Advanced Effects using Blender Particle System

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(For more resources on Blender, see here.)

The list above might be a bit daunting to some users but don’t worry, I will discuss as much as I could (and bear with me when I ramble a lot) and hopefully I’ll succeed in imbibing as much information as possible so when you’re done reading this, you’re proud to say: “I know Particle System!”, just like how Neo said in the Matrix: “I know Kung-Fu”.

Unlike the previous articles that I’ve written before where I solely used one version of Blender through the entirety of the process, this time we might switch between the legacy Blender 2.4* and the recently-developed Blender 2.5*. The reason for this is that some Particle System features that we have been happily using in Blender 2.4* isn’t merged yet in Blender 2.5*, making it unusable for the moment. I guess that is reasonable enough since Blender 2.5* is still undergoing heavy development and is still in beta stage. But who knows, maybe during this time of writing, it is already being developed or already is.

So in line with that, here are the basic requirements for you to get going:

And just a bonus, we decided to provide you with the .blend files for all of our examples illustrated here. So hop on!

Disintegration Effect

The disintegration effect has been a common and very popular visual effect seen in feature movies, advertisements, and simply an eye candy. Often, it starts by having an object in its original and full form then after a while it will dissipate and disappear as though it was now made of dust. You can see this effect in one of the tests I did before here: http://vimeo.com/6763010. Much of the inspiration came from Daniel (aka NionsChannel in Youtube) who has really some nice effects on his list.

The basic requirements for achieving this kind of effect are: a suitable particle system, highly subdivided mesh, and a force field. With that said, let’s go ahead and start tinkering, shall we?

Fire up Blender 2.49b and delete the default Cube (if any).

(Move the mouse over the image to enlarge it.)

(Deleting the Default Cube)

Next, add or model the object of your choice. For purposes of this tutorial, let’s add a simple UV Sphere with 256 Segments and 256 Rings, however, if your machine couldn’t handle the high subdivision levels, you can lower it down to your liking.

NOTE: The higher number of subdivisions you set, the finer and the more seamless the “shards” will be. Additionally, you can always go to Edit mode and press W > Subdivide to subdivide your mesh accordingly or adding a Subsurf modifier and applying it afterwards.

The higher number of subdivisions you set, the finer and the more seamless the “shards” will be. Additionally, you can always go to Edit mode and press W > Subdivide to subdivide your mesh accordingly or adding a Subsurf modifier and applying it afterwards.

(Adding a UV Sphere)

(Highly Subdivided UV Sphere)

After the UV Sphere has been added, proceed to Edit Mode and check over at the header the amount of faces it has. We’ll use this as a base for the amount of particles that we’ll be adding later on for the actual simulation.

(UV Sphere Face Count)

While in Edit Mode and all the vertices selected, press W then choose Set Smooth to smooth out the geometry shading. Now go back to Object Mode and proceed to Object (F7) in the Buttons Window then on the Particle Buttons, then click on Add New under Particle System tab to add a new particle system.

(Adding a New Particle System)

Rename the just-added particle system to something more relevant like “disintegration”. Then on the Amount input, we’ll be changing the default 1000 to the number of faces our UV Sphere currently has (that’s the reason we checked a while back in edit mode). So in this case, type in 65536. This will then correspond to one particle is equal to one face of our uv sphere. Next, change the End value to something shorter than 100 which is default. Let’s try 40 for this example, which means all of the 65536 particles will be emitted within 40 frames. Basing from the default 25 frames per second rate, this would mean all those particles will be emitted in less than 2 seconds, which is what we want for this. Next is the Life value which we should be set to something longer as compared to the default 50 which is a little bit too early for our simulation. Let’s set Life to 150; this will make our particles stay in our simulation area longer and not disappear earlier than expected. Under “Emit From:” panel, enable Random and Even then leave the other defaults as they are. Then finally, alter the values in the Physics tab and see which ones you are satisfied with. Check the screenshot below for some reference.

(Particle System Settings)

The next part is the icing on the cake, where we’ll be adding a force field to generate the particle system’s motion as though it was affected by real world effects like wind, turbulence, etc.

With your cursor centered on your UV Sphere, add an Empty, name it “force”, and make sure the object rotation is cleared (ALT R) such that the local z-axis is oriented on the world z-axis.

The UV Sphere and the Empty (“force”) should be in the same layer for the following effect to work.

(Empty “force” Added)

After adding our Empty object, we need to tell Blender how this object will affect our particle system. We’ll do this by adding force values to this object. Forces in Blender act as external effectors for physics systems, which includes our particle system. You’ll see what I mean in a while. Let’s select the UV Sphere object and add a new Material Datablock to the object.

(Adding a New Material to the Sphere)

After adding a new material datablock, you can go ahead and tweak the material and shader settings the way you want to. Just like how I did mine (see screenshot):

(Adding Material to the Sphere)

With the Sphere still selected, head over to the Texture buttons under Shading (F5) and add a new texture slot.

(Adding a New Texture)

Next, choose Clouds as the Texture Type, increase the Noise Size and Noise Depth accordingly and just leave the Noise Basis to the default Blender Original, this will ensure a better distinction for the form that our particle system will exhibit later on. And the last but not the least, increase the Contrast of the texture, which will exaggerate the shape of our particle form later on.

(Cloud Texture Settings)

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