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In After Effects CS5 Essential Training, author Chad Perkins discusses the basic tools, effects, and need-to-know techniques in Adobe After Effects CS5, the professional standard for motion graphics, compositing, and visual effects for video. The course provides an overview of the entire workflow, from import to export, as well as detailed coverage of each stage, including animating text and artwork, adding effects to compositions, working in 3D, and rendering and compressing footage. Exercise files are included with the course.
Another thing you'll probably find yourself doing very often in After Effects is creating patterns and textures. There's actually a really cool tool for this. I'm going to right-click in this Start composition and create a New > Solid layer. And we're going to be applying an effect called Fractal Noise. And Fractal Noise completely replaces whatever is applied to it. So, go ahead and click Make Comp Size, and it doesn't matter what the color is because it's going to be completely gone once Fractal Noise is applied. So, go ahead and click OK. Then let's go over to the Effects & Presets panel over here on the right, and we'll do a search for Fractal Noise.
Now if I do a search for Fractal, there is actually two different effects with the word Fractal in their title: Fractal and Fractal Noise. Fractal is not all that awesome. Fractal Noise is extremely powerful and versatile. So, that's the one we want. Go ahead and apply that to the layer. Now a lot of new users to After Effects kind of frown on Fractal Noise at first glance because it looks so much like Photoshop Clouds, which is a really pathetic filter in Photoshop. But this does so much.
One of the things you need to keep in mind, as we are playing around these patterns, is that Fractal Noise is a Grayscale pattern generator. So, everything is in black and white. So, you need to kind of have this eye where you're kind of like coloring things in your brain before you actually do it to really see what its is capable of. Now before we play around with this too much I want to show you what is possible with Fractal Noise. With Fractal Noise, we can make fire, like these cool explosions. As we scrub in time here, we can see that these are blowing up.
That's kind of fun. And I also made this water with Fractal Noise, and that's going to take a little while to render. There we go. There's kind of like a rough quality preview of what that looks like there, nice little glassy water. And then we have this kind of interesting pattern. Here is another a random grungy pattern that could be used as the background for something. And there's also this cityscape thing, where it looks like you're kind of zooming into a city and flying over the city with some clouds and stuff.
So, that's pretty fun. And there's this really popular animated bars look. So, all of these things were done with Fractal Noise and Fractal Noise alone, just Fractal Noise, and that's it. So, that's how powerful and versatile this affect is. So, let's go and talk about this effect a little bit. I'll tell you at the end this chapter how you can get more information on Fractal Noise, because we won't have time to cover every single one of the settings. Basically, Fractal Noise creates layers of noise.
So, that's what giving us this look and allows us to create these rich complex looks. We change the Fractal type from Basic to Turbulent Smooth, Turbulent Basic. Let's say Dynamic, and Max, and you could see how much this changes the way that this effect looks. So, on your own, you might want to experiment with the different types of Fractals. But I'm just going to choose Dynamic Twist for our example here. It kind of looks like some Van Gogh painting or something. I'm going to leave the Noise type to Soft Linear, but you could also take this to Linear, which makes it a little bit more blocky, and then Block, which makes it all the way blocky.
Or, you could take it up to Spline, which takes longer to render but creates much smoother textures. For now, I'm going to leave it on the default of Soft Linear, and I want to increase the contrast. So, if we drag this up, we can increase the Contrast. If we take this down, we are going to decrease the Contrast, like so. Actually, I want this up fairly high, and this is a little bit too much here. A value of 335 is where I've had it. That's kind of an arbitrary value, but we're seeing that the white highlights are blown out so it's a little bit to bright here.
But this is okay because you can Brightness down. And what that does is that it takes the bright levels down. It also adds more black to our pattern. So, we're kind of getting this fiery-looking texture here, like these little sprinkles of fire. Open up Transform. You'll see that this effect has its own set of Transform properties. So, we have Rotation and Scale and stuff like that for our regular layer, but this effect has its own Rotation and its own Scale. Now this effect is based on patterns that After Effects is generating from scratch.
So, you could go into Scale and scale this up really, really high, and you're not going to lose any quality. It looks kind of blurry, but this is the same level of blur that it was when it was actually 100%, so you're not losing any quality. What I'm going to do here actually is uncheck Uniform Scaling, which allows us to scale Width and Height independently. So, I might reduce the Width a little bit. I might increase the Scale Height value a lot to stretch out our texture, which gives us this kind of cool, fiery look.
The Complexity value here controls the number of layers that are being used to make up this pattern of Noise. So, right now, we have six layers. If we took this down to one, it would look very simplistic, just one layer of Noise. Take this up to two, and you could see we have multiple layers here. And as we increase this value, our pattern is getting more and more and more complex. So, now you see we have a lot more detail going on here. You noticed a minute ago when we scaled this up that it was a little blurry.
Adding Complexity is one way to increase the amount of texture and contrast in the pattern. I am going to take this back to a value of, actually 5 I think will work just fine for us right now. And you'll notice that as you take this value down more, there is less layer so things render faster, but things do start looking blurry pretty quick, depending on the settings that you have for Fractal type and other settings up here. Now Evolution is one of the most important properties in this whole effect. It's the thing the thing that brings this to life.
So, as we click and drag on this right value here, this is just like rotation so a number of complete revolutions and then also additional degrees. If you click and drag on this, we could see that this effect is really coming to life. Now as part of the nature of the beast with this effect, because it's using your hardware to accelerate so it goes faster, when you click and drag on it to mess with it, you'll often get these weird artifacts that you're seeing that are not correct. That's just to make it so that it renders faster in the long run.
So, that is normal. My screen is not freaking out. Your screen is not freaking out. All is right with the world. But this is the property that you want to animate to bring this thing to life. Now obviously, these patterns and textures are pretty sweet, but in the next movie, we're going to see how Fractal Noise can be combined with other effects to produce more than just backgrounds.
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