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Creating Shockwaves: Part Three of the Golden COW by Serge Hamad

COW Library : Adobe After Effects Tutorials : Serge Hamad : Creating Shockwaves: Part Three of the Golden COW by Serge Hamad
Creating Shockwaves: Part Three of the Golden COW by Serge Hamad

A CreativeCOW Adobe After Effects Tutorial

Creating Shockwaves: Part Three 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 this tutorial you will be creating some colorful shockwaves. The basic graphic needed for this can easily be created in Photoshop. The important part is that you should leave the center of your shockwaves transparent, so it doesn’t later intersect with your explosion or planet in AE’s 3D space.

We will use IL Mirage from Image Lounge to distort the shockwaves and create an infinite flow that resembles a gaseous nebula. 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 three folders, one containing the aep and one labeled Stills and one labeled Pre_Render. You may have to relink the media.

-Open the SciFi_2 project and use the Save as method to save your project to SciFi_3.

-Note: When you encounter a missing file dialogue, the file in question is only a pre-rendered movie you should have rendered from the previous project.

You would still be able to follow the tutorial without this file if you just use the necessary composition but your preview speed would tremendously suffer.

-Create now a new folder and name it Explosion_Comps.

-Highlight your new folder and create a new comp about (30:00) in length and name it Shockwaves.

-Import now and into your Pre_Render folder. These files where created using Particle Illusion from Wondertouch almost at the default settings just so you have something to play with. If you want some good explosion footage go here:

-Import now the Schockwave.png and Schockwave_2.png files to your STILLS folder.

-Open your Shockwaves comp and drag and drop the Nebula comp in it. Or better use your Nebula & Aura movie instead what is nothing else then a render of Nebula.

-Scrub your TimeLine now to (07:23) where the Aura almost ends and bring in your Explosion movie. Apply Knoll Unmult to get rid of the black.

-Move now to (07:27) and import the Explosion_Front movie. Apply Knoll Unmult.

-Scrub your TimeLine to (08:00) and drag Shockwave.png as well as Schockwave_2.png from your STILLS folder to your TimeLine.

-Please switch all layers now to 3D.

Tweaking the explosions

These steps are only necessary if you are using the files I provided.

-Highlight now the Explosion layer and move it behind the Nebula layer using the Z-Axis arrow (The blue one)

Reach approximately the following values:

  • Position: (289.0 , 243.0 , 106.0)
  • Opacity: Initial KF at (09:06) change to (0.0) at (10:17)

As to the front explosion, to get a more realistic look you have to animate the Explosion_Front layer position so it slightly follows the spinning and zooming of the Red Giant planet.

-Move to the beginning of the Explosion_Front layer and animate the following so your explosion matches your planet animation:

  • -Position: At (07:27) = (360.0 , 259.0 , 0.0) change to (465.8 , 259.0 , -10.6) at (09:18)
  • -Scale: (61.0 , 61.0 , 61.0 %) change to (100.0, 100.0, 100.0) at (09:18).
  • -Y Rotation: (0.0) at (07:27) change to (-9.0) at (09:18)

Tweaking the Shockwaves

What you have to do now is to simply place four layers in 3D space scale them from null to (1246.0) stack them on top of each other using the Z-Axis and apply some effects to make them look good.

-Duplicate the Shockwave.png layer two times and rename your Shockwave layers from top to bottom: “Wave_2” / “Wave_3” / “Wave_4”

-Make sure that the Shockwave_2 layer is on top of the other layers and name it Wave_1.


Note: The following values don’t need to be precisely translated. It’s up to you to place and animate the layers in question as you wish keeping in mind that you are trying to fake a 3D perspective that you later can accentuate by using certain effects.

-Starting at (08:00) Select all “Wave” layers and hit R to change the X Rotation to (-84.0) and the Y Rotation to (-7.0).
-Now hit P and position your layers as following to separate them:

Set a KF for Wave_3 position and change the value at (10:04) to approximately (350.0 , 336.5 , 160.5) to avoid the intersection that may occur between the Wave_4 and the Nebula & Aura layer (Planet).

Basically you just placed your shockwaves around your planet.


This is straight forward. It's nothing more than scaling your shockwaves and animating the opacity to make your shockwaves appear and disappear again.

Here are the different scaling values I used:


  • At (08:00):

  • At (08:02t) Easy Ease In your KFs. Shift+F9:

  • At (10:11):


  • At (08:00) set the opacity for layer Wave_1 / 2 / 3 to (0.0%).
  • At (08:01) change the opacity values to (100%) to make your shockwaves appear.

-Copy your last KFs and paste them at (09:23).

- Move to (10:11) and change the opacity values for the layers I mentioned above to (0%). Easy Ease all KFs from (09:23) to (10:11)

-You noticed that I left Wave_3 visible. The reason is that I want it to be part of the BG. IL Mirage and IL Grunge will help here to turn it to an interesting one.

Organic Look

-Basically what you need to do now is just color the shockwaves and undulate some of them to give them an organic look using IL Mirage.

Note: Changing temporarily the X Rotation value of your layers back to (0.0) would help here to adjust your distortion etc…

Click here to see the effects and settings I used:


To make our explosion look a little bit bigger then it does right now I would suggest you to create a black solid layer (Name it Lens Flare) on top of all your layers starting at approximately (8:00), apply a Lens Flare (I used the Arc Welder from the Light Factory EZ), add Knoll Unmult then change the following values:

  • At (08:00): Brightness = (0.0) and (Lens) Scale = (0.10).
  • At (08:05): Brightness = (100.0) and (Lens) Scale = (5.00).
  • At (08:05): Layer Opacity = (65%) then change it to (0%) at (08:28).

To make the Lens Flare follow the Explosion Front layer use the Pick Wipe to tie with an expression the Light Source Direction of your Lens Flare to the Position of your Explosion Front layer.

-As the explosion movies didn’t contain debris I duplicated the Planet_Texture composition in the Maps folder, imported it into the Shockwave comp at (07:29),

applied Shatter then opened it to draw some masks to reduce the amount of debris Shatter would produce. Best you open the AEP and check the Debris_Map comp by yourself as it is pretty easy to understand. I didn’t bother to create a custom shatter map for this but added Roughen Edges though to alter the look of the shattered pieces.

Note: If you want to play with the look of your debris, best would be to open a two comp view, one for the Debris_Map and another one for the Shockwaves comp and then alter your masks etc to see your changes made in the Debris_Map comp taking effect in the Shockwaves composition window.

-Also make sure to set an out point for your Debris Map at about (10:02).

-If you RAM Preview your animation you will see that Wave_3 keeps flowing gently during the whole animation. In case you would like to make it smoothly disappear you could use the IL Grunge effect this way:

-First select Acid Bath as a style and (100%) smoothness.

-Move to (19:19) and set a KF for the Grunge Amount: (0.0). Move to approximately (25:25) and change the value to (1.0)

-You can also control the speed of the flow by altering the Velocity and Mutation Rate properties of IL Mirrage.

When you render your animation make sure you name it “Nebula & Aura” and that you also render an Alpha Channel. You will need this file for the next tutorial.

Salut for now.

Part One
Part Two
Part Four: Building the Cage

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