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Rendering 3D Particles in After Effects - New Plugin

By Harry Finch on Sat May 12 2012 in the Studio News Blog STUDIO PRODUCTION NEWS

Rendering 3D Particles in After Effects - New Plugin

This is a guest post by one of our in house motion graphic designers, Harry Finch - so you'll excuse us for being quite geeky!

Element 3D - is a new After Effects plugin from Video Copilot that is still in the development stages (release date TBC).

But from the tiny morsels of info being leaked out, it looks like this plugin is going to be groundbreaking!

So what is Element 3D?

It’s a 3D based particle plugin. This means that instead of using an image to generate particles, as is available with other existing particle plugins, it uses 3D geometry (wireframe).

This is not to say that Element 3D cannot deal with images, far from it. But image based particle plugins are ten a penny these days

Where Element 3D is exciting, and correct me if I’m wrong on this, is that it is the first time we can render .obj files within After Effects efficiently, quickly and more importantly, make it look good!!!

Ok, we may still have to develop our .obj files within Cinema 4D, 3Ds max etc if we want anything other than the standard presets but we are now able to import them directly into After Effects without having to render out first.

But who’s to say that we’ll need to jump into Cinema 4D at all?

If we stick to just using the different model types e.g. cube, sphere etc in combination with the noise level, we can produce some interesting deformations of the wireframe and these deformations used in conjunction with the various material options, can produce some great results.

One example that struck a chord with me was a realistic example of water droplets, including realistic reflection and refraction of 3D lights that are rendered per object.

Now that’s quite a bit to get your head around so let me elaborate...

In the past, when we used image based particle generation, all the reflections would be located in the same position of each particle e.g. on the top of the water droplet.

With Element 3D, the reflection can be on the top of one particle whilst being on the bottom of another.

This gives a more realistic results e.g. if the light source is emitted from somewhere towards the side of a particle cluster.

Another cool feature, that only was available in 3D software until now, is the use of a fresnel.

By employing the fresnel function in combination with the bias control, we are able to control the levels of light fall off within the particle, allowing for realistic reflections.

That’s the reflection functions explained but what about the refraction functions?

Ever looked into a glass of water that has a straw in it and the straw looks like it’s bending?

This illusion is refraction, the bending of light.

As well as reflection controls, Element 3D has refraction controls.

Yet another tool to help you develop realistic 3D particles.

In Summary

The combination of quick rendering times, being able to work on .obj files directly in After Effects and some interesting material options, means that Element 3D is setting a new bench mark.

The only downside that I can think of is that a graphics cards with openGL capabilities is required.

But as openGl graphics cards have been widely available for a couple of years, and more recently become standard, this is not much of a set back.

Personally, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

And here at Studio Rossiter, we think it will open up a whole new world of possibilities.

Come on Video Copilot...

...We want Element 3D!!!

Topics: motion graphics, animated video, 3d animation, Adobe

Harry Finch

Written by Harry Finch

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