Let’s Make Particles

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(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)

The particle systems in Motion 5 are a powerful engine by which we can take nearly any object, image, layer, or group and animate it using the parameters available to us in the HUD and Inspector. A particle system consists of two items—the emitter and the cell. The cell is referenced by the emitter and the emitter creates the animation over a lifespan specified by you. Let’s say we had a PNG layer of an orange. If we created particles out of it, that orange would be put into a cell that is referenced by the emitter. You could use the emitter’s parameters to duplicate that orange multiple times per second and have it animate in a particular direction until you decide it should end or die. On top of the ability to turn nearly anything your heart desires into particles, in Motion’s library there are pre-animated particle emitters available to incorporate in all of your animations.

Making particles and changing values in the HUD

Let’s take a look at how we can create a particle system using a shape from Motion’s library and tweak a few of its parameters using the HUD.

Getting ready

From the exercise files of this article, double-click the 07_01 project. There is the Shape layer in the Layers tab, whose scale has been animated to repeat for the duration of the project. Our goal is to place the heart in a particle system so that we can have hundreds rain down onto the Canvas.

How to do it…

The following steps will take you through creating your first particle system:

  1. Make sure your playhead is at the beginning of your project. Select the Pink Heart layer and press E , or from the toolbar choose Create a particle emitter (the icon with the three bubbles rising up, as shown in the following screenshot):

  2. Play back the project. Several things just happened after you pressed that button. In the Layers tab, notice that the Pink Heart layer has been turned off. A cell and emitter have been created just above it. The cell holds information about the heart while the emitter is creating all the duplicate copies of the heart that are shooting out in a 360-degree circle across the screen at the same speed. You can see a screenshot of this next. Press F7 to bring up the HUD and see some of these parameters in more detail:

  3. Right now, thirty hearts are being born every second and live for a duration of five seconds where they pop off the screen. All the duplicate hearts also hold the original scale of the heart being referenced. Change the Birth Rate value to 5 and Life to 10 . Bring down the Scale parameter to 50 , as shown in the following screenshot:

  4. Instead of having the hearts come from the center of the screen, let’s have them rain down from the top of the Canvas. Decrease the size of your Canvas by clicking on it and pressing Command + a few times. Select the particle emitter and drag it up and offscreen. Use the Shift key to constrain the movement. Change the Emission Range slider from 360 to 180 and make sure the arrows point down. Play back the animation and tweak the Birth Rate and Scale sliders as desired. See the following screenshot for reference:

There’s more…

If you’re finding the HUD limited in terms of the options available to you for the emitter, don’t worry, the Inspector has several additional parameters, including the option to add random values to your emitter that will add more realism to it! Take a peak at the following screenshot:

Tweaking particle parameters in the Inspector

In the previous recipe, we switched a few parameters in the HUD for our particle system of hearts, but if we’re looking to fine-tune our animation, we need to go to the Inspector. Let’s take a look at the several additional parameters available.

Getting ready

From the exercise files of this article, double-click the 07_02 project. Play back the project. There is a particle system in the center of the Canvas being emitted in the form of a rectangle. Currently, thirty hearts are being born every second and live for five seconds. We’re going to tweak our particle system to change the flow of the animation so that our hearts emit out in a circle and away from the screen.

How to do it…

By following these steps, we’ll gain a better understanding of how we can control the particle system:

  1. Select the Emitter in the Layers tab. Press F4 to open the Emitter tab of the Inspector. Change the Shape menu’s option from rectangle to circle and the Arrangement option to Random Fill . Set the radius to 500.
  2. Increase Birth Rate to 200 and set Speed in Cell Controls to 0. If you play back the project, you’ll see the hearts trying to form the shape of a circle. Since there is no speed value, the hearts stay put in the shape they originate from, as shown in this screenshot:

  3. Set Angle Value to 15 and Spin to 30.
  4. Rather than having the particles pop onscreen when they’re born and pop offscreen when they die, we’re going to add some tags to the Opacity Over Life parameter. The trick is to click the white line where we want to add a tag above it. Click the line once close to the beginning and twice close to the end. Use the following screenshot for reference:

  5. Click on the first tag and under the line, drag the Opacity slider to 0 (indicated in this screenshot). Repeat this step for the last slider. Now the hearts fade in at birth and fade out at death:

  6. As a final step, we’re going to keyframe the speed of the particle system to start at 100 percent and eventually go down to 0 to reveal the shape of the circle we created. Go to the beginning of the Timeline and click the diamond icon next to Speed to add a keyframe. Change its value to 100. Move to three seconds and add another keyframe by clicking the diamond icon next to Speed again. Move to three seconds and set Speed to 0. Play back the animation and compare it to the following screenshot:

There’s more…

You can create some amazing animations by changing the type of shape used to emit particles. For instance, if you change the shape of your particles to Image and use text as the source, the particles will spell out the word as long there is a substantial number of hearts being born and the Arrangement option is set to Random Fill . We’ll see an example of this in a later exercise, but the following screenshot gives you a sneak peak on the end results you can get:

Adding randomness values

To give your particle systems just a little more, we’re going to add a little randomness to some of the parameters. This randomness will help give your animations a more organic feel.

Getting ready

From the exercise files of this article, double-click the 07_03 project. Play back the project. The particle system consists of little demograms that rain down from a line. The Angle and Spin values cause the demograms to rotate while moving, and the Opacity Over Life parameter allows each particle to fade in and out during its lifespan. The particles also change color over their life as reflected in the Color Mode menu and the gradient outlining the cycle. We’re going to add randomness values to tweak the animation. Whenever we add a randomness value, it’s going to look at the original value above it and add and subtract to it randomly every second based on the number you specify. For example, say the Scale value is set to 50. If you add a Scale randomness of 10, every second the demograms will be somewhere between a scale of 40 and 60.

How to do it…

Let’s start to randomize different values in this recipe:

  1. Select the emitter in the Layers tab and press F4 . In the Emitter tab of the Inspector, change the Birth Rate Randomness slider’s value to 10. Now, every second, somewhere between 10 and 30 objects are born.
  2. Now, set Life Randomness to 3, Angle Randomness to 40, Spin Randomness to 50, and Scale Randomness to 80. Play back the project. Now we have our demograms growing at different sizes, being born at different angles and spinning at different rates! The following screenshot shows the Inspector with all of the mentioned changes and also a Color Over Life change (see the previous recipe to learn how to do it).

    The following is a screenshot showing a frame of the particle animation in the Canvas with random values applied:

  3. While playing back, click the Generate button next to Random Seed . You’ll notice that your animation changes and a new number is created next to Generate . Random Seed takes all the random parameters and creates the animation based on this number. Change this number and change the randomness of the animation, as shown here:

Working with particle behaviors

While there are already a ton of parameters you can animate by keyframing their values in the particle and cell emitters, Motion offers you a few particle behaviors worth taking a look at from the library as well.

Getting ready

From the exercise files of this article, double-click the 07_04 project. Play back the project. The animation consists of a bouncing alarm clock from Motion’s library in the foreground and a particle system referencing that alarm clock in the background. Unlike the other particle systems we’ve worked with in the previous recipes, the source of the particle system has been turned back on to preserve it. Our goal is to add two particle behaviors to have the clocks scale down and spin over its life cycle. By adjusting the speed and direction of our emitter, we will also have the clocks look like they’re being pulled off into the distance. Also note, the anchor point of the clock was adjusted in advance in order to have the particles spin around the center of the clock.

How to do it…

  1. Open the Particle group and select Emitter . Press Command + 2 to go to the Library tab. Under Behaviors , choose Particles | Spin Over Life . Click Apply .
  2. Press F7 to open the HUD. Set Increment Type to Birth and Death Values . Set Birth to 360 and Death to 0. If you’re having trouble, try changing the values in the Behaviors tab of the Inspector. Now, play back the animation.
  3. Now, let’s have the clocks in the particle system scale over life. Select the Emitter again. Press Command + 2 to go to the Library . Under Behaviors , choose Particles | Scale Over Life .Click Apply.
  4. In the HUD, set Increment Type to Birth and Death Values . Set Scale at Birth to 100 and Scale at Death to 0. If you’re having trouble, try changing the values in the Behaviors tab of the Inspector. Play back the animation. The clocks now scale down gradually until they die, as shown in the following screenshot:

  5. Press F4 to go to the Emitter tab of the Inspector. Change the Emission Longitude value to 180 and Speed to 2000 , as shown in the following screenshot. Change the other parameters as desired.

There’s more…

When you start building complex particle animations, keep in mind that you can save them to the Library as well as any of the behaviors you tweak. All particle presets can be found in the Library under Particle Emitters in a dedicated theme folder you create. The more time you spend automating your work, the more time you can dedicate to the creative process!

Working with particle presets

So far, we’ve created our own particle systems by selecting objects to place into cells referenced by the emitter. Motion ships with over 200 presets! One of the best ways to learn Motion is to dissect how some of the particle presets were created. Let’s take a look at what it has to offer!

Getting ready

From the exercise files of this article, double-click on the 07_05 project. There are two particle presets in this project but one has been turned off. Play back the project and familiarize yourself with the Magic Dust preset. Stop the playback. Turn off the Magic Dust group and turn on the Buskerit group. Play back the project again. In this recipe, we’ll take a look at each of these presets and change a few parameters to look at how the animations were created.

How to do it…

Let’s now tweak these parameters of our presets in more detail:

  1. Reveal the content of the Buskerit group by clicking the disclosure triangle next to it. It contains a group called busker and seven still images that have been turned off. The images are being referenced by the emitter.
  2. Click the disclosure triangle next to the Busker group. It contains the content of the Busker emitter and the seven cells that hold information from those layers that have been shot off. The Emitter also has a Scale Over Life behavior in it. While the object continually changes scale over the animation, the Scale Over Life behavior was used to animate the “pop-up” intro of the instruments, whereas keyframes were used to change the scale over the project.
  3. Select the Scale Over Life behavior and press F2 to go to the Behaviors tab of the Inspector. Notice the Increment Type parameter set to Custom . Click the disclosure triangle next to Custom Scale to see the graph, as shown in the following screenshot:

  4. Select the Emitter in the Layers tab and press Command + 8 to open the Keyframe Editor . Notice that both the scale and rotation of the emitter are keyframed periodically throughout the entire animation, as shown in the following screenshot. In the Keyframe Editor , press Shift + K to move forward between keyframes. Change the Rotation and Scale values by double-clicking the values while on an existing keyframe. You’ll know you’re on one because the diamond shape will appear highlighted!

  5. Click the disclosure triangle to close the Buskerit group, turn it off, and turn on the Magic Dust group. Click the disclosure triangle to open it. A still image of a spark was used as the source for the Emitter. Several behaviors were used to animate the sparks.
  6. With the emitter selected, press F4 to go to the Emitter tab of the Inspector. Set Emission Range to 45 , Birth Rate to 200 , and Speed to 1000 . Play back the project to see the effect it has and compare it to the following:

  7. Select the Magic Dust group and go to the gear icon under the mini-Timeline. Choose Basic Motion | Motion Path . Tweak the path as desired. Play back the animation.

There’s more…

Learning how particle presets work is a great way to get used to Motion.

Particle presets are the best way to learn Motion!

Looking at the library and seeing how something was created is the best way to get under the hood of the application and start creating your own animations. Don’t be afraid to explore.

Working with particle presets in 3D

Particle presets are already powerful on their own but turn them into 3D and you’ll find that a few of them will actually look like they have been extruded. Let’s take a look!

Getting ready

From the exercise files of this article, double-click on the 07_06 project. Play back the project. There is a particle system of thin water being projected across the screen. Go to the Properties tab in the Inspector and click the rotation disclosure triangle to see the object rotate 90 degrees on its y axis. The water becomes invisible because it’s flat the minute you change perspective. If we promote a particle system to 3D, we can get rid of this problem and have a few additional options available to us in terms of the way we emit the water.

How to do it…

Let’s get rid of the flatness of our particle system by making it 3D:

  1. Select the Particle Emitter category and press F4 to go to the Inspector. Click on the 3D checkbox. As soon as you press the button, more options become available to you in the Emitter Controls section, including Emission Latitude and Emission Longitude , as seen here:

  2. Two additional selections—Box and Sphere —also became available under the Shape drop-down. Click on the word Rectangle and choose Box .
  3. Press F1 to go to the Properties tab of the Inspector. Click the disclosure triangle next to Scale and increase Scale Z to 200 .
  4. Rotate the water 90 degrees on the Y axis and notice it’s no longer flat. Use the following screenshot of the Properties tab for reference:

  5. Go to the beginning of the Timeline and bring back Rotation Y to 0. Click the diamond shape next to Rotation Y to add a keyframe. Move to the end of the Timeline; and change the parameter to 720. Play back the project and see that, no matter what angle it is, the particle system never goes flat, as shown here:

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