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Liquid Lines

Liquid Lines




A CreativeCOW.net Geomancy Tutorial



Creating Liquid Lines: Background or foreground elements

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


Article Focus:
In this tutorial, Jim Tierney demonstrates using the GridLines filter in Geomancy to create some beautiful sweeping lines. This is something that would work really well as a background element or more as a foreground element if you're trying to communicate something like the flow of information.

Liquid Lines

For starters let's take a look at the finished movie:

Click on the above image to view the movie (1.6mb)

If you were trying to accomplish something similar with traditional methods, this would take quite awhile to set up and animate. We'll put it together in GridLines in about 10 or 15 minutes.


 

Building The Canals


If you're going to control where something flows, you need places for it to flow in. Our lines are no different. Before we let them loose, we need to make sure they have a place to go.

Open up the flowing_lines.aep project. This is simply a 640x480 project with a new solid layer. Nothing fancy, if you don't have the project, just create a 640x480 comp and add a solid layer to it. Then apply GridLines. Leave the layer at Draft Quality for now, but change it to Best Quality when you render, so the lines will be anti-aliased. Draft will render much faster and make setting up easier.

First thing to do is twirl the Grid arrow down and turn the 'Make Size Match Layer Size' checkbox on. This will make the grid the same size as our layer. Now click on the Show Grid checkbox. This will show the grid that will be underlying foundation to the lines that are created. We want to space the grid out a little bit, so change the rows and columns to 14.

The lines will follow the lines you see on the screen. So when designing, you need to think of what you want the lines to do, then set up a grid that will enable the lines to do that. That's why Show Grid is so useful, it enables you to see the structure that the lines will follow and gives you a way of visually seeing the changes you make to it.

In this case, the grid is set up the way we want it, so click the checkbox to turn the grid off.

Other Setup

The Producer Point and Line Setup are ok the way they are and we don't need to make any changes. However, twirl them down and take a look at them if you'd like. We want all the lines to be coming from the center, so a small, central producer point is fine. If we wanted the lines to start at a different location, we'd change the Producer position point, or if we wanted lines to start all over the screen we'd increase the height and width of the Producer. Neither of these adjustments are necessary, so we'll leave everything as is.

In the Line Setup section, we don't need to make any changes either. We want random lines going off in all directions and that's what these settings will give you. The most important parameter being the 'Random Lines' checkbox. With this checked, the Vertical and Horizontal Lines pop-ups are ignored and lines go in any random direction. If this is not checked, the pop-ups determine the directions the lines can go.

The other important parameter here is the Line Unit. Don't change this without changing the Line Attributes. See the manual for more details on this, but this can drastically increase your rendering times if you don't have the filter set up correctly.

 

Lining Things Up


Now that we've set the grid up, let's set up how the lines will look. Twirl down the arrow next to Line Attributes. Move the Time Marker to 04:00, so we can see what the lines look like as we change the parameters. At this point the lines will look like this:

As you might guess this looks nothing like our final movie, so let's start getting there.

First off we want our lines to be much longer, so change the Minimum Length to 100 and the Maximum Length to 200. We want the lines to stay on the screen for 4 seconds, so change the Lifespan to 120. Lifespan is set in frames, so 120 frames is equal to about 4 seconds at 29.97 frames a second, which is what our comp is set to.

At this point our lines should be arranged like a street map... or a waffle. See what you want to see. It's all about your artistic interpretation. :-)

Let's vary the thickness a little bit, so change Thickness Randomness to 50.

Now we'll start getting into the stuff that's going to make our lines start looking like the final movie.

Change the Corner Size to 100. The Corner Size determines the radius of the turn, when a line makes a turn. By cranking this up, we end up with sweeping curved lines. Play around with this a little bit, just to get an idea of what looks different sizes will give you.

Now twirl down the Color section. Change the Start color to a dark blue and the End Color to a lighter blue.

That should give us this:



.

So render this out and take a look at it or just click on the above image.. Make sure you switch to Best Quality. It's a neat effect, but with a little tweaking we can get a few different looks.

If you want to change things up a bit, try changing the Corner Size Randomness to 50. That will give you this:

Now let's set up the Grid Adherence section. This determines how closely the lines stick to the grid. Back at the beginning of all this I mentioned that the lines follow the rows and columns. Grid Adherence is what makes them do that. By default, it's set up to make the lines stick to the rows and columns like glue. However, you can change that, so the lines only more or less stick to the grid. Set the Grid Probability to 50%. This means that about half the lines will stick to the grid and the other half will be off by some amount. That amount is set by the Grid Adherence Amount. Set that to 20. Set the Grid Adherence Randomness to 50%. This varies the Grid Adherence Amount from line to line. Some lines will be 10 pixels off the grid, some will be 20, some will be 2.

After you do all that it'll look like this:

Now we'll do one last thing.

Go back to the Producer Point section and change the height to 200 and Width to 300. That will spread the origination point of the lines out and have lines starting from all over the place. It'll look like this:

So there you have it. Lines flowing all over the place willy nilly and it only took you a few minutes. Try creating something similar by hand, it'll take a lot longer.

The only hard part is getting your head wrapped around the grid that's controlling the lines. Play around with Grid Adherence to really understand what's going on there. Once you've got that down all the Geomancy filters are pretty easy to control.


 






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