change your layer to start at (00.21) then hit U to see all your KFs.

-Now move the brightness KF for your lens flare as well as both position KFs for IL Turbulent Distortion to (00:21).

-Move to (02:28) and move the next brightness KF to this point. Leave the rest as is.

-Switch back to your Nebula composition.

-Apply now Knoll Unmult to the Energy layer then the IL Hall of Mirrors and Optics Compensation effects using the following values:

-Reduce the opacity of your Energy layer to about (70%).

In case you don’t want your Aura (Energy Ball) to look so perfectly round just add a Distortion effect like Warp to both Aura and Aura_Back and animate slightly and differently the Bend property etc… (See AEP--downloaded from the green bar above.)

I hope you had fun. Next time we will be creating the shock waves…

Part One
Part Three

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