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Creating Surreal Clouds without Plug-ins

COW Library : Adobe After Effects Tutorials : Jayse Hansen : Creating Surreal Clouds without Plug-ins
Creating Surreal Clouds without Plug-ins




by Jayse, Motion Graphics Designer at www.xeler8r.com, USA
©2001 Jaysen Hansen. All Rights Reserved. Used at CreativeCow.net by kind permission of the author.


Jayse Hansen Article Focus:
In this tutorial, Jayse will show you another way of creating moving clouds using  Adobe After Effects 5 without needing extra plug-ins. If you are unfamiliar with simple 3d  in After Effects 5, you may want to read  the After Effects 5.0 manual before continuing with this tutorial.


Click on the image above to see the sample movie

Click here to download the project files



INSPIRATION:

The inspiration for this tutorial came from Mark Simpson’s “Animating Skies” tutorial (also on CreativeCow.net) about creating cloud effects in AE. I was disappointed, however, to find that this effect required an expensive plug-in called Tinderbox. Although I’m serious considering buying that plug-in because it’s awesome – the funds weren’t there for it at the time I needed it. So I set out to try to create my own version without the need for extra plug-ins. I was quite happy with my results.

After really looking at the example on Mark’s tutorial – I discovered that the clouds coming towards you look somewhat like a spinning image – which led me to think that perhaps with AE 5’s 3D-Space capabilities I might be able to reproduce this with from a still image of clouds.

(In the sample movie above, you'll also see I combined what I learned from George Polevoy's tutorial.)

So I’ll tell you what I did:

There's basically only two steps to do once you've created your photo.
  • Part One: Setup a standard composition and turn on 3D for your photo layer
  • Part Two: Animate the Z rotation.


The rest is all optional and playtime. So let's get started!



PRE-Setup


A: Select a Photo


First – you’ll need an image of real clouds. You can usually find these for free in stock image libraries ($9.95 for a cd at a computer store or possibly free online) or take your own photo – OR – just use mine!

I went through my collection of photos and found a picture of clouds I took while backpacking through Rome. While at the Colloseum – I looked up and photographed this with my digital Sony F505V camera.



Keep in mind the variety you have. The KPT 6 plug-in for PS has a great effect for creating skies from scratch which you could play around with if you have access to it. I made this one just playing with it.



B: Manipulate the picture to create a disc in Photoshop

Okay – now I knew I wanted this to spin – so I figured I’d try making a disk out of it. I basically cut a piece out of this image and duplicated it while turning each piece to fan it out into a circle. Then I flattened it and used the cloning tool to blend it together. The resulting image is as follows.


(Note that the photo I used is just white clouds on blue. You could use golden clouds, sunset clouds – anything to get some variety in the final image.)



C: Zoom blur it - if you want to


I wanted the surreal effect that Mark got with his Tinderbox skies – so I did a Radial/Zoom blur on the final image.


(This is the image saved with your source files, although I've also included other files for you to play with)


Once this is done – save it out as a .jpg or similar and we’re on to AE!



Part One: Setting it All Up


Make a new composition, size 720x486 (or customize it to your needs) and a duration of 25 seconds.



Next, double click in your project window and import “Cloud circle small_blurred.jpg”  from the source folder you downloaded.

Drag the cloud file into your timeline and turn on the 3D checkbox. Spin down to get your transform properties and set your to your taste. Play around with your position just by dragging the layer in your preview window until it looks good to you. Here’s my settings:



This is now starting to look more like what I want.





Part Two: Now for the movement!


Turn on your stopwatches for the Scale and Z Rotation properties. Set a key frame at the beginning of your animation at the properties listed above. Move to the end of your animation and change the Scale and Z Rotation properties like so:



Scrub through your timeline and you should see a somewhat impressive surreal sky!

Play with the Z Rotation to change the speed – Change the scale to change a bit of the subtle ‘zoom’ effect.



Part Three: Colors

Now – You can leave this natural – Or you can play with the coloring to your heart’s content – even animating the lightness and color over time (as in Mark’s example.)

Try playing around with EFFECT/ADJUST/HUE-SATURATION, choose ‘COLORIZE’ and play with the settings below that. Here’s two variations I made:



Another variation below to intensify the colors.



I was doing this for the intro to a fast paced, intense Karate/Self-Defense tape so I wanted intensity. In the end I decided I really liked the effect CultEffects had called “Fire Up”. It gave me the dramatic colors I was looking for:






Part Four: Put it with something cool


I then combined all this with what I learned from George Polevoy’s CreativeCow Tutorial “Creating a Flowing Title Effect” to complete my piece in 16:9 academy aperture for the real intro.

Hope that helps ya create something cool! If it does, let me know about it!

~ jayse



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Comments

Re: Creating Surreal Clouds without Plug-ins
by teresa lim
thank you thank you :)


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