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In Motion 4 Essential Training, Ian Robinson shows how to start building outstanding motion graphics and animations for video production. He demonstrates how to build custom text animations with the new Adjust Glyph tool and explores Motion’s amazing real-time 3D tools. Ian highlights working in the 3D space, creating depth with lights and shadows, and using reflections to add realism. He gives practical advice on how to integrate Motion into a professional video workflow, round-tripping with Final Cut Pro and sending a final project to Compressor. Exercise files accompany this course.
Even a few years ago, before Motion was around, creating particle system used to be quite the task. But with Motion's real-time capabilities, now it's actually quite fun. And I have found the easiest way to define particles is by just diving in. So let's get started by selecting the bubble here in middle of the canvas and clicking Make Particles. Now in Motion 4, you can turn anything into a particle. To better see exactly what particles are and how they work, let's click the Play button. Let me stop playback here for a second and you will notice particles are created when you select an object and click Make Particles and then Motion takes that image and replicates it hundreds, sometimes thousands of times.
And if we open up the HUD, you will notice we have a couple of different options here. We have a Birth Rate, a Life, a Scale and an Emission Range. So the Birth Rate just determines exactly how many particles are born at any given time. This is a Birth Rate of 15. So every second there will be 15 particles born. Life, this is how long the particles will live. So for example these bubbles are living for five seconds, and if I play back you notice when their life is over, they just pop.
That's why I like using bubbles as an example. You can adjust the overall scale of these particles just by clicking-and-dragging. And the Emission Range is the angle. So I like to think of particle systems as like a kind of bubble machine. You can control what tip goes on the bubble machine. How fast they come out. What angle they come out at. In advanced particle systems, you can actually have multiple images, and each one of those is called a Particle Cell.
So to better understand that, let's open up the Inspector. Click the I in the upper-right-hand corner of the HUD to open the Inspector and under the Emitter tab, we'll see a whole lot more options. So let's go ahead and close the HUD for now, and you will notice in the first menu we have a Shape option. So click on the pop-up menu and let's adjust this to a line. Now all these bubbles are coming out of a specific line, and to see that line, let's go to Select Transform tool, scroll down to the bottom of the pop-up menu, and choose the Adjust Item tool.
And then we'll see the line that these particles are actually being born out of. So let's extend that line further out both directions, just by clicking-and-dragging. And if you press Play again, now you will notice all the particles are just being born towards the bottom of the screen. So one of the common uses for particle systems is to actually recreate things like bubbles in a bathtub or sand in the wind. You can change all these different settings just by clicking-and-dragging, for example on the Emission Angle, so the angle at which the bubbles come out of the Emitter.
We can change the Range, which of course is the overall angle. And these are two settings that we did change in the HUD. Notice as I drag these, I'm making the same adjustments. Now one of the things I do like to adjust is the Render Order. By default, it puts the oldest particle on the top. I like to have the oldest last just so all the bubbles are sort of born on top of each other. There is an option for Interleave Particles. We are not going to get into that right now. That's a little advanced.
But if you notice now we have Cell Controls. So if we have the Emitter and then we have Cell Controls, let's press F5 to open the Project pane, so we can sort of see what's going on, and you notice we have an Emitter here and then underneath we have this thing called the Particle Cell. So when you have one individual object and click Make Particles, it turns that one object into a cell and then that cell replicates a bunch of times and it goes out through the Emitter.
And so like I said, advanced particle systems can have more than one cell. But for right now let's just kind of stick with this. Okay, so the Cell Controls, we can change not only the Birth Rate, but the Birth Rate Randomness. Let me expand this out a little bit so we can see this menu a little better. Here we go. So we have the Birth Rate Randomness and this will determine how many particles are born at any given second. So it could be 0. It could be 1. It could be up to 6.
Let me just resize the canvas here to better fit everything. So typically throughout the rest of these options we'll have the Initial Rate and then the Randomness. Life, Life Randomness. That way you can stimulate real world situations. Now instead of continuing on to explain all the rest of these different options, let's go ahead and use a little more real-world visual effects example. Just select your Emitter in the Layers tab and press the minus button. Turn on the Background_Video layer and let me resize my windows, so we can see this video a little bit better.
I'll move my Project pane over a bit. So go ahead and press Play and let's look at this video. I was at a national park near my house and I noticed these lightning bugs popping up out of the grass. So I thought it would be pretty cool if I just set my camera down and got some footage. Now I think this is pretty neat, but honestly I'd really love to layer in some more lightning bugs and make it a little more dreamy. So let's just stop playback and use particles to create more lightning bugs.
So let's go to the Library and see if we can find a particle we can use to create a lightning bug. In the Library you'll notice there is a folder called Content and in the Content folder, if we scroll down, you notice there is a folder for Particle Images, and you will notice this is where we have got the AquaBall that we used in the earlier demonstration. So you notice as I'm scrolling down here there are both QuickTime files and still images we could use as particles. And the one I'm looking for is Hives. If you notice it's a QuickTime and it kind of blinks on and off.
I think that would be perfect to use as a lightning bug. So to use the particle, just drag it out on to the canvas. I'll put it in the middle of the screen here and then click Make Particles to which actually make your particle system. Now I know this doesn't look like lightning bugs just quite yet. That's totally fine. Let's change some options. First of, the Emitter itself needs to be on a separate layer because I don't want to see all this black in the image. So select the Background_Video layer and make a new layer and make sure to click the Emitter and hold down Shift-and- click Hives, both the particle cell and the QuickTime file itself.
And let's add it up to this new layer. Now that the particles are in the new layer, let's open the HUD and change the blend mode to Add. Now you will notice none of the black in the images are popping through. We are almost there. Go to the Inspector and with the Emitter selected, let's change the overall Scale of all these little particles. Set it down to about 3%. Now let's look at changing the color and you notice it says Color Mode and there is a pop-up menu.
So let's click on that and we want to choose Pick From Color Range, because I like them to be kind of random and have the computer pick from a different range. If your window popped up like that, don't sweat it. Just kind of scroll down and bring it back into view. So you notice the second I chose that, all the particles on the canvas switched between red, blue, purple, etcetera, since lightning bugs tend to be a kind of yellow-green. Let's make one of these yellow, just Ctrl-click in the Color chip and we'll choose a nice kind of bright yellow, a little closer to the green, and the one on the right, let's Ctrl-click and choose one, a little green close to yellow. All right.
And if you look in our canvas, this is looking pretty good, but I do think I want to take the Scale down just to 2%. That's a little bit better. Okay. So let's press Playback and check out our animation and unfortunately it's really fast. There are all emitting out of the wrong place and they are not fading up. So if you notice there is this bar above the Color area and that will help us adjust the Fade settings. It works from left to right. So if we click on this chip in the upper-left corner, you will notice the Opacity pops up to 100%.
Well since I want this to fade in, let's change this down to 0, and you will notice our particles have gone away. To add another chip, just click in the bar and with that new chip selected drag the Opacity back up to 100. Now you notice some of the newer particles are fading in whereas the older particles are at 100%. Now let's adjust where they are born, because if we play back, you notice they are all being born right out of the center. So scroll back to the top of the Emitter controls, under Shape let's choose Line.
And again, let's go down and choose the Select Transform tool and bring the line down towards the bottom of the screen. And let's open HUD so we can get a visual reference as to the angle of the birth. Click the Play button and you notice they are all being born around 360 degrees. Well let's change the Emission Range to 180, and you notice they are all being born in the wrong direction. So click on the arrows and roll around to the left and now you notice they are all being born in the correct direction.
But they are still moving way, way, way too fast. So I'm just going to stop playback for a second here, move my playhead a little bit down the timeline so I can still see all of the particles. And let's adjust the Speed. Let's crank that down to around 26% and check that out. That's a little bit better but they are dying off a little short. So let's increase the Life up to around 7 and now we'll check it out.
That's looking pretty good but that's quite a lot of lightning bugs. So let's just stop really quick and crank the Birth Rate down to around 18. No, let's do 8 and press Play, and now we actually have a nice little field of lightning bugs. Now I could sit here all day and tweak the blend mode and add glows and do all different kinds of things, but I think you have a firm grasp as to the basics of what particles are and how to create them.
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