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Blowing Smoke Using Digital Anarchy's Geomancy

COW Library : Adobe After Effects Tutorials : Jim Tierney : Blowing Smoke Using Digital Anarchy's Geomancy
Blowing Smoke Using Digital Anarchy's Geomancy



A CreativeCOW.net Geomancy Tutorial





Making Smoke with Digital Anarchy's Geomancy

Jim Tierney
Jim Tierney
jim@digitalanarchy.com
Digital Anarchy, San Francisco, California USA


Article Focus:
The HairLines filter in Geomancy was originally designed to simulate streams of liquid. It does this very well, but that organic type of motion lends itself to other effects, such as smoke. In this tutorial, Jim Tierney demonstrates how to get some slightly stylized, but realistically moving, smoke. This useful for cigarettes, smoldering fires, or the occasionaly disintergrating gerbil. However, this tutorial will focus on the streams of smoke, and won't be getting into the finer points of spontaneously combusting rodents. This tutorial will work with either the release or demo version of Hairlines.

Final Movie Set up project file Complete project file FREE Stuffit Expander

This is what your final movie will look like (click on the image to see the movie):




Starting a Fire:

Well, first off, open up the smoke.aep (download it by clicking link) file. This is basically just a pre-setup comp. You can accomplish the same thing by creating a new comp, create a solid layer, and applying Hairlines. So, either open the smoke.aep file, do the above steps, or blow the whole thing off and get out of the house and go cause trouble somewhere.

Anyways, assuming your choosing to stick with the tutorial...

Make sure your layer with Hairlines is set to Best Quality. Otherwise, you get very unpleasant aliased lines. They do render faster, but they're not very pretty. However, if you're the type that looks for beauty on the inside, they're every bit as beautiful inside as their pretty, best quality cousins.

Twirl down the Grid section.

The Grid is, by and large, the foundation of all the Geomancy plug-ins. It sets up the structure of any resulting animation. In the case of HairLines, it determines how many vertical (columns) or horizontal (rows) lines are rendered.

Since we going to create smoke, we only need vertical lines, so set rows to 0, and set columns to 6, since we want 6 columns of smoke dancing around.

So... that's nice. 6 columns. Usually smoke is pretty bunched up together and not even spread apart. Let's look at a couple other parameters in the Grid section, that can help us remedy these excessively evenly spaced lines.

Line Spacing Randomness, varies the space between lines. Set this to 100. Notice that the lines are now varying distances away from each other. Some are really close together, others are way off on their own. This parameter is a great way of getting rid of the 'grid' look. Sometimes you're going to want your lines to look less structured, and this is a great way to accomplish that.

What you should see after setting Line Spacing Randomness to 100. It varies the space between lines, and makes the underlying grid less obvious.



Unfortunately, they're still a little too far apart. Set Line Compression to -95. This pushes the lines closer together. You can use this control to spread the lines out (positive direction) or smush them together (negative). We want them smushed together, overlapping, and basically gettin' friendly with each other.

By now your Grid Section should look like this:



That's it for setting the Grid up. We still don't have anything that looks like smoke. If you render it out, it looks more like red/blue taffy, at this point. We'll correct that shortly.

Actually, you'll notice that the lines seem to be moving downwards. Smoke tends to go upwards, and HairLines doesn't have a direction control. To fix this, rotate the layer by 180 degrees. Now we have red/blue taffy headed for the moon. We'll examine exactly what's going on here in a few minutes, when we get to the Ripples Section.



Smoke That's Smokin'! (er.... Whatever That Means, Sounds Cool, Tho)

Now that we're set up, it's time to make the lines a bit more smoke like. Click on the Twirly arrow next to the Line Section, and open it up. The first step here is to get rid of those damn red and blue colors. They need to go away and be replaced by white and near black. Change the red color chip to white, and change the blue color chip to about 85-90% black (if you're in the color dialog box, enter in 40 for each of the RGB channels). This will give us a much more smokey look.

Of course, they're still a bit thin, so set the Normal Line Width to 40 and Stressed Line Width to -80. Normal Line Width, as you might have guessed, sets the width of the line, when it's not distorted. If there's no distortion, then this is the width the lines will be. (or ,jumping off topic for a second, if Fast Draw is turned on, all lines are always this width)

Since all the distortions are created by Ripples (which we'll discuss shortly), if there are no ripples, there's no distortion, and the lines will remain the Normal Line Width. If there ARE ripples, then wherever the ripples bend the lines, the lines become the Stressed Line Width. Imagine a piece of metal being bent back and forth. You can get it to heat up, change color, and possibly break. That bend point is the Stressed Point. The Stressed Point can become a different color, and have a different width... which is the case with our smoke.

After you get finished setting up this section, you should have something that looks this:



If the Stressed Line Width is negative, the lines will get smaller at the bend points, if it's positive, the lines will get thicker at the bend points. Note: A negative SLW will result in faster rendering times. A positive SLW will increase the rendering times.

Set Opacity to 85%, and set Opacity Randomness to 40%. This will set the average Opacity for all lines to 85%, and then vary that by 40% from line to line. Basically, each line randomly gets an opacity value between 85 +/- (85 * .4) or 51 and 100.

Our Line Section should look like this:




A Ripple In Time

Smoke is affected by ripples, much like water is. The Ripples are the key component in HairLines. They create the distortions, and HairLines is basically all about distorting the lines.

Let's begin by setting the Frequency of the ripples to 50%. The Frequency determines the space between ripples. The higher the Frequency the less space between ripples and the more ripples you have. Very low Frequencies result in smoother Sine wave looking distortions, while high Frequencies result in distortions which look more like an audio waveform. For the smoke we're going for something in between. We don't want the smoke to be too smooth, but we don't want complete chaos either. 50% is a good value for this.

Set Frequency Randomness to 40%. We don't want all the lines looking the same, so this will vary the Frequency rate amongst the 6 different lines.

Now set Size to 50. This gives us big, arching ripples... again, similar to what you would expect from a sine wave. This basically just scales the ripples up and down, it doesn't really affect them otherwise. You can play with this and see how the ripples shrink and grow as you go from 5 to 50 to 90.

We'll leave Turbulance at 3.0. Turbulance adds detail to the main ripples. If you increase and decrease this, you'll notice that the overall size and shape of the ripples don't change, but they have more detail or 'sub-ripples'. Change this from 1 to 7 and see what happens.

And that's all folks. Render the movie out and enjoy.

What you should be looking at after finishing the tutorial.


You might want to try adding some other effects like find edges or blur. In this we've taken a duplicate copy of our Hairlines layer, applied Find Edges, a Gaussian Blur, then composited with the Overlay transfer mode, and an opacity of 60%. Click here to download the AE project.

Click the image to view the movie.






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