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Cloud Fly Through

Cloud Fly Through


by Richard Rippon
Screamin’ Strings Productions, California, USA

©2001 Richard Rippon. All Rights Reserved. Used at CreativeCow.net by kind permission of the author.

Richard Rippon

Article Focus:
This tutorial will show you how to simulate flying through a cloud bank using After Effects 5 new 3-D capabilities. We will primarily be working with the layers Z position, so we won’t even scratch the surface of After Effects 5 new capabilities. To create the clouds we will use After Effects Fractal Noise plug-in and Boris Clouds plug-in, which may be found in Boris AE and Boris Continuum. If you have your own way for making your clouds it should also work.


Download the ae project file here:

Mac

PC


Section 1: Creating Cloud Layers

Step 1: Create a Comp, about ten to fifteen seconds long and name it “Cloud Fly Thru”.

Step 2: Create four solids. Name them “Cloud Layer 1”, “Cloud Layer 2”, “Cloud Layer 3” and “Cloud Layer 4”.

Step 3: Arrange the layers so “Cloud Layer 1” is the top layer and “Cloud Layer 4” is the bottom layer. (see fig. 1)

Figure 1

Step 4: Apply Fractal Noise Plug-in to “Cloud Layer 1”.

This will be the first cloud layer we will be flying through and we want it to look large and dense. With a little bit of tweaking Fractal Noise will give you a very big and thick looking cloud bank.

Step 5:

Figure 2

As you can see from fig. 2, I have set...

Fractal Noise: Cloudy
Noise Type: Spline
Unchecked Uniform Scaling
Scale Width: 346.5
Scale Height: 127.7

Step 6: Apply Boris Clouds to “Cloud Layer 2”

Step 7: In Boris Clouds you will want to make these changes (see fig. 3)...

Sky Type: Alpha
Cloudiness: 70

Figure 3

By changing the sky to Alpha we now have a layer of clouds with no background.

Step 8: Apply Boris Clouds to “Cloud Layer 3” and make these changes...

Sky Type: Alpha
Cloudiness: 60

Step 9: Apply Boris Clouds to “Cloud Layer 4” and make these changes...

Sky Type: Alpha
Cloudiness: 50

Now you should have four layers of clouds stacked upon each other with the densest layer on top and the thinnest layer of clouds on the bottom. As you probably have noticed Boris Clouds created the same group or pattern of clouds for layers 2,3 and 4. This is not the desired effect we are looking for. There are a couple of ways around this. One is by adjusting the Cloud Speed parameter and setting it different in each layer. The other way is by changing each layers in point. This is why I made the comp longer than the couple of seconds we will actually be using.

Step 10: Click and hold the handle at the front of “Cloud Layer 3”. Now drag it right so it’s beginning is offset by 3 or four seconds. Do the same to “Cloud Layer 4” offsetting it by two seconds. Now drag the two layers so their new in points are at 0;00;00;00. See fig. 4.

You should have four unique cloud layers ready to be animated in 3D Space.

Section 2: Animating Cloud Layers in 3-D Space

Step 1: In the switches panel enable 3-D for each layer. (fig. 5)

Figure 5

Step 2: Highlight “Cloud Layer 1” by clicking on it and press the P key to bring up it’s position coordinates. Do the same for each layer. You should see each layers position in x,y and z coordinates. (fig. 6)

Figure 6

Step 3: Change “Cloud Layer 1” position to (360,240,-82) and set a key frame. Now Move ahead on the timeline to 0;00;00;13 and change the position to (360,240,-939).

(see fig. 7) Now if you play this back you should have the first layer coming towards the camera and the camera then going through it.

Now for the rest of the layers we will be doing the same thing but offsetting when they start and stop. This becomes critical with the following layers because their clouds are less dense and you can see the underlying layers more clearly.

Step 4: Move to 0;00;00;09 on the timeline and highlight “Cloud Layer 2”. Set the key frame for position with the coordinates of (360,240,0). Now move to 0;00;00;22 on the timeline and change the position to (360,240,-986.0)

Step 5: Move to 0;00;00;12 on the timeline and highlight “Cloud Layer 3”. Set the key frame for position at coordinates (360,240,0). Now move to 0;00;01;04 on the timeline and change position to (360,240,-942.0).

Step 6: Move to 0;00;00;12 on the timeline and highlight “Cloud Layer 4”. Set the key frame for position at coordinates (360,240,0). Now move to 0;00;01;16 on the timeline and change position to (360,240,-935.0).

Now the key to pulling this effect off is the background layer. The background layer can be a still or a movie but it must give the impression of movement because when you are going through the final layers of clouds you can see the background and if it is not moving, things will look a little weird. I am going to use a movie created with “Psunami” from Atomic Power. It basically is looking straight down at the ocean from about 500m up and then dropping down to about 50 m.

Step 7: Place the Background layer under the cloud layers. The final timeline should look something like fig. 8.

Cloud Fly Through Tutorial

In the final movie I added a clip of the camera zooming in to earth, which was created with Boris Sphere and Boris Clouds. That’s about it. If you have any questions or comments I’d be interested in what you think.

Click here to view the movie:

Thanks,
Rich Rippon

Download the ae project file here:

Mac

PC

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